Grecians undone by the U’s
A ruthless display from Oxford United meant Exeter City’s under-18s suffered a crushing 5-1 defeat in what was only the Grecians’ second loss of the season.
Two goals inside the opening five minutes put the Devon outfit always on the back foot, and despite finding a goal of their own midway through the first half thanks to Ollie Watkins, the task proved to be too difficult for Exeter.
United restored their two-goal lead on 24 minutes, whilst it became four goals for the visitors minutes before the interval.
In a tighter second period, the final goal of the game came with 15 minutes left to play, however the outcome of the match seemed to have been clear long beforehand.
Lee Skyrme and his side came into the game in high spirits having been playing well and training hard in the lead up to what was always going to be a difficult game.
And as each side seemed to be finding a foothold in the game during the early stages, a breakdown in communication between City’s defence and goalkeeper allowed the opposing winger to simply volley the loose ball into an empty net giving the Yellows the early initiative.
A minute later, and what was a bad start for the home side, had now become a dreadful one, as a U’s corner was headed home by the physical Oxford striker, leaving James Mitchison in the Exeter goal with no chance.
Chances continued to come United’s way as the Devonians struggled to deal with the pace and movement of the Oxford attacks.
It took 17 minutes for the Westcountry side to carve out an opportunity of their own, and Charlie Madden went close as he glanced a header just wide.
However minutes later, a stunning strike from striker, Ollie Watkins, halved the deficit and brought Skyrme’s men back into it. Captain Connor Riley-Lowe battled well to help win possession back for the home side, and Watkins left two defenders in his wake as he turned and sent a rocket past the diving shot-stopper.
Though the score only stayed at 2-1 for just four minutes.
With City pushing to find an equaliser by winning another corner, their opponents hit them on the counter-attack at high-speed, and despite Mitchison doing well to save the two initial efforts, the final attempt found its way into the Exeter net for an Oxford third.
Despite the Grecians’ coaching staff changing tactics, and the continuous efforts of Matt Jay and Dean Billingsley, the traffic seemed to be going only one way, and on 42 minutes, the result was beyond all doubt.
Powerful running from the attacker left the home defence chasing silhouettes as finally the ball was tucked low into the far corner leaving everyone associated with Exeter a 4-1 scoreline to dwell on.
Pride and dignity were still two things the City boys fought for in the second 45 in what became a tighter affair.
With chances at more of a premium in the second phase, it was a sign that the home side were matching their counterparts in more departments, whilst Watkins and Madden both had efforts that both went wide as more pressure was applied to the visitors’ goal.
James Byrne, switched from his regular centre-midfield post to an unfamiliar right-back slot impressed with his attitude and defensive qualities, whilst alongside him in defence, Madden was growing into the game and was showing good leadership skills in commanding a more solid back four.
Matt Jay, returning to the Cat & Fiddle for the U18s for the first time in the league since his time away with the first-team, showed glimpses of quality that no one could match, as he, and fellow attackers, Watkins, Billingsley and later on substitute Cameron Gill did all their best to try and make the scoreline more respectable, and at least win the second half.
However Oxford continued creating chances of their own, and in spite of two earlier opportunities in the half, they did find another breakthrough with less than 10 minutes left of play. The U’s captain got in on the act firing low past Mitchison to complete the scoring in a ruthless display, that Lee Skyrme’s boys could just not match.
1 James Mitchinson
2 Joe Charles
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 James Byrne
5 Charlie Madden
6 Toby Down
12 Alex Byrne
8 Jason Pope
9 Dean Billingsley
10 Matt Jay
11 Ollie Watkins
12 Scott Townsend
14 Cameron Gill