Exeter City’s under-18s continued their tremendous league run with a 2-0 victory over in-form Oxford United last Saturday.
Jack Sparkes fired the visitors ahead in the 14th minute, and that helped Dan Green’s men settle into a decent rhythm for the rest of the game.
Despite spurning decent chances in the second period, the Grecians continued to come forward in an attempt to secure the win, which they did in the 87th minute through Jordan Dyer.
Two goals without reply gave City another important victory, keeping them on top of the Youth Alliance South West division standings.
Before the game, City’s youngsters were fully focused on trying to defeat a side that had crept up the league table and were looking to challenge the Devon club for that top spot.
As the hosts, Oxford looked for a bright start to the game, however it was the away side that created the best chance during the opening quarter of an hour taking the lead in emphatic fashion.
After winning the ball in the United half, the league leaders broke quickly, with James Dodd linking up with Sparkes, before the forward sent a low shot into the back of the net from 18 yards to put the young Grecians ahead.
The goal gave the visitors the platform to build from, and although the U’s may have shaded the possession statistics, it was Green’s side that created the better openings.
However, with no team able to find the net during the rest of the first half, the teams went into half-time with a one-goal difference.
The Grecians started the second period the better side, and they were unlucky not to extend their lead, during a period where the next goal was going to be crucial.
Josh Key and Joel Randall both came close to grabbing an Exeter second goal, whilst City also felt they deserved a penalty as they continued to put the home side under an immense amount of pressure.
The Yellows switched their system as they looked for a way to get back into the game, however the Devon outfit demonstrated a determined attitude to keep their clean sheet and repelled any Oxford attacks that did materialise.
In fact, the away side came close to scoring the second goal of the game when Sparkes forced the hosts’ goalkeeper into a great save as time continued to tick down.
Eventually, on 87 minutes, the visitors did get the second goal they deserved. Dodd grabbed his second assist of the match when his corner was met by Dyer, who converted the set-piece routine to secure another three points for Green’s men.
Exeter City under-18s Coach, Dan Green said: “I’m really pleased with the performance as it showed another side of the group that maybe we hadn’t seen before. They went into the game very motivated, and although we got the goal, we weren’t at our flowing best, and we had to grow into the game.
“It was a very hard-working performance. From the front to the back, the whole team was very good. Our front players set a good foundation with their willingness to defend, whilst their end product was very good also. Our midfield were competitive, and I thought James Dodd was outstanding with his work rate and use of the ball.
“It wasn’t the complete performance, and we have played better this season, but the togetherness and team spirit that we showed outweighed everything, and that is what got us the positive result. We weren’t miles better than Oxford, but we could have scored more on the day, and the way we defended our goal was very good.
“Three out of the four league games remaining are away from home, so this performance is something we can base our game on. We move on to Saturday, where we will have another tough test at Forest Green Rovers.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Lewis Williams, Josh Hancock, Jordan Dyer, Sam Haynes, Will Dean, Mitch Thomas, Harry Kite, Joel Randall, James Dodd, Josh Key, Jack Sparkes
Subs: Felix Norman, Josh Williams, Joe Belston, Joe O’Loughlin, Brandon Parsons