Youngsters fall to home defeat against the CherriesExeter City’s under-18s lost their first match on home soil this season with a 2-1 defeat to AFC Bournemouth.
Despite taking the lead through Joe Charles’ spot-kick, the visitors came from behind and stole all the points in an entertaining game of football.
Conditions were ever changing, however it didn’t spoil the quality of play, and City will feel they should have got something here from an even game.
Coming into the game, the Cherries sat in second place, with Exeter placed just one position and three points below them, so the three points on offer were going to be crucial for the victors here.
And it was the home team that started the brighter. Cameron Gill on two separate occasions coming close for the Grecians, whilst Alex Byrne sent in a teasing cross that troubled the Bournemouth defence.
And the waves of attack kept on coming from Lee Skyrme’s side, and on nine minutes, they had taken the lead.
After some impressive build-up play in the middle of the park, striker Dean Billingsley was slid through leaving the defender no option but to bring him down inside the 18-yard box. Subsequently the penalty was given by the referee, and Charles smashed the ball into the corner to give the Westcountry club a deserved 1-0 lead.
Coaches reiterate how vital it is to keep out the opponent when you have just scored, however the hosts fell victim to just that, as a minute later, the scoreline was back to level terms.
With their first meaningful attack, the away team crossed from the right, and the opposing striker composed himself to slot the ball into the bottom corner.
The attacking duo for the Hampshire side were proving to be lively, and Josh Read and his defence had to be alert not to give the twosome another sniff at goal.
Momentum was beginning to shift in favour of the Cherries, and despite Billingsley having another half chance for City, the midfield was an area starting to be controlled by Bournemouth.
Midway through the first period, the turnaround was accomplished, as another avoidable goal from a Grecians point of view was converted by the visitors.
A well worked corner routine found its way to the far post, and with no one marking the Bournemouth player, a header was sent goal bound and over Kavanagh Keadell into the roof of the net to make it 2-1 to the visitors and complete the turnaround.
The disappointment etched onto the Exeter faces was evident, and now it was all about the response they could muster against a side proving to just have the edge in the vital areas at the time.
In a topsy-turvy first half, the possession was dominated by Skyrme’s side once again, as Will Richards and Alex Byrne both failed to test the goalkeeper whilst in dangerous positions.
It was a frustrating period for the Devon club, who thought they had an equaliser just before half-time however Billingsley was adjudged to have been offside once he pounced onto a loose ball inside the penalty area following a save from the Bournemouth shot-stopper.
However the whistle blew for the end of the half, with Skyrme and his side given 15 minutes to figure out a way of finding their way back into the match.
With a half-time team talk still fresh in their minds, it was the away side who should have grabbed the fourth of the game just 60 seconds into the second half.
It woke the hosts up, as they started to control the game, in search for the equaliser as much of the period saw them camped in the opposition half. Billingsley and Byrne, with a determined attitude, both tested the visitors’ custodian from long-range, however getting in a pocket of space to unleash an effort was proving to be difficult.
Scott Merritt was introduced to the action, and almost made an instant impact, as he combined with Billingsley and arrowed a shot destined for the bottom corner if it wasn’t for the goalkeeper’s intervention, who tipped it around the post.
The Grecians was certainly on top here, and if they were desperately unlucky not to level the scores with Merritt’s rocket, then their lack of luck continued as from the resulting corner, Dan Hayfield’s goal bound drive was headed away off the line.
Bournemouth still threatened on the counter-attack, and their break midway through the half led to some heroic defending from the Exeter defence, as Brandon Green and Charlie Madden threw their bodies on the line to preserve the scoreline.
Mustapha Rehemi and Frank Rosenwald were brought on to bring life into the City team and Rehemi curled a brilliant effort just wide seven minutes after his substitution as time began to run out.
Minutes remained as the youngsters found themselves with a three-on-one situation following a break from a Cherries’ set-piece. However Charles, Billingsley and Gill were unable to capitalise the promising situation which summed up how the afternoon went for the young Exeter team.
As the full-time whistle sounded, it was consecutive defeats for City’s youngsters, with Cheltenham their next league feature, hoping luck will be with them and three points will get their title challenge back on track.
Under-18 coach Lee Skyrme said: “Despite the result, I was quite happy with some of things we were doing on the pitch, however we are all disappointed with the goals we have conceded. We have identified and worked on keeping those kind of chances out so to concede from something like that isn’t pleasing."
“Bournemouth are a good team, and the way the game was going, it seemed that there was only going to be one goal between the sides. Once they were ahead it suited their game, and they proved to be troublesome on the break.
“I thought we didn’t move the ball in defence as well as we have been, and we didn’t break the opposition lines as often as before. We felt we contributed to their goals, which were mainly down to our mistakes.
“This has been a good lesson for the team. We have to get the key moments right, and after our match preparation, we have to take that onto the pitch. Some of the minor details weren’t right, and that has cost us here.”
Exeter City U18: Keadell, Egan, Madden, Green, Read, Charles, Hayfield, Byrne, Richards, Gill, Billingsley.
Subs: Harkness, Rehemi, Down, Merritt, Rosenwald.