Exeter City’s under-18s have continued their positive performances during pre-season following their 0-0 draw with Everton at the start of the month.
City’s youngsters gave themselves a solid base to build from following that eye-catching showing against the Toffees, and since then the young Grecians have played four further friendly matches, as preparations for the 2018/19 competitive season continue.
Crystal Palace, Southampton, Swansea City and Barnstaple Town all provided the opposition for the Devon club, in matches that gave plenty of learning opportunities to all of the players.
Exeter begin their Youth Alliance South West division title defence on Saturday, August 4 when they play Plymouth Argyle.
Following their match with Everton, Gribble’s team suffered their only pre-season defeat when they played Crystal Palace.
Despite the Eagles winning 5-0, the scoreline was an unfair reflection of the day’s play, with the Devonians looking to play in a positive manner, which helped them muster some bright moments.
However, with members of the matchday squad a little fatigued after featuring for the under-23s just the day before, the Grecians succumbed to a defeat.
Exeter’s youth side then faced Southampton's under-18s in what was another tough test. Gribble’s players, however, gave a positive response and took a step in the right direction.
City took the lead through Will Dean's penalty after Lewis Wilson was brought down after rounding the goalkeeper. But they were unable to hold on for the win as a late set-piece goal levelled the scores in what was an even contest.
Following on from the Saints, Swansea City were next up for the Devon youngsters, which gave them another chance to build on what they had already accomplished. The Grecians looked better out of possession as the Swans struggled to play through the stubborn defence.
Exeter gave themselves some good opportunities to counter-attack, and they broke the deadlock on 20 minutes with Harry Gardner slotting home after a swift break.
The lead doubled after the hour mark when Gardner was fouled inside the penalty box, leaving James Dodd to tuck home the spot-kick.
Another effective counter-attack led to Gribble’s men adding a third when a neat switch of play led to Jay Stansfield netting his first under-18s goal.
The performance against the Welshmen displayed signs that things were really coming together for the Devon club’s youth side, with the players able to nullify their opponents, create chances, and score them all in an impressive manner.
City’s latest exhibition saw them play men’s side Barnstaple Town last weekend. Despite the adult team providing a different test for the youngsters, with Barnstaple displaying more experience and physicality than what the young Grecians might have been used to, they did run out 2-0 winners
On a difficult pitch, Exeter took the lead after 40 minutes when Max Clarke’s cross was met by Wilson, who showed good composure to score the opener.
Gribble’s side did well in dealing with everything Town threw at them, and they finally added a second goal with 10 minutes remaining when a goalmouth scramble led to Dodd scoring from close-range to seal the win.
Under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, believes the pre-season has proved to be a very productive process so far, he said: “We’ve certainly built from a good base. We've managed to keep three clean sheets from five matches, so we are looking like a team that is hard to beat. We were creating plenty of chances in the first couple of games, and we’ve started to take those opportunities in the last few matches now so the momentum is definitely building.
“We've had a number of staff switch roles at the club, but that hasn’t affected any of the football, and I have to credit the players for that. We now will be hoping we’ll be fully ready when Saturday, August 4 and the start of the season comes around.”