Exeter City’s under-18s secured a vital three points away at Torquay United on Tuesday with a 3-2 victory at Plainmoor.
A brace from Jason Pope, as well as a goal from Ollie Watkins meant the Grecians recorded a massive result to boost their chances of winning the Youth Alliance South West division.
City started proceedings very well, moving the ball around in midfield with ease, controlling the tempo of the game with their possession and creating numerous chances that attacking duo, Watkins and Matt Jay, came close to finding the breakthrough with.
However whilst more chances were created for Exeter’s lively forward pairing, it was Watkins who found the crucial opener. In a slick passing move, captain Connor Riley-Lowe linked up well with the striker, who finished well following the left-back’s cross for the first goal of the game.
Lee Skyrme had set his team up to try and dominate possession with three centre-midfielders controlling the play. Alex Byrne, James Byrne and Pope were all playing their respective roles well in the middle third of the pitch, and it was the latter who doubled the visitor’s lead.
Following good a combination down the right wing, Pope was fed the ball towards the centre of the pitch. The midfielder confidently dribbled towards the opposing defence leaving the opposition’s players in his wake before unleashing a shot past the Gulls’ goalkeeper to put the away side 2-0 up.
However despite all things seemingly going one way in the first half, United shocked Skyrme’s side with a goal of their own. Just before half-time, the home team attacked with speed in a vicious looking counter-attack. With a shortage of numbers at the back for the Grecians, Torquay capitalised and halved the deficit.
Suddenly the half-time team-talk had differed, and Exeter had something to think about during the interval.
And as the second period started, it was Plainmoor club that used that previous goal as momentum, as they started the second 45 minutes brighter, putting City under all sorts of pressure.
In response, Exeter could not find the efficient style of football they produced previously in the match, and it was they who looked like conceding the next goal.
However the determined character of the Exeter U18s never faded, and that mentality helped them dig deep and find a way of restoring the two-goal cushion. After some neat interchanges in the visitors’ midfield, it was Pope who once again appeared at the vital time to score with a neat finish.
Despite the buffer returning to the scoreline, it never killed the game off, as Torquay still continued to attack the City goal. James Hamon was called upon on numerous occasions, however the solidity of centre-back Charlie Madden in front of him typified the never-say-die attitude of the whole side.
United though did manage to find another, as nerves began to creep into Exeter’s emotions. A lapse in concentration whilst defending a corner set up a nervy finish, however a mixture of elation and relief came when the final whistle sounded with the score ending 3-2 in Exeter’s favour.
Exeter City’s under-18 coach Lee Skyrme said: “I thought we were very good in the first half, and the way we set up, I felt we could go and attack Torquay with confidence, and I believe we did that.
“However we are disappointed with our second half performance. We made the game tighter than it really should have been, and because we set ourselves high standards, despite winning, we still aren’t happy.
“I think the players have learnt a lot from the game today, learning how to adapt to new formations and tactics, as well as learning to cope with the pressures that they were put under too.
“However we have had two local derbies in the space of a short-time, and although we would have liked six points from the two matches, four points is still a good total for us.”
Exeter City under-18s
1 James Hamon
2 Hussein Heidari
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 Josh Read
5 Charlie Madden
6 Toby Down
7 Alex Byrne
8 James Byrne
9 Ollie Watkins
10 Matt Jay
11 Jason Pope
12 Joe Charles
14 Dean Billingsley
15 Jimmy Hines