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💬 Chad Gribble: "The boys were fantastic. Their effort levels more than deserved the win.”

U18's boss on City FA Youth Cup victory over Plymouth Argyle

5 November 2020

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Exeter City’s Under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, praised his players’ effort and desire in their 3-2 extra-time win over Plymouth Argyle U18s in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday night.

Exeter City’s Under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, praised his players’ effort and desire in their 3-2 extra-time win over Plymouth Argyle U18s in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday night.

In his post-match interview, Gribble said, “I’m really pleased. The boys were fantastic. If anything they definitely ran and worked their way to a victory tonight, so their effort levels more than deserved the win tonight.”

In a highly entertaining cup tie, the Grecians started the contest quickly, and after sending their opponents a few early warning signs, they took the lead in the seventh minute. Following some tenacious play in midfield, City worked the ball to Nelson Iseguan on the left flank. The winger drove a low cross into the middle and Sonny Cox applied the cool finish past the goalkeeper to eradicate any pre-match nerves the visitors had.

“It's a big occasion for young players to play in this competition in this stadium under the lights. It’s a little bit different, and you can feel it and see it. But [it was] a good moment of quality in the first half. A good cross from Nelson [Iseguan], and Sonny [Cox] is great in front of goal, so it did settle us” commented Gribble.

Off the back of the goal, the Grecians began to enjoy plenty of possession, however, the Pilgrims found a way back into the contest against the run of play in the 20th minute. Plymouth forward, Scott Crocker, ran away from the City backline and drew a foul inside the 18-yard box, before he despatched the resulting penalty past Jack Arthur to restore parity.

“It’s probably the one moment in this game that we’ve not defended well. We just weren’t ready, not alert” said Gribble, before adding, “They’re the type of deliveries forward that young players have to expect and be ready for, and we weren’t on that occasion. It was frustrating, but the response from the players was fantastic. I wouldn’t say we got rattled. I wouldn’t say that we lost sight of the plan and we kept a good purpose to get us into half-time in the position we were in.”

Exeter’s youngsters retook the lead seven minutes into the second period when captain Jack Veale curled in a wicked cross, which Toby Neville touched home after wriggling free of his marker.

“Jack’s got good quality, and he knows he needs to work hard as well in order to show that quality, and I thought he done that tonight. He got that chance to put that delivery in and it was again a well-finished set-piece” commented Gribble.

The away side continued to search for ways to extend their lead, but ultimately, they paid the price for spurning their chances when Argyle won themselves another penalty six minutes from the end. Neville was adjudged to have blocked a cross with his arm, which resulted in Charlie Miller tucking away the second spot-kick of the match to bring the teams level once again.

On the subject of the penalty award, Gribble was left perplexed. “My feeling on the side was that it was soft. It’s a rule that has come into football. They’re difficult to take. That's the first time it's happened to us this season, and I feel for all those managers and coaches that get those penalties against them because I’m not really sure what more you can do. You’re trying to put your body on the line and stop the ball going into the back of your net, and if your hands are by your side, I’m not sure you can do anything else. It’s unfortunate, but again, [the players were] not rattled, not fazed, managed to stay in the game and stay on task and stick to the plan, and eventually end up going on and winning the game.”

Both teams pushed for a late winner, and despite both sides trading chances, the two remained deadlocked and a further 30 minutes of action was required to separate them.

In the 12th minute of extra-time, substitute Charlie Hanson thought he had scored when he crashed a header against the crossbar, however, moments later, the Grecians found another way to break the stalemate.

Nelson Iseguan received the ball down the left, and after turning his man, the wide-man delivered a superb low cross in between the Plymouth ‘keeper and the defence, and with sub Joe Wragg ghosting in at the far stick, the ball was smashed home by the replacement to give what would end up being the winner for the visitors, delighting everyone associated with the Grecians, including the City youth coach.

“A good delivery from Nelson [Iseguan], but I’m delighted for [Joe Wragg] Wraggy. He’s had a long spell out injured, well over a year, so to get on the pitch and win us the game, I’m really really pleased for him and I know he’s buzzing as well so a great moment for Wraggy.”

Wragg’s goal meant Exeter’s youngsters progressed through to the second round of the competition, while knocking their Devon rivals out of the competition. The performance highlighted once again how talented some of the players are in the ECFC Academy, and with the first-team coaches watching on and taking an interest in the Under-18s side, Gribble could only praise the assistance his team has received.

“Their support is fantastic. We have regular contact, regular conversations. That's why I love working at this football club. There’s a real keen interest in the young players and there’s a pathway. Players are in that first-team doing well now and it's great for our young players to have the support of all the staff tonight. That's why we do what we do and it's probably one of the best clubs in the country to work at for that reason.”

Exeter City’s Under-18s are drawn at home to Cheltenham Town U18s in the second round of the FA Youth Cup. The FA have instructed that all ties must be played by Saturday 21 November 2020, and further information about the game will be announced in due course.


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