City finally succumb to a home defeat
Exeter City’s under-18s suffered their first defeat in eight games after narrowly losing out to top-of-the-league Oxford United 2-1.
Despite the Grecians taking the lead through striker Ollie Watkins, they were powerless as the visitors struck twice in fortunate circumstances to take the three points from the Westcountry.
In a lively start to the game, where both teams were attempting to keep possession, clear-cut chances were hard to come by. However Grecians forward Matt Jay saw an effort blocked as City tried to take the early initiative.
Watkins also saw an effort just miss, and Oxford almost made the breakthrough on 15 minutes from a set play. Winger Alex Byrne headed away United’s goal-bound effort from his own goal line.
And in instant reply, the move of the game almost produced the first goal for Exeter. Captain Matt Grimes unlocked the defence with a magnificent through-ball, with Watkins latching onto the pass ahead of the opposition goalkeeper. Despite the shot-stopper halting the attacker in his tracks, the loose ball fell to Jay who could only volley wide.
The home side’s high pressing tactics seemed to put the U’s under immense pressure, particularly the goalkeeper, who struggled with his kicking all game.
Jay continued to cause problems for the away side, whilst Oxford created more chances for themselves in an even first period, but it was to remain 0-0 as the half-time whistle blew.
However the interval did not seem to halt the tempo of the match, as the second half started in lively fashion.
Just three minutes of the second half had been played when the first goal came, albeit in rather fortunate circumstances.
City continued to press high, and again applied pressure to the goalkeeper. This time, Oxford’s number 1 received a back pass from his defence, but allowed too much time for Watkins to close him down and block the clearing kick, allowing the ball to roll into the unguarded net.
However the celebrations of the home side were cut short in a matter of moments. After a harsh free-kick was awarded to United on the edge of Exeter’s area, the shot at goal deflected cruelly off of the defensive wall, wrong-footing the unfortunate Christy Pym and sending the ball across the line.
And the Devon side’s luck continued to go against them as the away side took the lead ten minutes later.
With the United front-two combining, no linesman flag came as everyone expected an offside decision to be made, and unfazed by the commotion around him, the opposing striker kept his cool and produced a chipped finished to turn the match on its head.
As the momentum shifted, the chances and decisions started favouring Oxford, and they were unlucky not to score again after a curling effort came back off the underside of the crossbar.
However a change of personnel and shape brought new life into the Exeter side, with the home team having all of the possession in the final ten minutes.
Watkins, Jay and Grimes all came close to grabbing a crucial equaliser, however arguably their best chance came from the boot of substitute Cameron Gill, whose volley from the edge of the box flew inches past the post in injury time.
It meant as full-time sounded, Oxford came away with the win. But the efforts from the Grecians’ players did Exeter City proud, and they were unfortunate not to get the result they merited.
Youth Team Coach Kevin Nicholson said: “The game was closely contested but in terms of performance we edged it.
“What cost us in terms of the result was that we didn’t take advantage of our early attacking play and pressure in the first half.
“It was a big improvement and I thought we ran Oxford closer compared to the last time we met them back in December.
“However you can learn more about the players in these types of games than in others, and I have told the boys I am extremely proud of their efforts today, against the strongest team in our league.”
1 Christy Pym
2 Hussein Heidari
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 James Byrne
5 Kamarl Duncan
6 Irvine Densu
7 Jason Pope
8 Matt Grimes
9 Ollie Watkins
10 Matt Jay
11 Alex Byrne
12 Charlie Madden
14 Toby Gostling
16 Cameron Gill