Exeter City’s under-18s progressed into the semi-finals of the Youth Alliance Cup following an emphatic 4-1 victory away at Bristol Rovers.
A quick start saw the young Grecians take the lead inside the first five minutes courtesy of Jay Stansfield’s well-worked goal before the away side doubled their lead on the half-hour mark through James Dodd’s penalty.
Stansfield netted his second of the game on 35 minutes when his wide free-kick curled straight in before he completed his hat-trick just before half-time when he rounded the Gas goalkeeper for a tap-in.
With Exeter’s youngsters in fine form coming into the tie, the visitors were hoping for more of the same against a competitive Rovers team.
The Devon side started on the front foot and, with just five minutes on the clock, opened the scoring. Despite facing an aggressive press, the away side passed their way around it, feeding the ball to Charlie Lawrence in midfield. From there, Dodd received the ball in a promising position, before playing in Stansfield for a one-on-one opportunity. The forward kept his composure to tuck the ball home first-time.
The goal helped settle the game down, but Gribble’s men remained in control, enjoying the majority of the possession as they dictated the tempo of the game.
As the searched for their second goal, both Stansfield and Lewis Wilson saw a number of chances fall their way, but they were both unlucky to see their efforts blocked or cleared by some desperate defending.
On 30 minutes, Exeter did manage to make it 2-0. Stansfield found himself in behind again, and as he rounded the keeper, was brought down illegally, which resulted in a penalty. Dodd stepped up and converted the spot-kick to put his team well in command.
Five minutes later, the scoreline changed again after a goal from a set-piece. Following some effective passing and movement, a switch in play led to Nelson Iseguan winning a free-kick on the left wing. Stansfield delivered an inviting cross, which missed everyone and snuck into the bottom corner of the goal.
With half-time in sight, the Devon outfit scored once more to really stamp their authority on the game.
Stansfield brilliantly weaved his way past a number of defenders to find himself through on goal. The attacker took the ball around the Bristol keeper once more and tapped home to score a fantastic solo effort and complete a brilliant hat-trick.
After a really positive first half for the Grecians, they went into half-time with a four-goal lead. In more difficult circumstances after the restart, with the away side shooting up the slope, they had to endure a spell where the Gas exerted the pressure onto them.
The home team had their opponents camped on their own 18-yard box, but City’s players stood firm and defended solidly, keeping their opponents at bay.
It remained a similar trend for the remainder of game, but late on Rovers did grab a consolation much to the disappointment of Gribble and his players.
A deep cross from the hosts saw one Bristol forward get to the ball first at the far post, and he scored from close range to make it 4-1 on 85 minutes.
The Grecians held on to the three-goal advantage though by the time the final whistle sounded, maintaining the team’s winning streak, and booking their place in the Youth Alliance Cup semi-finals with a fine victory.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, said: “It was an outstanding first half. We started extremely well and didn’t rest on our laurels afterward. We continued to cause problems for Bristol Rovers, scoring four goals in total.
“We are disappointed with the goal we have conceded. We are usually better at dealing with those situations, so to let one in from a deep cross is disappointing.
“The overall team performance was outstanding, as they showed tremendous work rate and application. Congratulations have to go to Jay Stansfield for his hat-trick. He works hard for his goals and has been in good form. James Dodd was instrumental also. He ensured we stuck to our game plan and he kept us organised when we needed to be.
“We have an FA Youth Cup match next. The competition has great tradition and we enjoy playing in it. We hope we can continue our good form, which has been build on some good habits recently, and we will be hoping the boys will get a positive result at the end of it.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Jack Arthur, Jordan Dyer, Cheick Diabate, Louis Morison, Joe Belsten, Alex Moyse, Nelson Iseguan, Charlie Lawrence, James Dodd, Jay Stansfield, Lewis Wilson. Subs: Frank Lovett, Callum Brake, Jack Veale