City beaten at home by the CherriesEXETER CITY's Under-18s suffered defeat in their second game of Merit League One, with Lee Skyrme's side going down 3-1 at home to AFC Bournemouth.
The visitors were largely on the front foot in the first half, and two goals inside the last sixteen minutes of the period saw them breeze into a comfortable position at half-time.
Despite a resurgence from City in the second period, the Cherries scored a third early on in the second half, and though substitute Frank Rosenwald pulled a goal back in the eighty-fifth minute, it wasn't enough to stage a dramatic comeback, and the Dorset side went back with all three points.
It had previously been a good week for the young Grecians, with a 3-0 victory over Cheltenham Town then followed with the Under-18s putting in a decent performance in the quarter finals of the St Luke's Cup, beating Cullompton Rangers 1-0.
However AFC Bournemouth would prove to be a far greater challenge. After earning two hard-fought draws against them in the Youth Alliance South West league, Exeter knew they had to be at their best yet again to record any kind of positive result in the Merit League.
Skyrme shuffled the pack and made eight changes to his starting line-up, hoping to defeat a South Coast side who had picked up just a point in their opening two fixtures of the Merit League.
But it was Premier League club that started the better, and despite Exeter striker Ben Seymour scuffing a shot into the goalkeeper's clutches, Bournemouth got onto the front foot early on in the game.
The away side's passing game was proving too much for City, as they moved the ball from flank to flank with consummate ease.
They didn't allow the hosts to settle, putting pressing high against the Grecians' back-four as they tried to play their way out of defence.
It was an intense kind of pressure that prevented the Devon outfit from playing their traditional possession play. The opening twenty-five minutes presented no real clear-cut opportunities, but you sensed a goal was coming, as Lewis Williams in the Exeter goal had been the busiest player on the pitch.
Bournemouth kept shooting from all areas of the pitch, keeping Williams on his toes, and eventually the pressure told, with the visitors taking the lead on thirty-four minutes.
With the goalkeeper and his defence unable to deal with a deep cross, the ball was eventually pulled back to the edge of the penalty box, with the centre midfielder striking home with a first time effort that kissed the underside of the crossbar giving Williams no hope.
The lead was doubled just before the interval with a shot that again left Williams little chance of saving it. After the Cherries worked the ball to the left-hand side, the winger cut in and bent an effort into the top corner.
Half-time arrived, and the one-way traffic meant the hosts had to change something to cut the two goal deficit. Skyrme reacted by making two substitutions, with senior duo Kyle Egan and Scott Merritt both hoping to add a bit of life to the Grecians game.The home team started seeing the ball a lot more, with the two replacements making a real impact on the game, however slightly against the run of play, Bournemouth made it 3-0 following a cross from the left, and the forward converting a diving header.
The goal didn't unsettle the Devon club, and their quick passing game got going, meaning they started creating chances. Seymour flashed a volley towards goal that the Cherries 'keeper pushed wide, whilst Archie Collins saw his shot blocked when he found an opening. The visitors kept coming forward, but it was Exeter who looked like the next goalscorers.
With just five minutes left they gave themselves a lifeline when Cameron Hargreaves linked up with Rosenwald, and the forward found the bottom corner with an arrowing shot to cut the lead to two. New life was restored to the City players, and they carved out another glorious chance a minute later. Hargeaves and Egan linked down the right wing, before Seymour received the ball inside the box. The striker turned, but could only hit a tame shot at the goalkeeper.
Another late Grecians goal might have made it interesting in the final stages, but despite Seymour and Collins linking up one more time, the score remained at 1-3, giving City their first defeat of their Merit League One campaign, but they do have a chance to put that right against Plymouth Argyle in their next match.
Exeter City Under-18s Coach Lee Skyrme: "AFC Bournemouth are a good side with good players, but I don't think we did ourselves justice. Early on we didn't make an impact and we made unforced errors.
"I thought we were better in the second half, and the substitutes made a difference. The third goal was against the run of play, and they had a period after that, but we made inroads in the second half and the impact the guys who came off the bench made is something positive we can take away from this game.
"I was expecting the boys that came in to follow up our two wins with another high-level performance. But the players didn't quit, which is a real positive, and not long after our goal we could have had another which could have made things interesting.
"The Merit League is always going to give us a tough game, and the next one is against Plymouth which is a good game for us to have. We now have to try to get these players performing at the high levels they are capable of on a consistent basis to help them push for the professional contracts that they will be striving for."
ECFC Under-18s: Lewis Williams, Brandon Green, Max Gillard, Jordan Storey, Alex Hartridge, Jamie Harkness, Max Smallcombe, Archie Collins, Will Richards, Cameron Hargreaves, Ben Seymour.
Subs: Kyle Egan, Scott Merritt, Frank Rosenwald, Kavanagh Keadell, Steve Rogers, Nick Grimes.