A look back at the Grecians' successful 2013/14 runTHE GRECIANS return to the Under-21 Premier League Cup after a year away on Monday evening at St James Park.
Southend United Under-21s are the visitors to Devon for a Qualifying Round 1 clash, and City are hopeful of a cup run to rival that of the 2013/14 season.
That season's competition was used to hand several promising youngsters some crucial minutes of game time, with the likes of Matt Grimes and David Wheeler both coming to the fore as the Grecians stormed to the quarter-finals.
Danny Butterfield will take charge of the Exeter City side in the Under-21 Premier League Cup this season, and, as confirmed by manager Paul Tisdale last week, a number of first-team squad members are likely to be involved. Teams can field a maximum of three outfield players over the age of 21 (plus the goalkeeper), but Jordan Moore-Taylor will not count as one of these, allowing the Grecians to select three further players over 21. Joel Grant is one who is likely to be included as he looks to build up his match-fitness.
Kick-off is at 7:45pm, and tickets are priced at £5 for adults, £3 for seniors and £1 for under-18s and students.
Tom Nichols scored twice, Jordan Tillson once and Ollie Watkins got the fourth as Exeter City beat Torquay United 4-1 at St James Park in the First Qualifying Round of this competition two seasons ago. Elliot Benyon offered the Gulls' reply, but this was definitely a one-sided Devon Derby.
The Second Qualifying Round perhaps brought the highlight of the whole cup run, as the young Grecians were 3-2 winners over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. With Palace fielding the likes of Jonathan Parr, Jimmy Kebe and Cameron Jerome in their starting-line-up, it was an even more impressive result for City. Palace did take an early lead through Kyle De Silva, but Tom Nichols put past Lewis Price for the equaliser just three minutes later. Nichols got his second to complete a second brace in as many matches in the competition to give the Grecians the lead, and after Jordan Moore-Taylor missed a great chance to extend the lead further, Sully Kaikai equalised from Jimmy Kebe's pass to leave it level at the break. There was still joy to follow for the Grecians: Matt Jay played a one-two with Nichols before finishing to earn a place in the Round of 32.
A home tie with Southampton was the reward. Danny Butterfield, David Wheeler and Jimmy Keohane were the three over-21 players used by the Grecians, and it would be Keohane who would curl City in front in the second half. Wheeler linked up with Aaron Dawson for the latter to break into the penalty area, where he was taken down by Jordan Turnbull for a late spot-kick. Jake Gosling, who recently became Gibraltar's all-time leading goalscorer, converted. 2-0 the final score.
630 spectators were at St James Park for the Round of 16 tie against Blackburn Rovers. Jordan Preston headed the visitors into the lead late in the first half, guiding a header from Raheem Hanley's cross past Christy Pym. But two quick-fire goals put City into a second-half lead that they would not relinquish. First, Scot Bennett hammered in from Jimmy Keohane's cross, before Jake Gosling and Aaron Dawson linked up to feed Keohane, who turned from assister to goalscorer.
Down to the final eight, and with the heavyweight lions of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City lurking, it looked like a winnable draw when the Grecians pulled Burnley out of the hat for the quarter-final. But, after a crazy, topsy-turny encounter which required extra-time for a settler, it was the Lancashire club that would leave with a place in the last four. Archie Love side-footed Burnley into a 1-0 first-half lead, but Jimmy Keohane got City's first leveller when he converted David Wheeler's pass. Burnley still seemed confident of a win in ninety minutes, as they made all of their allocated substitutions, and it looked that they were going to get their wish when Love got a second, his shot heading through the crowd before being fumbled in an agonising moment for Pym. But that was not to be; Tom Nichols fired in a dramatic, late, deflected equaliser in injury-time. Sadly for City, it was Nathan Lowe's bouncing long-range shot early in extra-time which proved the difference, despite a heroic effort to draw level one final time.
Manchester City would see off Burnley in the semis before beating ten-man Reading in the first leg of the final, with Devante Cole, the current Bradford City striker, scoring twice in a 3-2 success at the Etihad. The Citizens would miss out on the first iteration of the trophy, however, as the young Royals winning 2-0 in the return leg at the Madejski Stadium.. Southampton won the second competition last season with a final victory over Blackburn - Exeter City ambitions are to be involved in 2015/16.