Exeter City’s under-18s marched into round two of the FA Youth Cup following a 1-0 victory over rivals Plymouth Argyle last Friday night.
Harry Ford’s late goal separated the two teams in a wet and windy Home Park, with City’s youngsters now awaiting the winners of the Ipswich Town and King’s Lynn clash in the second round of the competition.
The Devon Derby began with the Grecians playing with the aid of the wind in the first half. The strong gusts helped the visitors in their build-up play, as they managed to look rather dangerous down both flanks inside the first 20 minutes.
In spite of the territory they enjoyed, and the promising surges Chad Gribble’s men had down the wings, the balls into the penalty area weren’t of the highest quality because of the difficult conditions, and the score remained goalless.
Argyle looked most threatening down their left side, and after half an hour they almost took full advantage when they almost took the lead on two separate occasions, with one effort cleared off the line by Jack Stafford and another saved by Jack Arthur.
After the break, with the teams switching ends, Plymouth enjoyed a lot more of the possession, and they managed to pin their opponents back into their own half with the help of the strong gusts.
It meant City looked to counter when they won back the ball, and they were able to compile some dangerous offensive moves in the search for the decisive opener.
Frank Lovett’s promising run down the right flank looked like it could’ve caused the Green Army’s backline some problems, however, his mishit shot untroubled the home goalkeeper.
That passage of play seemed to sum up the Grecians as they were able to move the ball forward, but unable to secure possession at the top end of the pitch when things might have looked like they were opening up.
However, eight minutes from the end, the visitors did manage to string a few nice passes together which resulted in the only goal of the evening.
Some decent pressure put on by Gribble’s men on halfway meant they won back the ball in midfield. Iseguan received the ball and managed to beat his man before the ball found its way to Wilson. The forward got an important touch on the ball before Ford latched onto it and scored at the back post to make it 1-0.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, said: “We knew it was always going to be a difficult game when we looked at the conditions and the players that we were missing. But the big positive to come from this was that the players that were on the pitch stepped up. It was a very young side for an FA Youth Cup tie, but they were all brilliant and really stepped up to the plate.
“We have played in weather conditions like that last year, and it caused us some problems towards the second half of that season, but we learnt from that and the boys did well here. I have to credit the players, particularly in the second half, for the way they dealt with the conditions when they were against us.
“We defended really well, whether that was staying in shape or coming out of it. We were well structured and well organised, and the defenders did all their jobs brilliantly. That allowed us to break out quickly and start some attacks.
“When we went forward, we were just looking for that one moment of quality to decide the game, and to be honest the goal ended up being quite a scrappy one. But Harry Ford is instinctive, and he always seems to be in the right place. He has scored a few goals for us this year from that kind of position, and he’s managed to do it here too.
“Towards the end, the players were tired and playing on their last legs. But the senior players helped the team through that final period. The likes of Jack Stafford and Lewis Wilson really helped the players around them, so it was some big performances from the senior players. We could have easily gone and looked for more goals, but it was quite a mature second half from the boys.
“We return to league action this weekend, with an away trip to AFC Bournemouth. It will be a tough game but we are looking forward to it. What we have said to the lads is that we don’t want the FA Youth Cup to cause us a distraction. We have set ourselves some targets in the league, so the boys have to know our biggest game is our next one.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Jack Arthur, Jack Stafford, Alfie Pond, Rhys Fuller, Max Clarke, Alex Moyse, Jack Veale, Harry Ford, Nelson Iseguan, Frank Lovett, Lewis Wilson. Subs: Zeph Collins, Jamie Nicholson, Michael Lilley, Eli Collins, Adam MacPherson, Ellis Johnson