Exeter City’s Under-18s ended their eventful fourth week of pre-season with an encouraging 3-3 draw away at Charlton Athletic U18s.
The Grecians began their week preparing for a game against men’s side Mousehole AFC, however, their match against the Cornish outfit was abandoned after several members of the Exeter youth team started displaying COVID symptoms. Those individuals were quickly PCR tested and left to isolate while the rest of the Under-18s group undertook Lateral Flow Tests to ensure that everyone else was fit and healthy.
Following the cancellation, that meant an away trip to London was the only competitive game time the players got during the week. The Addicks possess a Category Two academy, so a friendly against a team from such a set-up looked to be a good test for the Devonians. U18s Head Coach, Chad Gribble admitted the whole experience benefitted his team.
“Saturday was our first away game, and we wanted to put together a longer journey and early leaving time because that is something the boys have to go through in the Youth Alliance season. We are starting to move closer to what a normal match-day will feel like.”
But despite the troubles, the contest between the two clubs ended up being an enthralling affair. Charlton started in the ascendency, with Andrew Sowden in the Grecians’ goal producing several decent saves early on. The game settled down soon after and Gribble’s men grew into a rhythm. The visitors created their best chances on the counter-attack, with two of their best openings coming inside the final 10 minutes of the first half.
Exeter found themselves on top following the restart. A counter-press from City in the opening moments of the second period saw them quickly regain the ball, before they swiftly moved play to George Spencer, and he tapped in from close range to open the scoring.
Two minutes later, brilliant work off the ball saw possession retrieved from another aggressive press. A square ball to Spencer saw the Devon youngster fire home his second goal to make it 2-0.
The home team introduced some fresh bodies after 60 minutes, which resulted in a shift of momentum. During their fruitful period, the London club netted twice to pull themselves level, with Athletic looking particularly threatening out wide.
The hosts scored again to make it 3-2, however, in the final 10 minutes, the away team found renewed energy and forced in an equaliser from a late corner to close out a fantastic day of football.
Gribble acknowledged he was pleased with his team's day.
“It was a really competitive game. Despite it being 0-0 at half-time, there were certainly some blows exchanged and both sides had some chances and territory.
“We still had players missing, so we had quite a few of the Under-16s playing, and Charlton were the same so there was a real mix out on the pitch. I think both clubs will come away pleased because we properly challenged one another."