Exeter City’s under-23s suffered a narrow defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers under-23s in their second match of the Premier League Cup on Wednesday night.
The Devon side enjoyed a lively start, and they took the lead through Sonny Cox’s volley just seven minutes into the cup tie, however, Wolves grew into the contest and restored parity through Chem Campbell 20 minutes later.
The visitors were on the front foot at the beginning of the second period, and two goals in seven minutes through Conor Carty and Kai Corbett put them in the driving seat.
Alfie Pond pulled one goal back for Exeter, but they were unable to create another clear-cut chance in the dying moments to force the draw, meaning Dan Green’s side have just the point to show for two pretty positive performances so far in the competition.
Following the 1-1 draw with Swansea City U23s, Green made just two changes to his starting line-up, with Owura Edwards-Owura brought in, and Archie Collins drafted in as a late change for Callum Rowe.
And the Grecians took the momentum of the strong performance from eight days ago into their contest at St James Park, with some bright build-up play inside a few minutes unlucky not to open up the away side’s defence down the left side.
Pascal Estrada blasted an ambitious effort well over from a short corner, but in truth, the opening periods belonged to Exeter’s youngsters.
Daniel and Edwards-Owura were the hosts’ industrious duo, and between them, they created a superb opening in the seventh minute, after Collins brought play over to the wing. Daniels swung in a precise cross, and ghosting in at the far stick, Cox cushioned a volley past the helpless Louie Moulden to hand Green’s men a deserved advantage.
The early goal brought more confidence to an already dominant City XI, with Cox close to adding to his tally when he linked up with Edwards-Owura once again.
The Midlands club struggled to get themselves into dangerous areas of the pitch, and in contrast, the Grecians looked to score almost every time they flooded forward. In the 21st minute Edwards-Owura disposed the Wolverhampton defence in the centre circle, before playing a one-two with Seymour. Eventually the winger let fly, however his low shot was comfortably saved.
City’s players weren’t just impressing in the attacking third, with Harry Lee in between the sticks producing a wonderful save at the midpoint of the first period when Corbett was played through for Wanderers.
That effort only proved to be a warning sign however, as five minutes later the visitors equalised with a well-worked goal of their own. Wing-back Jack Scott advanced up the right flank before he brought play infield. Corbett and Chem Campbell quickly combined, before the latter found a bit of space to fire goalwards, and his low effort rolled past Lee and into the bottom corner to level the scores.
And that goal kickstarted a strong period for the Wolverhampton outfit before half-time, as they created two half-chances not long after as they cranked up pressure on Lee’s goal.
And perhaps Wanderers should have gone in with a lead after creating a wonderful chance on 42 minutes with an attack down their left side. Owen Hesketh powered his way into the penalty area before his driven cross looked for Scott, however, he failed to apply a telling touch and it remained level.
Carty brought a save from Lee moments before the interval, to end a half that provided a lot of positive attacking moments for both clubs.
It was the away team that came out after half-time on top with some neat patterns of play really stretching the Exeter defence.
In the 49th minute, Wolves turned the game around with their second goal of the evening. The Devonians gave possession away cheaply on halfway, before the visitors sprung forward quickly. Corbett’s through pass was weighted perfectly, and Carty kept his cool to tuck the ball home.
City tried to muster a response, with Jordan Dyer heading a corner into Moulden’s clutches, but ultimately, he and his teammates were being overpowered and overran by their opponent’s bright spell.
The advantage was doubled in the 56th minute with yet more dangerous play down the left. Hesketh’s powerful run ate up the yards, before he slipped in Lewis Richards. The left-back displayed some neat footwork before he found Campbell with a cross, and he finished emphatically to make it 3-1.
Green’s men looked to stem the flow, but they always gave themselves a chance of scoring with an increasing amount of set pieces. And it was one of them from which they halved the deficit on the hour mark when Pond powerfully headed the ball past the goalkeeper from Dodd’s inswinging corner.
Campbell remained the visitor’s biggest threat, and after some neat work from Luke Cundle and Richards, the attacker sent whipped effort inches past Lee’s left-hand post.
Daniels and Seymour both tried their luck from range as the contest ticked into the final quarter, however, the better openings continued to fall Wanderers’ way, with Corbett having a goal disallowed, and seeing another strike miss as he continued to terrorise the City backline.
The two teams made changes as they both looked to bag the tie’s sixth goal. That man Corbett fired wildly over for Wolves’ U23s, while the home team weren’t able to prize open what became a stubborn Wolverhampton defensive line during the final 10 minutes.
The best opportunity fell to Wanderers’ Carty, who seemed to get under the skin of the Exeter players during the final stages, when he wriggled free and shot from a tight angle. The forward’s shot, however, whistled past the right side of the far post from a Grecians standpoint.
With the hosts however unable to create a chance like that for one of their strikers, it meant, despite the four tense minutes of added time, that it was Wolves who came away with all three points, with Green hopeful that his men will be able to get the right result against West Ham United U23s in a few weeks time.
Exeter City: Harry Lee, Alfie Pond, Colin Daniel, Jordan Dyer, Cheick Diabate, Archie Collins, James Dodd ©, Jack Veale, Owura Edwards-Owura, Ben Seymour, Sonny Cox
Subs: Scott Brown, Eli Collins, Michael Lilley, Nelson Iseguan, Charlie Hanson