City youngsters into quarter-final of St Lukes Bowl
A young Exeter City side negotiated their way into the quarter-final of the St Lukes Bowl by defeating Willand Rovers on penalties.
The scores were tied at 1-1 when the referee blew for full-time. But it was the young Grecians that kept their composure from the spot by netting all five of their penalties, and advancing to the next round 5-3 on penalties.
City’s representatives comprised of eight players from the under-18 squad, with just three first-year pros in the starting XI in the shape of Jordan Tillson, Jacob Jagger Cane and Jake Wannell. Regardless of the result, the fixture was always going to offer the youngsters a rare opportunity to play against adults in knock-out football.
The Grecians had to battle back after going a goal down in the 25th minute. Willand pounced on the second ball from a set-piece, allowing defender Lloyd Beech to volley low across goal and into the far corner to give the Western League outfit the advantage.
However the superior fitness levels of the City boys began to tell in the second half, and by keeping themselves within a goal of Rovers, they primed themselves for a big finish to the game.
Unfortunately Exeter had to do it a man light, after a mistimed tackle by Josh Wadham – just on as a substitute for James Pope – was deemed worthy of a red card by the referee a little after the hour mark.
But being down to ten men didn’t faze the youngsters, who levelled with 15 minutes left to play. Ollie Watkins, in a rich vein of goalscoring form himself, was the provider for strike-partner Matt Jay who levelled the tie.
And Exeter might have settled the tie in the dying moments of the game, but Watkins had his late effort hacked off the line just as the referee was about to blow up for full-time.
It mattered little though as the Grecians were prolific from the penalty spot, with Christy Pym doing his best to repel Rovers’ strikers from 12 yards. City were up first, and netted all of their efforts, but Willand couldn’t respond in kind. After James Ansell saw his effort for Willand cannon back off the bar, the final penalty by Watkins put Exeter into the next round.
Youth Team Coach Kevin Nicholson said: “The match was a valuable experience for everyone involved. Playing against a team of adults is not an easy task for a side that is used to playing youth football.
“Even when we were behind in the game, the players were trying to do the right things in attempts to open up the opposition. We had to find a way to win and the players did exactly that. It was a tough battle, but we got there in the end.
“The effort levels were absolutely magnificent, particularly when we were down to ten. When we equalised, it looked like Exeter were the team with 11 men.”
City now face a trip to Tiverton Town in the quarter-final of the competition. Tiverton, who play a tier about Willand in the Southern League Division One South & West, were handed a walkover victory in their second round match against Dartmouth. The tie will be played at Ladysmead on Thursday 28th February.
1 Christy Pym
2 Sam Brown (→Heidari 60)
3 Jake Wannell
4 James Byrne
5 Jordan Tillson (c)
6 Irvine Densu
7 James Pope (→Wadham 60)
8 Matt Grimes
9 Ollie Watkins
10 Matt Jay
11 Jacob Jagger Cane
12 Hussein Heidari (←Brown 60)
14 Connor Riley-Lowe
16 Josh Wadham (←Pope 60)
17 Kamarl Duncan