Grecians get winning start to league campaignExeter City’s under-18 side began their defence of the Youth Alliance South West title with a hard fought 1-0 victory away to AFC Bournemouth in a tough and gruelling start to their league campaign.
The victory came days after the youngsters’ disappointing penalty shoot-out defeat to Portsmouth in the Youth Alliance Cup, where Portsmouth were shoot-out winners.
However they reacted with the best response, and a fine strike from Brandon Green before the break separated the sides in an evenly-matched game.
The first half produced some tremendous phases of football from both sides, both in attack and defence, and it was evident both teams were fully committed in trying to get the crucial opening goal.
Despite a bout of illness, Dean Billingsley worked tremendously hard in trying to break the deadlock, and his tireless running gave the AFC defenders a constant pressure.
And after trading several shots from long range, the Grecians managed to turn their spell of possession into a goal. Five minutes before the interval, City’s attacking pressure forced a corner, and Scott Merritt’s delivery, which was attacked at the near post by Toby Down, was flicked through to Green to volley home and give the away side a deserved lead.
Half-time came and the initiative was with the Devon club. There was evidence of good possession football accompanied with some organised defending in their play, and yet the second half was going to need even more heart and commitment if they were to take the vital three points home with them.
And Lee Skyrme’s men were unlucky not to double their lead within the opening minutes of the second period. From kick-off Exeter worked their way into their counterparts’ penalty box, however they could only squander the headed opportunity that came their way, so they were hoping they didn’t have to regret missing that chance later on.
The Hampshire outfit began seeing much more of the ball from then on, however despite the constant waves of pressure put on them, the visitors held firm and were not going to be broken down. Josh Read proved how crucial his role was in Exeter’s defence as he stopped anything from getting past him, whilst he also marshalled his teammates into strict organisation in front of him.
Substitutions were made from the Grecians’ bench with Dan Hayfield and Will Babb brought on to liven things up in attack during the second period, whilst Charlie Madden was introduced to help tighten things up defensively. Jamie Harkness was named amongst the subs too, as his road to recovery continued after a long-term injury that had kept him off the pitch for almost a year.
The changes seemed to help in ways, with City creating more clear-cut chances, however they found the Cherries’ goalkeeper in top form at times, and beating for a second time was proving to be a difficult task.
However as the full-time whistle sounded, a second goal was not needed as a resolute defensive display during the second 45 minutes meant Exeter kept a clean sheet, and snatch a win at a very good Bournemouth side.
Under-18 coach Lee Skyrme said: “I am very pleased with the win. Generally I thought it was a very good spirited team performance. We had to be at our best and I believe our first half professional performance has won the game for us.
“I am slightly disappointed with our possession in the second half, and our nervousness resulted in the team being put under pressure more often.
“There are more parts to a game than just scoring goals, and we’ve defended well in the second period. Our high concentration levels were an important aspect in our game.
“To go to Bournemouth and perform very well in the first half, and defend solidly in the second showed a very strong mentality. They are a decent side who play fantastic stuff so to get a victory here is outstanding.”
Exeter City U18: Keadell; Down, Green, Read, Egan; Byrne, Merrit, Rehemi, Charles, Richards; Billingsley.
Subs: Hayfield, Babb, Madden, Harkness.