Exeter City’s under-18s began the new 2020/21 season with real positivity following a 3-0 home victory over Yeovil Town U18s at the weekend.
After a scrappy start, striker Frank Lovett broke the deadlock after 28 minutes following a neat through ball from Michael Lilley.
The direct and aggressive game plan from the visitors meant the Grecians struggled to control the game for long periods, but they doubled their lead in the 75th minute through Jack Veale.
With 10 minutes remaining, substitute Charlie Hanson wrapped up the victory to hand Chad Gribble’s side a well-deserved three points, and a platform that the squad can build from for the rest of the campaign.
Exeter’s youngsters came into Saturday’s fixture with the hope that they could take some of last week’s positives in their friendly match with Swansea City into their game with the Glovers.
But the opening quarter of an hour developed into a scrappy affair, with Yeovil’s direct tactics creating the best goal opportunities, however twice they headed those half-chances comfortably over Harry Lee’s crossbar.
Following the early exchanges, the hosts began to enjoy small spells of possession, which led to Ellis Johnson finding himself in advanced positions out wide. The crosses the full-back provided were dangerous, however, they would only flash across the face of goal and away to safety despite the promising build-up play beforehand.
City began to settle into a real rhythm after the midway point of the first half. Their new sense of control brought out more quality in their play, and on 28 minutes they were rewarded with a breakthrough.
Following a number of aerial duels, the ball broke in the middle with Lilley intercepting the ball. The midfielder played a weighted through ball to Lovett, and he finished clinically to put his team ahead.
The visitors remained in the contest despite conceding however thanks to their style of play, but some nice interchanges, particularly down the left flank between Iseguan and Max Clark gave real encouragement to Gribble’s team.
In the second half, Yeovil looked to swing the momentum by utilising their wind advantage, however, the Grecians dealt with the pressure well and won a lot of the first and second balls to stifle the Glovers.
On the ball, the home side looked just as effective, and Lovett was unlucky not to add a second goal in the 55th minute when he was denied by a good save.
Lovett continued to be a nuisance for the opposition, and the attacker’s defensive press on the Town goalkeeper again almost led to another goal, however, it ricocheted wide.
City did eventually double their lead though through a well-worked team goal. Alfie Pond and Johnson linked up superbly, before the latter's centre was met by the onrushing Veale. The midfielders' late run allowed him to guide his header into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
That dealt a huge blow to the away side, and Gribble’s men took full advantage five minutes later to wrap up a good day’s work from the team.
Iseguan got the better of his opposite man before crossing, and, with his first effort since his introduction off of the bench, Hanson headed home to give his team a three-goal cushion, sealing a well-earned opening day victory for the young Grecians.
Exeter City Under-18s Head Coach, Chad Gribble: “To come away from the game with a win, a clean sheet, at home in a local derby, is certainly a nice way to start the season and the boys should be pleased.
“It wasn’t a complete performance. The scoreline and the three well-worked goals may suggest that, but there were things in that performance that we liked, and some things we didn’t like, and we always want to try and challenge the players to be better. We lacked purpose and were slow in possession at times which we need to improve on for next time.
“Their style of play was effective and disrupted us, and it stopped us from having any control for long periods. It meant that when we got on the ball we needed to be productive with it, had to be careful with how many men we were committing when we went forward. Credit has to go to the boys for not just being patient, but for the number of headers and second balls they won. A couple of friendlies we played in pre-season helped us with that, so those experiences have done their job, but I’m sure we’ll see those tactics again at some stage this season.
“The opening game threw up some first day nerves, but I think in all the lads are glad the competitive season has returned. There were some real positive moments, and this performance has given us the building blocks to kick on for the rest of the year. But we know we are going to have to show more next time against Plymouth Argyle U18s, and in the coming weeks.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Harry Lee, Alfie Pond, Zeph Collins, Ellis Johnson, Max Clark, Alex Moyse, Jack Veale, Nelson Iseguan, Michael Lilley, Jamie Nicholson, Frank Lovett
Subs: Harrison King, Harry Ford, Charlie Hanson, Joe Wragg, Toby Neville