A dramatic late finish saw Exeter City’s Under-18s take home the bragging rights in the Devon Derby on Saturday as Chad Gribble’s side won 2-1 at Plymouth Argyle’s under-18s.
Jack Veale gave City the lead five minutes before half-time, before the Pilgrims thought they had nicked a point when they scored a deserved leveller in the first minute of injury time
However, the Grecians grabbed a spectacular winner when Veale smashed in a thunderous effort past the goalkeeper to send those from the red side of the county into huge celebrations.
It was Exeter’s youngsters that started the brighter, and with Argyle struggling to get out of their own half inside the opening 10 minutes.
Gribble’s side saw plenty of ball, particularly high up the pitch, however, they were unable to get in behind their opponents and create anything clear cut.
Plymouth grew into the game and started enjoying more of the ball. A controlling spell from the hosts saw them start to dictate most of the play, but City always looked threatening down both flanks on the break, and they flashed several balls across the face of the Pilgrims’ goal.
Argyle came on strong as the first period grew older, and as half-time approached it looked as if they were the team that would make the breakthrough. A number of last-ditch blocks from the Grecians though halted any real threats on Harry Lee’s goal.
In the 40th minute, the deadlock was broken, against the run of play.
The visitors surged forward on the counter-attack once again, with Nelson Iseguan leading the charge. The winger showed neat footwork as he danced around one defender before he was brought down inside the 18-yard box for a penalty. Veale stepped up and converted the spot-kick to hand his team the lead just before the break.
In the second half, Plymouth started on top once again, determined to not let the conceded goal interrupt their rhythm.
Gribble’s men looked a threat in their own right too with some high pressing applying real pressure onto their opponents when they had possession. As a result, in the 55th minute, Sonny Cox had the ball in the net for City, but the goal was disallowed for offside.
As the game went on, and with the Pilgrims struggling to play out from the back, they changed their approach and started to play long and direct. That handed them the edge in terms of territory, and despite not getting in behind the visitors, they still managed to create several half-chances from it.
The game had just ticked into injury time when the home side's pressure finally led to a leveller. A cross from wide saw goalkeeper Lee attempt to claim the ball, but an Argyle touch beforehand diverted the ball into the net to bring the scores level.
That only started the chaos, however, as, from the resulting kick-off, the Grecians got into a promising position once again.
The clock ticked past 94 minutes as Veale led another assault. The skipper combined with substitute Charlie Hanson to get within shooting range, before the midfielder unleashed a left-footed rocket that went high into the roof of the net to steal all three points for Gribble and his squad.
Exeter City Under-18s Head Coach, Chad Gribble: “We fought hard, ran hard and competed hard here and that is what has won us the game. There were little spells, but only just a few quality moments from us. I have to credit Plymouth for the way they played, but the defensive blocks we have put in showed we put our bodies on the line. The way we competed helped us come away with all three points in the end.
“That fighting spirit is a trait you have to have. Do I want every game to be like that, not at all. I would have liked it if we had more control, but we did what was needed, and we found a way to stop the shots on our goal.
“We had our backs to the wall for a lot of the game, but there were some really dominant performances from our defenders. The equaliser looked like it was coming, and they deserved it too, but our belief got us over the line. The game reached the 91st minute and we showed we were not done yet. That is a great characteristic to have in life, and should set the boys up to have success in whatever they do in the future.
“I’m pleased with the way the boys fought. Everyone on the pitch had the same effort levels, and Jack Veale as captain helped drive us forward. In the final moments, he looked like someone who wanted to make something happen, and there was no stopping him. I’m delighted he could do that in a derby match, and I’m pleased for all the players that we managed to grab the win in the end.
“This really gives us a fantastic platform going forward. I’d like us to show a bit more composure and quality on the ball, and I’d like to see that willingness from the team at every moment of the game. We are away at Bristol Rovers next who have won twice already this season. We don’t quite know what to expect from them but we know we have to be ready. This is a starting block for us, and if we can just add a bit of quality we know we can certainly put a performance together.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Harry Lee, Alfie Pond, Zeph Collins, Ellis Johnson, Max Clark, Alex Moyse, Jack Veale, Nelson Iseguan, Harry Ford, Sonny Cox, Frank Lovett
Subs: Michael Lilley, Charlie Hanson, Jamie Nicholson, Toby Neville