Exeter City’s Under-18s returned to winning ways in the Youth Alliance South West division with a comprehensive 4-1 victory against Yeovil Town on Saturday.
The Grecians began slowly with their opponents going a goal up inside six minutes, however, Exeter’s youngsters responded well and they quickly levelled matters through Sonny Cox.
Toby Nevile gave Chad Gribble’s side the lead in the 25th minute when he netted from an inswinging free-kick, before a bright start in the second half saw Jack Veale score after a sustained period of pressure.
The victory was sealed midway through the second period through Frank Lovett’s beautifully shaped effort, and despite hitting the crossbar twice late on through substitute Charlie Hanson, City came away from the contest satisfied with their performance and the all-important three points.
Following last weekend’s draw with Forest Green Rovers, the young Grecians were hoping to make a statement with a strong performance against bottom of the table Yeovil, however, it was the Glovers who began proceedings sharper.
Town often looked to break forward quickly once they regained possession, and in just the sixth minute, Yeovil were able to advance through the centre of the pitch. The Glovers worked the ball wide, and from the resulting deep cross, a header at the back post diverted the ball past Jack Arthur to make it 1-0.
The careless start from the Exeter players was quickly eradicated, with the goal sparking the team back into life. With that renewed vibrance, Gribble’s men got themselves on the ball more, which led to an equaliser on 10 minutes. Zeph Collins and Max Clark combined well down the left flank before Nelson Iseguan found himself in behind the Town backline. The winger’s cross found Cox in front of goal, and the striker made no mistake in dispatching his chance to restore parity.
City got a sense of control following the goal, and in turn, found plenty of space in the wider channels.
Despite forcing their build-up play at times, they still managed to find a second goal after 25 minutes through a set-piece routine. Captain Veale put in a dangerous inswinging ball, and on hand was Nevile, who directed his shot home to turn the game around.
The Grecians had to remain patient throughout the afternoon, and after half-time, fantastic use of the ball saw Exeter, particularly in the opening 15 minutes of the second period, take full advantage of the spaces left by their opponents down the sides.
On the hour mark, some nice interchanges in midfield saw Gribble’s men switch play across all areas of the pitch. After finding space in the middle, Cox saw a shot repelled by the Yeovil goalkeeper before Michael Lilley tried his luck from the rebound which was also denied. The ball eventually fell to Veale, who finished clinically into the back of the net to double the City lead.
The game became stretched, and the Grecians stayed patient in their approach play.
Exeter’s fourth of the day came in the 65th minute courtesy of a smart finish. Lovett received the ball on the right of midfield, with Eli Collins offering his support with a tremendous underlapping run. Lovett used the substitute’s dash forward as a distraction, however, and cut inside to get within shooting distance. The forward opened up his body and curled a superb effort beyond the Town shotstopper into the far corner for 3-1.
Despite being two goals ahead, Gribble’s men still came forward in the search for more. The Grecians continued to look dangerous in the wide areas, while Charlie Hanson was brought on to try and add to their tally in attack.
The replacement was right into the thick of things following his introduction and following good wing play from Iseguan, the forward was unlucky to not score when his shot cannoned off of the crossbar.
On the other side, Clark threatened with another teasing cross. The pass found Hanson in a dangerous position, however, the striker was only able to crash another effort against the woodwork to let the Glovers off once again.
Veale fired one late chance off target, meaning that when the full-time whistle sounded, Exeter’s youngsters had to settle for just the four-goals on the day, and a win that keeps them hot on the tails of Portsmouth U18s, who they play next.
Exeter City Under-18s Head Coach, Chad Gribble: “There was a bit of complacency from us after a slow and sloppy start. They played how we expected but our minds weren’t tuned in to the quality that was required. I always thought we would have the space and quality to win the game, but we weren’t ready for their threat at the top end with their counter-attack. In hindsight, going a goal behind was probably the best thing that could have happened. They were bit thin on the ground in terms of squad numbers, so I felt, if we were right, we could win.
“The players remained patient. We worked the ball into the areas that we needed to, and it was a day where we needed to spot our opportunities. Our quality improved, particularly in that second half, which took away the risk of being countered. In the end, we have ended up scoring four times with different types of goals.
“It was a real team performance. Our full-backs and wingers saw a lot of the ball, so they did a fantastic job. Alex Moyse was a bundle of energy for us in the middle. He stuck to his job and went from strength to strength as the match went on. In the second half, he stopped any counter-attacks at source, and while others looked to go forward and help us, he put the type of responsible performance that can often get overlooked.
“We have a difficult game against Portsmouth next, and they are always a tough opponent. They always bring a competitive performance to our games, and with it being third versus fourth, we are up for the challenge ahead of us and will look to put in another strong display.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Jack Arthur, Toby Nevile, Zeph Collins, Ellis Johnson, Max Clark, Jack Veale, Alex Moyse, Michael Lilley, Nelson Iseguan, Sonny Cox, Frank Lovett
Subs: Eli Collins, Joe Wragg, Charlie Hanson, Edward James,