Exeter City under-18s suffered their first defeat in 14 matches as they exited the FA Youth Cup at the second round stage against Charlton Athletic.
The Addicks started the match brightly and raced into a 2-0 lead after 10 minutes with Alfie Doughty firing them in front before Alex Willis added a second on the counter-attack after the hosts had given away possession cheaply on halfway.
City responded well to the set-backs though and almost found a way back into the match five minutes before the break as Joel Randall turned inside his full-back and fired just over from a tight angle.
Jack Sparkes also had Edward Harvey scrambling across the goal as he tried to curl an ambitious shot over his head from out on the right touchline. The effort beat the Charlton shot stopper but unfortunately dropped the wrong side of the far post.
City made one change at the break as Josh Williams came on for Josh Hancock and had a couple of early chances through Josh Key and Sparkes.
At this point, Charlton were surrendering possession and territory and looking to hit City on the counter and they almost got their rewards as Doughty went through on goal once more, but Felix Norman stayed big and made a crucial stop.
Then, with 19 minutes to go, Willis crashed a first-time volley against the base of the post before City responded within seconds. It was the lively Sparkes in the thick of the action once more as he cut in from the right and pulled the ball back for Randall. The City striker’s initial effort was saved but he followed up well to bundle the ball home from close range.
That set up a nervy last 15 minutes for the visitors as City went close to an equaliser on a few occasions – the best effort coming from captain Sam Haynes who saw his shot, that was arrowing towards the top corner, tipped around the post by Harvey.
The hosts also had a couple of penalty shouts when the ball appeared to strike the arms of the Charlton players in the box, but referee Robert Cockle turned down the appeals.
City: Norman, Haynes, Loughlin, Thomas, Dyer, Hancock (Williams, 45), Key, Dean, Sparkes (Parsons, 85), Dodd, Randall. Subs not used: White, Belsten, Gardner.
Charlton Athletic: Harvey, Birch, Zemura, Sarpong-Wiredu, Pollard, Nwosu, Isiaka, Dempsey, Willis, Morgan, Doughty. Subs: Osaghe, Powell, Gody, Kirunda, Barton.