Pompey leave Cat & Fiddle victorious through penaltyExeter City’s under-18s suffered defeat in somewhat controversial circumstances as they lost 1-0 to Portsmouth at the Cat & Fiddle on Saturday.
The decision of a penalty midway through the second half stunned the home side after captain Josh Read was adjudged to have handled the ball inside his own 18-yard box.
The spot-kick was duly dispatched, and Exeter pushed to find a deserved equaliser, however they ran out of time as Pompey held on to claim a precious win in the Westcountry.
Having lost to Cheltenham Town the previous week, Exeter’s youngsters were keen to respond with a victory against the Hampshire side; however they started slowly, allowing their counterparts a dominant first 20 minutes.
Several long-range efforts gave Exeter some scares, however a wonderful double save from Kavanagh Keadell in the first 10 minutes kept the hosts in the game and brought a round of applause from the spectators.
Keadell again denied the away side as the Grecians created their first real chance in the 21st minute.
Good link up play from Mustafa Rehemi and Will Richards meant the latter could cut in from the left flank, and fire a shot that was denied by the Portsmouth shot-stopper.
It seemed to spark the Devon club into life, as previously passes weren’t sticking, and a lot of the chances given away were down to individual mistakes.
Keadell came to his side’s rescue once again, twice denying the Blues from free kick opportunities, whilst Richards glanced an effort just wide for the home team.
A combination of heroic defending and desperate goalkeeping kept the scoreline goalless in the latter stages of the first 45 period, as a scramble inside the Exeter penalty area resulted in nothing.
And when half-time sounded, Lee Skyrme and his team were probably the happier going into the interval at 0-0 in a half where they perhaps were second-best for the most of it.
However the Grecians came out a completely different outfit in the second 45 minutes, looking more determined as they addressed their issues during the break.
Despite a few opportunities falling the visitors’ way, City controlled much of the second half, with the introduction of Cameron Gill and Dean Billingsley factors in going forward in a more dangerous manner.
Max Smallcombe tried a low shot that the opposition goalkeeper dealt with, whilst Billingsley found himself down the right wing but his cutback evaded his teammates. It was the first time Skyrme’s men got in behind the Pompey defence, and all it was missing was a touch to divert the ball goalwards.
The home team were in a commanding position, with Billingsley going close with a shot that just went wide, however City remained focused in defence, with Read and Keadell helping their team retain their clean sheet 66 minutes into the second period.
However a minute later, centre-back Read was said to have handled the ball inside the box as he tried to control a ball.
Everyone associated with Exeter were left stunned by the award of a spot-kick, which was dispatched confidently as Exeter had to find a way of picking themselves up again after a stroke of bad luck.
Gill fired a free kick that whistled past the post, as the hosts looked a side still affected by the referee’s decision.
The introduction of Jamie Harkness still couldn’t provide the Devonians with another decent chance, as 90 minutes arrived and the full-time whistle blew, ending with a defeat for Exeter.
Under-18 coach Lee Skyrme said: “Unfortunately we’ve come away with the result we didn’t want. We are slightly disappointed. The award of the penalty is a tough decision to take, and five minutes earlier they have had a similar moment in their own box when nothing was given.
“Perhaps there were a few key moments where we didn’t make the most of the opportunity, and after their goal we lost our way a little when that was possibly the best time to score.
“At half-time we sorted the little things out, and the lads have responded well to that. The substitutes gave us more influence in the final third but I am pleased with the overall team ethic and generally pleased with our performance.
“Sometimes you don’t always get what you deserve, and unfortunate that is the case here. But the lads need to stay focused, keep improving and hopefully we’ll get the result we want next time around.”
Exeter City U18s: Keadell, Down, Madden, Read, Green, Hayfield, Smallcombe, Merritt, Richards, Charles, Rehemi.
Subs: Gill, Billingsley, Harkness, Egan.