Exeter City’s under-18s secured a 2-2 draw on Saturday in their Merit League fixture at Portsmouth.
The hosts took the lead after 17 minutes, scoring from an inswinging set-piece before the Grecians levelled after half an hour through Harry Kite’s emphatic finish.
Three minutes into the second half, City went ahead courtesy of a Josh Hancock header, before a mistake in possession led to Pompey equalising with 19 minutes remaining.
Following their impressive 5-1 victory against Stevenage the weekend before, the visitors had hopes of carrying that momentum into another tough fixture against a good opposition on Saturday. However, it was the Hampshire outfit that enjoyed the majority of the possession during the early stages of the first half.
Eventually, the hosts were rewarded for their efforts, when on 17 minutes, they broke the deadlock. Following a trend of trying to whip balls into the box, the home team were allowed to find their man with a well-worked set-piece. The initial cross fell nicely inside the penalty area for Portsmouth, and they converted the opportunity to make it 1-0.
In response to the setback, City’s youngsters put together a decent spell of possession, in the hope that they could find a quick-fire reply. Jack Sparkes continuously found himself in good positions down the left flank to deliver some dangerous centres and that helped them restore parity on 30 minutes when his cross found Kite lurking at the far post. The midfielder brought the ball under control well and fired into the roof of the net.
Then three minutes into the second half City were in front. Will Dean sent in a free-kick which Sparkes latched on to first. The Pompey goalkeeper saved well from the winger before Hancock nodded in the rebound into an empty net to make it 2-1.
The Hampshire side reacted well to going behind, and they started seeing a lot more of the ball and gaining much more territory. Their success was largely down to their change of approach, with the tall forwards able to make good use of the direct manner the team switched too.
Initially, the Exeter defence did enough to repel the attacking bombardment, with the away side’s coaching staff remaining hopeful they could hold on to their lead.
However, with 71 minutes played, the teams were all square once again. Following a break down in their build-up play, Green’s men were left scrambling to win the ball back with the home side quickly playing forward. Portsmouth shifted the ball into their attacker to give him a great one-on-one opportunity, and the striker came to his team’s rescue, coverting his chance and bringing the scores level.
That goal gave momentum to the hosts. During the latter stages, Pompey pinned back their opponents looking for the fifth goal of the contest. However, they were unable to take full advantage, and the end the points were shared.
City Academy coach, Chad Gribble, said: “On reflection, I think the draw was a fair result. We weren’t at our best here, and although a point away from home can sometimes be seen as a good thing, this league doesn’t have a huge amount of games. We are ambitious to finish as high in the league as possible, therefore we need to get back to winning ways on Tuesday against Oxford.”
Exeter City under-18s: Lewis Williams, Sam Haynes, Jordan Dyer, Josh Hancock, Joe O’Loughlin, Will Dean, Harry Kite, Mitch Thomas, James Dodd, Jack Sparkes, Lucas White. Subs: Jack Arthur, Cheick Diabate, Harry Gardner, Louis Morison, Joe Belston