Under-18s Report: Portsmouth 2-3 Exeter City

City youngsters pull off memorable comeback

EXETER CITY’s Under-18s produced a remarkable second-half comeback last weekend, overturning a two-goal deficit into a 3-2 victory over Portsmouth in their penultimate fixture of their Merit League One campaign.

Despite conceding twice in the first half, a Mustafa Rehemi brace brought the Grecians level in Hampshire after only fifty-five minutes, before Toby Down scored the winner from a corner with just ten minutes remaining.

After blowing the chance of a victory in their last outing, the Devon club travelled eastwards in a hope of recording their first win in a month. The two sides had met twice already this season, with the pair sharing a victory each in their encounters with one another, but Saturday’s meeting was the first contest between them since mid-October.

Portsmouth settled the better of the two teams, and controlled the tempo of the game. The competitiveness of the hosts gave them the edge, and despite City missing some half-chances, it was the former Premier League club that took a deserved lead on seventeen minutes.

After Exeter gave the ball away in midfield, Pompey took advantage of the resulting counter-attack, and they converted the opportunity to deservedly lead 1-0.

With City’s youngsters trying to find their rhythm and stay in the game, they managed to cut through their opponents’ defence at times. But, because of their lack of application, it meant they squandered the limited number of chances that fell their way, in a half that mainly saw the south coast club in charge.

In fact, the lead was doubled in first-half injury-time, after Portsmouth benefitted from some poor defensive positioning to take a two-goal lead into the interval. It left Exeter Under-18s coach Lee Skyrme demanding more from his team.

His inspirational words seemed to have worked, as after the break the Grecians took to their monumental task brilliantly, and started the second half on the front foot. Just five minutes into the second period, they found a way back into the game thanks to a little slice of luck. After a swift counter-attack, Rehemi struck the ball against the crossbar, however he managed to react the quickest to bundle the rebound home and cut the lead down to one.

Five minutes later and parity was restored. After pressing high, striker Frank Rosenwald was fouled, but after the referee played a great advantage, Rehemi was on hand to send the ball past the goalkeeper and level the scores in a frantic ten minute spell.

Skyrme’s men continued to dominate for the rest of the half, though finding a winner proved to be a difficult task as the Hampshire club stood firm.

However after eighty minutes, the Westcountry outfit found their third goal. An in-swinging corner deceived the home defence, and centre-back Down managed to sneak his way to the far post and divert the ball into the net.

The comeback was complete, and after managing to hold onto the lead during the final ten minutes, their second-half showing of desire, concentration and application meant they fully deserved the victory.

It meant travelling back to Devon made the trip worth while for the City Under-18s, before they do it again for one last time when they end their season against Gillingham this weekend.

Exeter City under-18s coach Lee Skyrme:It was certainly a game of two halves. We weren’t good at problem solving in the first half and they deserved their two-goal lead. How we were playing wasn’t the problem, but it is one thing having a game plan, but it is another in applying it and we didn’t really do that.

“At half-time we spoke about our focus, drive and competitiveness. I left them we a clear understanding that our mentality needed to be 10 times better.

“We have a certain way of playing, and we were doing it in the first half but it was without purpose. In the second half we stuck with how we were playing and it went right for us. It showed the importance of the right application, and it demonstrated that you can do all the things you want, but it’s down to how you apply it. I was pleased we stuck with the game plan and how the difference in attitude helped us turn it around.

“We have set ourselves the goal of finishing the season well, and ending the last three matches unbeaten. We hope we can get a positive result against Gillingham next time out, and the victory here will certainly help us in achieving that.”

Exeter City Under-18s: Lewis Williams, Sam Haynes, Toby Down, Brandon Green, Will Richards, Steve Rogers, Scott Merritt, Max Smallcombe, Cameron Hargreaves, Frank Rosenwald, Mustafa Rehemi.
Subs: Archie Collins, Nick Grimes, Lucas White, Kavanagh Keadell, Alex Hartridge.