City twice come from behind to force a replay
Exeter City’s under-18s Youth Cup clash with Plymouth Argyle ended in a 2-2 draw after the young Grecians came from behind twice to force a replay.
Two goals from striker Cameron Gill meant Exeter stretch their unbeaten record in all competitions to three games, though they could have even won the tie with a late onslaught.
Despite City’s Alex Byrne clipping the crossbar direct from a corner early on in the match, Plymouth started the game brightly and looked like the team likely to break the deadlock.
Both teams were trying to play flowing football, though the breakthrough was made inside the first 10 minutes. James Mitchinson and his defence were in disarray following a poor clearance, leaving the Pilgrims striker to tap the ball into an empty net to give Argyle the initiative.
Exeter’s James Byrne had a free kick saved as they tried to find a way back into the match, however the chances created in the first 20 minutes seemed to be made by the visitors.
The Grecians, for all of their possession, were struggling to break their opponents down, with passes and first-touches letting the team down in threatening areas.
The clock showed 22 minutes when Mitchinson saved well from a low shot from an Argyle attack, whilst his defenders helped him out clearing one off the line moments later.
And that seemed to inspire the Exeter team, as just three minutes later they found an equaliser.
Joe Charles cut in from his left flank, and played a defence-splitting reverse ball into Cameron Gill’s path. The attacker ran on to the ball, beat the centre-back in front of him, and coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
The through-ball from Charles was magnificent whilst Gill showed real maturity and composure in his finish. Now could Exeter push on from this leveller?
Despite Jason Pope’s long-range effort just clearing the crossbar, the wrong answer came eight minutes after City’s goal.
Whilst on the counter-attack, good link-up play from the Argyle forwards led to the home defence chasing shadows. As the opposing striker dribbled towards the left hand side of the goal, he casually finished into the far corner to restore the one goal lead for his team.
It seemed to wake the Grecians up though, as they tried to find another goal of their own before the break. Both wingers, Charles and Ollie Watkins forced the opposition goalkeeper into decent saves, whilst captain Connor Riley-Lowe could only send his free header over from a set-piece.
The half-time whistle sounded, and a dejected-looking Exeter needed the 15 minute interval to find a way of getting back into the tie.
And from the kick-off of the second half, a sense of urgency and hunger was evident. Watkins received the call from the first whistle and let fly from 30 yards, and his drive was tipped over from the Plymouth shot-stopper.
Hussein Heidari created mayhem in the visitors’ penalty box when his flick was goal bound, whilst Gill fired a low shot that was saved comfortably. Though Mitchinson had to be alert at the other end – the custodian producing a diving save to tip away a long range effort from the Pilgrims.
As substitute Dean Billingsley was brought on for the home side to help aid their search of a second goal five minutes later, the score became all square once again.
A diagonal ball found Gill in behind the opposing full-back in the left hand channel. A combination with Riley-Lowe allowed the striker to find himself 18 yards out in a more centred position, where he arrowed a shot into the bottom corner out of the goalkeeper’s reach. Cue the celebrations which were marks of relief as they were joy.
Despite Plymouth still seeing sights of goal, with their winger arguably missing their best chance in the second period, it was thanks to a solid more looking centre-back pairing that allowed City to have all the momentum in the final 15 minutes.
Argyle’s striker looked isolated, whilst Charlie Madden and Toby Down, in complete contrast to the opening moments of the match, looked very comfortable, cutting out everything coming their way and starting the Exeter attacks themselves by advancing with the ball out of defence themselves.
Pope and Watkins both saw shot narrowly miss the target whilst Gill had a chance to complete his hat-trick and win the match for the home team with minutes to play however his lobbed effort went just wide.
However the full-time whistle blew with the game tied, meaning a Devon derby replay is on the cards. Both sets of players looked happy with a draw as they await to see when they meet again in Plymouth for the rematch.
Under-18 manager Lee Skyrme said: “I have learnt a lot about the players during the course of this game. They showed a lot of character and mettle, and the reaction they gave to going a goal down twice in the match was brilliant.
“I am pleased for Cameron Gill, because the two goals he scored were very good, whilst Charlie Madden and our under-16 Toby Down were terrific in the second half. They gave us the platform to go in search of the goals we needed to get back into the game.
“I feel we were capable of winning the tie in the last 20 minutes had our finishing been better, but overall I am pleased with the determination shown by our boys today.”
1 James Mitchinson
2 Hussein Heidari
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 James Byrne
5 Charlie Madden
6 Toby Down
12 Joe Charles
8 Alex Byrne
9 Cameron Gill
10 Jason Pope
11 Ollie Watkins
13 Stephane Butler
14 Dean Billingsley
16 Scott Townsend
25 WIll Richards