Exeter City’s under-18s recorded their first victory of the Merit League campaign in difficult conditions thanks to a 3-0 home win over AFC Bournemouth on Saturday.
The Grecians took the lead after half an hour when Theo Simpson powered home a shot following Joe Belsten’s flighted pass.
City added a second six minutes before half-time after, Simpson’s cross was met by Lewis Wilson’s decisive diving header, and they wrapped up the three points in the 88th minute when Louis Morison volleyed home a corner.
A blustery University of Exeter, Topsham Sports Ground played host to the Devon club's fourth Merit League fixture when they faced a young Bournemouth team.
In spite of Exeter having the first half-chance after five minutes when Wilson fired an effort over the crossbar, most of the possession fell the way of the visitors in the early exchanges.
The wind proved to be disruptive in terms of both teams trying to build attacks, and it meant creating clear-cut opportunities were a difficult task.
The Hampshire outfit saw a decent break halted by Felix Norman after nine minutes, before seeing two long-range shots fly off-target.
Midway through the first half, the home team grew into the contest and started seeing more of the ball. Charlie Lawrence curled an effort that was deflected past the post before Wilson saw a tame shot easily stopped a few minutes later.
Simpson saw an attempt saved in the 26th minute, but the striker got his revenge moments later. Joe Belsten intercepted a stray pass from the away side, before striding forward to play a pass over the top of the opposition defence. Simpson latched onto the ball before dribbling into the penalty area and committing the goalkeeper and firing high into the net to give his team the lead after 30 minutes.
The goal really gave the Grecians something to build on, and they wore down their opponents to double their advantage just before the interval.
Jack Stafford won the ball in the defensive third, before slipping the ball down the left flank for Simpson. The forward displayed a turn of pace to get around the opposing defender with a determined dribble, before delivering a cross into the box. Despite the slight deflection on the centre, Wilson got to the ball ahead of his marker, and his diving header sent the ball powerfully past the Cherries keeper to make it 2-0 at the end of the half.
Bournemouth reacted after the restart with a substitution and a slight change of shape, but the two teams traded chances as no one took real control.
The best opportunity during the early second-half moments fell City’s way; Ben Chrisene won possession back effectively before playing a delightful through ball into the path of Simpson. However, the one-on-one chance saw the goalie come out on top, keeping it to a two-goal game.
The hosts had to adjust to a new formation with 25 minutes remaining when Stafford left the field with an injury. Their opponents spurned a one on one chance whilst City were still adapting to the switch, but they soon got to grips with it and they ended the match the stronger.
A misplaced square pass from the visitors was cut out by the energetic Simpson, and he ran left of goal near 12 yards out before unleashing a decent strike that looked top corner bound. However, the goalkeeper denied him his second of the afternoon with a fine stop.
Despite some offensive pressure from the Hampshire club, the late meaningful chances fell the way of Gribble’s men.
Nelson Iseguan handed Simpson another effort at goal, however he was thwarted yet again. Eventually, the Grecians did break through one more time two minutes before the end.
As the home team sent a corner into the area, Morison ran free of his marker, before the centre-back connected with a volley to send the ball into the bottom corner.
That goal wrapped up a decent day for Exeter’s youngsters, when they registered their first three points of the Merit League season.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, said: “The conditions were certainly difficult, and I thought that because our players managed them a little better, that was the reason why we got the three points here. We’re pleased we got the win, after having three matches where we perhaps played well enough to get the victory but ultimately didn’t secure the three points, It is nice we have them this time.
“They had more of the ball, but in my opinion, it was in areas which we were happy with. When they did threaten to go forward, we put the pressure on the ball and then looked to build our attacks off the back of that.
“I’m very pleased with the goals. The first two goals came off the back of very little chances in the first half, and it showed how clinical we were. Having had plenty of chances in our last match against Southend, we showed how good we were in front of goal by scoring off the back of not a lot of chances here.
“You’re never sure what may happen at the start of a second half, so we were looking out for any changes they had made and making sure we weren’t going to concede. We’ve let two-goal leads slip in recent matches so we needed to ensure that it wasn’t going to happen again, and I feel we managed the game well. We did a terrific job of adapting to our change in shape when Jack Stafford came off as it was something we hadn’t worked on in months but the boys did well.
“It was a very good team performance. Our defensive structure gave us the base from which we could build our performance. They had a very young team out that made it difficult for us but we aren’t going to get carried away following our first win. We face Portsmouth next who will give us a physical proposition, but the win and clean sheet here certainly gives us confidence going into the fixture."
Exeter City under-18s: Felix Norman, Joe Belsten, Louis Morison, Jack Stafford, Max Clark, Ben Chrisene, Alex Moyse, Charlie Lawrence, Nelson Iseguan, Lewis Wilson, Theo Simpson