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Match Reports

📝 Match Report: City 0 Arsenal U21 5

A tough night for City at SJP

10 October 2023

Match Reports

📝 Match Report: City 0 Arsenal U21 5

A tough night for City at SJP

10 October 2023

Exeter City are now unable to progress to the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy after a 5-0 home defeat to Arsenal U21s.

After a goalless first half, the North London youngsters scored four without reply to end City's journey in the competition. Charles Sagoe Jr, Seb Ferdinand (2), Khayon Edwards and Jack Henry-Francis all netted for the Gunners, who will now battle it out with Reading for first and second spot in Group G. 


The upcoming international break allowed Gary Caldwell to pick a stronger side than anticipated, with five starters from Saturday's game with Barnsley named in the XI. Shaun MacDonald made his City debut in goal, while four under-18s - Max Edgecombe, Tom Dean, Santino Ohanaka and Alfie Cunningham were named on the bench - while young pro Ed James also returned from his loan spell at Weston-super-Mare to go straight into the starting line up. 

Arsenal had a number of under-18s in their side that was affected by international call-ups, alongside 32-year-old Euro 2016 winner and Premier League regular, Cedric Soares. 

The mixed City team started brightly at SJP, with James Scott having a shot blocked in the opening minutes. His strike partner Sonny Cox soon set up a second chance for the Scotsman, as he latched onto a neat through ball, but hit wide with a left-footed effort. 

After Ayden Heaven founds the heavens of the Big Bank with the Gunners' first effort of the match, Kyle Taylor came close for the Grecians as his effort took a deflection - to some in the ground, the angle was deceiving and it looked like it was into the back of the net, and not it's actual path into the advertising hoardings behind the goal itself. 

The first real glimpse of international star Soares that those inside SJP saw was his pacey run down the left hand side as he picked up the ball from Bradley Ibrahim and cut inside, testing MacDonald for the first time. 

Arsenal enjoyed a good spell of possession as the clock ticked past the half-hour mark, but with City's defence standing firm, they couldn't find the crucial pass into the 18-yard box. Frustrated, Heaven took his chances from distance and could not have come closer as his effort took a wild deflection and looped wildly, striking the crossbar. 

City thought they edged in front on the verge of half-time as Taylor found Beardmore on the edge of the box, before James Scott tapped home, however he was denied by the offside flag. 

Caldwell made a change at the break, replacing club-captain Pierce Sweeney with captain Will Aimson, as the manager gave more players final minutes ahead of their weekend off.

It was the North Londoners who would have the first effort of the second period, as James Sweet forced a brilliant save from MacDonald, low with his legs, as the Gunners threatened to take the lead.

City were struggling to break down what looked like a newly implemented low block in the second half, and when Arsenal were able to get forward they did look dangerous. While Jimi Gower low drill did little to trouble MacDonald, just minutes later the away side did take the lead, as Sagoe Jr converted inside the six-yard box from Henry-Francis' delivery.

Frustration began setting in for the Grecians as chances continued to find themselves hard to come by. Caldwell made the switch of Pedro Borges and Alfie Cunningham replacing Jack Aitchison and Pierce Sweeney as he looked for a route back into the game. 

With City pushing up for an equaliser, they would be punished on the break. As substitute Tom Dean lost the ball on the right hand side, Arsenal would pounce as Sagoe Jr found newly introduced Ferdinand to double the Gunners' lead. 

Worse was to come just three minutes later, as Ferdinand again punished City, this time as assister. He broke down the right and found Edwards just a yard or so from goal, who had an easy finish.

Henry-Francis would inflict further damage as the clock hit 90 as his effort from 25 yards took a deflection and beat MacDonald. Ferdinand would then grab his second of the evening and Arsenal's fifth, firing across goal to score.

With both City and Swindon Town now unable to progress through to the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy after their respective defeats, the match up against the Wiltshire side at the County Ground in November now has little significance for either side. 

With six defeats in seven matches in all competitions, City must now use the impending eleven-day break without a game to reset and refocus ahead of gruelling continuation of Saturday-Tuesday football, beginning with a contest against Caldwell's former side Wigan Athletic on Saturday, 21 October at St James Park. 

City XI: MacDonald (GK), Kite (Edgecombe), Sweeney (Aimson) , James, Hartridge, Beardmore, Richards (Dean), Taylor, Aitchison (Borges), Scott, Cox (Cunningham).

Subs: Woods, Ohanaka.

Arsenal U21 XI: Ejeheri (GK) (Hillson), Cedric (Edwards), Foran, Gower (Oulad M'Hand), Henry-Francis, Ibrahim, Monlouis, Sagoe Jr, Sweet, Heaven, Dudziak (Ferdinand).

Subs: Oyetunde, Ismail, Ryan.

Referee: Ed Duckworth

Attendance: 3,311

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