Exeter City’s Under-18s bounced back from last weekend’s Oxford United defeat with a positive 4-2 victory away at Newport County on Saturday.
The Exiles took an early lead, however, Nelson Iseguan equalised after half an hour. In the opening moments of the second period, the teams traded goals once more, with Harry Ford netting for City.
Ford grabbed his second goal of the game in the 69th minute to hand the advantage to the Grecians, before they sealed the victory 11 minutes from time through Frank Lovett.
After suffering a small setback last weekend with a loss in the Youth Alliance South West division, Exeter’s youngsters looked to bounce back with a good performance in South Wales.
Chad Gribble’s men began proceedings brightly and controlled a lot of the early possession as his players moved the ball around well despite playing into a strong wind.
But despite the quick start, the away side found themselves 1-0 down after five minutes. Jack Arthur looked to clear his lines, with one County player hoping to apply pressure on the kick. The goalkeeper miscued his clearance into the Newport forward, which led to the ball rolling into the back of the net for an early breakthrough.
The Devonians were quick to shrug off the mishap and got on the ball once again with supreme confidence as they began to find plenty of joy down both wings. However, for all of their neat build-up play, City lacked a final product in the attacking third with the wind rather disrupting the creation of clear-cut openings.
But on 30 minutes the Grecians did work a decent opportunity following Michael Lilley’s interception. The midfielder fed the ball into Iseguan, and he finished his one-on-one chance well to restore parity.
It remained level up until half-time, and, with the wind still playing a huge role in the game, the switch of ends looked to favour Exeter in the second period.
But despite the conditions, it was the hosts that started the better, and their efforts were rewarded with a goal in the 49th minute. A direct free-kick hit the crossbar, and first to react was an Exiles shirt, who bundled home the rebound to make it 2-1.
Gribble’s side looked to compose themselves and get back on the ball in response. It left the Welsh outfit struggling to get out of their own half, with the strong wind forcing them back as the pressure on their goal increased.
The game was tied once again on 55 minutes following good work from Ellis Johnson. The defender moved the ball on to Ford, whose long-range strike beat the County ‘keeper to make it 2-2 and swing the momentum truly in the visitors’ favour.
Just 14 minutes later, City took the lead for the first time through Ford once again. After regaining possession, the ball reached Ford on the right-hand side. The winger cut inside on to his left foot and sent a shot from the edge of the box into the far corner to complete the turnaround.
With time running out for Newport to muster a response, the young Grecians made things more comfortable and gave themselves a two-goal cushion in the 79th minute. Alfie Pond quickly turned defence into attack by linking up with Jack Veale. The latter sent a sumptuous ball over the top of the home backline for Lovett to latch onto, and the striker cooly slotted home to round off what was a good day for Gribble and his young squad.
Exeter City Under-18s Head Coach, Chad Gribble: "This was a really good response to the Oxford game, The biggest thing was the way we reacted to going 1-0 down. We didn’t change our mindset, everything was going to plan, and it was just a freak moment. Compared to last week, we weren’t rattled here and we managed to stay on task. We got on top again quickly, and there wasn’t a moment in the game when I felt it was out of reach for us.
"I thought we played the conditions really well. When we were against the wind we managed the game and played in good areas of the pitch. On the flip side, when we were with the wind, we got close to Newport which made it difficult for them to settle on the ball. Credit to Harry Ford for taking on shots in the second half. He had come close before, so it was no surprise he scored later on in the game. You can’t plan for these type of conditions. You can train and prepare for matches, but when the wind comes you’ve got to be ready and make good decisions on the pitch.
"Jack Veale was excellent. The game required maturity in places, and he, alongside Michael Lilley, allowed us to control the game and gave us a foothold to go forward. But the mentality across the whole team was fantastic. What we did with and without the ball didn't change, which showed that sticking with the process gives you the best chance of winning. On this occasion, we turned the game back in our favour and got the result.
"We play Plymouth Argyle in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday, and we can go into that game full of confidence. The beauty of having games so close together is that it gives you a chance to build some momentum up. Being able to win the game before the FA Youth Cup tie is good, but we know it’ll be tough on Wednesday and we’ll have to be at our best to get a result.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Jack Arthur, Alfie Pond, Toby Neville, Ellis Johnson, Max Clark, Michael Lilley, Jack Veale, Nelson Iseguan, Harry Ford, Sonny Cox, Frank Lovett
Subs: Andrew Sowden, Zeph Collins, Eli Collins, Gabriel Billington, Alfie Clark