The performance of Exeter City’s under-18s in their first pre-season friendly provided plenty of positives for Chad Gribble and his coaching team on Saturday.
The team lost 1-0, but the Grecians put together some encouraging patterns of play and created some decent openings. It means that City’s youngsters, with another week’s training under their belts, combined with taking the good moments out of Saturday’s contest, can travel to Crystal Palace in high spirits, as they continue their pre-season schedule this coming Friday.
Following an encouraging first week on the training ground, the match conditions were difficult, particularly for a first game back, with the sun beating down and raising the temperature. A physically demanding contest ensued, and Exeter were perhaps unlucky not to break the deadlock when they squandered two decent one-on-one opportunities.
Gribble’s men continued to attack well, and they struck the crossbar from the set piece later in the game. For the majority of the second half, the team found themselves in their opponent’s half probing for more chances.
However, the game remained a one-goal contest, and despite walking off as losers, Chad believed it provided the platform for a good pre-season for his players in the long run.
“The game was exactly what we were looking for,” said Chad. “We played a competitive opponent, who were similar to ourselves, perhaps slightly older, and the match allowed our players to get some good minutes under their belts.
“There were a lot of positives. We conceded the goal at a time when there were a number of younger players on the pitch, so that provided them with a learning opportunity, and we used a number of different trialists, which allowed us to take another look at them too.
“The game hit us hard physically. It was a hot day, and after a full first week of training, it was difficult to go into a match with that type of physical demands. But it is all about physical development at the moment for these boys. That plays a big part and everyone at the squad is at different levels, but for the first years, that was a good introduction for them.
“We travel to Crystal Palace on Friday, which will be a different kind of game again. We played them last season, and we are expecting them to provide us with another physical test. They use the ball well and enjoy plenty of possession, so we can focus on the way we will defend against that.
“SGS Filton were a fantastic team, but Crystal Palace will provide us with an increase in difficulty, and will have a group of players that will be on another level in terms of physicality and athleticism. They will be the first team we play in our pre-season that are also in full-time training, but, with another week’s training completed, hopefully, we can put in another performance that will provide many more positives to take from it.”