Exeter City’s under-18s returned to league action with a comfortable 2-0 home victory over Swindon Town under-18s on Saturday.
Defender Alfie Pond opened the scoring for the Grecians in the 10th minute when he tapped home a Jack Veale free-kick.
Five minutes before half-time, Harry Ford doubled the advantage with a long-range strike that gave the Robins' goalkeeper no chance.
In a quieter second period, City held on to their two-goal lead to take home the three points, with the win moving Chad Gribble’s side up to third in the Youth Alliance South West division standings.
The hosts started the contest brightly, and they were able to apply plenty of early pressure on to their opponents.
Their high intensity was rewarded just 10 minutes in when Exeter’s youngsters won themselves a free-kick in a wide position. Captain Veale whipped in a deep delivery, and centre-back Pond reached the ball at the back post first, and tucked home a left-footed shot just inside the upright to make it 1-0.
Off the back of the goal, the Grecians enjoyed lots of possession in the visitors’ half, and as a result, looked a threat down the flanks.
As the game ticked towards the 20th minute, two half-chances fell City’s way which they were just unable to convert. First, Frank Lovett’s run down the right side ended with a cross that went agonisingly across the face of the Swindon goal, before Iseguan, on the other wing, delivered a centre that was beyond the reach of Lovett and Charlie Hanson.
Gribble’s men continued to come forward though, and in the 40th minute, they grabbed a deserved second goal. Ford received the ball 25 yards out and turned into a pocket of space, before unleashing an unstoppable effort that flew into the top corner to give the home team a two-goal cushion.
Ford tried his luck from distance again just a few minutes later, but he was unlucky not to find the back of the net on this occasion as his curled shot clipped the top of the crossbar.
At the start of the second half, Exeter’s players continued to see lots of the ball without creating any clear-cut opportunity to score a third goal.
As the game reached the hour mark, fatigue crept into the legs of both sets of players as a result of the 120 minutes the two teams played in their respective midweek cup ties.
As the half wore on, the Robins looked their most threatening on the counter-attack, but the better chances came City’s way.
Sonny Cox forced a good save from the away goalkeeper after a neat turn opened up some space for the striker to try his luck from distance. Later on, Lovett was put in behind the Swindon backline, but a good recovery from the defence meant the shot was charged down and cleared away to safety.
With no change to the scoreline, when the full-time whistle sounded it resulted in the Grecians taking home a 2-0 victory, with Gribble's men putting together a nice run of results ahead of their FA Youth Cup second round fixture against Cheltenham Town on Wednesday night.
Exeter City Under-18s Head Coach, Chad Gribble: “In this match, we managed to reach the required levels that were needed. We got off to a good start, and I am particularly pleased with how we used the ball, which led to us creating some good chances. We allowed ourselves to preserve our energy, which meant we could go on longer than Swindon.
“The clean sheet is really pleasing, particularly so as in the second half we made some changes. They enjoyed a 15-minute spell, but we got some good blocks in and I am pleased with our organisation without the ball. They played in a way we didn’t expect them to, so I have to credit the players for solving that problem on the pitch. It was a pleasing day all round.
“We’ve built momentum, belief, and the boys are gaining more trust in the system and one another. I feel this game showed that the players are getting rewards for how hard they train. We were able to compete and fought strongly, and from an Under-18s team point of view, they are putting together a nice run of results.
“On Wednesday we play in the second round of the FA Youth Cup against Cheltenham Town. They are always difficult to play against, and I think Wednesday will be very different in comparison to the league game we played against them. Although we got a good win and put in a good performance against them in the league, that was some weeks ago, and they have a good set of players and staff who would have improved and developed since then. This time around, in a way, the league form goes out of the window. It’s a one-off game and we’ll have to be at our best to get a result.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Jack Arthur, Alfie Pond, Zeph Collins, Ellis Johnson, Max Clark, Michael Lilley, Jack Veale, Nelson Iseguan, Harry Ford, Frank Lovett, Charlie Hanson
Subs: Andrew Sowden, Toby Nevile, Eli Collins, Joe Wragg, Sonny Cox