City youngsters to meet the nation's best in the new yearEXETER CITY'S UNDER-16s have progressed into a national semi-final after topping the standings in the South West region.
In their final competitive fixture, the Grecians triumphed 11-0 over Yeovil Town in a comfortable and convincing performance, meaning Exeter finished top of the table, and progress through to a match against one of the winners from the other three regions.
The semi-finals will take place in the new year, with the under-16s now on a Christmas break, but they should head into the match in a confident mood following their resounding victory over the Glovers last weekend.
Josh Hancock opened the scoring from a corner routine, whilst Lucas White doubled the lead in similar circumstances. Joe O'Loughlin scored from an in-swinging free-kick, resulting in City leading 3-0 inside the first twenty minutes.
The Devon youngsters had been training hard on their set-piece routines, and after scoring their opening three goals from them, it gave them a good platform to play freely and expansively for the rest of the game.
The liquid football that they played for the rest of the half proved too good for Yeovil, as another six goals were scored from the Grecians, putting them in an unassailable position of leading 9-0 at half-time.
The Exeter coaching staff challenged their players to maintain their high standards into the second period, where it took just one minute before the score became 10-0.
However that brought a bit of life from Town, as they stepped up their performance and made things competitive in a much closer second half.
But Joel Randell rounded off proceedings with his team’s eleventh goal, finishing off a fine passing move and capping off a great team display.
After the game, City Academy Manager Simon Hayward admitted his delight in his team's performance.
"We were very good,” he said. “I thought it was a good, confident display, and I'm also happy we have kept a clean sheet.
"Credit to Yeovil for coming back at us in the second half, but I'm very happy we have won, and we're now into what will be an exciting national semi-final.
“It’s the second year that they’ve done it; last year for the first time, we got the option from the Football League to have a competitive element to the league programme. Up to that point, under-9s to under-16s was all friendlies before competitive football began at under-18. The under-16s now represent the stepping-stone between schoolboy football and under-18s football.
“Last year we knew we had six league games, but that was all we knew. We finished second in the league last year, and after the event we found out that the winners (who were AFC Bournemouth), of each of the four regions went to a national semi-final. That was disappointing, to come so close, but this year the boys have been excellent.
“We started with a 2-0 win at Plymouth, before losing 5-3 at home to Bournemouth, but after that we had wins against Swindon (3-1), Bristol Rovers (7-0), Portsmouth (4-0) and Yeovil (11-0), Bournemouth needed something like an eighteen-goal swing to overtake us on goal difference.
“We have a very good group of under-16s with a good crop of under-15s behind them. There’s good strength-in-depth and lots of competition for places, with lots of good young players coming into the system. I think they've deserved to top that table, and hopefully they can continue their form into the knockout stages.
“The semis are planned for the weekend of the 16th/17th January – it’s a one-legged final, and it will be home or away, and I think it’s north v north and south v south, meaning a strong chance that it will be Leyton Orient.
“We have two very good age groups there, and with some good players in the under-18s too, I have confidence that the academy’s best success stories will come over the next four to five years. We’ve got some great young lads, and hopefully a few of them will get the chance to emulate what the likes of Matt Grimes have done before them.”