Under-18s: Young Grecians prepare for season opener

Exeter City’s under-18s will be hoping to compete for the Youth Alliance South West division crown once again this year as the season gets under way on August, 4.

Pre-season has also shown some promising signs for the team, with the players pushing themselves under tough training regimes and putting in impressive displays against Everton, Swansea City and Barnstable Town in their arranged friendly matches.

Last season, coach Dan Green led the Grecians’ youth side to the regional league title amassing an impressive 48 points altogether, seven clear of their closest rivals AFC Bournemouth.

However with key members of the 2017/18 squad moving on, Chad Gribble and his fellow coaches at the Devon club’s academy will be hoping this year will lead to some more success.

City’s opening fixture of the season sees them face perhaps one of their sternest tests of the season. A trip down the A38 to local rivals Plymouth Argyle often leads to some highly competitive matches, and this year Exeter will be looking to get some sort of revenge on the Pilgrims after their previous meeting, back in December 2017, went the way of the Green Army.

The Grecians’ first home match of the new season comes a week later on August 11, when they play Bristol Rovers. Last year saw City’s youngsters play the Gas three times, with Devonians securing four points from their two Youth Alliance South West division fixtures with one another, before winning in convincing style when they met in their most recent encounter in the 2017/18 Merit League.

With the Youth Alliance fixtures always subject to change, two of Exeter’s four matches in September see them endure two long away trips to Portsmouth and Oxford United. It may be a testing period for the youth team, however it would show a real sign of character if the Grecians were to come through the tests with strong showings, and remain towards the right end of the league standings.

The middle of October is when the league reaches its midway point of the season, and when everyone is meant to have played one another at least once. The Devon outfit kick-off the second half of their Youth Alliance league on October 20, when they travel away to Cheltenham Town, a place where they have fond memories, triumphing 4-3 there last season.

Portsmouth, Swindon Town and Oxford provide the opposition for City in November, before they come to the busy Christmas period, and a time in the year where conditions can play a significant role in the games.

After two away trips at the start of the month, December’s matches see Exeter end 2018 at home. A clash with Newport County on December 15 comes just before the second Devon Derby of the season, when Plymouth visit the Cliff Hill training ground three days before Christmas Day.

A short winter break follows, before what might be two of the biggest games of the Grecians’ Youth Alliance season comes in January 2019.

The Devon youngsters travel to Bristol Rovers for their final away match of the campaign from the first half of the season, before a home meeting with AFC Bournemouth, a match that, in recent years, has thrown up some goalfests, and classics, concluding the Youth Alliance South West division fixtures for the 2018/19 season.

Rearranged fixtures may alter some of the schedule, however the final league standings, and the fate of the trophy will be decided in January, with everyone associated with City hoping it will be heading their way once again. What is deemed success for the Grecians themselves though will be improving the players over the course of the season, with the aim of handing professional contracts to the second year scholars the ultimate goal.