Young Grecians overcome the U's
Goals from Matt Jay and Charlie Madden, as well as securing a second consecutive away clean sheet, ensured it was the Devonians who took the vital three points on offer, in what was a top of the table six-pointer.
It means the boys from the Cat & Fiddle leapfrog their counterparts in the league standings and sit top with 23 points, level with Oxford, but they have a superior goal difference.
The result shows how far the under-18s have progressed this season, despite the long-term lay-off the club experienced over the winter period, after the Grecians suffered a heavy 5-1 defeat to United in the reverse fixture at the Cat & Fiddle back in September.
Weather conditions last Saturday favoured a free-flowing game, however with the pitch in a state that made things difficult with the ball on the ground, the Grecians struggled to sustain any rhythm they tried building.
The first half ebbed and flowed in an even contest with the hosts looking particularly threatening with crosses into the City box, however arguably Lee Skyrme’s men created the best two chances of the half, wasting both opportunities with efforts over the crossbar, whilst the U’s post was also struck in another threatening assault onto their goal.
However for all of the menacing waves of attacks from either side, both clubs went into the break relatively content, and whilst the score remained 0-0, both sides believed they could snatch the victory.
And in the second half, a more familiar looking Exeter side took to the field. Their high intensity passing game was restored as they were more eager and comfortable whilst in possession, resulting in more chances being carved in behind the Yellows’ defence.
Whilst the visitors missed two one-on-one’s, their persistence paid off when the aforementioned striker, Jay, finished smartly into the bottom corner to give them the lead.
It was what City had deserved following their impressive turnaround since the interval, as they looked the team more likely to score during a spell in which they started to to dominate.
Forward, Dean Billingsley, who had worked tirelessly throughout was a constant menace to the opposing defence, and his poaching ability meant that after the opener had gone the way of the of the away side, the visitors always threatened with adding a second goal.
Meanwhile in the defensive third, the previously mentioned Madden, and his centre-back partner, Toby Down, were excellent at repelling any Oxford onslaughts were a one of the reasons why the next goal to go in was never going to be one Exeter conceded.
And to round off his display, in the closing moments, Madden doubled the Grecians’ lead with a sublime execution of skill and opportunity; the defender seizing the opportunity of a stray ball from the opposition goalkeeper to lob over him with a quick free kick from long-range.
The two goal cushion was perhaps what the Devon outfit deserved following their second-half showing and as the whistle sounded for full-time, an elated Lee Skyrme and his coaching staff shared their delight with every player who fought hard to earn the result.
Under-18s manager Lee Skyrme said: “I thought the lads managed our own game well and we got the goals we needed during the periods we were on top in the game.
“I am particularly pleased with the way we have improved from the last time we played Oxford. Losing 5-1 wasn’t a good day for us and thankfully the boys have turned it around with the performance here.
“We always focus on performing well in our own roles within the team, and we believe that if we can do that, then the result will take care of itself, and it has done here against Oxford.”
Exeter City Under-18s
1 James Mitchinson
2 Hussein Heidari
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 James Byrne
5 Charlie Madden
6 Toby Down
7 Alex Byrne
8 Cameron Gill
9 Dean Billingsley
10 Matt Jay
11 Ollie Watkins