Exeter City’s under-18s bounced back from last weekend’s defeat in superb fashion with a 2-0 home victory over Bristol Rovers under-18s on Saturday.
The Grecians controlled much of the play in a dominating first-half performance, but went into the interval goalless with their opponents.
A quick start to the second period saw City break the deadlock through Ben Chrisene’s solo effort, before the midfielder sealed his team’s victory with a second goal seven minutes from the end.
With the clean sheet preserved, and the three points earned, Chad Gribble’s side now find themselves a point behind table-toppers Swindon Town, in the early stages of the Youth Alliance South West division.
The early moments of the game saw both teams trade possession in a balanced start. Both sets of midfielders tried to dictate the tempo of the play for their respective sides, and some effective interchanges saw a few sequences strung together well, but both goalkeepers were relatively untested in the opening 10 minutes.
The first half-chance fell to the hosts when Lewis Wilson poked the ball wide, and that began an authoritative spell by the Devon club; Chrisene also going close as they looked for the opener.
Rovers’ backline were stubborn in their defensive approach, and despite passages of promising build-up play by the Exeter players, breaking through and creating clear cut openings was challenging.
Louis Morison had a long-range shot fizz just wide, before the skipper also saw a header from a corner blocked by a Bristol defender, before he was penalised for a push.
As the end of the first period approached, the home side remained the likeliest to score. With a free-flowing counter-attack, Nelson Iseguan dribbled into a dangerous area from his left flank, but the winger saw his cross-shot fly across the face of goal and away to safety.
In a fast start to the second half, the Grecians turned their dominance into a lead. Jack Stafford located Chrisene in the middle of the park before the midfielder turned to run at the visitors. After dancing his way past two defenders, Chrisene sent a low shot towards the far corner. Despite the goalkeeper getting a hand to the effort, it wasn’t enough to turn it past the post, and the ball nestled into the bottom corner to make it 1-0.
It was the least that City’s youngsters deserved, and just seven minutes later, they almost doubled their advantage when Wilson latched onto a Cheick Diabate pass. The striker dribbled his way into the penalty area before shooting, and a strong save onto the post by the Pirates’ shotstopper kept it at a one-goal game.
The away side began to come forward more as the clock ticked past the hour mark. Soon they carved open some half-chances, however Jack Arthur was relatively untroubled for Gribble’s men.
The teams traded off-target shots just before the midway point of the second period, but the Rovers keeper did save well when a trialist tried his luck with a low drive for the hosts.
A five-minute spell during the final quarter of an hour saw the Bristol side create three opportunities for a leveller, but a combination of some stubborn defending and wild shooting meant the Devonians got through the period unscathed.
With the clean sheet still intact, the 83rd minute saw Exeter seal a deserved victory through Chrisene once again. After intercepting the ball in the centre of the pitch, the playmaker started a mazy run that took him past two defenders before finding himself within shooting distance of the goal. The goalkeeper for the visitors got a hand to the low effort that followed, but the ball crept inside the post meaning both Chrisene, and the home side, doubled their respective tally's.
In spite of the late strike, the Pirates tried coming forward again with a late flurry of chances, but they were unable to force the ball home to set up a nervy finish.
That meant the Grecians held on to their two-goal cushion, securing their second victory from their two home matches so far this season. The three points propelled City's youngsters back towards the top end of the South West league standings, putting themselves in a decent position before their next match, a Devon Derby with Plymouth Argyle’s under-18s.
Following the match, Exeter City under-18s Coach, Chad Gribble, said: “We knew Bristol Rovers were going to be hard to break down, and patience was the key. We’ve had some difficult games against them before, which included last season's contest when we enjoyed a lot of the ball, but ultimately didn’t use it well enough and suffered a defeat.
“I thought we put in a very solid display. We made three half-chances in the first half that we might’ve made more of on another day, but I thought we defended superbly from the front throughout. I have to give credit to the back four and Louis Morison protecting them in front. I thought we showed great organisation and were never flustered, even when they had their spell in the second half.
“The win was down to our energy levels. Ben Chrisene was in the right position to get his two goals, but everyone worked hard. The energy and team cohesion we showed was key. It takes more than just one man to win football matches, and everyone involved did a great job.
“The performance was very similar to the Oxford United match, however this time we managed to cut out the mistakes. We were much more solid, more composed on the ball, and made bolder decisions in possession. This performance is a nice step to make. We’ve now managed to win twice at home from our two games, and this gives us something to build from.
“We’ve performed well in all three of our matches so far. We’ve played our way, and the win here will give the players confidence and belief. The players will continue to work hard, and they all believe in what we are trying to do. We play Plymouth Argyle next, which will be another match we’ll look forward too.”
Exeter City under-18s: Jack Arthur, Cheick Diabate, Jack Stafford, Alfie Pond, Max Clarke, Louis Morison, Alex Moyse, Ben Chrisene, Nelson Iseguan, Trialist, Lewis Wilson
Subs: Jack Veale, Harry Lee, Trialist, Frank Lovett, Zeph Collins
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