Heartbreak for City youngsters as they lose third round tie in last minute of extra-time
It was FA Youth Cup heartbreak for Exeter City as a stunner from James Berry in the final minute of extra-time sealed their exit from the competition.
Manager Dan Green kept the changes to a minimum, though Ethan Ampadu was a notable inclusion in the City back four having not been involved in the previous round against MK Dons.
City struggled to find their rhythm in the opening stages as Wigan stifled their efforts to get the ball down and play with a high pressing game.
It was the Latics' intensity that worked them the first opportunity of the evening. A misplaced pass from Ampadu landed at the feet of Callum Lang, and the tenacious striker curled his effort just over the crossbar.
But it was the hosts who made the breakthrough ten minutes later. The Grecians, just as they had done in the previous round against MK Dons, looked a threat on the counter attack, and it was no surprise to see the full-backs play staring roles in their opener. Skipper Max Smallcombe knocked the ball across the area following a drive from deep, Kite helped the ball onto Sparkes on the left-hand side and the City left-back did the rest, finishing with aplomb into the far corner.
Dan Green's men were unlucky to go in at half time with just the one-goal advantage, with Roberts doing well to palm Ben Seymour's close-range effort around the post.
Perhaps unsurprisingly following such a frantic first period, much of the play was bogged down in the middle third following the interval. Wigan looked the livelier of the two sides, with top scorer Tom Powell occupying the Grecians centre backs. It was Powell who could have fired in a leveller midway through the half, but having capitalised on a misplaced pass the 13-goal striker dragged his effort well wide of Williams' right-hand post.
The Latics had spurned plenty of chances during the course of the evening, and as the game entered the final ten minutes their luck took a turn for the better. Following a corner from City's right-hand side the ball sat up nicely for Shane Donaghey on the edge of the area, and the Latics' number 7 hit a sweetly-struck volley past Lewis Williams and into the far corner.
With neither side able to add a second in the dying stages, it would take extra-time to separate these two sides.
City dominated for large spells during extra time with Harry Kite and Josh Key making some devilish bursts forward, but it would be last-minute heartbreak for the young Grecians. Having retrieved the ball on the edge of the D, James Berry, who only signed for the Latics this week from Liverpool, curled the ball past Williams to send the away dugout into raptures. A harsh result to take for City who dominated for long spells, but a valuable learning curve nonetheless.
Exeter City: Williams, Kite, Haynes, Ampadu, Hartridge, Sparkes; Thomas, Smallcombe; Hargreaves, Seymour, Collins. Subs: Phillips, White, Randall, Gillard, Key
Wigan Athletic:Roberts; Plant, Hilton, Stubbs, Golden; Taylor, Donaghey, Merrie; Lang, Powell, Randell. Subs: Perrin, Cotter, Downey, White, Berry