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Match Reports

📝 Under-18 Report: City 3 Forest Green Rovers 3

8 February 2024

Match Reports

📝 Under-18 Report: City 3 Forest Green Rovers 3

8 February 2024

Exeter City’s Under-18s secured a dramatic 3-3 draw with Forest Green Rovers U18s on Saturday in their penultimate fixture of the Youth Alliance South West division.

FGR held a goal advantage in the first period due to their front-foot attacking display, however, two quick-fire goals in the second half from City’s Tom Dean and George Birch saw the game turn on its head.

Rovers though fought back, and after striking twice in almost as many minutes, they looked destined to celebrate a glorious win.

But an injury-time equaliser courtesy of an own-goal meant the points were shared, leaving the Grecians in fifth place in the league standings on 20 points.

Exeter’s youngsters hoped they could extend their winning run to four matches in a row as they welcomed Forest Green to Devon.

Nicky Ajose selected Dan Layer in goal for hosts, while Dean, Jake Richards and Max Edgecombe added experience to the team chosen to put an end to FGR’s unbeaten streak.

It was the visitors who began the contest on top as City produced a rather sluggish performance in the opening exchanges.

With the Grecians unable to demonstrate the high-quality ball work that they had shown in their recent victories, their opponents were able to gain the upper hand, as they looked to force the Exeter backline into mistakes.

The Devonians were slow at moving the ball out from the back, which handed Rovers a sense of belief. That encouragement saw them make the breakthrough when one Forest Green attacker slotted the ball beyond Layer to open the scoring and stun Ajose’s men.

The home side rarely looked like scoring in the opening period, and when the half-time whistle blew, the Grecian coaches called for more heart and endeavour in their team’s performance.

That demand delivered a response from the City players, and after the restart, a few individuals stepped up to help drive the team on. Exeter began to look more comfortable on the ball, as they were able to advance up the pitch and find themselves in more threatening areas, causing issues to the opposition defence.

The Devon outfit deservedly levelled with a moment of real quality as Dean curled a sumptuous free-kick past the goalkeeper from 20 yards to raise everyone’s spirits.

Shortly after, the scoreline changed again as it became 2-1 to Ajose’s side courtesy of substitute Birch, who had injected a real intensity to proceedings following his introduction.

The hosts were unlucky not to go further ahead a little later as Richards came agonisingly close to scoring from a wonderful opportunity in what became a match-defining moment.

With that miss, the next goal of the day came at the other end, following an error from the Grecians. With both centre-backs failing to deal with a bouncing ball 30 yards from goal, the away side took full advantage and grabbed an equaliser, making it a four-goal game.

That helped shift the match’s momentum as Forest Green netted another goal shortly after to make it 3-2 with the clock running down.

However, City regrouped once again, and flooded forward in the hope they might be able to salvage a draw. As the clock ticked into the red, the Exeter players dug deep one last time, and were able to conjure a move that advanced them into another dangerous position. The ball was diverted off one unlucky away defender into his own net to make it 3-3, rewarding the Devon youngsters for their determination by rescuing a point that has kept them fifth in the standings, however, the sides around do have a number of games in hand.

Exeter City’s Under-18s Assistant Coach, Chris McPhee: “Sometimes the game doesn’t always give you what you deserve, but this was an occasion it did. We thought the game might have got away from us, but while we didn’t deserve to lose, we didn’t deserve the win either. The draw here unfortunately severely hampers our chance to finish in the league’s top five.

“Our performance was not at our usual standard. We were quite flat in the first half, and in the technical moments, we weren’t quite as reliable as we would’ve liked. At half-time we set the team some challenges, asking questions to the players whether they were willing to run harder, and to put in extra effort and desire. Overall, we weren’t fully committed to our principles in defending, and, when we got in front, we should have been able to push on.

“We had two or three chances that came from some real positive play, and those are moments we should be scoring from. Had we scored the golden chance to make it 3-1, it might’ve been different as we could have gained confidence and might’ve seen the game out. That was a key moment and we didn’t punish them. But the team will learn from these experiences, and there has been, overall, some tough lessons for the group.

“We play Newport County away next in our final game of this part of the season. We know what they bring, so there will be no shocks, and as much as we will prepare for them and their strengths and weaknesses, what we have seen since we have taken this group over, is that every week we have had the lions’ share of possession, so if we stick to our principles, and the players make good decisions, we should cause plenty of problems for them.”

Exeter City Under-18s: Dan Layer, Louie Cayless, Liam Cartwright, Max Edgecombe, Liam Oakes, Tom Dean, Giulio Marroni, Jake Richards, Callum Graham, Brooklyn Kazunga, Theo Cutler

Subs: Dylan Shanahan, Tobias Alsop, Alfie Cunningham, George Birch, Santino Ohanaka


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