Exeter City U21s beat Southampton U21s 3-2 in a behind closed doors friendly at St James Park on Tuesday January 16th
Early goals from James Scott and Kyle Taylor sent City in ahead at the break. Scott then got his second quickly after the restart before City conceded two. Despite this scare, City weathered the storm and won behind closed doors at St James Park.
The game served as an opportunity for the U21s, first-team players returning from injury, and a trialist to play at St James Park in a more competitive fixture.
The team, led by Nick Ajose and David Perkins, set up with a back four, including Ben Purrington making his first start for City. Caleb Watts, Jack Fitzwater, Vincent Harper, and Harry Kite played their first games since returning from injury.
City’s first chance of the afternoon resulted in a goal as Trialist found Scott at the back post with a sweet, lobbed pass. Scott calmly flicked the ball with the outside of his boot beyond the reach of Southampton’s keeper, Adli Mohamed. A bright start for the Grecians, who continued to dominate, scoring their second shortly after. A corner was played short to Kyle Taylor, who dribbled into the box, dancing between defenders and slotting past Mohamed to cap off a wonderful solo goal.
The City managers would be happy with how the game was panning out as it all appeared to be going to plan. City were confident in possession and solid at the back as planned substitutions were rolled out with Jake Richards and Pedro Borges coming on to replace Fitzwater and Watts, who were both returning from injury. Richards’ inclusion saw him join the game in midfield with Aimson moving across to centre back and Harry Kite plugging the gap at right back
Southampton strung together a few decent chances but were met by strong challenges from Mitch Beardmore and Trialist, who were doing their bit at the back. The game began to fall flat as the half-time whistle loomed with both sides failing to create any meaningful chances beyond the half hour mark, Southampton’s best chance up to that point being Alex Stepien-Iwumene.
The half-time break saw the introduction of Harry Lee, who replaced Shaun MacDonald in net. Not only did the break bring a new face, but it also brought a new energy as Scott scored his second of the afternoon. Borges, who was enjoying his afternoon, picked up the ball in the centre circle and beat his man, before slotting Scott in behind. City’s number 11 still had work to do as there was a defender between him and the goal. Scott darted into the box, deceiving his defender with a stepover before slotting the ball in at the near post.
Borges looked to pick up another assist with delightful footwork, shimmying past his defender and lofting a ball into the back post, although it was not met by a City shirt and the game remained 3-0. This was just one of many decent moments created by Borges who had impressed since coming on.
Then, against the run of play, Tyler Dibling found the back of the net with an impressive strike from the outside of the area, nestling into the bottom corner and sparking a short period of Southampton confidence. In this period, Southampton picked up a second through Oyekunle who was played through and slotted past Lee in goal who was left to defend a 1-on-1 after the City defenders were caught sleeping at the back.
The second goal served as a wakeup call and City switched on, overcoming the cold despite not having the backing of the crowd in SJP. City’s final substitution saw Giulio Marroni replace Kyle Taylor as the defence shored up and kept Southampton out for the remainder of the game.
The game remained 3-2 with the occasional 40-yard, lobbed diagonal pass and the final whistle being the only thing left to celebrate for the few spectators in the ground.
A successful afternoon for City who will be pleased with how the game went, minutes for those returning from injury and confidence for those that hadn’t seen much game time in recent weeks.
City’s next game is at St James Park against Cambridge United at 3pm on January 20th.
Exeter City: MacDonald (Lee 46’), Purrington (Cutler 62’), Aimson, Scott (Dean 62’), Trialist, Kite, Watts (Borges 20’), Taylor (Marroni 86’), Fitzwater (Richards 30’), Harper (Cunningham 62’), Beardmore.
Southampton: Mohamed, Davis, Awe, Moore, Meghoma, Miles, Amo-Ameyaw, Stepien-Iwumene, Pearce, Dibling, Merry.
Subs: Armitage, Moody, Oyekunle, Abu, Daley, Carson, Ehibhatiomhan.