Grecians youngster maintain perfect recordExeter City’s under-18s made it four wins from four league games with a hard fought 4-2 victory over local rivals Torquay United.
Left wing-back, Mustafa Rehemi, opened the scoring for City, before Torquay turned the scoreline around with two goals of their own. However scores from Dan Hayfield, Joe Charles and Toby Down meant the Grecians came from behind to grab the victory to maintain their 100 per cent league record.
Victory here meant Exeter share a flawless record with just one other side in the Youth Alliance South West division. Swindon Town’s 15 points form five games sees the two unbeaten sides sit top of the league table, with the teams set to face each other this weekend.
However despite the perfect records they both possess, they both have had their hurdles to overcome, and last weekend was certainly a stern test for Lee Skyrme and his young team.
Once again lining up in a 3-5-2 formation, the home side saw a lot of the ball early on, with short, sharp passing evident in the way they were trying to move the ball forward. But despite their large share of possession, Skyrme’s men found it difficult to create any meaningful chances in the opening exchanges.
However with nine minutes on the clock, the hosts managed to find a breakthrough. Rehemi robbed the United full-back down the wing, and the youngster dribbled into the box, and curled a sublime finish into the bottom corner to give his side the lead.
Momentum stayed with City and they continued to press forward looking for a second, with Alex Byrne, Charlie Madden and Toby Down all going close.
Against the run of play though, the visitors found an equaliser midway through the first half. City goalkeeper, Kavanagh Keadell, was given no chance in the City goal with the powerful goal bound shot as the ball had been pulled back from the right byline.
The parity in the score was reflected in the balance between the two sides, with neither midfield giving an inch to their counterparts.
The next goal suddenly became crucial, and despite Exeter looking the stronger of the two sides, it went the way of the Gulls. Again coming down the right, a volley from the opposing striker arrowed into the top corner and suddenly the Grecians found themselves behind for the first time during this league season.
However the response from captain Josh Read and his team was bright, and central midfielder Dan Hayfield typified his strong first-half display with a goal to level the scores just before the interval.
The centre-midfield showed an impressive all-round ability against some strong opponents, and Hayfield latched onto a fast-paced team move to finish off a brilliant series of passing.
Half-time arrived closing an eventful first period, however the home side would need to turn their possession into more chances and into more goals if they were to get the win they so desperately wanted. Manager Skyrme sent out his side with the intention of having a bright start to the second 45 minutes, as well as getting the initiative back in the game, and in particular, in midfield.
Suddenly the Grecians’ combinations began appearing in the second half and the slick team play started finding more gaps in the tiring United defence.
Striker Dean Billingsley began finding himself in more dangerous areas, whilst fellow striker, Charles, saw a low shot slide just wide of the post in the opening minutes of a lively second half.
The Grecians continued to mount pressure onto their opponent’s goal, and it seemed inevitable that they were the ones to get the game’s next goal. And after 56 minutes they retook the lead.
Following some good build-up play from the Exeter midfield, Down and Rehemi combined to send Byrne down the left hand channel. His cut back found the onrushing Charles, who finished precisely into the top corner, much to the delight of his teammates.
The game swung in the hosts’ favour once again, as the energetic Charles began finding himself in many different advanced positions; the forward trickling the ball off target with another shot in what was a bright spell for the hosts.
Substitutions were made from either side, with Cameron Gill, Will Richards and Jamie Harkness all brought on to add some life into the City side.
Playmaker Byrne tested the Torquay shot-stopper with a low free kick, whilst Gill made a positive impression with his introduction, sending a volley inches over from an attacking throw in.
Chances were at a premium for the Gulls, however with full-time approaching, more men in yellow were broke forward to try and find their side an equaliser.
Consequently, more gaps appeared in an already weary back line, and it became a lot easier for the home team’s midfield to keep the ball and use possession wisely.
The intelligence of play from Skyrme’s men forced a free kick deep into the Torquay half in stoppage time. And from the result, the game was settled. Centre-back Down leapt highest from Byrne’s inswinging free kick to glance a ball past the hapless goalkeeper.
It was a welcoming reward for a second half full of mental toughness and a strong defensive display. Exeter took their chances when they needed too and restricted much of the United play in a second half largely played in the Torquay half.
It was perhaps one of City’s toughest challenges so far this season, however, they came through it with a lot of positives to take from it, which will put them in a good place for the crucial match in Swindon next up.
Under-18s coach Lee Skyrme said: “I felt before the game that this match was going to be tough for us, but I thought we were relatively comfortable throughout.
“Despite us going a goal down during the first half, we played really well, and the response the boys showed was excellent.
“I am pleased with the way we passed the ball, and the way we have created and taken our goals, and it’s slightly disappointing we haven’t scored more times to make it easier for ourselves.
“We were in control of many aspects of the game, and we noticed that they were getting tired in trying to win the ball back, particularly in the second half. As a result of that, our game management was very good, and the confidence that was shared amongst the guys meant we could go and kill the game off.”
Exeter City U18s: Keadell, Egan, Down, Madden, Read, Rehemi, Hayfield, Byrne, Merritt, Charles, Billingsley.
Subs: Richards, Harkness, Gill.