Exeter City suffered a 2-0 away defeat in their penultimate match of the Youth Alliance South West division last Saturday to the hands of Yeovil Town.
In tough conditions, the Grecians squandered several openings to take the lead during the first quarter of the match, with Frank Lovett’s header the best chance that was missed.
Exeter were punished for their poor finishing during a four-minute period just before half-time. A scrappy goalmouth scramble saw the ball forced home from close range to hand the Glovers a 1-0 advantage on 40 minutes.
The lead was doubled a minute before the break when a lobbed effort over goalkeeper Harry Lee went in, and in spite of the visitors’ best efforts in the second period, it remained a two-goal game pleasing the Yeovil contingent amongst the players, staff and supporters.
Chad Gribble’s men were looking to record their first victory of the calendar year against a side they had already defeated earlier on this season.
Despite the pitch appearing long and heavy, with conditions looking to be seemingly against City’s players, they actually started the brighter giving the hosts a few early scares.
Both Nelson Iseguan and Ben Chrisene had opportunities to threaten the opposition with dangerous crosses when things looked to be opening up for the away team, however, it was Lovett who was presented with the best opening just before the midway point of the first period.
Harry Ford provided the ball from out wide with a delicious cross, and Lovett got ahead of his marker, only to see his headed effort saved from the Town goalkeeper.
The home side grew into the game after 20 minutes, and they looked to get in behind the Devonians’ defence, however 'keeper Harry Lee executed his sweeper-keeper role efficiently during a phase of no real chances.
That was until the latter stages of the half, when the Glovers really turned the screw.
In the 40th minute, Yeovil swung in a corner that was initially dealt with. A goalmouth scramble ensued, and after several ricochets, the ball was bundled home from close range to give the hosts the 1-0 lead.
That goal gave Town real belief, and with the wind in their sails, they managed to score another just before the interval to really punish their opponents.
A throw-in was played back to the home team’s centre-back, before hoisting a long ball forward. Two Grecian defenders failed to communicate and take control of the situation, which allowed one Glovers forward to nip in and lob the ball over the stricken Lee to double the advantage.
After the break, with the pitch making it hard to put together any decent passing moves, Exeter struggled to get any rhythm going and it turned into a scrappy affair.
The visitors did enjoy some positive second half moments, however, it proved to mainly be a frustrating day for their attackers, who didn’t see many decent opportunities fall their way, nor keep up a constant threat on the Yeovil goal.
In contrast, the hosts should have killed the game on the hour mark, when they got in behind Gribble’s men once again. But the resulting strike was blazed over the crossbar keeping it at a two-goal game.
As the game reached the closing stages, Town’s solid shape and resolute backline meant they kept their clean sheet intact, whilst managing the game to stay comfortably ahead on the scoreboard.
As a result, when full-time whistle did arrive, City walked off disappointed with their afternoon’s work, but something they will look to learn and bounce back from when they play the Devon Derby next weekend.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, said: “Firstly, because of the conditions, we needed to have certain requirements to put in the performance and get the result we were looking for here. We played on one of the worst pitches I have seen at Under-18s level, however, it was the same for both teams, and they played those conditions much better.
“We took what the first-team manager said as a reference point, talking about winter football and the different conditions, and how it requires a different type or style. Our first team are currently going through a period of difficult, sticky pitches right now, and if our lads want to become professionals they’re going to have to adapt to those kinds of conditions. At any level, when the weather changes the pitches will be affected and, no matter how far they end up going, at some point they’ll play on those kinds of surfaces. Our lads have got to learn how to play football in those conditions, as we never really got our game going on Saturday.
“Both goals were bad goals to concede from our point of view. The first goal was offside, and that frustrated our guys, but I was disappointed with the reaction we showed to that. We can’t control the officials’ decision, but we could control our approach and we should never have conceded a second goal just a few minutes later. Chances are few and far between in games like that, but we weren’t concentrating, and if you allow your opponents to get a foothold in the game you will end up getting punished.
“It's a real learning opportunity for us. It is the first time I can question my players’ mentality, because this season, we have lost games to better opponents, and lost when we have been the better side, but here we lost to a team who were better than us, and credit has to go to Yeovil as they played excellently, but I didn’t like the response we showed or the mentality we displayed.
“We’ll look to put everything right for a derby game against Plymouth Argyle next week. We will have to make sure our minds are in the right place and we’ll go out and get the response we want in what will be our final league game before the Merit League.”
Exeter City under-18s: Harry Lee, Cheick Diabate, Jack Stafford, Alfie Pond, Harry Ford, Louis Morison, Ben Chrisene, Jack Veale, Nelson Iseguan, Frank Lovett, Lewis Wilson. Subs: Max Clark, Ellis Johnson, Alex Moyse