Under-18s denied victory by late Cheltenham goal
Exeter City’s under-18s were denied victory with an 87th-minute equaliser as they drew 2-2 in an eventful game with Cheltenham Town.
After a bright start from Town, they took the lead on 13 minutes before Ethan Ampadu equalised for Dan Green’s men midway through the first period.
Despite Jack Sparkes’ dismissal on the hour mark, Cameron Hargreaves put the Devon club in front with 20 minutes remaining but they were to be denied the three points when they were punished for some loose possession late on with the visitors taking full advantage.
It was the Robins who started on top trying to take full advantage of the hosts’ loose play in the opening minutes.
However, after seeing that phase of play through, City grew into the game and started imposing their possession after 10 minutes.
Clear-cut chances were hard to come by in the opening exchanges, but it was the away side who had the first sight of goal. A free-kick was swung into the danger zone, and a near post flick-on deceived everyone, before ending up in the Exeter goal giving the visitors the lead after 13 minutes.
The young Grecians composed themselves after the early setback, and on 22 minutes they found themselves back on level terms. Following a corner, Archie Collins saw his shot denied, before Ethan Ampadu was on hand to tap the rebound home and restore parity.
In the second period, the home team began finding themselves in decent attacking positions as they searched for a second goal, however their execution of the final pass wasn’t good enough to unlock a resolute Cheltenham defence.
In what was becoming a frustrating period of the game for the home team, the wing-back Sparkes receive a second yellow card on the hour mark making life a little more difficult for the remaining ten City men.
However, the Devon club continued to dominate possession, and despite having inferior numbers on the pitch, they took the lead just 10 minutes later. Collins was at the heart of things once again and his through ball fell for Cameron Hargreaves who coolly finished to make it 2-1 to Green’s men.
Exeter continued to come forward, and were unlucky not to add a third when Collins blasted a good chance over. The hosts started to look in control of the match, and it had looked like they would go on and win the contest.
But in the 87th minute, the ball was lost in midfield, putting the Grecians on the back foot. The visitors moved the ball wide before a cross was converted with the ball ending up Lewis Williams’ goal for the second time.
It was a crushing blow to the team who had worked hard to gain an advantage, but despite the late conceded goal, coach Dan Green took all the positives away from what may prove to be an important draw in their quest for the Youth Alliance title.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Dan Green: “It was a good performance, and I am a little disappointed we haven’t come away with the win which we deserved.
“We made a slow start. In the first few minutes we were loose on some of our jobs, and we could have defended Cheltenham’s first goal better.
“The boys got some good experience of playing a match with just 10 men, and they did well to still dominate possession despite the sending off.
“The match gave us opportunities to learn from, and the real test for the guys now is all about how quickly the guys can learn from those things.”
Exeter City under-18s: Lewis Williams, Sam Haynes, Josh Hancock, Alex Hartridge, Joel Randell, Jack Sparkes, Max Smallcombe, Ethan Ampadu, Archie Collins, Cameron Hargreaves, Ben Seymour. Subs: Will Dean, James Dodd, Charlie Phillips, Lucas White, Harry Kite