Exeter City’s under-18s suffered defeat in a six-goal thriller at Forest Green Rovers last Saturday as they lost 4-2 in Gloucestershire.
The Devon outfit arrived looking to get back to winning ways in the Youth Alliance league following their setback last week.
The visitors began proceedings quite well, enjoying spells of possession and territory as they looked for weaknesses in the Forest Green set up that they could exploit.
However, on 10 minutes, it was the home side who netted the first goal of the game.
Breaking quickly, one long ball dropped in behind the Exeter backline. With the defence failing to deal with the situation, the Rovers attacker latched onto the ball and slotted home to give his side the early lead.
As a result of the goal, Forest Green began to exert more pressure, which they used to their advantage as they netted again five minutes later when goalkeeper Felix Norman miskicked a clearance to their striker to double the home side’s tally.
On 30 minutes it became 3-0 after a period of pressure from Rovers. After Gribble’s men had misjudged the path of the ball, the Forest Green forward was in on goal once again. Norman slipped as he tried to scramble into position, and with the shot-stopper on the floor, the frontman was able to tuck the ball into the back of the net.
Five minutes before the interval, it was 4-0 as the hosts’ attacker beat everyone to meet the ball first and slid the ball home.
When all seemed lost at half-time, knowing that their first-half performance was below par, the response from the Devon side’s players was excellent after the restart.
Tactical tweaks and substitutions were made as the visitors tried giving a good account of themselves in the second half.
Half chances came and went for City, and replacement Theo Simpson looked lively with two early efforts at goal. Charlie Lawrence also saw a long-range effort go wide, as Exeter continued to build up some pressure.
Another substitute, Nelson Iseguan, also proved to be a threat, and on 80 minutes the Grecians reduced the deficit. Dodd was able to link up with his midfield as he charged towards the edge of the 18-yard box. The playmaker curled his effort inside the post to make it 4-1.
However, he and his team weren’t done there, as five minutes from time, Dodd scored his second of the game. With a smart run from deep, a neat cutback located the midfielder, and he placed the ball into the top corner from 20 yards, scoring the game’s sixth goal.
However, the late rally wasn’t enough, as the clock ran out, and the home side ran out 4-2 winners in a game of two halves. Gribble and his players will look to respond when they play Yeovil Town in their next Youth Alliance League fixture.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble said: “As much I loved seeing our fight and character in the second half, we have to be realistic and say that the first half was unacceptable. We fell to pieces after our start, and we are well beyond the mistakes that we made here. It was certainly out of character.
“After the run we have been on over the last two month, perhaps we have taken our foot off the gas, because we weren’t our normal selves. We have got to find a way to regroup, and after that first goal went in, we needed to stay in the game.
“We just needed to manage the game better. The errors we made were at a point in the match when both teams were trying to get a foothold in the game, and maybe we just didn’t have the maturity in that situation to stay in it. It definitely gives us something to learn from and look to improve on.
“The second half, in general, was a real positive. We showed what we were capable of, but I still feel we weren’t at our absolute best. Theo Simpson did well when he came on. He has been off with a lengthy injury so credit has to go to him, whilst Nelson Iseguan impacted well when he was introduced. James Dodd was outstanding. Not often one player gets a hold of the game when the others weren’t at it, but he showed a real mental robustness out there that maybe we haven’t seen before.
“Yeovil Town are our next opponents and we definitely have the ability to bounce back. Young players can make mistakes, but we hold high standards here. We’ve been back on the training pitch, working hard at those areas we needed to improve on, and we’ll be looking for a positive response from the boys on Saturday afternoon.”
Exeter City under-18s: Felix Norman, Jordan Dyer, Cheick Diabate, Louis Morison, Joe Belsten, Max Clark, Alex Moyse, Charlie Lawrence, James Dodd, Jay Stansfield, Lewis Wilson. Subs: Jack Arthur, Jack Veale, Theo Simpson, Nelson Iseguan, Jack Stafford