Grecians come from behind to win at OxfordExeter City’s under 18s recorded their first away win in the Youth Alliance South West division since August with an impressive 4-2 victory against Oxford United.
Despite going two goals down, the young Grecians responded in style, with Alex Byrne pulling the first goal back before the scores were tied thanks to an own goal.
Scott Merritt scored perhaps the goals of the game with Exeter’s third, before Frank Rosenwald sealed the points for City with an injury-time goal.
After a hard-fought draw the week before, Lee Skyrme and his young side were hoping to get their title defence back on track, and they started with good intentions in Oxfordshire, moving the ball well whilst in possession.
However despite a bright opening, a defence splitting ball cut open the away side’s defence allowing the U’s forward to open the scoring.
It started a difficult period for the Devon outfit, which consequently ended just before the half hour mark, when they found themselves 2-0 down after losing the ball in the middle of the park.
Luck had escaped the visitors up until that point, however minutes before the interval, they halved the deficit, with a score of their own.
Byrne curled a beautiful cross looking for his team mates from a free-kick, however the long pass evaded everyone, leaving the ball to shape its way inside the far post and reduce the lead.
In a similar situation to previous matches this season, much wasn’t changed from Exeter’s tactics as the team were playing well, with the scoreline not affecting the mentality, attitude or team spirit of the determined youngsters.
The second period started with Skyrme’s men in control, putting their Oxford counterparts on the back-foot early on.
With just five minutes played since the restart, they found their deserved equaliser in another fortuitous manner.
Cameron Gill raced onto a through ball as the pass found its way behind the United defence, and as the goalkeeper came forward to remove the danger, his clearance hit the chasing defender, which inadvertently rebounded into the goal to level the scores.
The tempo of the game was truly in Exeter’s favour, and during this sustained dominance, the Westcountry side took the lead for the first time in the game.
After some impressive interchanges in midfield, the ball switched flank as long pass was collected by Charlie Madden. The defender passed to Merritt, who lifted the ball over the stranded goalkeeper from 30 yards, and dropping the ball into goal from the tightest of angles.
It was a superb piece of skill that rounded off a fantastic spell of possession for Exeter, leaving the players and staff pumped up from the quality of the goal.
From that moment forward, with the Exeter players turning the game completely on its head, the Grecians used the goal as momentum.
However the last 15 minutes saw the hosts try to find a leveller of their own, with the Devon club sitting deeper inviting the pressure onto them. Though on the break they still looked dangerous – Joe Charles squandered a good chance which could have put the result beyond all doubt.
But as the game reached injury time, a fourth Exeter goal was scored, with Rosenwald bundling through and converting to secure all three points for the young Grecians.
Under-18s coach Lee Skyrme said: “This was definitely one of our better performances this season. We showed tremendous character and belief as we were unfortunate to go 2-0 down, but the boys stuck with the game plan and we have come away with the result
“After our last game, this was a great response, and we have had some good match preparation leading up to the game. Oxford are one of the strongest sides but we have put together a strong team performance.
“Scott Merritt was excellent throughout. He moved the ball well with a certain confidence and arrogance to his play. It was a great game from him.
“We can’t get carried away. It’s just one game, but I am over the moon with the way we executed some of the things we highlighted and worked on. This game will give us confidence, but not complacency.”
Exeter City U18s: Keadell, Rehemi, Madden, Down, Read, Egan, Hayfield, Byrne, Merritt, Charles, Gill.
Subs: Richards, Collins, Rosenwald.