Exeter City U18 1 Portsmouth U18 1 (5-6 on pens)

City's youngsters exit Youth Alliance Cup

Exeter City’s under-18 side were knocked out of the Youth Alliance Cup in the first round by their Portsmouth counterparts at the Cat & Fiddle, with penalties needed to separate the teams.

A well-contested game saw Exeter finish strongly but unable to force a second goal before the end of normal time, meaning that the tie was decided from 12 yards.  And Pompey were ultimately victors as the shoot-out went into sudden-death.

An athletic Portsmouth team put on early pressure and goalkeeper Kavanagh Keadell produced two fine stops to keep out the opposition attack – the first a low drive from a tight angle which he diverted over the bar, and the second an effort from distance which needed tipping over as it threatened to drop in.

At the other end, City could have earned the opening goal as one effort was scrambled off the goal-line as Josh Read met a corner unchallenged.  Shortly after a ball down the line by Charlie Madden was kept alive by Joe Charles to set up Dean Billingsley – the striker’s first attempt was blocked, and the second on the rebound was turned behind in spectacular fashion.

It was just before the hour mark that Portsmouth took the lead – after pinching the ball in midfield, a quick break allowed the Pompey striker to poke a cool finish across goal and into the far corner.

But barely five minutes later Exeter were level.  Having reacted well to the goal, City began to pile the pressure onto the goal and when Pompey couldn’t clear their lines, defender Toby Down was alert on the edge of the area to strike goalwards and the ball deflected its way into the top corner for the equaliser.

Exeter’s back four of Brandon Green, Josh Read, Charlie Madden and Toby Down looked particularly able in possession and keen to thread the ball into midfield rather than looking long.  The centre-half pairing of Madden and Read in particular marshalled the defence well but Pompey still came close as a first-time strike from outside the area flashed wide.

Substitute Cameron Gill offered a fresh pair of legs in attack and it was only a cynical foul that prevented him from bursting into the box and a pocket of space, earning the defender a yellow card.

And Billingsley almost set up the striker after stealing the ball high up the field, but ultimately Pompey survived with some last-ditch defending as they took it to penalties.

After two good penalties each, Gill’s was saved – but Keadell guessed right soon after to tie the spot-kick scores at 3-3.  Unfortunately when it went to sudden-death it was Green that narrowly missed the target with his kick to allow Portsmouth through.

Despite the disappointment of a cup exit, there was no shortage of positives to take from a good team performance ahead of the defence of their Youth Alliance South West title, which begins with a trip to Bournemouth on Saturday.