Grecians progress with fine performance in the capital
Exeter City earned a place in the first round proper of the Under-21 Premier League Cup, as they saw off their Crystal Palace counterparts 3-2 at Selhurst Park in their final qualifying round of the inaugural competition.
City fought back from behind and from the disappointment of surrendering a lead with some composed and collected play, and ultimately got their rewards for a hard evening’s graft. Tom Nichols netted twice in quick succession to get City going, and Matt Jay netted a second-half winner.
In a frantic opening period, the hosts quickly went ahead as Kyle De Silva scored on his home patch, as Jerome Williams burst down the flank and cut back for the striker to net a composed effort.
But no sooner had the Eagles taken the lead than City had equalised and then gone ahead through Nichols – both goals coming as the Grecians forced their hosts into sloppy play in their own defensive areas and were ruthless in their finishing. Jonathan Parr and Jose Campana were the guilty parties for under-hitting passes to their goalkeeper, which Nichols gratefully accepted on both occasions with decisive finishing.
The game was barely 15 minutes old when Nichols found the net for the second time, putting the visitors ahead and giving the sizable contingent of City supporters reasons to believe it would be their night.
But while City were looking spritely and lively from the off, they were pegged back before the interval by Sullay Kaikai to set up an interesting second period. Malian international Jimmy Kebe showed pace and power down the right flank and teed up his teammate for a tap-in as the Eagles earned a leveller.
Chances went begging for either side soon after the interval – Lewis Price was at full stretch to deny Jake Gosling from distance after space opened up in front of him, before Cameron Jerome looped a shot over the crossbar from outside the area.
But Jay was the coolest in the penalty box when the chance presented itself and re-established a lead for the visitors. A corner into the danger-zone wasn’t dealt with fully, and when the ball was worked in once again the City strikeforce demonstrated the type interplay that the youngsters are famed for – allowing Jay to work a one-two with Nichols before finishing with a cool side-footed effort.
The same combination could have earned City’s fourth minutes later as the Grecians countered swiftly again and attacked with numbers – Jay’s shot was blocked by the legs of Price and the ball fell unkindly for Jimmy Keohane on the rebound, as the move broke down.
The City rearguard did come under siege in the closing stages – understandably the hosts were not going to lie down and accept their fate without trying for a fightback.
And that almost came with the last action of the game, as a Alex Wynter headed a punt forward into the path of Michael Chambers to head in – but the assistant’s flag had already been raised for an offside call.
The referee’s whistle followed to signal the end of the game, and the Grecians’ passage to the first round proper of the competition, where Premier League outfit Southampton will be the visitors in Exeter.
Crystal Palace U21: Price, Parr, Williams, Boateng, Wynter, Chambers, Kebe, Campana, Jerome, De Silva, Kaikai.
Subs: Guedioura, Fitzsimons, Taylor, Dymond, Sekajja.
Goals: De Silva, Kaikai.
Exeter City U21: Pym, Dawson, Wannell, Tillson, Wheeler, Gosling, Keohane, Nichols, Jay, Grimes, Moore-Taylor.
Subs: Hamon, Jagger Cane, Watkins, Chamberlain, Riley-Lowe.
Goals: Nichols (2), Jay.