Young Grecians record victory over Devon rivals
Exeter City’s under-18s recorded a 2-1 victory in their rendition of the Devon Derby, thanks to goals from James Byrne and Sam Brown.
The Grecians produced an excellent first half display to take a one-goal lead into the break, courtesy of a headed goal from Byrne, who worked tirelessly in the middle of the park.
However despite conceding an equaliser, a second half of hard work and determination saw City find a winning goal thanks to full-back Sam Brown, with just 10 minutes to play.
The game started slowly, with the wet and boggy conditions not helping either side as they tried to play football. The pitch cut up very quickly, however it didn’t stop the home side playing intricate passes with a quick tempo.
Seven minutes had been played when Exeter striker Matt Jay saw his first sight of goal. Alex Byrne, making his first start for the under-18s, caused havoc as he dribbled down the left wing, with his low cross was met by the onrushing Jay. The forward came sliding in before seeing is effort blocked just in time by the opposition.
It started a continuous wave of attacks from City, and just five minutes later James Byrne was unlucky to see an effort hit the post after latching onto a Matt Grimes free kick.
It was a sign of things to come, as not long after, the same two players combined from a corner, and Byrne’s near post glancing header beat the opposition goalkeeper, and despite the shot-stopper’s best efforts of claiming the ball hadn’t crossed the line, the referee and his assistant awarded the goal to give the home side a deserved lead.
The Grecians looked particularly dangerous at set-plays, with Jay and fellow striker Ollie Watkins both going close to doubling their team’s tally courtesy of some well-worked routines.
However with the half time whistle sounding, Exeter would only take a solitary goal lead into the break, with the only disappointment of the half not converting more of their chances.
The visitors rang the changes at half time, and ultimately gave the Pilgrims the lift they needed after their poor showing in the first period.
In their best spell of the game, Plymouth attacked with purpose in the first ten minutes of the second half, and were rewarded for their intentions.
And it was indeed one of the substitutes who netted the equaliser, leaping highest after a cross from the right hand side and powering a header from 12 yards, which nestled just inside the far post.
However despite the setback for City, it proved to be the wake-up call they needed in order to defend resolutely and find a winning goal.
It took 20 minutes for the Grecians to create their first clear-cut opportunity in the second period, and it was the deadly combination of Watkins and Jay once again who almost scored.
Substitutions were made for Exeter, whilst the formation was switched to a 5-3-2 shape, allowing for higher pressing and defending from the front.
It helped City get on the front foot once again as they searched for a second; Grimes and James Byrne both coming close as they clock ticked down.
And as the game approached 80 minutes, the home side got the goal they merited.
Captain Grimes, who lead by example throughout, picked up the ball in midfield and drove at the defence until he slid a through ball to Jay. The striker kept his composure as he dribbled into the area and opened his body to place it past the goalkeeper, and on hand was right-back Sam Brown to make sure the ball crossed the line and give Exeter the winner.
Youth Team Coach Kevin Nicholson said: “The team functioned effectively throughout the game and the focus and concentration, both in possession and without the ball was excellent.
“I was delighted with the character the boys displayed to stay in the game after Plymouth equalised.
“It created us the opportunity to get back on the front foot after that short spell and push on as a group to score the winner.
“There is no doubt we deserved the victory.”
Exeter City Under-18s:
1 Christy Pym
2 Sam Brown
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 James Byrne
5 Kamarl Duncan
6 Irvine Densu
7 Toby Gostling
8 Matt Grimes
9 Ollie Watkins
10 Matt Jay
11 Alex Byrne
12 Hussein Heidari
14 Jason Pope
16 Cameron Gill