Exeter City’s under-18s won in convincing style in Wales as they recorded a 5-1 victory in their final away league match of the season – a result which ultimately secured Exeter the Youth Alliance South West title.
With the final fixture against Hereford being cancelled because of the Bulls’ expulsion from the league, the revised league standings left Exeter ahead of all-comers and gifted the side the league title.
An Ollie Watkins hat-trick, as well as goals from Matt Jay and Alex Byrne, meant the Grecians responded positively to their previous league match, a 3-2 defeat by Swindon Town.
And in contrasting starts to their last game, City started the match with positive intent, with a bright spirit evident in their play with and without the ball.
However that didn’t stop the home side creating chances of their own, with County going close in the opening exchanging.
But it was Exeter who struck first, with 15 minutes played. After losing the ball deep inside the opponents’ half, the away side pressed high, resulting in wing-bac Joe Charles pulling the ball back for Watkins, who buried the first goal of the game.
The 1-0 scoreline was a reward of how well the visitors’ had started, and they continued to create more opportunities, looking for that vital second to double their lead.
However whilst the score remained the same, Newport were still in the game, and they managed to equalise just before the interval; the Exiles’ attacker coolly levelling the scores when put through to give Exeter under-18 coach Lee Skyrme a headache at half-time.
And in the second-half, the side responded to their manager’s words, with an excellent show of possession football, high intensity and aggressive pressing in an almost complete performance.
Just four minutes into the second period and the Devon outfit found themselves ahead once again.
Once more Charles attacked well down the right wing, and his cross was met by a diving header from the excellent Watkins, who saw his effort fly past the goalkeeper to make it 2-1.
Substitutions were made by Skyrme but the momentum continued to be with the Grecians, and midway through the second half Charles and Watkins combined yet again to complete the latter’s hat trick.
And minutes later substitute Matt Jay made it 4-1. After good play in the centre of the pitch, midfielder Jason Pope played the striker in and he converted his chance expertly to continue the goal rush.
As City continued to pass their way around the hosts, they managed to score for a fifth time, with Alex Byrne rounding the County goalkeeper to confirm the dominant result for Exeter.
Under-18 coach Lee Skyrme said: “We were much happier with the way we started the game compared to the Swindon match, and as we set ourselves high standards, we want to achieve those standards every time.
“I wasn’t pleased with the amount of chances we allowed them in the first half, and I thought we should have come in at half-time with a few more goals.
“But we addressed the issues at half-time, and we had a brilliant second half. It was a really good team performance where we a lot of possession and we were ruthless in attack.
“Joe Charles has played very well recently and he had a positive influence on our play whilst with and without the ball, and it was pleasing to see Ollie Watkins perform in all areas of the pitch, both offensively and defensively.”
Exeter City under-18s
1 James Mitchinson
2 Joe Charles
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 Charlie Madden
5 Hussein Heidari
6 Josh Read
7 James Byrne
8 Jason Pope
9 Cameron Gill
10 Ollie Watkins
11 Alex Byrne
12 Max Smallcombe
14 Matt Jay
15 Dean Billingsley