Exeter City’s Under-18s sailed into round three of the FA Youth Cup last night with a comprehensive 4-0 win away at Chelmsford City U18s.
Ed James’ 11th-minute header was followed up by a brace from George Spencer, before a late Eli Collins penalty sealed the thumping victory under the floodlights at the EMG Inspire Stadium.
However, ECFC U18s Head Coach, Chad Gribble, explained that his players weren’t at their very best, and the team has plenty more to give despite the emphatic scoreline.
“I’m pleased with the result, but the performance needs to be better, and we were quite honest about that between us staff and the players after the game. We have played a lot of football matches recently, so there were a number of tired bodies and tired minds out there, particularly in the first 45 minutes, but we got the job done, though there were large parts that need to be better.
“It was a frantic start, and the opposition were always going to try and start that way. But we never got control of any key situation, whether that was with the ball, or gaining any territory. That first goal gave us some breathing space, but we had no real control until the second half when the third goal went in.
“Our players value set pieces, in both boxes, and you can practise them as much as you want, but when it comes to a match, it is down to being more willing to get on the end of it than the opposition, and our players love that challenge. Credit has to go to Eli Collins because his delivery in recent weeks has been outstanding. What set-plays comes down to is having the right execution and right mindset.
“Scoring the third goal early in the second half was huge because Chelmsford had some momentum. They hit the post and had a couple more shots, but our third has come from a loose ball and was one of the moments of real quality in the match. Michael Lilley’s pass and Mitch’s ball in was excellent. That goal gave us control and took the match away from them.
“In the second period we were getting the ball into key areas of the pitch, and some of our end product was excellent. We could have scored again before our fourth goal, and Mitch was unlucky not to net a hat trick when he was arriving at the back post for Joe Wragg's crosses, while George Spencer was unfortunate not to get a few more goals too. It is a good moment from Charlie Hanson for the penalty, as he showed real pace and power and got away from his man to draw the foul.
“We as staff often talk about what experiences we can give the group that replicates the first-team, and this competition does that. This has been a good experience for the players. It is the first time this group has played twice three days, and the first time they have had to travel, play, and stay overnight for a game too. It was a long journey yesterday, and we arrived a couple of hours before kick-off. It takes certain characters to get ready for a game after that, and thankfully we just had enough in our bodies and minds to get a result. What was good about yesterday was that we came to a non-league stadium, played against a non-league opponent, and played with the pressure of being favourites, so it was a well-rounded experience for the boys.
“It is always nice to win, and these players love winning. It is a place in the next round, where we will have another chance to test ourselves against someone different. While it was nice to win 4-0, I don’t think we deserved to win by that much, but you take that result and look forward to what comes next. We want to be as successful as we can be in this competition. These players want to try and create history by becoming the first group to reach round five, but that depends on the draw. I hope we get someone different, like Chelmsford, and like Leicester, because experiences like yesterday gave us real variety in terms of learning opportunities. But we will put ourselves up against whoever we are drawn against next, and we will try our best to get into the fourth round once again.”
The Grecians have been drawn at home to AFC Bournemouth in the third round for the second reason running, with the tie to be played before December 11.