A young Exeter City side exited the Papa Johns Trophy after a comprehensive 4-1 defeat to Forest Green Rovers at the New Lawn.
After a relatively even first half with both sides getting a goal each, a three goal onslaught from Rovers in the second half saw the extremely young City side lose four goals to one.
With injuries and illness hitting the squad in recent weeks, interim manager Kevin Nicholson used the Papa Johns trophy as a means to rest the main bulk of the squad and dove into the youth academy for the game against Forest Green Rovers. There were nine changes to the 11 that started against Oxford United at the weekend with the only players retaining their places being Pierce Sweeney and Rekeem Harper.
A frantic start to the game at The New Lawn saw Forest Green have the majority of the ball in the opening ten minutes, with captain Jamille Matt testing Harry Lee at his near post. When City got control of the ball, there was some lovely quick passing play between the youngsters on the field.
After 12 minutes and the pressure from Rovers played off, with the ball pinging around in the City penalty area, it eventually fell to Rover’s captain Matt, who smashed the ball past Lee in the City net.
With just over 20 minutes played Rovers found themselves once again attacking the very young Exeter back line, this time it was Sean Robertson who found himself baring down on goal, but his curling effort was unable to trouble Lee.
The Grecians were finally starting to settle themselves into the game around the 30th minute, with the experienced midfield trio of Harper, Dieng and Chauke linking up extremely well with the front two of Cox and Jay, but Rover’s keeper Thomas was still very much untroubled.
Another effort for Forest Green, only minutes later, this time it was number three Dom Bernard, who struck the ball wildly over the bar, the efforts still coming for Forest Green. From that goal kick, Rovers again had an effort on goal this time Myles Peart-Harris, but his effort was excellently saved from Lee from close range with his follow up going wide of the goal.
With his first venture into the Forest Green penalty, Cox was able to force a challenge from one of the Rovers defenders, but his effort was blocked and went out for a City throw. In the dying moments of the first half, the City passes were once again coming together, and when they City were playing some nice football, but the more experienced Rovers team were keeping City out.
In the 42nd minute that all changed, Cox found space on the right-hand side after some lovely passing play between the City midfield and his cross into the box found its way to captain Jay in the six-yard box who delicately chipped the ball over the onrushing Thomas. And that was that for the first half with the teams going into one a piece.
With the teams coming out for the second half, Kevin Nicholson made his first change of the game with Alfie Clark coming on to replace Tim Dieng, who was clearly being eased back in, after his recent injury ruled out of the last few games.
After only a few minutes played in the second half, Forest Green were awarded a penalty after challenge from Harper and number 25 Peart-Harris sent Lee the wrong way making it 2-1 to Rovers. With some good football down their left-hand side Forest Green made it 3-1 with Gabe Billington putting the ball past Harry Lee in his own net.
A heroic piece of goalkeeping from Lee kept the score at 3-1 with the effort flying to the far side of his goal he made himself as big as possible and palmed the ball away. From the resulting corner he pulled out another top drawer save, this time diving down to his right and scooping the ball up and away. But he was not able to stop the next effort, Forest Greens Corey O’keefe found lots of space on the left-hand side, cut inside on his right foot and sent a curling finish past the outstretched Harry Lee.
Halfway through the second half Cox found himself with acres of space to run into but Rovers Regan Hendry didn’t allow that and scythed Cox down right on the edge of the penalty area, with the midfielder picking up a yellow. From the resulting free kick captain Jay could only find the wall and the ball was cleared away.
With the second half well underway, Kev gave more first team debuts to academy players this time Joseph Wragg and Joe O’Connor were called onto the field in place of Gabe Billington and Mitch Beardmore with the latter also making his first team debut.
After the subs were made, the game started to die down with neither team having any clear-cut chances on goal. So, with that City lost 4-1 to Rovers.
Forest Green Rovers: Thomas, O’keefe (Boyes), Bernard, Casey, Hendry (Bennett), Matt ©, Mcallister, Robertson, O’brien, Peart-Harris (Bell), Bunker
Subs not used: Mcgee, Cargill, Stevenson, March, Bennett
City: Lee, Beardmore (Wragg), James, Sweeney, Billington (O’connor), King, Dieng (Clark), Harper, Chauke, Jay ©, Cox
Subs not used: Sowden, Caprice, Stansfield,
Referee: 729 (57 Away)