This was the end of the road for a high-spirited Exeter City U23’s in the Premier League Cup this campaign as a clinical West Ham United U23’s won 3-0 to secure qualification to the next stage of the competition.
Second half goals from Harrison Ashby, Armstrong Okoflex and Thierry Nevers condemned the Grecians’ hopes.
Dan Green’s side needed to claim all three points and condemn the London side to their first defeat in nine matches to stand any chance of progression in the competition.
Josh Coley, Jordan Dyer, Kyle Taylor and Jack Sparkes all came into the side following the young Grecians 2-2 draw away to Swansea City U23’s on Friday.
The first real chance of the game was presented to Nevers after a pinpoint diagonal ball picked him out. The West Ham forward found himself with the goal at his mercy from the edge of the box but could only whip his ball into the Big Bank after beating Harry Lee to the initial pass.
Minutes later the visitors won the ball in their half and drove at the heart of the Exeter defence. It was Nevers again who was causing havoc for the city backline as he saw his 25-yard shot thunder against the crossbar. A real scare for the Grecian’s manager and his side.
The Irons were really applying the pressure now and it took some excellence Exeter defence to keep the away side out. A mixture of resilient defending and stubborn attitudes from the young Grecians made it very difficult for the visitors to open the scoring.
Exeter fought back though as Sparkes bravely won a header on the left-hand side touchline which presented the ball to Colin Daniel. After he played a pass with Sonny Cox he drove into the box and cut it back to the young striker who evaded his marker but could only curl his effort over the top.
Okoflex fed Mipo Odubeko who darted towards goal, cut back and shot but was denied with a mixture of good goalkeeping and defending from the Devon side to keep him out before blazing his second effort over the top of an open goal.
In additional time of the first half the Grecians were awarded a penalty after Sparkes went down in the area. The referee pointed to the spot before changing his mind amongst much confusion, giving a West Ham freekick.
At the start of the second half the visitors had back-to-back corners which the home side defended excellently. Minutes later Dyer went down the other end and his shot turned cross from out wide nearly caught out substitute goalkeeper Brian Kinnear.
Jack Veale was booked for a late challenge which resulted in a West Ham freekick 30-yards out from goal in the centre of the pitch. Ashby was impressive from the first whistle and was rewarded for his efforts as he wrong-footed Exeter’s goalkeeper with his powered effort towards goal. 1-0 to the Hammers.
Even with Exeter finding it hard to get a foot hold into the game, they didn’t give up and did continue to press their opponents goal whenever possible. Sparkes was superb all game and saw his shot flash across the West Ham goal which Ben Seymour was only yards away from tapping in the equaliser.
Ashby nearly turned provider as his fizzed in corner was nearly directed in by centre-back Pierre Ekwah with a delicate flick. Minutes later Nevers twisted, turned and unleashed a wicked effort which was only fractionally too high over the top.
The second goal did come when winger Okoflex rounded off his personal performance with a very well taken goal. He dashed through the Exeter half evading several City defenders and played a great one-two with Odubeko before firing home from ten yards out unchallenged.
Alfie Pond nearly cannoned a side footed volley from a Sparkes freekick as it flew just past the post. A great chance to half the deficit for the home side and Exeter’s best opportunity of the half.
West Ham’s Nevers clinically wrapped up the victory for the away side after the ball fell to the visitors after some tired Exeter passing. The winger was slipped in one on one with Lee who fizzed his shot from the right-hand side of the penalty area to claim all three points.
Exeter fought furiously all game, but it wasn’t meant to be for the young Grecians in the Premier League Cup this campaign.
Exeter City XI: LEE, JOHNSON, POND, DYER, DANIEL, SPARKES, VEALE (ATANGANA), ROWE (C), TAYLOR, COLEY (BILLINGTON), COX (SEYMOUR).
Subs not used: ARTHUR, NEVILE.