Exeter City’s Under-18s secured an impressive 3-1 victory over AFC Bournemouth U18s in the third round of the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday evening.
After a quick start from both teams, Sonny Cox grabbed the opening goal for City’s youngsters after just six minutes, before Bournemouth quickly levelled through Euan Pollock’s low strike.
Both teams enjoyed several bright spells, but it wasn’t until late in the second half when the Grecians scored again through Jack Veale.
The tie remained in the balance, but Chad Gribble’s side put the result beyond all doubt in the closing stages when Veale struck once again to send the Devonians deservedly through to round four of the prestigious tournament
Following two extra-time victories in both of the previous rounds of the competition, Exeter’s youngsters were looking to progress into round four of the FA Youth Cup on a cold night under the lights at St James’ Park.
The contest started at a frenetic tempo, with the Grecians putting together some lovely interchanges in the opening few minutes. Their bright start was evident when an early half-chance came courtesy of a mazy run by captain Jack Veale. His cross, however, was too far for his teammates before the danger was eventually cleared.
Moments later, the Exeter pressure did lead to a breakthrough in the sixth minute. After Nelson Iseguan won a free-kick, Veale whipped a troublesome delivery into the danger area. Cox managed to lose his marker inside the penalty area to glance home a header to make it 1-0.
The Cherries, however, were never out of the contest and were happy to move the ball around in all areas of the pitch. It was that positivity that brought the teams level just a few minutes later. After switching play to the left, a lovely reverse pass took out the Exeter backline, and on hand was Pollock, who tucked home a low finish past Jack Arthur.
As a result of the equaliser, the visitors grew into the game and enjoyed long spells of possession. Ajani Burchall saw a deflected effort just go past the post, before a great save from Arthur denied a powerful volley Pollock on 17 minutes.
City had claims for a penalty at the midway point of the first half when a Bournemouth hand appeared to brush the ball after a ball juggle from Frank Lovett, however, the shouts were quickly waved away from referee Richard Lawrence.
The hosts based their tactics without the ball on their intense pressing, and that helped Exeter create an opening for Lovett in the 28th minute. After winning back possession, Ellis Johnson slipped in Lovett, but the forward could only shoot over from 12 yards.
Burchall for the Cherries was proving to be a real livewire for his team, and his lengthy run saw the winger dribble almost the entire length of the Exeter half, before a tame shot brought about a routine save.
Some high pressure from the home team resulted in Veale trying his luck from the edge of the 18-yard box, while smart pressing led to another Grecians chance just before the interval when Cox whistled a shot just past the upright.
Marcus Daws sent an early second-half shot wide for the away side, before Burchall bounced an effort off target as the Cherries sustained their search for another goal.
But it was City who came the closest to netting again when Veale attempted a volley in the 53rd minute. Following a throw-in on the left, the ball came back to the Exeter skipper, and his powerful strike went inches over via a slight deflection.
In a strong spell for the Grecians, they won themselves several corners but weren’t able to turn the ball home despite their barrage on the Bournemouth goal.
For all of their attacking pressure, however, the hosts had to remain switched on at the back, and after the Cherries had worked the ball to the left flank, Daws saw a low cross deflected off Alfie Pond which Arthur did well to tip round the post.
Following a small delay courtesy of a failure to some of the floodlights, the visitors restarted play in the ascendency, with Jake Adams curling a shot over that flew over Arthur’s crossbar.
But Exeter’s youngsters had played some intricate stuff throughout the tie, and in 73rd minute they deservedly retook the lead following a frenetic sequence of events. Cox first teed up Lovett who saw his one-on-one chance well saved by Billy Terrell in the Bournemouth goal. The ball found its way back to the feet of Cox, who brought about a second save from the goalkeeper before the ball looped up towards the back post. Veale was first to react to the high ball, and he bravely won his aerial duel to divert the ball into the back of the net for 2-1.
The Grecians used that goal to really swing the momentum, and with 13 minutes remaining, Frank Lovett perhaps should have put the game to bed, but his driven shot was well stopped by the Cherries’ shotstopper.
City continued to look for ways to seal their place in the next round, and six minutes later, Cox was unlucky to see his effort repelled by the away ‘keeper.
At 2-1 though Bournemouth were never out of the contest, and from very little, they almost levelled terms to force extra-time. Jack Wadham slipped a precise through ball to the ever-threatening Pollock, and his thunderous strike rattled the crossbar much to the relief of everyone in red and white.
The hosts may have ridden their luck on that occasion, but they deservedly sealed the victory in the 90th minute through another Veale header. Lovett’s determined dribble saw him bring play up to the final third, before he played the ball out wide to Johnson. The right-back’s deep cross located Veale at the far stick, and the Exeter captain towered above the opposing defenders to nod in via the post to give the Cherries their first taste of defeat this season, and send the Grecians into the hat for the fourth round of the competition.
Exeter City Under-18s: Jack Arthur, Alfie Pond, Zeph Collins, Ellis Johnson, Max Clark, Jack Veale, Alex Moyse, Michael Lilley, Nelson Iseguan, Sonny Cox, Frank Lovett
Subs: Andrew Sowden, Eli Collins, Joe Wragg, Toby Nevile, Charlie Hanson, Gabriel Billington