Exeter City’s under-18s got back to winning ways when they returned to Youth Alliance league action last Saturday thanks to a 3-2 home victory over Portsmouth.
Josh Key opened the scoring for the Grecians, before Lucas White doubled City’s advantage 10 minutes before half-time.
Will Dean’s penalty made it 3-0 in the second half, before two late Pompey goals set up a nervy finish for the home side.
But the Devon club held on for victory, earning another three points that kept Dan Green and his men top of the South West division.
Exeter began the game with the intention of putting last week’s FA Youth Cup defeat to Charlton Athletic behind them.
In the best way of erasing such memories, the hosts eventually broke their opponents down after 20 minutes.
Josh Williams combined with White, before the ball found its way to Key close in. From three yards the winger tapped home a deserved opener to put his side in the ascendancy.
Despite working hard, and playing their passing game off the back of their industrial efforts, the Grecians weren’t able to find the net again until the 35th minute.
After some bright play from James Dodd, the midfielder located White with a neat pass. The striker arrowed a low shot past the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.
Half-time arrived with City’s youngsters well in command. That trend continued in the second period, and 10 minutes after the interval, they managed to strike again.
Joel Randall’s run into the 18-yard box was halted by an illegal Portsmouth challenge. Dean stroked the resulting penalty home, extending the lead to three goals.
Throughout the second 45 minutes, Green introduced players from his bench into the fold, however the replacements were unable to spark new life into the team and the Devon outfit failed to add to their goal tally.
Consequently, a rejuvenated away side took full advantage during the last 10 minutes of the game, and scored twice in what was a productive late spell.
On 82 minutes the visitors netted from a well worked corner routine, cutting the lead to just two goals, before the scoreline became 3-2 in the 88th minute with Pompey scoring from another set-piece - this time from a free-kick.
A shaken Exeter side were visibly vulnerable, however they regained their composure during a twitchy final few moments to hold on to a victory, that in the end, proved to be hard fought, and perhaps crucial.
Exeter City Under-18s Coach, Dan Green said: “It was a good response to the Charlton Athletic match. Up until the last 10 minutes it was a good performance. It was a performance based on hard work and competitiveness, and before they came back we could have been more than 3-0 up.
“The last 10 minutes was a good lesson as we almost threw away a game that was very comfortable up until then. After the match, the message to the boys was that with the players we had left on the pitch, we needed to be better in seeing the game out. It can be small details that make a huge difference to the outcome of a game and when players come on and the team changes throughout the course of a match, we have to be better organised on these details.”
“But up until the 80th minute, the match was going as we hoped. It was certainly a day to work hard and compete, and to play our football off the back of that. We would have liked to have controlled the second half a bit more, and made it more comfortable for ourselves.
“Altogether I’m pleased for the players with their response. Against a side who picked up a decent result midweek, I thought we deserved our win. Next up in the league is another tough test for us as we host Yeovil Town.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Felix Norman, Josh Hancock, Jordan Dyer, Joe Belston, Will Dean, Mitch Thomas, Joel Randall, Josh Williams, James Dodd, Josh Key, Lucas White
Subs: Lewis Williams, Sam Haynes, Brandon Parsons, Jack Sparkes, Joe O’Loughlin