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Match Reports

📝 U21 Friendly: QPR XI 1 City 2

Derek Baker reports on Saturday's friendly

25 January 2024

Match Reports

📝 U21 Friendly: QPR XI 1 City 2

Derek Baker reports on Saturday's friendly

25 January 2024

Exeter City’s Under-18s Assistant Coach, Chris McPhee, admitted the coaching staff were highly encouraged by what they saw from the club’s younger players after a Grecians Under-21s side defeated a Queens Park Rangers XI 2-1 in a friendly match at the weekend.

With a number of first-year pros available and needing some minutes, as well as the absence of an Under-18s fixture, Saturday meant Nicky Ajose was able to take a squad to the capital for an opportunity to continue developing for the individuals selected.

While both Ed James and Harrison King benefitted from the competitive action, and with Harry Lee, Pedro Borges and Mitch Beardmore not involved with the first team, they started alongside scholars Liam Oakes, Jake Richards, Tom Dean, Guilio Marroni and Theo Cutler. 16-year-old Liam Cartwright started in the heart of the defence, while the bench was also made up of other members from City’s Under-18s squad.

Beardmore netted two first-half goals to give the Devonians the lead at the break, and while the hosts pulled a goal back with two minutes remaining, Exeter’s youngsters held on to secure an eye-catching result.

After the game, McPhee explained how the trip to London benefitted all of those involved.

“We had an opportunity to have an Under-21s fixture, so Nicky Ajose arranged for us to head up to QPR where we faced some experienced young professionals. After talking with their coaches, they explained that their players ranged from 19 to 23 years old, while we had a squad who were between 16 & 19. The game gave our players some great experiences, and provided them with a chance to measure themselves against some more experienced players in a more mature setting.

“The way we frame our Under-21s fixtures is that the Under-18s have a chance to be involved, but we look at who is available first with regards to pros not involved with any first-team matters. Some of the Under-18s got more minutes than others, and that can be down to positional needs first and foremost, but also under 18 players that may need to be exposed to the next step for a variety of reasons. Tom Dean, Guilio Marroni and Theo Cutler had an opportunity here to test themselves after their recent performances with the Under-18s in recent weeks because it was ideal for them, and others, to see what the next step looks like. The opposition is more knowledgeable, physically mature and experienced who play at a higher tempo, so there are lots of different problems that stretched the players more than usual. The exposure that the younger players get from these types of opportunity are vital across their learning.

“We always encourage the players stepping up to be true to themselves, focus on what has got them to this point in their careers and build on it. We were impressed with (U16s school boy) Liam Cartwright as he didn’t change the way he played. He was stepping out with the ball in the same way he does for the u16s and 18s, and his front foot defending stretched him physically but he didn't look out of place on the pitch again some grown men. He should be very pleased with the way he played and approached to the game. The whole group should be encouraged by the performance as we showed so much quality, and energy throughout the game.

“One of the key things we encourage the younger players to do is, make good decisions and select the right tools (they have acquired over their time within the academy) at the right time. In one instance, where we look to press high and force the opposition inside the pitch, on a few occasions Pedro jumped out to press the centre-back and force out in order to create a trap. That demonstrated great confidence, understanding, and shows that the players are able to make good decisions in real time. For large parts of this game, we dominated a far more experienced opponent, and stood toe-to-toe with them, our players should have come out of it feeling good, with the belief that the work they are doing is good, and they are starting to see results in performances and on the scoreboard. Recent games have re-established the groups identity, and the players are becoming empowered.

“We really value these fixtures as staff, and Nicky is keen on organising more of them as we continue forward this season. It is really important for those players not with the first team to carry on playing  minutes and developing in an environment that is technically and tactically challenging as well as physically demanding.”

Line-Up: Harry Lee, Harrison King, Liam Oakes, Liam Cartwright, Ed James (C), Jake Richards, Tom Dean, Pedro Borges, Theo Cutler, Giulio Marroni, Mitch Beardmore

Subs: Dylan Shanahan, Santino Ohanaka, Kye Cooper, Kieron Wilson, George Birch, Alfie Cunningham


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