Exeter City’s under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, felt a bad start in the 2-1 defeat to Oxford United in Merit League One cost his players a deserved point last weekend.
In a catastrophic beginning, the Devon youngsters conceded twice in the opening eight minutes, giving themselves what looked like a mountain to climb.
However, a positive response meant they halved the deficit just before the break through Louis Morison's close-range shot.
The Grecians were unable to take advantage of their second-half chances, resulting in a defeat for Chad Gribble’s men, meaning they slip into the bottom half of the league standings.
Both sides looked to get on the ball early in last weekend's encounter, however, the opening opportunities did fall United’s way.
After four minutes, one winger cut inside before sliding a pass forward for the away side. The ball ricocheted to the far post, before another U’s player fired home, to give the league leaders an early lead.
The advantage, however, was doubled moments later when some neat build-up led to a deep cross from the left flank. Players collided in an aerial duel, with the referee adjudging that the visitors’ forward was bundled over illegally. The resulting spot-kick was converted making it 2-0.
Some alterations in the City system meant they soon halted their opponent's passing game, and enjoyed more possession themselves. Charlie Lawrence began to look dangerous, and in the 38th minute, Exeter squandered their best opening when Theo Simpson put a one-on-one opportunity wide.
The Devonians did pull a goal back three minutes later. Lawrence’s free-kick located Morison, and he poked home at the second attempt to reduce the deficit just before half-time.
Both teams traded chances early on in the second period, with Jay Stansfield looking more prominent down the right wing for Gribble’s men. His pull-back led to a Lewis Wilson miss, whilst Stansfield also saw a volley well blocked.
The hosts continued to enjoy plenty of possession throughout the half, and patient build-up play from them led to Lawrence spurning another chance.
A minute later, City almost drew level. Exeter stole the ball away from their counterparts before Simpson collected possession inside the 18-yard box. The forward’s neat turn gave him enough space to crash a curling effort against the crossbar.
Simpson continued to look the most threatening, and in the 78th minute, he spurned a chance by firing over.
As the contest reached its' climax, both sides missed half-chances, but again, in injury-time, the Devon outfit failed to convert two decent opportunities.
Simpson's low cross troubled United’s goalkeeper, and in the follow-up to his save, Lawrence’s volley was well saved by the relieved Oxford shot-stopper.
Four minutes into added time, the Grecians won a corner. Lawrence’s cross was met by an onrushing Morison, however, his goalbound header was miraculously blocked, and then cleared by some desperate defending, handing the away side all three points when the final whistle did eventually sound.
After the match, a disappointed Gribble spoke how his team deserved something from the game.
“I felt it was a game where we could have got a point, if not more. The first 10 minutes were difficult, and they put us on the back foot, but I thought over the course of the whole match, we were the better team.
“The goals we conceded were preventable, but I have to credit the boys for their response. At half-time, we genuinely thought we could go on and win the game, because aside from the opening 10 minutes, we thought they hadn’t really threatened our goal at all.
“We started the second half really positively. But ultimately, we have got to be more clinical, and we have got to defend our own box better. Everyone can have their own systems and tactics, but fundamentally, games are won and lost inside both boxes.”