Exeter City’s under-18s continued their unbeaten streak by beating Cheltenham Town 3-2 at the Cat & Fiddle.
Two goals from the excellent Ollie Watkins, as well as a poacher’s effort from substitute Dean Billingsley, meant the three points went to the Devon outfit after a hard-fought performance.
The opening exchanges proved to be very even, with chances shared between both sets of strikers.
Matt Jay proved to be influential once again for the Grecians, with the forward playing integral parts to the City attack on numerous occasions.
However it was Watkins who opened the scoring midway through the first period. The attacker pounced on the goalkeeper’s poor punch from Alex Byrne’s corner.
And just five minutes later, Watkins doubled his tally and his side’s lead with an emphatic finish. Good work from the striker allowed Watkins to skip clear of the opposing defence to unleash a shot that proved to be too powerful to stop.
Half-time arrived and City deserved their lead, however James Hamon in the home team’s goal still had to be at his sharpest during the close of the first 45.
With the weather conditions making things difficult for both teams, the second half became more of a battle for the home side.
Chances were scarce as Exeter tried to extend their lead, though it was at the other end where problems arised for them.
Despite substitute goalkeeper Evan Moran saving well just five minutes into the second half, he was picking the ball out of his net moments later. The visitors’ goal spurred Town on, as Lee Skyrme’s boys came under waves of pressure.
But substitute Billingsley eased the pressure on the Grecians when he made an instant impact. After Watkins and his fellow forward pressed high to win possession back, they stole the ball in a dangerous position allowing the substitute to score the easiest of tap-ins to restore the two-goal lead.
The match’s competitive nature stepped up again as a hungry Cheltenham came looking for another way back into the game, and in similar fashion to their first, the visitors capitalised on the space given to them to punish the Devon outfit.
It set up a nervy ending, with City desperate to hold on to the victory their efforts so richly deserved.
Ball retention suited the home team as the clock ticked onto 90 minutes, and as the referee blew the final whistle, a relieved but ecstatic Exeter side celebrated the three points.
Under-18 coach Lee Skyrme said: “I was really pleased with the way we played in the first half, and I thought we thoroughly deserved the two goal lead we had at half-time.
“I thought there were vast improvements in certain aspects of our play that we had worked on in training, which helped us achieve the high levels of performance we were after.
“The second half became difficult, with the conditions not helping our style of football, but I thought we dealt with the ugly side of the game effectively, and the determination and fight shown by the team helped us get the result.”
Exeter City under-18s
1 James Hamon
2 James Byrne
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 Jason Pope
5 Hussein Heidari
6 Toby Down
12 Joe Charles
8 Alex Byrne
9 Cameron Gill
10 Matt Jay
11 Ollie Watkins
33 Evan Moran
14 Dean Billingsley
16 Toby Gostling