Exeter City U18 3 Bristol Rovers U18 1

Youngsters back to winning ways against Pirates

Exeter City’s under-18s responded positively from their defeat to Swindon Town with a convincing 3-1 victory over Bristol Rovers.

A first-half effort from Cameron Gill meant the hosts took a 1-0 lead into the break, and despite Rovers grabbing an equaliser, substitute Dean Billingsley restored the lead before another Gill strike secured the three points for the young Grecians.

Despite last weekend’s 2-1 loss in Wiltshire, Exeter remained in the top two places of the Youth Alliance South West division, and they proved their quality with a good start against a side with only one win to their name so far this season.

City coach Lee Skyrme has got his side to play free-flowing football at times, and their productive play brought about some good attacking phases in the early moments.

Centre-back, Charlie Madden wasted a good chance from a free-kick, before Joe Charles, starting in attack for the home team, found himself in a pocket of space inside the penalty area but couldn’t find a cross for his team and the opposition goalkeeper smothered the ball relatively comfortably.

The Pirates created few opportunities during the opening exchanges, although goalkeeper Kavanagh Keadell was certainly tested with a volleyed effort, but his handling skills were excellent in his execution, clutching onto the teasing shot well.

As the game reached the midway point of the first period, clear-cut chances were hard to find, and despite the dominance in possession from Skyrme’s men, the two forwards couldn’t receive the ball in dangerous positions.

However the hosts shifted through the gears as the short passing started to find more gaps in the visitor’s defensive line.  Will Richards saw a shot tipped just wide, as the opening goal seemed ever closer, and just three minutes after, it came.

Gill received the ball 35 yards from goal after some high pressing from Alex Byrne – and appearing to be anything but a threat to the Rovers’ goal in the middle of the park.  However a combination of neat footwork and a change in pace meant the striker skipped away from the chasing midfielders, before unleashing a rocket of a shot into the top corner to give his side a well-earned lead.

The momentum was completely with Devonians, as the Bristol goal took a barrage of shots in a dominant spell from the home team.

Gill, Mustafa Rehemi and Madden all tested the Rovers’ shot-stopper, however it seemed like there was no way past the custodian for a second time.

Half-time arrived and the commanding display showed by Skyrme’s boys was only marred by a bad injury suffered just before the break by Madden.  A shuffle in formation was made, however the key was to sustain their control on the game despite the 15-minute interval.

But it was the Gas who started the brighter in the second half, with the centre midfielders starting to find space, in a complete contrast to the opening 45 minutes.

As they started combining well with their attackers, it took just seven minutes of a promising spell to bring the teams level.

The goal woke the home team up.  Their sluggish start was punished and the realisation that some hard work was needed if they wanted to secure a win against one of their rivals soon kicked in.

Charles started the onslaught onto the Rovers’ goal, which the goalkeeper again denied, leaving Exeter associates frustrated.

Manager, Skyrme, turned to his bench and substituted on top goalscorer, Billingsley into the fray. His energy and movement was lacking in a stale looking attack, so the forward was brought on to help bring City the ingredients they needed to help get themselves back in front.

And within three minutes of his introduction, the attacker scored.

Combining with his new partner in attack, Gill slid a reverse ball that cut open the tiring defence into the path of Billingsley, and the striker finished low into the goal to announce his arrival onto the field.

With the change of personnel, and with Charles now operating down the right flank, it bred new life into the side, which the Pirates struggled to contain.

The Grecians combined well to double their lead and find their third of the match on 67 minutes, with defender Kyle Egan, playmaker Alex Byrne and Charles all linking up well, before Gill fired in his second of the match.

The two goal cushion allowed Skyrme to rest his main goal threat in Gill, who looked a tricky customer all afternoon.  His replacement, Frank Rosenwald, almost added a fourth, however his one-on-one chance was parried away, before fellow substitute Billingsley could only divert the loose ball onto the crossbar as 90 minutes struck.

The full-time whistle sounded, leaving Exeter in second place in the league standings, level on 15 points with AFC Bournemouth.  They sit three points behind Swindon – however the Robins’ 2-0 defeat to Oxford gives the Grecians the opportunity to leapfrog their rivals into top spot with their game in hand.

Under-18 coach Lee Skyrme said: “I am very pleased with the performance.  We kept possession well in dangerous areas and I thought we looked solid defensively at times.  You could see the progression the boys have made from that performance.

“I would have liked it to have been more than 1-0 at half-time, so I am a little disappointed we didn’t take some of the chances, but I am still satisfied with the amount of opportunities we are creating.

“We are more disappointed with the way we started the second half, and the way we have conceded the goal.  It is a hard thing to go back out after half-time level-headed after being so dominant in the first half.

“However the goal we conceded was a good wakeup call and a good lesson so all the guys can do is just learn from the experience and improve on situations like that.

“We have played six games, and put in six decent performances . Every game we have improved as a team and individually.  I’m really happy with the football we are playing at the moment and the form we are showing, and I hope we can take that into a tough game against Plymouth next Saturday.”

Exeter City U18s: Keadell, Egan, Down, Madden, Read, Rehemi, Hayfield, Byrne, Richards, Gill, Charles.
Subs: Merritt, Billingsley, Rosenwald.