Exeter City’s under-18s continued their pre-season preparations with another useful and productive exhibition match with Newton Abbot Spurs on Saturday.
After it was arranged that they were to play against South Gloucestershire and Stroud College on Tuesday afternoon, City’s youth side saw that fixture postponed due to a shortage of players. The young Grecians saw some members of their squad pick up a few pre-season knocks, while five second-year scholars linked up with Matt Taylor and the first-team for the evening game against Truro City. While sometimes, players from the Under-16s set-up can help bulk up the numbers, several of those had still not finished school, meaning the only decision the club could make was to rearrange the fixture for next week.
That meant the week’s work at the Cliff Hill Training Ground was built towards a friendly game on the Saturday. The Exeter youths, unfortunately, suffered a defeat to the Newton Abbot's men's team, losing out 5-2 to their more senior opponents, but, with half of the team Under-18s players, and half of it Under-16s, the Grecians’ Head of Coaching and Player Development, Kevin Nicholson, was full of praise for the younger players and how they stepped up at a level they had probably not faced before.
"I have to give the Under-16s massive credit. They handled themselves well against fully grown men and competed well physically. Jacca Cavendish read the game extremely well, while Liam Oakes played again and has featured in every game so far. Jake Richards got some more minutes in as he continues to come back from injury, and he’s getting progressively better.
"I was a bit disappointed in truth with the Under-18s though. We’ve had two or three weeks of training well, but they didn’t apply themselves here, and they dropped below the standards they set themselves. Things were going on away from the football too, but this is the first blip they’ve shown, and we have to expect those moments to happen because they are young players. I think what it showed to the boys is that there is a direct correlation between what happens off the pitch and what happens on it, and that is something we’ve wanted to show them, so it was a good lesson in that regard.
"We started well, and in the first 25 minutes, we moved the ball well. But then we were dragged into a physical encounter, which was a good footballing lesson. We need to use what we have got, and that is our fitness and our speed courtesy of our full-time training, but we allowed Newton Abbot to use that experience that they possess. It wasn’t a particularly fun day for players and coaches.
"We went 1-0 down, but we got it back to 1-1, and then scored a nicely worked goal down the left side for 2-1. But that wasn’t a full reflection of the game, and after they had equalised, there looked to only be one winner as the game went on.
"It wasn’t all negatives though, but it showed we have got to be at it throughout the whole match. We are only three weeks into pre-season, so we don’t expect the boys to be fully fit, and we don’t expect them to have their touch and passing fully there, but we’ll continue to work hard.
"We play Tavistock on Wednesday who we know are a strong opposition and have a couple of our lads there on loan, before we play Exmouth at the weekend, and they’ve only just got themselves promoted last year so we know that will be tough. We hope the lads have learnt lessons from the games they have played, and continue to move forward in those matches this week.
"Three or four of our second-years managed to get on and support the first-team on Saturday, and those minutes that they have been getting has been an incredible experience for them, and is only a good thing. They’ll likely be back with us as the end of pre-season gets closer, but they’ve had the chance to impress the manager and coaches over the past few weeks which is good. We’ll be hoping that they can continue that so that they can a) work towards that pro contract at the end of the season, and b) have the opportunity to train with the first-team again, because that is what we all want, and that is what we are all working towards.”