Exeter City exited the Caraboa Cup at the second round stage on Tuesday night as they fell to a 2-0 defeat away at Premier League side Fulham.
However, despite the loss, manager Matt Taylor, who made eight changes to his starting line-up said he was proud of the team. A number of players were handed debuts for the club, with Archie Collins and Tristan Abrahams starting their first match for the Grecians and Jimmy Oates and Dara O’Shea also making their bows.
“I was proud of the lads,” said Matt. “They stuck at it. It was frustrating to concede early in both halves to put us on the back foot against good opposition.
“There is no doubt about it, they (Fulham) are a good team. They shifted the ball well tonight and shifted us around. I felt that for a large period we matched them in certain areas, but we just didn’t really threaten their goal enough. That is the quality showing and we did get close to their goal we didn’t quite have it in our legs to create. However, we stuck at it and defended well.”
City conceded in the fourth and 48th-minute as Aboubakar Kamara fired home. However, other than those moments, the Grecians matched the Premier League and, with a young starting line-up, that pleased Matt.
“The young boys stood up when they needed to stand up,” said Matt. “We didn’t look too much out of place in terms of our fitness. However, they are a different level to us and there is a reason behind that. It could have easily turned into a difficult evening but 2-0 is, probably, a fair reflection.
“The players all did well. For Jimmy (Oates), Dara (O’Shea) and Luke (Croll) it was the first time they got minutes this season so that is important.
“I just said to the group that we will be better for it, the team will be better for it, the squad will be better for it.
“The ones who needed the minutes got the minutes, which is vitally important.
“I was able to look after a few in terms of their legs ready for the tough league campaign which is coming up. It was important and I thought some of the young boys really stepped up. Archie Collins, at times tonight, was excellent. He looked like he could belong on a pitch like that. Hiram Boateng when he came on as well, we forget how young he is, looked like he could play that level.”
Matt also praised the City fans at Fulham. The Grecians sang for most of the second half and, after being respectful to their former manager Paul Tisdale at MK Dons on Saturday, Matt singled the supporters out for a special mention.
“The fans we absolutely outstanding, they really were,” he said. “They were signing non-stop and they were outstanding on Saturday as well.
“I didn’t get chance to say that at the weekend but I thought they were very respectful of all involved on Saturday.
“So that was a big bonus and then they have come to Fulham, a Premier League ground, and sang their hearts out. So, we thank them. Not just me, but the whole group. They are going to be really important us for us this season.”