City youngsters back to winning ways against the RobinsExeter City’s under-18s got back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory against Cheltenham Town at the Cat & Fiddle.
Cameron Gill gave the hosts an early lead before Dean Billingsley doubled the lead in the second half. A late goal from the Robins gave the away side some hope, however City held on to record their first win in three matches to get their title challenge back on track.
Two consecutive losses had dented the young Grecians goal of retaining their Youth Alliance South West league title, but they were quick to banish any bad memories from recent weeks with a goal inside the first minute to put a real statement of intent down onto the game.
Mustafa Rehemi and Alex Byrne combined in midfield, before slipping the ball to the in-form Gill, who unleashed a long-range effort and curled beautifully inside the top corner and give his team the best possible start with just 34 minutes on the clock.
The goal gave the hosts the authority in the opining 20 minutes, with Byrne and Joe Charles both wasting good opportunities during a dominant spell for Exeter.
However loose play allowed Town to register a few chances of their own, with many opportunities falling to the Cheltenham strikers courtesy of defensive mistakes.
While Cheltenham started to threaten more halfway through the first period, the Devon club looked bright on the break, with their quick tempo a worrying factor for the visitors’ defence.
Centre-back Toby Down saw a good chance denied by a combination of the goalkeeper and the linesman’s flag, whilst Gill was unlucky not to lift the ball over the advancing goalkeeper as he raced clear when put through from Charlie Madden’s deep long ball.
Five minutes before the break, goalkeeper Kavanagh Keadell kept his side in front with a tremendous save, stopping a goal bound header with a diving save when the striker looked favourite to equalise.
It seemed as if everyone in the team was determined to secure a victory for the club despite what the Gloucestershire outfit could throw at them.
Half-time arrived and both sides had positives to take from their first half showing. However the next goal was to be crucial as momentum looked to be a key component in a close contest.
Good work from Charles saw Billingsley miss a good opportunity, whilst the away side continued to create chances of their own, with Keadell matching everything that headed his way.
Coach Lee Skymre changed City’s shape and introduced new personnel in order to gain an initiative in the match. It almost worked in an instant, with substitute Frank Rosenwald seeing his shot blocked before Billingsley scuffed the rebound attempt into the Cheltenham goalkeeper’s hands.
The game continued to ebb and flow, but a second goal did arrive on 72 minutes.
Kyle Egan linked up with Byrne, before his cross found Billingsley, and with his shirt being tugged by the opposition defender, the referee had no option but to award a penalty to the Grecians.
Billingsley picked himself up and nestled the kick into the corner to grab the crucial second goal of the match.
The goal only led to Town trying to force themselves back into the match, with the final 20 minutes played much in the Exeter half.
Three efforts in a matter of moments failed to test Keadell, as the match became all about game management and mental focus for the tiring Grecian side.
Billingsley continued to threaten in attack, though the waves of Cheltenham onslaughts continued onto the City goal.
And in injury time, the visitors grabbed a goal of their own following good build-up play and a well-struck one-touch finish. It wasn’t enough to change the outcome of the game, with the three points going the way of Skyrme’s men, in a hope to climb back up to the top end of the league table.
Under-18 coach Lee Skyrme said: “The boys are very pleased they have managed to get the win, however I feel it was one of our weakest performances this season.
“We always focus on starting matches well, so I am really pleased with the start we made. Cameron Gill stood out during our bright period, however I feel we could have extended our lead with some of the chances we created.
“I feel we played right into Cheltenham’s hands, and we failed to problem solve the situation. It was slightly frustrating as the goal looked like it was coming, but we remained focused after conceding.
“We didn’t do enough to remove their hope, so our bad performance was down to a lot of things that we could control. However there was still some positives to take into our next game.”
Exeter City U18s: Keadell, Rehemi, Madden, Down, Read, Charles, Hayfield, Byrne, Merritt, Gill, Billingsley.
Subs: Egan, Richards, Rosenwald.