Under-18s: Portsmouth 3 Exeter City 1Exeter City’s under-18s suffered their first league defeat of the season with a 3-1 loss to Portsmouth.
After suffering a loss to the Hampshire side in the first round of the Youth Alliance Cup last month, the Grecians were looking for revenge as the top two sides in the division met on the south coast.
The game was full of quality, but offered little in terms of clear cut chances in a tight beginning.
Ben Seymour, Josh Key and Cameron Hargreaves offered good movement in attack, however breaking down a resilient Pompey back line proved to be difficult.
After 30 minutes, the referee awarded Portsmouth a free-kick on the edge of the City 18-yard box for a questionable hand ball. After several retakes, the hosts took advantage of the set-play for a one-goal lead.
The game slightly opened up afterwards as the Devon club looked for an equaliser. The best chance perhaps falling for Seymour when he saw his initial shot saved, before Key could only fire the rebound straight at the goalkeeper.
Despite creating numerous more chances, half-time sounded with the score at 1-0 with the visitors feeling a little aggrieved that they were behind at the interval.
However two minutes after the break, the lead was doubled.
After a long throw, the Pompey forward brought the ball under control and his far post cross was swept home by his teammate to really hand the Hampshire outfit the initiative.
Just past the hour mark, the score became 3-0 when a combination of indecisiveness and confusion meant a Portsmouth long ball wasn’t dealt with, and their attacker nipped in ahead of the scrambling Exeter defence and lobbed Lewis Williams with a deft finish.
The scoreline didn’t reflect how close the two sides were on the pitch, and with a good character and response, the Grecians came forward looking for a goal of their own.
And, with 10 minutes remaining, City’s team combined effectively from midfield into the attacking third, and Seymour unselfishly squared the ball to the advancing Hargreaves, who tapped home to give the away team the goal that they had merited.
Exeter will look to bounce back in their next outing when they face Cheltenham Town on Saturday, September 17.
Coach Dan Green said: “Portsmouth are perhaps the most effective team we have faced so far this season and they have set the standards for the league. We were much better this time around than when we played them in the cup. I said to the lads after that if we play like that most weeks, then we will have a good season.
“The guys showed a good mentality and kept believing even when we were 3-0 down, and I have no doubts in their mentality because we have managed to score a goal of our own.
“There were times when we just weren’t prepared enough to score, but in a tight match where there weren’t a lot of chances, despite the loss, the boys have been able to come away with another good performance and another learning opportunity.
“Harry Kite was fantastic, and Archie Collins did well despite just coming back from injury. Will Dean, as an under-16, played tremendous whilst Josh Hancock looked dominating.
“Leaving players out isn’t an easy thing to do and credit to the boys for the tough competition for places. That may be the reason why we are playing so well. They just have to keep driving forward because there is no room for complacency.
“Overall I’m very pleased with their efforts, and the progress they have made. They are on an upward curve right now, and there were plenty of opportunities to learn from during the game.
“We have a strong group of players and I’m hopeful the guys can bounce back from this defeat in their next match against Cheltenham.”
City under 18s: Lewis Williams, Alex Hartridge, Max Gillard, Mitch Thomas, Harry Kite, Joe O’Loughlin, Sam Haynes, Archie Collins, Cameron Hargreaves, Josh Key, Ben Seymour
Subs: Lucas White, Brandon Parsons, Arnie Kingman, Josh Hancock, Will Dean