City defeated for the first time at SwindonExeter City’s under-18s suffered their first league defeat of the season after a 2-1 loss to the hands of Swindon Town.
After the Robins opened the scoring from a penalty, Dean Billingsley levelled for the Grecians by rounding off a fine team goal.
However the hosts found a late winner to snatch the victory and remain top of the Youth Alliance South West division.
Going into the match, both sides had unbeaten starts to their respective campaign. So arguably the two best teams in the league met in Wiltshire with a vital three points on offer for the victors.
The opening exchanges in the first half saw a well-organised and disciplined Exeter side. Standing firm in defence, they assisted Kavanagh Keadell in the City goal by keeping out the Robins with the limited opportunities they created.
An injury to centre-back Toby Down inside the opening 20 minutes didn’t disrupt the solidity of the Devon club’s back line, as Green proved to be just as secure coming on in Down’s place.
Going forward, the away side looked threatening, creating numerous goalscoring chances with slick passing and good movement, however they couldn’t find a way past the Swindon goalkeeper.
As the half went on, passes became loose from the Westcountry side, as they looked rushed in possession, disrupting much of the good play that they showed early on in the half. Consequently this allowed the league leaders more time on the ball, as both sides looked to find the crucial opening goal.
However half-time arrived with the match still goalless, with City under-18 coach Lee Skyrme addressing the issues that became evident in their display during the latter stages of the first 45 minutes.
The second period began and the Exeter problems seemed rectified. The visitors started excellently and were keeping the ball more securely as they got their passing game going once again.
And they should have taken the lead through their dominance. Alex Byrne saw a direct free-kick tipped away from the opposing ‘keeper, whilst Cameron Gill was left frustrated after not converting his one-on-one chance with the shot-stopper.
Fellow striker, Billingsley, also went close after a cut back from the wing, however Skyrme’s side were left to rue their missed chances as the hosts broke the deadlock.
In controversial circumstances, Town were given a penalty after a foul inside the penalty area, though City felt aggrieved following an unfair tackle on themselves in the build up to the resulting spot-kick decision.
The kick was consequently dispatched, and Exeter found themselves having to score to at least get a draw from the game.
However the response from the Grecians was determined, as they started getting tighter to their opponents, and quickened their passing. As a result, the Devon outfit levelled following a 13-pass move that started from their own 18-yard box, with Billingsley making no mistake with the finish to bring the teams level.
The momentum appeared to swing in the away side’s favour, with more clear-cut opportunities created. But the trend of not being able to take the golden opportunities which they were fashioning continued.
And as the game reached its final 10 minutes, the Robins took the lead once again. The home side counter-attacked from their own half, and after initially halting the break, the clearance from Exeter’s defence fell to the feet of the onrushing Swindon forward, who tucked away a goal to sink City and give Swindon their sixth straight win of the season.
Under-18 coach, Lee Skyrme sadi: “We are disappointed we haven’t taken anything from the game, as I feel we have created the better goalscoring opportunities.
“However we are coming away from this defeat with a lot of positives, as we played our part in a really good game of football, that was competitive and committed from both teams.
“I feel the goal we have scored is perhaps the best team goal we have produced so far this season with lots of neat passing in the build-up and Dean Billingsley finishing the move off well.
“It was good to have Cameron Gill involved once again following his injury lay-off, and I thought he and Dean were a constant threat in attack, whilst Josh Read and Charlie Madden were outstanding in defence.
“The boys are still learning, and they still have to learn how to play this system to a good standard, but after creating seven clear-cut chances, we can’t be too down-hearted about our performance.”
Exeter City U18s: Keadell, Egan, Down, Madden, Read, Charles, Hayfield, Byrne, Merritt, Gill, Billingsley.
Subs: Richards, Green, Gould.