Exeter City’s under-18s suffered the heartbreak of an extra-time defeat in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup as they lost 2-1 to Premier League outfit Leicester City under-18s.
Despite an entertaining first 90 minutes, it remained goalless in regular time despite Terell Pennant coming close for the Foxes in the first half, and Sonny Cox guilty of spurning the best of the Grecians’ opportunities.
Marcel Mdivadua headed the away team in front in the seventh minute of extra-time, however Michael Lilley’s low drive levelled matters just before the interval.
Leicester won the tie in the 108th minute through Kian Pennant’s header, and despite Chad Gribble’s men throwing everything forward in their search for a second equaliser, the Foxes held on to book their place in round five.
The early moments saw both sides try and put together some intricate passages of build-up play without really threatening the scores.
With both teams trying to work their way into the tie, the first shot actually came 11 minutes into the contest when Jack Veale’s corner was met by Toby Nevile at the far post, however the defender’s header was blocked and cleared away.
Despite the Foxes having the majority of the ball, the encouraging signs came from the hosts, and they almost created a golden opportunity when Sonny Cox dribbled his way into the penalty area, however, a pass to Frank Lovett was perhaps the easier route to goal as the striker was eventually dispossessed by the scrambling Leicester backline.
The visitors always looked a threat, and on 16 minutes Tawanda Maswanhise’s surge down the left brought penalty shouts from the blue contingent of the stadium, but referee Marc Whaley waved away the appeals and only awarded a Grecians goal kick.
A minute later the away side unlocked the defence with their brightest move of the game when Maswanhise’s lobbed pass put Terell Pennant through on goal, however, goalkeeper Jack Arthur was more than a match for the resulting shot, as he stayed big to keep things deadlocked.
As the half grew older, both teams traded chances from set-pieces. Ben Nelson nodded wide for Leicester in the 23rd minute, before Nevile’s header was relatively comfortable for Kelechi Chibueze in the Foxes goal.
The left hand side for Exeter enjoyed a productive period as game reached the half-hour point; Nelson Iseguan in particular making himself a useful outlet for his teammates in his attempts to get his side into the attacking third.
Up the other end, Kian Pennant saw a low strike easily stopped by Arthur eight minutes before half-time, while brother Terell wildly shot over few moments later after working a routine from a short free-kick.
Despite a lack of goals when the half-time whistle sounded, it wasn’t down to a shortage of effort. Both teams had shown some beautiful passages of play, but both sides started the second period as they had the first at 0-0.
The first chance after the break came through Cox. The forward’s smart turn and low strike wasn’t good enough to beat Chibueze and it remained goalless.
Alex Moyse was the next to try his luck, as the more purposeful play came from the home team. The closest Leicester came to scoring was through Alfie Pond’s clearance at the near post when he dealt with Terell Pennant’s low ball. From the resulting corner, Kian Pennant headed a wild effort off-target.
Some bright play from Lovett created the next opportunity midway through the second half. The winger’s mazy run ended with him finding Cox with a pass inside, however the attacker could only shoot his effort wide of the far stick.
Samuel Braybrooke and fired a Foxes free-kick well over in the 71st minute, however, they came a bit closer with their next attempt when Oliver Ewing’s long-range shot went narrowly over.
Exeter’s attacking intentions was clear however, when Gribble decided to swap Cox for Charlie Hanson. But the opening goal almost came from an unlikely source after 79 minutes when Zeph Collins arrowed a shot past a crowded 18-yard box and into the side netting.
Back came the visitors, and the ever-bright Wanya Marcel Madivadua displayed a real turn of pace when he dribbled his way past a few challenges, before he powered a shot over the crossbar.
As crunch time approached, Iseguan demonstrated his turn of pace and neat footwork when he brought play into the final third. The wideman’s shot from range however just whistled past the post.
Zeph Collins fired a late volley wide and the Grecians piled on some late pressure, but ultimately the scores remained level when the referee blew for full-time, meaning Gribble’s men were to enter extra-time for the third time this season in the competition.
The pressing game of the Grecians had their opponents in trouble during various stages, and Michael Lilley was unlucky to see his low drive only tipped round the post following a corner.
However, it was Leicestere who opened the coring in the seventh minute of the additional period when their first real quality delivery into the box was duly converted. Maswanhise’s surge down the left led to a wicked ball towards the back stick, where Marcel Mdivadua rose highest to score from close range.
It was a bright response from the home team, as Iseguan typified a determined attitude with some bright play. Iseguan worked himself into a rally promising position, but his cross was cut out by the retreating defence.
Exeter’s positive reply was deservedly rewarded with an equaliser two minutes before the break. Iseguan’s long throw was initially dealt with by the centre-backs, however Lilley collected the loose ball on the edge of the area and fired a strike into the bottom corner to level the tie.
The momentum was truly with the home team, and they unlocked the Leicester defence with some beautiful football just a few minutes later when substitute Charlie Hanson played the role of target man. His lay off located the run of Veale, who in turn played a square pass to Lilley. The scorer of the match’s leveller shot for goal once again, but it was repelled unconvincingly by Chibueze.
Both teams continued to push for a winner at the start of the second period of extra-time. But it was the away team that took full advantage when they scored their second of the night in the 108th minute. Bright play down the left saw Johnny Yfeko link up with Maswanhise. The latter sent a dangerous ball in front of Arthur’s goal, and the keeper was left helpless as Kian Pennant headed in from five yards.
In spite of Gribble ushering his team forward in the hope of grabbing a late equaliser to send the tie to penalties, Exeter’s youngsters ultimately ran out of time, and it was the Foxes who were left celebrating when the referee blew for full-time.
Exeter City Under-18s: Jack Arthur, Alfie Pond, Toby Nevile, Ellis Johnson, Zeph Collins, Jack Veale, Alex Moyse, Michael Lilley, Nelson Iseguan, Sonny Cox, Frank Lovett
Subs: Andrew Sowden, Eli Collins, Alfie Clark, Edward James, Jamie Nicholson, Charlie Hanson, Gabriel Billington