Exeter City’s under-18s recorded their first league win of the season with a 2-1 victory away at Swindon Town under-18s on Saturday.
Jed Afenyo gave the Robins the lead after half an hour against the run of play when he finished off a well-worked move down the left, before Toby Nevile levelled just before half-time with a thumping header.
Ten minutes into the second period, City turned the game around when Mitch Beardmore’s mazy run and finish made it 2-1.
The Grecians were in control for the remainder of the game, and took home all three points which saw them go up two places in the Youth Alliance South West division, up into eighth place.
Chad Gribble took his young squad up the M5 for their first away match of the season, however, new surroundings and difficult conditions didn’t faze the Devon outfit, as they started the brighter of the two sides, and enjoyed plenty of play in the opposition half.
The visitors enjoyed several attacking surges down the right flank, however, despite finding themselves in promising positions, they were unable to turn those forages forward into any decent opportunities for their forwards.
Town always looked a threat on the counter-attack, but it was Exeter who created the first real opening after a quarter of an hour when they fired a shot just over the crossbar.
Shortly after, a tame effort was comfortably saved by the Swindon goalkeeper, and in truth, the first quarter of the game very much belonged to City, as more chances were carved open in and around the penalty box, as well as through various set-piece routines.
Therefore there was a bit of a surprise when the home team took the lead in the 30th minute when they broke down the left. A cross to the far post was nicely nodded back into the danger area, before the ball was sent past Andrew Sowden by Afenyo to hand the Wiltshire club the advantage.
The conceded effort however had no negative effect on the young Grecians, and they soon pocked up their rhythm once again and used their territory to bring play up past halfway on numerous occasions.
The Robins caused problems for Gribble’s men through the middle several times, but again it was largely the Devonians with the bulk of the possession, and just a few minutes before the half-time whistle they equalised.
Eli Collins whipped a ball into the box, and Nevile rose highest to beat his marker to the ball and guide a header past the ‘keeper and into the back of the net to restore parity.
That goal, combined with an inspiring half-time message really motivated the away side after the restart, as they were quicker to the ball, and out of possession, able to stop any counters from the opposition.
City’s Joe Wragg tried his luck with two efforts in a matter of moments as he looked to exploit the space left to him down the right wing. His effort whistled just past the post, while his second shot brought a good save from Town’s shot-stopper.
On 55 minutes, however, the Grecians were able to score again through a majestic solo effort.
Following a cross from the right side, the ball ricocheted around in the 18-yard box, before the ball was hacked clear by the Swindon defence. Beardmore collected the ball, and dribbled from the middle third to within shooting distance, and he arrowed an effort across the goalie which crept its way inside the post to make hand his team the lead for the first time.
Gribble made adjustments to his team as they looked for ways to seal the win, however his players were unable to make the most of the territory they had.
The home team went more direct with their play as the game went on and desperation crept into their ranks, but it was dealt with smartly and efficiently by the Exeter defence, as they denied their opponents any real shots that troubled the scoreline.
A resilient last period from the visitors’ backline meant though they never added to their goal tally, they took home a fully merited victory, meaning across all competitions, Gribble’s youngsters have recorded three consecutive wins in one way or another.
Exeter City Under-18s Head Coach, Chad Gribble: “The game was played in difficult conditions, which is the first time we’ve experienced that. It was a wet and heavy pitch, and the weather was terrible, and you can see it is turning to winter now so we will undoubtedly come up against that again soon. We had to adjust parts of our game for what was needed to accommodate for the conditions because you never know what it will be like until the day. But our adjustments allowed us to get control and we managed to play some good football despite how difficult it was out there.
“We needed certain characteristics to be successful here. We were energetic, aggressive and were first to everything. But that performance was coming. We’ve played really well in games recently, and last week, despite not being completely at our best, it gave the players a lift. Then on top of that, playing in the Devon Bowl midweek and winning too, really showed in our performance. From the warm-up, we looked like the team who were excited to play despite the sideways rain and the swirling wind. We haven’t had that in the last few weeks but it shows that the players need to keep trusting the process. We were really happy with our performance against Portsmouth, despite losing the game, but this performance here was close to that level, and you can see the players are slowly building.
“We are away at Newport County next week for the next round of the Youth Alliance Cup. As I’ve said before, the cup always gives you an opportunity to earn another game, and we’ve done traditionally well in cup competitions. It is another away trip, but with a strong week’s training we are in for another tough week, but the players have got to keep building. It was nice to put in a positive performance, and that will give us plenty of belief, but Newport have just beaten Cheltenham, who we struggled against so they’re coming into it off the back of a positive game. The calibre of teams we play this year is strong, where everyone can beat everyone, so there are no easy games which I like, and this will be one the players and myself are really looking forward to.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Andrew Sowden, Harrison King, Toby Nevile, Ed James, Max Edgecombe, Michael Lilley, Eli Collins, Jamie Nicholson, Mitch Beardmore, Joe Wragg, George Spencer
Subs: Alfie Cunningham, Joe O’Connor, Lewis McNab, Kelson Pollard, Sam Joce