Exeter City under-18s had a mixed week results wise as they recorded a 2-0 win against a Birmingham City under-18s side but lost 1-0 in another pre-season friendly against Exmouth Town.
Just one warm-up game remains before the Exeter youngsters begin their league campaign, and they’ll be hoping that following the encouraging signs in these two exhibition fixtures, their match with Northampton Town this weekend will provide the evidence that they are more than ready for the start of the Youth Alliance South West division.
Last Saturday saw Chad Gribble take his team to Birmingham with the ambition that his players would learn, and build, from their previous friendly matches.
The Devon side certainly showed their intentions, with some early pressure, and won themselves a set-piece. This initial delivery cleared, but Nelson Iseguan kept the attack alive and crossed to the far post and a trialist slotted the ball home to give the visitors the advantage.
That early goal set the tone for the game during the next 20 minutes. It was a spell which the Grecians enjoyed, dominating the possession and territory stats, and creating a few half-chances which they were unable to make the most of.
With no change in the score, Birmingham grew into the contest, and they began to have a positive period themselves. However, some solid defending from Exeter’s backline meant the Midlands club struggled to find any decent openings for an equaliser.
Minutes before half-time, Gribble’s men were awarded a penalty following Ben Chrisene’s good work. Morison despatched the spot-kick, resulting in the Devonians heading into the break with a two-goal cushion.
It was the Blues who dominated the majority of the play after the restart, however, some resolute defending restricted the chances on the Grecians’ goal.
The away side saw more possession come their way later in the half but their opponents didn’t allow them any real opportunities to increase their lead, meaning the score remained at 2-0 when full-time arrived.
Following on from Saturday’s victory, Gribble’s squad faced men's side Exmouth Town on Wednesday in an entirely different test for them.
Town showcased their direct and physical style from the start, however, the much younger Exeter side stood up to the challenge well and competed with their more experienced counterparts.
The pitch proved challenging, however, City’s youngsters moved the ball around nicely. Off the back of some decent interchanges they created several half-chances, however, they weren't able to do enough in the final third to take one.
The Grecians saw a man sent off later in the game for denying a goalscoring opportunity, and, from the resulting free-kick, the direct attempt flew past the goalkeeper to break the deadlock to give the hosts a 1-0 win.
Following the two matches, Gribble spoke of how the games provided good exercises for his players.
"Against Birmingham, I feel we didn't quite hit the levels we did in our previous matches against Crystal Palace and Swansea,” he said. “It was more of a complete performance from us, without us being brilliant in one particular area.
"Our game against Exmouth was some of our players' first time they had played against men, which included two 15-year-olds. What is most pleasing is that the physical and direct play of our opponents wasn't the reason we lost. The match provided us with some great exposure to men's football which was exactly what we were looking for."