Exeter City crashed out of the Checkatrade Trophy with a 3-1 defeat at home to Chelsea under-21's.
Despite an early goal from Reuben Reid, the Grecians were pegged back by the blues' youngsters who levelled through Callum Hudson-Odoi, before Reece James and Josh Grant sealed the win for the away side.
City boss Paul Tisdale rang the changes for the Grecians in a competition where he has frequently given fringe players opportunities to impress. In fact, Kane Wilson was the only starter from City’s 2-0 win over Accrington Stanley at the weekend that retained their place in the starting line-up.
Despite the blues controlling much of the possession in the early stages, it was City who took the lead on seven minutes.
After working a throw-in well on the right-hand side, Kane Wilson delivered an excellent cross to the head of Reid, who made no mistake with his finish as he gave the Grecians the advantage.
Chelsea’s first real chance came on the 20-minute mark, with the likes of Jordan Storey and Craig Woodman doing well to hold off the talented youngsters. But after Dujon Sterling did well on the right to cross, Kylian Hazard’s header edged wide of James Hamon’s post.
As the visitors continued to dominate the ball, Callum Hudson-Odoi had a good opportunity for the away side on 28 minutes, but after being played in down the left-hand side between the City defence, the forward was unable to find the target as he shot well over.
But the tricky forward then pounced on a City defensive mistake seconds later when Woodman’s header back towards Hamon was intercepted by Hudson-Adoi, and he made no mistake that time as he drew the away side level.
Hudson-Adoi then had the chance to put Chelsea ahead on 36 minutes when he charged down Storey’s pass and darted towards goal, but credit to Hamon, who did well to narrow the angle as he made the save from the forward.
The blues continued to press on, only creating half chances, with the City backline majorly doing well to resist the pressure. Meanwhile, the Grecians would often look to use the pace of Kyle Edwards and Jack Sparkes to break forward but were unable to fashion any real chances at Marcin Bulka’s goal going into the break.
Both sides struggled to create chances in the opening period of the second half, until on 56 minutes Chelsea almost took the lead through Reece James. After a corner was kept alive and helped back into the City box, defender James at the far post could only direct his header at the woodwork.
Alex Byrne had City’s first chance of the half on 65 minutes from a free-kick on the edge of the box. The midfielder’s low effort took a wicked deflection but couldn’t outwit Bulka as the Chelsea keeper saved and retained the ball.
Moments later, Reid was presented with another chance from close range after good work on the right from Archie Collins who crossed well, but the City forward couldn’t divert his effort on target as he shot over.
The Grecians were then made to pay just seconds after their chance when Chelsea went up the other end to win a corner which resulted in Reece James nodding in from the edge of the six-yard box to give Joe Edwards’ side the lead.
Substitute Martel Taylor-Crossdale then went close to adding another for the away side when he got space and drove at the City defence before shooting wide from edge of the box.
As Tisdale made his three substitutions, giving minutes to the likes of Harley Dean, Josh Randall and Alex Hartridge they continued to look for a way back into the match.
But it was Chelsea who would find the next goal to take full control of the match when Josh Grant found space in the City box to head in despite Hamon’s best attempts to keep the ball out.
That away side then saw the game out comfortably as the Grecians depart the competition.
Exeter City: Hamon, Woodman, Harley (Hartridge, 45) Jay, Wilson (Dean, 61), Byrne, Collins, Edwards, Sparkes (Randall, 61), Reid, Storey
Subs not used: Pym, McAlinden, Kite, Key
Chelsea under-21's: Bulka, Christie-Davies (Taylor-Crossdale, 60), Sammut, Hazard (St Clair, 75), Chalobah, Grant, Maddox, Nartey, James, Sterling, Hudson-Odoi
Subs not used: Colley, Dasilva, Cumming
Attendance: 1,294 (Inc, 95, away)