Grecians' youngsters end 2014 with defeatExeter City’s under-18s concluded the first half of their Youth Alliance 2014/15 season with a 1-0 defeat in Portsmouth.
In a match much like their previous meeting, the Hampshire side took all three points with just a solitary goal after Charlie Madden headed into his own net.
The Grecians’ hopes of clutching onto a top half finish have been dealt a blow with this result, when the top five clubs in the division shall meet the best of the clubs from the South East division from February onwards.
The Westcountry club therefore face an almost two-month break from competitive football, leaving the youngsters time to reflect on their last league match against Pompey, and ready themselves for the second half of the season.
Exeter found things difficult before a ball had been kicked, as a depleted squad travelled east with senior personnel such as Dean Billingsley and Alex Byrne missing from the side. Cameron Gill travelled with the team despite suffering with illness leaving Exeter starting the match with an unfamiliar line-up.
However, despite a number of players playing out of position, the efforts given were excellent, and the Devon outfit more than matched their opponents in a number of departments.
In particular, the away side defended stoutly throughout, and despite Portsmouth creating a few decent openings in the first half, goalkeeper Kavanagh Keadell was proving a hard man to beat in the City goal.
Defensive duo Madden and captain Josh Read were impressive in front of Keadell, as they threw themselves in front of every goal bound effort and cleared every cross that entered the penalty area.
In attack however, the visitors were only able to threaten the Pompey goal infrequently. The team were effective at counter-attacking, however creating a clear-cut opportunity was proving to be difficult for the Exeter attack.
And they were punished for their impotency in the second half, when a cross from the left wing glanced off Madden’s head and past Keadell to give the home side the lead.
Will Richards and Gill were brought on to inject some life into the away team, however they were unable to help salvage a draw as the game came to a close.
Under-18 coach Lee Skyrme said: “We’ve had a few injuries, and the majority have been attacking players which made things difficult, but I can’t fault the players’ efforts today and the progress they have made.
“The game seemed to have 0-0 written all over it, however they were willing to pull the trigger bait more, and in the end that’s probably helped them in getting the result.
“Josh Read and Charlie Madden were excellent throughout the game. Portsmouth have some good attacking players, and so they had to be at their best to stop them. It was pleasing to see them working as a good partnership.
“With our first-half of the season now over, we shall treat December and January as a mini pre-season. It will enable us to recall some of our injured players, and then we can arrange some decent friendlies on some fast pitches, so we can be ready to kick-off again in February.”
Exeter City U18s: Keadell, Down, Madden, Read, Egan, Harkness, Hayfield, Smallcombe, Charles, Rosenwald, Merritt.
Subs: Richards, Gill.