Youngster happy with positive approach to cup tie
When Exeter City’s under-21 squad overcame their Crystal Palace hosts with a 3-2 win at Selhurst Park, it was an under-18 player in the shape of Matt Jay that netted the game’s winning goal.
Striker Tom Nichols had netted twice in the first half for City in between goals for the hosts by Kyle De Silva and Sullay Kaikai, but a quick bit of movement in the penalty area created an opening for Jay to seal the Grecians’ win after the break.
On paper, it looked like it was going to be an uphill struggle for Exeter as the Eagles named a squad brimming with players with top-flight experience and full international caps, including Malian international Jimmy Kébé, Norwegian international Jonathan Parr, Spanish under-21 defender José Campaña and former England under-21 striker Cameron Jerome.
But Jay revealed that the squad weren’t overawed by the task at hand, and that belief allowed the team to carve out a victory and a place in the Round of 32 in the Under-21 Premier League Cup.
“Crystal Palace are a big team, but we’ve got good players,” said Jay. You’ve always got to want to win and expect to win, or you probably won’t.
“We heard about it [the strength of the Palace team] on the bus – but it’s just a game, it’s 11 versus 11 so you’ve got to get on with it.
“I thought the defenders did really well – Jimmy Kebe has got bags of pace and Cameron Jerome is really strong, so I think we did well. We’re really pleased about it.”
While Jay’s strike proved to be the match-winner, he was more elated with the fact that it happened to earn the team their passage rather than any personal glory.
“Personally, it was nice to get a goal – but for the team it’s more important to get that winning goal,” he continued.
“It was just a quick one-two in the box and the next thing you know, the ball is in the back of the net. It was really good for the team, and that’s what it’s all about.
“[Goalscoring] was an aspect of my game I could have improved on, and now I’m playing more games more regularly and I’m trying to find the net as much as I can.”
The teamwork on display was quite exceptional at times, and Jay felt that the good relationship that the group have off the field has proven to be a helpful factor in their on-pitch understanding too.
“A lot of us have played together throughout the years and in the Academy, and now through to the under-21s too,” said the 17-year-old.
“There’s a lot of good chemistry around the group – it’s a good group to be and play in.”