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Academy report: Exeter City under-16s into cup final

2 December 2016

Grecians record stunning comeback against Bournemouth to top their group

Exeter City under-16s battled back from 3-1 down on Monday night to beat Bournemouth and qualify for their first cup final of the season.

The under-16s, who have yet to be beaten so far this campaign, were playing in their last group game of the South West midweek under-16 cup. 

This competition, which is organised by City and Bristol Rovers, is in its pilot year and sees the youngsters play at football stadiums to help them acclimatise to what it would be like to play in a first team game. 

City were put into a group containing Plymouth and Bournemouth and got their campaign off to a decent start with a 2-0 win against Argyle at Cullompton Rangers.

However, an 8-0 win for Bournemouth in their match against Plymouth meant that City went into Monday’s game against the Cherries knowing only a victory would see them qualify for the final.

The match at Axminster Town did not get off to the best of starts for the Grecians with them going a goal down inside five minutes. Will Dean then equalised, but Bournemouth had their best spell of the game for the next 20 minutes as they went 2-1 in front. City ended the half strongly but conceded a goal against the run of play to leave their hopes of topping the group looking very slim.

However, Jack Sparkes headed City back into contention 10 minutes into the second half before Morgan Cullen scored a late double to turn the game on its head. 

“It was another very good performance from another good age group,” said Academy manager Simon Hayward. “The under-16s are unbeaten so far this season and what really stood out on Monday was their resolve, resilience and confidence. This is because, at 3-1 down against a very good Bournemouth team, there was not even one per cent of wavering or doubt in the players’ minds that they were going to find a way to win the game.”

City will now meet Bristol Rovers in the final of the competition, which will be held at either St James Park or the Memorial Stadium at some point in December or January.

This means City’s under-16s have now qualified for one final and have a national semi-final to look forward to having also come top of their group in the under-16s national competition run by the Football League. 

Their opponent in the last four of that competition has still to be finalised with the winner of the South East group not yet confirmed.

Exeter City would like to thank both Cullompton Rangers and Axminster Town for letting them use their superb facilities for the South West under-16s competition.

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