Hartlepool United v Exeter City

Report: Hartlepool Utd 0 Exeter City 2

Exeter City finished the 2013/14 season with a fine 2-0 victory against Hartlepool United at Victoria Park.

Jimmy Keohane and David Wheeler were the Grecians’ two goalscorers – both goals coming before the break – but with the result never going to be important for either team, one of the more important stats was the number of homegrown players that featured in the Exeter side.

No less than nine players that came out of the Cat & Fiddle Academy featured for Exeter in Hartlepool, while youngsters Jordan Tillson, Jimmy Keohane and David Wheeler – all who made their pro debuts with Exeter – also featured.

Tillson was beginning his first game for Exeter City’s first team, while Aaron Dawson was also recalled into the team for his fifth appearance of the year.  Scot Bennett was handed the captain’s armband.

David Wheeler began in attack ahead of Keohane, and young duo Matt Jay and Ollie Watkins, who will both become first-team players in earnest on graduating from the Academy this summer, are both on the bench.

No less than ten players in the matchday squad learned their trade at the Academy at the Cat & Fiddle, along with youngsters Wheeler, Keohane and Tillson, all of whom began their pro careers with the Grecians.

City’s experimental side began the game in positive manner and were keen to get the ball down and play.  Dawson’s forward bursts down the right were giving Pools plenty to think about, and it was only a slightly overhit pass from Liam Sercombe that prevented the right-back from getting a shot away.

Craig Woodman, last weekend’s hero with a fine free-kick, came close to netting on back-to-back weekends.  A smart infield ball by Sercombe allowed Wheeler to feed Keohane – the midfielder couldn’t fashion a chance for himself but instead teed up the left-back, who fired over.

Hartlepool were struggling to break down City’s defence in any meaningful manner, with the three centre-halves covering plenty of ground and Pools being a tad loose with their passing.  Defender Michael Duckworth was fortunate to collect the ball in the area but could only fire at Christy Pym.

But almost immediately down the other end, City took the lead in some style.  It was Matt Gill that won the ball in midfield and fed Keohane – the Irishman created space with a step-over and clipped a fine strike into the net via the underside of the crossbar.

Keohane was denied a second just moments later when Woodman switched the play to Wheeler on the right.  The former Staines man cut back for Keohane to guide a shot on target, but Scott Flinders clawed away.

Former West Ham and Aston Villa striker Marlon Harewood was having a quiet afternoon, but always posed a threat on the ball – he fashioned space to drill a powerful effort from outside the area but it was high into the stands.

And Gill was once again the architect for City’s next goal – a perfectly weighted forward pass from the midfielder spotted Wheeler on the run, and a beautifully controlled take from the winger allowed him to control the ball and round Flinders in one motion before slotting in left-footed.

Pools could have cut the deficit before the interval as James Poole went down under the attention of Tillson in the area, and referee Darren Deadman pointed to the spot.  However Pym pulled out a fine stop to deny Compton a deficit-cutting goal.

Half-time: Hartlepool United 0 Exeter City 2

Jay was called into action from the subs’ bench at the interval, with Sercombe given the chance to spectate for the final 45 minutes of a long season.

Exeter began the second period in a similarly positive fashion as they played the first.  Keohane won a free-kick 25 yards out, which Grimes hit left-footed at goal, but Flinders was well-placed to gather.

At the other end, Poole looped a half-volley over the crossbar before Harewood had the power taken out of his shot as Bennett blocked from close-range, allowing Pym to collect.

The home side were looking increasingly frustrated at their inability to break down the Exeter defence, and were reduced to efforts from distance – Compton fired a powerful effort but couldn’t hit the target from 30 yards.

Jake Gosling, back from his loan spell at Gloucester, was introduced for the final 15 minutes.  Watkins was also given the final quarter of an hour for a professional debut before graduating from the Academy.

It wasn’t long before Watkins linked up with fellow youngster Jay, as the pairing – who have played together countless times since youth level – strung together an attack.  Jay cut in off the left to set up Watkins, who bent a shot narrowly wide.

City managed to see out the game with a clean-sheet – the closest Pools came in the closing stages saw Sam Collins’ header deflected just wide, and Poole hitting a left-footed half-volley which Pym held well.

Full-time: Hartlepool United 0 Exeter City 2

Hartlepool United: Flinders; Duckworth, Collins, Harrison, Holden; Poole, Oliver (Hawkins 80), Walker, Compton; Harewood, Franks.
Subs: Rafferty, Rowbotham, Richards, Jones, Smith, James.

Exeter City: Pym; Dawson, Bennett, Tillson, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Sercombe (Jay 46), Gill (Watkins 75); Grimes; Keohane; Wheeler.
Subs: Krysiak, Butterfield, Baldwin, Nichols.
Goals: Keohane (25), Wheeler (44).

Attendance: 4,710 (184 away).

Referee: D. Deadman