A young Exeter City side endured a difficult evening at Bolitho Park on Tuesday night as a talented Plymouth Parkway team defeated them 7-2 in the Devon St Luke’s Challenge Cup.
Joe Wragg gave City an early lead, however, the home side came back with real ruthlessness, with Ben Seymour grabbing a hattrick by the 25th minute.
Further goals from Austen Booth and Jared Lewington gave Parkway a commanding 5-1 lead at the break, however, George Spencer’s audacious flick pulled a goal back early in the second period.
But late goals from substitute Jack Crago meant the Plymouth club ended up securing a relatively comfortable victory, meaning it will be them who progress through to the next round of the county competition.
Despite some extremely soggy conditions, the Grecians began proceedings with real intent. The wet pitch allowed the Exeter youngsters to really zip their passes into one another, and just two minutes in, the conditions played a real part in an early breakthrough.
The visitors moved the ball to the left flank where Aamir Daniels whipped in a teasing ball. Was should have been routine for Mead-Crebbin ended up anything but, and the Parkway goalie only fumbled the ball into the path of Wragg, who tapped the ball into the back of the net after a couple of minutes despite the tight angle.
To be fair to the Plymouth side however, their response was instant, and Billy Palfrey should really have done better when he won a footrace following a direct ball over the top.
A decent period for the hosts followed, and two shots in the seventh minute from Palfrey and captain Ryan Lane properly tested the handling of Andrew Sowden, but the City custodian was more than equal to the task.
While Kevin Nicholson’s men looked to show composure and quality in possession, the chances continued to come for Parkway, and they levelled on 13 minutes when Exeter old boy, Seymour, capitalised on Sowden’s slip up in possession to round the stranded ‘keeper and roll the ball across the line.
Seymour looked in the mood all of a sudden, and he stung Sowden’s hands moments later with a low drive.
However, the centre-forward wasn’t to be denied his second in the 19th minute. The Plymouth club moved the ball to the right flank before full-back Tyler Ashmead curled in a delicious ball into the danger area. Seymour ghosted in unmarked and glanced a header past Sowden to complete the turnaround.
The momentum was truly with the home side, and Seymour teed up strike partner Jared Lewington at the midpoint of the first period, however, the effort flashed wide of the post.
City were struggling to get a foothold in the game, and their brightest moment came when a nice move down the right saw a low cross deflected out for a corner, however, the set-piece came to nothing.
In the 25th minute, the home side came again, and it was that man again. Some precise passing saw Garside in a pocket of space on the edge of the box. He drove forward and slipped in Seymour, and he came back to haunt his old employers once again with a nutmeg on Sowden for 3-1.
The yellow surge kept coming onto the Exeter goal however, and the visitors didn’t know how to stop it. Three minutes later thes core changed again after Sowden punched out a Garside free-kick. Booth was quickest to react, and the defender managed to divert the ball into the bottom corner from 15-yards to increase the deficit to three.
But it was only like that for a further six minutes as the home team netted again through another goal of top quality. An intricate move down the left between three Parkway players resulted in a low ball to the penalty spot. Lewington eluded the defenders with his movement, and his cool half-volley flew into the back of the net to make it a six-goal game.
The Grecians finally got themselves in the game after, and they perhaps should have pulled a goal back eight minutes before the interval when Spencer played in Wragg, however, the attacker dithered on the ball, and the chance had gone by the time Mead-Crebbin met him inside the penalty area.
Nicholson demanded a response from his players after half-time, and inside the opening minute of the second period, his team almost delivered. Pedro Borges took advantage of two players down to waltz into the 18-yard box. The midfielder looked to dribble his way around the Parkway goalkeeper, however, the shot that followed took a slight deflection despite the goal at Borges’ mercy.
But the intent was much better, and substitute Alfie Clark, who looked to add energy to the Exeter attack, was next to test Mead-Crebbin.
City’s efforts were rewarded in the 52nd minute with a lovely goal. King got on the ball down the right following a short corner, and the skipper’s low ball located Spencer, who flicked the ball inside the far post to give everyone in red and white something else to cheer about.
Near the hour mark, both managers turned to their benches for some fresh legs while the tie entered a little bit of a lull. Palfrey was the only player to try his luck during the quiet spell, and his shot blazed well over.
Clark continued to show fight and endeavour, and his mazy run on 65 minutes almost led to another opening for the Grecians, however, the Plymouth club scrambled the ball to safety.
As more fresh bodies entered the fray though, the game became a little disjointed, and any flow was taken away from proceedings.
In the 75th minute however, another goal almost arrived. Palfrey’s corner was met by Booth, however, his header was denied by a wonderful diving save from Sowden.
That was the sign of the home side finding their groove again, and in their next attack, Garside’s long-range effort whistled just wide.
Moments later though, the four-goal cushion was restored. Booth’s clearing header saw Lewington race in behind the Exeter defence. The striker’s square ball found replacement Crago, and he kept his composure to poke the ball home.
Sowden was on top form once again when he denied Reece Stanley, while Ashmead also tried his luck with 10 minutes remaining, however, his shot went off-target.
Some bright moments in the closing stages for the visitors ended with Spencer shooting from the edge of the area, however, his sliced effort was just too high.
But the nail in the proverbial coffin came with five minutes remaining. A cross from the left wing took a huge deflection off of a Grecians boot. The ball, as a result, looped over Sowden, and Crago was on hand to nod in from less than a yard to make it 7-2.
Despite Nicholson throwing on more bodies at the end to try and salvage some pride, it proved to be futile, and Parkway ended up holding on to their cushion with consummate ease, meaning it will be the Parkway name in the hat for the next round.
Plymouth Parkway: Jake Mead-Crebbin, Tyler Ashmead, Ryan Lane, Reece Stanley, Austen Booth, Mike Landricombe, Mikey Williams, Billy Palfrey, Ben Seymour, Jared Lewington, Rio Garside
Subs: Dave Hallett, Josh Parry, Dan Koita, Louie Mulvany
Exeter City Under-18s: Andrew Sowden, Aamir Daniels, Sam Joce, Scott Simmons, Harrison King, Pedro Borges, Gabriel Billington, Joe O’Connor, Tom Dean, George Spencer, Joe Wragg
Subs: Kelson Pollard, Arran Pugh, Alfie Clark, Chris McPhee, Brad Miller
Referee: Devon Campbell