Young Grecians come out on wrong side of seven-goal thriller
A late winner from Tyreke Johnson meant the end of Exeter City Under-18s’ involvement in the FA Youth Cup in a high-scoring First Round encounter at St James Park.
Matt Jay took less than a minute to create danger for Robins goalkeeper Aaron Moody, as the Grecians’ number ten beat his man before delivering a perilous cross that went along the face of goal, but there was no teammate to capitalise. Connor Riley-Lowe did the same from a little further wide but with the same result, as this time Town full-back and captain Matt Jones cleared his lines.
But barely a minute later, the Robins had taken the lead. City goalkeeper Evan Moran’s clearance was cruelly deflected off the legs of the advancing Will Randall, and the ball rolled into the net. But just ten minutes and two close offside calls later, the Grecians had pulled themselves level. Ollie Watkins’s pace took him to some space just outside the left side of the box, from where he pulled the ball back, and Jason Byrne struck hard and low to find the bottom corner of the net.
But the sides were not level for long. Tyreke Johnson found the net with some style, his goal bringing some applause from both sets of fans. Again, City almost levelled immediately, as Riley-Lowe went close, the ball going just over Moody’s goal for the third time with the match barely twenty minutes old.
There was a controversial call from referee Robert Dabbs as Robins defender Luke Matthews appeared to pull back Dean Billingsley. With Matthews the last man, had the official given the foul it would have surely meant a dismissal for the centre-back. Nothing was awarded though, despite the bemusement of the 200-strong crowd.
Joe Charles was held off by his namesake Joe English, but the City man managed to force a corner. And it was from that set-piece that the Grecians levelled things up for the second time – the ball sailing over the top and reaching Matt Jay, who arrived to poke the ball into the bottom corner.
Half-time: Exeter City U18 2 Swindon Town U18 2
The second half had a lot to live up to if it was to match the first in terms of the amount of goals on show, but it certainly came close to doing just that. Matt Jay got his second of the evening having been played through by Ollie Watkins. City’s number ten for the evening then proceeded to round the goalkeeper and put City in front for the first time. Callum McCormack’s fine goal made it 3-3, as he bent the ball in from the edge of the penalty area. McCormack had moments earlier demonstrated his defensive capabilities in dispossessing his opposite number Alex Byrne to start the attack.
After that was an extended period of end-to-end football, though neither keeper was forced into any save of note until Moran had to stop Johnson from grabbing his second after substitute Toby Gostling had taken one too many touches and lost the ball just outside his own penalty area.
Down the other end, Moody had to get down low to deny Charlie Madden, heading from a left-sided corner, but the Robins then broke fast. At the break’s finale, Tyreke Johnson found himself bearing down on goal with the City defence desperately trying to recover, but the winger managed to produce a finish that, while not hit with any power of note, was enough to get the ball past Moran. The goal had come in the eighty-eighth minute, and the Grecians were unable to force extra-time. Swindon will meet AFC Totton or Leyton Orient in the Second Round.
Full-time: Exeter City U18 3 Swindon Town U18 4
Exeter City U18: Moran, Byrne, Riley-Lowe, Pope, Heidari, Madden, Byrne, Billingsley, Jay, Watkins, Charles.
Subs: Mitchison, Merritt, Gill, Gostling, Down.
Swindon Town U18: Moody, Holland, Jones, Walsh, Kisitu, Matthews, English, McCormack, Randall, Marshall, Johnson.
Subs: Da Costa, Farrelly, Smith, Geid, Wood.
Referee: Robert Dabbs