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📝 U18 Report: Northampton Town 9 City 2

Young Grecians suffer a heavy defeat

26 April 2024

Match Reports

📝 U18 Report: Northampton Town 9 City 2

Young Grecians suffer a heavy defeat

26 April 2024

Exeter City’s Under-18s suffered a heavy 9-2 defeat in their final Merit League Two fixture of the season.

The Cobblers appeared to field a more experienced side on the day, and they took full advantage of their superior size and stature to take a 5-1 lead into half-time, with Tom Dean netting for the Grecians.

While the early parts of the second period saw City gain a foothold in the contest, the visitors were able to compound the misery on the Devon youngsters with more goals as the game went on.

Despite the league standings yet to be finalised due to other club’s outstanding matches, Exeter will finish bottom of the table having only amassed three points in total.

Nicky Ajose and his young squad welcomed Northampton to the Westcountry, with the hope that they could take all the positives from their previous outing into their final competitive game of this season, and finish things on a real high for the ECFC Academy.

But the Grecians’ ranks were rather depleted for their task, as injuries and unavailability meant 13 individuals were not at the coaches’ disposal. Jamie Rickhuss was selected to start in the U18s’ defence for the first time, while Leon Woodhead was drafted in from the club’s college set-up to play in between the sticks.

But first-half strikes courtesy of a Neo Dobson brace, as well as goals from Francesco Obiagwu, Josh Rayfield and James Owen, saw Town rack up the numbers on the scoreboard; the first goal coming direct from a free-kick, while the second, third and fourth of the day were scored from corners.

But while the Cobblers led 1-0 thanks to an early breakthrough, City remained fully in the contest, and provided an excellent response to the setback. The Devonians’ high press really troubled their opponents, as they won the ball high up the pitch on enormous occasions, creating plenty of scoring chances from that avenue.

One instance saw Theo Cutler chase down the away side’s goalkeeper and win back the ball, allowing Dean to shoot for goal. The initial strike was kept out, and while the rebound fell kindly for Cutler, a clearance off of the line denied the forward when he seemed certain to score.

But the Exeter endeavour was rewarded with a leveller from Dean shortly after when a well-taken effort from the edge of the box went beyond the ‘keeper and into the roof of the net.

However, then came Northampton’s onslaught through their set-plays, which provided an unfavourable look to the scoreline at the interval, despite some of the encouraging signs from the hosts.

Following some wise words at the break from the coaches, the Grecians began the second period on the front foot, and dictated certain parts of the contest.

The City players learned not to concede corners, and scenarios that allowed the opposition to send in crosses unopposed, which meant they were able to sustain their control for longer periods.

Dean and Cutler continued to pose a threat for the Devon club, but up at the other end of the pitch, as the clock continued to tick on, Dobson managed to complete his hattrick, while Joziah Barnett, William Ronald and Oliver Evans also netted as the proverbial mountain became too high to overcome, and the away side’s tally reached nine.

With the final attack of the game, Exeter doubled their own goal tally when Dean was able to outrun some of the opponent’s backline to march to within six yards of the Northampton goal, before lifting the ball over the goalie to make it 9-2, and at the very least end the match on a positive note for the Westcountry side.

Exeter City’s Under-18s Assistant Coach, Chris McPhee: “The result is not ideal and a hard one to take. They were a lot more physical and mature than us, with the majority looking like second-year scholars, while we fielded a patched-up team with 13 unavailable through injury or commitments elsewhere. The maturity gave Northampton the upper hand, and they were able to take advantage of their opportunities.

“When you have players who are 6”3 attacking the ball from set-pieces against younger lads, we were always going to experience some difficulties, and, as goal number five through to seven went in, the younger boys began to feel it. But we had to stay positive, and the players had to remain focused on their individual roles.

“Across several spells, we have created a number of good chances in the game, but we weren’t able to score in the key moments. While Tom Dean scored twice, he should’ve perhaps scored a hattrick, and ended up taking his more difficult opportunities. Theo Cutler had two or three decent openings too. I hope all of the players though can reflect on what they were able to do well, and they can use this experience as a learning opportunity.

“We’ll sit down as coaches soon and reflect on the Merit League, and provide some clean feedback for the boys on where we want them to focus now, and tell them to value the experiences they’ve had. Every time the players step onto the pitch, we want them to understand that it is an opportunity to learn. There are some key messages to take from the Northampton game for this young group, and the feeling they had at the full-time whistle will be an experience they won’t want to feel again.

“We are extremely grateful for the help and efforts of the players who came in. The performance of those guys was really good. We had a young backline once again, with an Under-15 making his debut, while Leon Woodhead stepped in as goalkeeper, and, in the second half in particular, he made some really positive saves, and he should be pleased with his performance.

“We finish our season off with a friendly match against Plymouth Argyle U18s. They will work hard in their preparations this week, as there will be plenty of reflection, but they will feel a little more comfortable and know what to expect from the opposition. This will provide the players with an opportunity to respond from the Northampton defeat, and hopefully end the season better with a nice derby game performance.”

Exeter City Under-18s: Leon Woodhead, Louie Cayless, Jamie Rickhuss, Liam Oakes, Jude Horn, Tom Dean, George Birch, Gabriel Billington, Kieron Wilson, George Wiliams, Theo Cutler

Subs: Giulio Marroni, Luke Hodgets, Aidan Bown, Callum Graham

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