Exeter City’s under-18s kicked off their pre-season campaign with a hard fought 0-0 draw against Everton’s under-18s last Saturday at Finch Farm.
Against a highly rated academy, the young Grecians more than held their own as Chad Gribble’s side continue their preparations for the season.
Both sides created chances, arguably with City unfortunate not to snatch victory after a flurry of late chances, but it was a result in which Gribble and his players can take a lot of positives from.
City travelled to the north west with a squad consisting of eight under-16 players all keen to impress alongside the academy scholars, and it was the Grecians who started on top with a well organised approach.
Gribble’s side dominated much of the early play as they controlled much of the possession inside the Tofees’ half. A couple of early opportunities came when Harry Gardner did well to get down the right-hand side but forced the Everton goalkeeper into a smart save.
That was before some good play down the left-hand side saw a dangerous cross enter the Everton box, but the onrushing City forwards were unable to get on the end of it.
Of course, as expected from a Premier League academy side, the home side would grow into the game as they came to see much more of the ball, but credit to City who kept their opponents at bay, limiting them to very little in the form of goal scoring chances as the sides went into the break level.
The home side started the second period in a similar fashion to how the Grecians started the first as they dominated the midfield and created some good chances. Everton almost went ahead but for the City cross bar, which then preceded an excellent defensive block from the City defenders as they battled to keep out their opponents.
With the theme in pre-season often being one of many substitutes, this worked in City’s favour as they looked to exploit a change in Everton’s system with Gribble’s men able to put pressure on the ball high up the pitch.
The match then swung again as City began to come back on top as they tested the Everton goalkeeper more than once, but to no avail. As the last 10 minutes drew nearer the Grecians then put together an excellent passage of play which eventually saw Jay Stansfield get in down the left, but he was unable to pick out a City teammate in the box as the Grecians tried to put the game to bed.
But it wasn’t to be as the match ended goalless, nonetheless it was a valuable experience for the young City players who will be targeting another successful season.
Following the match, Chad Gribble said: “It was a fair result, both teams had chances, but I would probably say we had more chances particularly in the last 15 minutes. It was a really good run out with the squad, we managed to involve eight under-16s as well as all the scholars. It was good for the players to get their first set of minutes in their legs and get the opportunity to work on the way that we want to play this season, against a good opponent, so we were pleased with the result and the performance.
“Our academy is recognised so we get invited to go and play in these games. These teams are keen to play us because of the challenge we can provide. It’s another good showcase of our academy. If we can go to a place like Everton and put on a performance and get a result, then in the future those teams will want to play us again so it helps us prepare the best way possible for the season.“