Young Grecians into the Round of 16
Exeter City secured passage to the last 16 of the Under-21 Premier League Cup with a quite brilliant 2-0 win against Southampton at St James Park.
The Grecians were impressive throughout the entire 90 minutes and second half goals from Jimmy Keohane and a Jake Gosling penalty were enough to secure a much-deserved win.
The victory puts Exeter into the final 16 of the competition where the tournament goes onto a national draw.
Veteran defender Danny Butterfield was named amongst the Grecians’ starting XI as he continues his return to full fitness following injury, while David Wheeler and Keohane – the other two over-age players in the City squad – also lined up to begin the game.
City were by no means overawed by their Premier League counterparts, and looked positive and progressive in possession. However tricky wing-play by Omar Rowe allowed him to get to the byline early in the match and Christy Pym was called upon to make a low sprawling save.
With the rain teeming down, the Grecians’ pressing wasn’t allowing Southampton to play a lot of football – though a breakaway led by Sam Gallagher was troublesome for City, and they were lucky to see Jake Sinclair’s strike clear the bar from a tight angle.
Up the other end, Matt Grimes fizzed in a low free-kick which was watched well by Cody Cropper, and smart movement down the left by Jake Gosling made space for a whipped cross which needed a firm clearance from a Southampton head.
The home faithful thought for all the world that the Grecians had taken the lead when Wheeler glanced a near-post header goalwards from a Jordan Moore-Taylor centre, but incredibly it stayed out as the scores remained deadlocked.
Saints were looking particularly threatening on the counter – especially with the pace down the flanks – though Exeter were the ones that almost broke the deadlock on the cusp of half-time as Gosling hit a half-volley from outside the box, but Cody Cropper collected well.
Half-time: Exeter City U21 0 Southampton U21 0
Butterfield was removed at the interval – presumably with the forthcoming first-team fixture at Rochdale in mind – with Jacob Wannell stepping into the breach.
City were occasionally vulnerable to the threats down the wings and Christy Pym had to be positioned perfectly to save and hold from a drilled Sinclair effort.
Matt Jay was also withdrawn after a lively performance, with Jacob Jagger Cane settling into midfield instead.
And as the game ticked over the hour-mark, Exeter found themselves deservedly ahead. A cut-back from the left allowed Keohane, unmarked inside the area, to take one touch to steady himself and a second to curl a left-footed strike into the top corner, to the jubilation of the home support.
City were digging deep to maintain the one-goal margin as Southampton aimed to build from the back, but before too long City had doubled the advantage.
Combination play down the right between Wheeler and Aaron Dawson allowed the latter to escape in the box and get in front of the ball and draw a penalty from Jordan Turnbull. Gosling stepped up and hammered low into the net to extend the lead.
And City, defending smartly and holding the ball well upfield, saw out a famous victory.
Full-time: Exeter City U21 2 Southampton U21 0
Exeter City: Pym; Butterfield (Wannell), Tillson, Moore-Taylor, Dawson; Keohane, Grimes, Gosling, Wheeler; Nichols (Chamberlain), Jay (Jagger Cane).
Subs: Hamon, Reid.
Goals: Keohane, Gosling (pen).
Southampton: Cropper, McCarthy, Targett, Reed, Stephens, Turnbull, Sinclair, Robinson (Gape), Gallagher, Flanagan (Seager), Rowe.
Subs: Moore, Britt, Young.
Referee: C. Powell