Tuesday, December 20 sees Exeter City’s Under-18s compete at St James Park against Oxford United U18s for a place in the fourth round of this season’s FA Youth Cup.
The Grecians have a wonderful modern history in this competition, facing the likes of Leicester City U18s and Ipswich Town U18s in recent seasons, and ECFC’s Head of Coaching, Brad-Lee Miller, will be hoping that his players can keep up that fine record.
City’s journey to round three began back in October when they welcomed Newport County U18s to SJP. In a game of two halves, Exeter’s youngsters blew away their Welsh counterparts with an emphatic performance in the first 45 minutes which saw defender Ed James get on the scoresheet, and striker George Spencer bag a hattrick courtesy of some deadly finishing.
However the Exiles came out after half-time with a strong showing, and despite goals from Jonah Williams, Tom Stokes and Alfie Young setting up a tense finish, some decent game management from Miller’s men helped the Devonians seal their passage into the next round.
Then, in November, the Grecians travelled to the New Lawn to face Forest Green Rovers U18s for their second fixture in the tournament. With a more measured approach, a positive display saw City comfortably win the game 3-0.
Spencer notched his fourth goal of this season’s cup when he rounded the Rovers goalkeeper in the first period, before two well-taken efforts in the dying minutes from Pedro Borges and Mitch Beardmore confirmed that the Exeter name would be in the hat for the third round draw.
League performances over the past few weeks can give the City fans plenty of optimism going into the game, with the Grecians currently on a four-game unbeaten streak across all competitions. On top of their victory over FGR last month, they’ve also earned draws away at Swindon Town U18s and Portsmouth U18s, as well beat Cheltenham Town U18s on home turf.
But Miller’s side face a talented outfit in Oxford, and the Yellows won their head-to-head league fixture back at the start of October 5-1, with four goals coming from powerful forward Gatlin O’Donkor. United currently sit fourth in the Youth Alliance South West division, two points ahead of the Devonians, despite playing one game less.
On top of their league commitments though, the U's have also enjoyed their cup runs this season as they recently progressed to the semi-finals of the Youth Alliance Cup. Meanwhile, United's FA Youth Cup exploits have seen them reach the third round after getting past Torquay United and Horndean. Tuesday night, however, is expected to be a different kind of test.
Brad Miller's thoughts
Ahead of the game, Miller shared his thoughts towards what could be a special night for his young team:
“Tuesday is another great opportunity for the lads to show the fans what they can do as individuals and collectively as a team. The players are excited to get going. The Under-18s FA Youth Cup provides a great occasion, and gives the players a chance for their friends and families to see them play at the stadium under the lights. It will certainly be a good opportunity for lots of people to see them.
“We always try and attack with the ball, with pace, and with a certain mentality. In some games, spaces can open up like how we have predicted, while other matches are different and you have to remain patient. We’ve been working on that patience side in training, being more ruthless in the final third, and breaking the lines, and that has been a constant theme for us for some time.
“I’m expecting it to be competitive. Oxford are traditionally very strong, and a good side, so I expect it to be a competitive environment out on the pitch. I hope the boys that are coming back in from their loan clubs can have that experience to draw upon, not just from their loan games, but from other FA Youth Cup games as well. I think it will be a tough occasion and a close encounter, but one where we want to go out and achieve.
“The players want to go as far as they can, and go after every opportunity in front of them. They see this game as a real challenge. We have got to be at our very best to get a result, and the boys want to go and do that. This competition means so much to them, and this is a real chance to test the boundaries.
The group are all in good spirits. We've always wanted to try and create a good environment, and the boys have been training well recently. A bit of illness has affected the camp, for both the players and staff, but I think we are coming to the end of that now, and we should all be fine for Tuesday night.
“I would love the fans to come. The players thrive off the community of Exeter and the surrounding areas coming together to support them. The supporters mean so much to the Academy, and I am so glad to be a part of a club like that. The support for the Academy has always been outstanding, and they always get behind, encourage, and push our boys and they are all proud of them. So it would be great if fans came and watched the lads, and provided them with a lift no matter what the final result ends up being.”
The match has been confirmed to be a 7PM kick-off on 13th December. Tickets for this game are now on sale from the ECFC club shop and online. The Selco BW Main Stand is only open, with seating unreserved. Prices are as follows:
- Adults: £5
- Seniors/18-23: £3
- Under-18s: £1
Food and Drink
One of the most important part of any match day! We have a wide range of hot and cold drinks and snacks available at the kiosk for away fans. CONTACTLESS CARD PAYMENT NOW AVAILABLE!
The club shop is open until 7pm on Tuesday and is stocked with all three of City's kits for the 22/23 season as well as a range of training gear and pocket money items.
Don't forget, Supporters' Trust members save 10% on full prices purchases!
Centre Spot Bar
The Centre Spot Bar will be open from 5pm. After the match, draft pints of Tribute, Carlsberg and Thatchers are on offer for just £3.50 a pint.