Archie Collins' free-kick wins match
Oxford United 0 Exeter City 1
Exeter City’s under-18s earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory away to Oxford United in last weekend’s Youth Alliance South West division league fixture.
Archie Collins scored the only goal of the game, in a match which was largely controlled by the visitors, but a combination of missed opportunities and resolute defending meant the scoreline stayed at 1-0.
After suffering a spell of being on the wrong side of results, City have now bounced back with consecutive wins.
Off the back of that fantastic 3-2 win against rivals Plymouth Argyle in their previous match, the young Grecians entered their contest with Oxford in high spirits.
Both sides traded early half-chances before Exeter started to get on top of the match midway through the first half.
Collins typified the hungry nature of the team’s midfield in trying to win the ball back quickly with his aggressive tackling.
His hard work reaped its rewards on 35 minutes when he fired home a free-kick with the aid of a slight deflection.
The visitors continued to apply pressure on the U’s goal and were unlucky not to be awarded a spot-kick as the ball found it’s way to the edge of the penalty box.
Despite that decision not going their way, the Grecians went into half-time satisfied. Both teams made changes as the two coaches, but it was visitors who looked the brighter when the game restarted.
The hosts started applying more pressure when City got on the ball, but the technical superiority of the Exeter side meant they were able to play through United’s pressure.
Captain Max Smallcombe squandered a great chance to double the lead for his team when he blasted the ball over the crossbar having been put through on goal.
Josh Key and Harry Kite also found themselves with decent chances, but they were to be denied in what was turning out to be a frustrating day for the South West club in front of goal.
The wasted chances from Green’s side rejuvenated the home team as they came back into the contest with 15 minutes remaining.
For the first time in the game the Grecians’ defence was being asked questions. However, they stood firm when called upon.
Kite made some crucial headed clearances while Ben Seymour’s work-rate epitomised the effort City were putting in. Michael Sibley produced the saves he needed to as Exeter put in another gritty performance to hold on and record an important victory.
The 1-0 victory means the Westcountry youngsters now sit just behind Bristol Rovers in the top half of the league standings, and they face the Pirates this weekend in what may turn out to be a key game over the course of the season.
Exeter City under-18s coach Dan Green, said: “A 1-0 win here is fantastic. I love how we kept a clean sheet because it takes just one player to score a goal, but it takes a team to earn a clean sheet and the boys did well to get that here.
“Oxford were well organised, but we were in control and looked comfortable. Patience was the key and we needed time to work out what was the best way to maximise our time on the ball. That was a good learning opportunity for the boys and credit to Oxford for being so resolute.
“After nine games were have the joint second-best record for goals against, however we only have the fourth best for goals scored. We had a few decent chances here but I would be more worried if we weren’t creating these chances. We’ve got to just put both sides to the game together in one performance.
“It is really pleasing to see the players taking responsibility for the clean sheet. Ben Seymour’s work rate was fantastic, and Lucas White was great when he came on. But Archie Collins stood out with his competitiveness and he fully deserved his goal.
“We have a tough game against Bristol Rovers next, and now we sit just behind them in the league so it is a but of a crunch game. I’ve told the guys that every game matters, and that if we can speed up how quickly they can learn from their experiences the faster we can improve.”
Exeter City under-18s: Michael Sibley, Alex Hartridge, Sam Haynes, Ethan Ampadu, Harry Kite, Joe O’Loughlin, Josh Key, Max Smallcombe, Archie Collins, Brandon Parsons, Ben Seymour. Subs: Lucas White, Arnie Kingman, Joel Randell, Josh Hancock, Mitch Thomas