Exeter City’s Under-18s ended their Youth Alliance Merit League One fixtures with a 3-0 defeat away at AFC Bournemouth U18s on Saturday.
The Grecians often pressed well during the opening stages, which caused their opponents several problems, but the Cherries came on strong at the end of the first half to strike through Kian Tydeman.
Tydeman scored again early in the second period to put the hosts in control of the contest, before Michael Dacosta Gonzalez wrapped up the game with 20 minutes remaining to hand City a second consecutive defeat.
Despite showing some real fight and determination in recent performances, it means Exeter’s youngsters finish the season ninth in the Merit League standings, with the team having to regroup once more before they play in Friday’s Devon St Luke’s Bowl final against Bideford AFC.
Saturday saw Kevin Nicholson take a depleted Under-18s group to Dorset to face familiar foes, Bournemouth in what was going to be a match between two talented teams that like to play attractive brands of football.
Despite losing Gabriel Billington and Joe O’Connor a day before the game to illness, the visitors still managed to start well, with their high levels of pressure applied well up the pitch the factor in the creation of chances.
With the Grecians putting the opposition on the backfoot and causing them issues, they were almost rewarded for their efforts when they struck the ball past Cherries shot-stopper, Ollie Camis, however despite the tight call, City were adjudged to have been offside.
Ultimately, despite the hard efforts of the Exeter players, their poor ball retention later on in the half meant the home team grew into the game, and saw much more of the ball.
With one of the final attacks of the first 45, Alan Connell’s side broke the deadlock from a free-kick. The ball was hoisted forward, and with the away defence switching off and only knocking the ball to the edge of the box, Tydeman took one touch to compose himself, before sending the ball into Harry Lee’s top corner.
But while it remained 1-0, Nicholson believed his team were still in it, and at half-time, he passed that message on to the players, hoping they could give a positive reaction after the restart.
However, just three minutes into the second period, the advantage was doubled from another set-piece. With the ball lofted high into the danger area once again, the Grecians missed the initial header to clear the ball. That allowed Tydeman to pick up possession six yards out, and he coolly slotted the ball into the back of the net for 2-0.
In response to the setback, City displayed lots of endeavour and fight, and they created numerous chances to pull a goal back, however, a combination of the assistant referee’s flag, and the lack of a natural striker on the pitch, meant they were unable to score from any of those positive moments.
With 20 minutes remaining, the Dorset club struck again as Exeter tried to build from deep. Daniel Adu-Adjei stole the ball away from the defence, before he squared a pass to Dacosta Gonzalez. The forward was left with the simple job of powering a shot past Lee, which he did with real authority to make it 3-0.
With the game drawing to a close, the visitors perhaps created their best chance when they managed to get forward out wide and drill a cross into the Bournemouth penalty area. Alfie Clark reached the ball first, but he was unable to turn the ball in, meaning Nicholson’s men, unfortunately, left the South Coast both goalless and pointless.
Exeter City’s Head of Coaching and Player Development, Kevin Nicholson: “It was another game which gave us lots of lessons to learn from. We have struggled with injuries recently, and with no George Spencer, we had no proper striker available to us. With that being the case, we need to learn to get men forward, get the midfielder’s into the penalty area, and be a bit braver. We showed a few glimpses of that, but we were also impatient at times. The message to the players going into Friday’s game will be to try and be braver to keep it, and to enjoy the occasion. But they are a group of developing young footballers who will need to be ready.
“Goals do change games, and the disallowed goal in the first half would have given Bournemouth something to think about, and given something for us to hold on to. But that is a lesson for us too, as we need to learn to react to it and get on with things. In the second half, we had another goal disallowed which was unlucky as well, but we also had two or three good chances. We need to take belief from the chances we created.
“We showed a bit of frustration at the end. What was a little disappointing was the fact I saw one or two heads drop with 15 minutes left, and a few of the boys snapping at one another. The discussion I had with them at the end of the game was about how they need one another and turning on each other won’t help. They will need one another to achieve what they want over the next two years.
“We’ve played well in patches over the last few weeks. Against Oxford we did ok but it just went against us. But we need to turn those glimpses into regular moments and sustain them for longer periods. We need to apply those parts on a more regular basis, particularly in terms of Friday’s match against Bideford.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Harry Lee, Aamir Daniels, Scott Simmons, Ed James, Toby Nevile, Alfie Clark, Sam Joce, Harrison King, Tom Dean, Alfie Cunningham, Pedro Borges
Subs: Andrew Sowden, Liam Oakes