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Match Reports

📝 Under-18 Report: City 5 Cheltenham Town 0

Derek Baker reports on a five star performance from the young Grecians

10 January 2024

Match Reports

📝 Under-18 Report: City 5 Cheltenham Town 0

Derek Baker reports on a five star performance from the young Grecians

10 January 2024

A five-star performance from Exeter City’s Under-18s saw them secure a dominant victory over Cheltenham Town U18s in their first fixture of 2024 last Saturday.

Theo Cutler got the Grecians off to a superb start inside the opening few minutes, before captain Tom Dean curled in a shot from distance to double the advantage.

Callum Graham added a third goal just before half-time, and despite a more balanced second period, the Devonians added a fourth through Jake Richards after an hour.

City substitute, Kieran Wilson, made it 5-0 in the 71st minute, which sealed the three points that lifted Exeter’s youngsters into fifth position in the Youth Alliance South West league standings. 

The Grecians returned to competitive action for the first time since their Christmas break with the hope that they could kick on from their victory over Oxford United U18s in mid-December.

Tobias Alsop and Jude Horn started as the Devon side’s full-backs, while Richards and Dean were selected in an experienced looking City midfield.

While both sets of players might have been forgiven for easing their way back into things, Exeter began the game with real intent, and they reaped the rewards for their positivity in just the second minute.

The hosts displayed a real precision in their early possession play, and their patient approach saw Horn slip a through ball into the path of Cutler. Despite the opposition goalkeeper rushing out to meet him, the Grecians striker showed total composure to tuck the ball into the back of the net, much to the delight of the home crowd.

That early breakthrough gave City the building blocks to put in a strong performance, and with the game played on the Cliff Hill artificial pitch, the recent wet weather had no adverse effect on their tactics, nor build-up play. Exeter came forward once again on 14 minutes courtesy of a promising attack down the right flank. One accurate inside pass found Dean’s feet, and the home skipper made room for himself to bend a shot from 25 yards into the bottom corner despite the goalie’s best efforts.

Grecians winger, Lloyd Asamoah, should have perhaps done better when he blazed a shot over shortly after, but, at the other end of the pitch, Dan Layer, needed to be at his best at the midway point of the half when he pushed away a Robins shot to maintain the Devon club’s two-goal lead.

Asamoah squandered another opportunity just before the half-hour mark, which prompted a reaction from Town. With the visitors keen to up the ante, Layer denied a Cheltenham attacker courtesy of a save with his feet. 

In what became their best spell of the match, the Robins wasted another chance in the 33rd minute, and the supporters looking on might have been forgiven for thinking the next goal was going to go Town’s way.

But six minutes before the break, that Cheltenham hope was extinguished when the Devon outfit won a corner following good work from Richards and Dean; the latter seeing an effort tipped around the post by a diving save. From the resulting set-piece, a cross located Graham in front of goal, and he exquisitely flicked the ball into the back of net to make it 3-0.

A string of saves from Layer kept the away team at bay in the dying minutes of the first period, however, when the referee blew for the interval moments after, it was certainly City who went in the happier.

The early exchanges in the second half were relatively competitive, with no real clear-cut opportunities created as both teams knew the next goal was crucial. The Robins created the first opportunity in the 50th minute, but the attempt was powered well wide.

The two teams traded blows, but as the clock ticked past the hour, Exeter hit the knockout punch in emphatic style. The hosts progressed down the right as Dean played in Cutler, before the forward fired in a low cross to test the Town ‘keeper. With the ball only parried into the danger zone, Dean reacted quickest, but the captain saw his rebound blocked. With a scramble ensuing, Richards picked up the loose ball and converted his shot from close range to extend the Grecian lead.

Town’s custodian continued to be the busier shot-stopper, and he made a nice double save five minutes later when he denied Richards’ long-range strike and Cutler’s follow-up in quick succession.

Despite the Devonians ringing the changes, their momentum was never jeopardised, and they managed to score their fifth goal of the day after 71 minutes courtesy of an instant impact from one of their replacements. 

Kieran Wilson displayed a lovely turn of foot to dribble around the challenge of one defender down the left-hand side of the penalty box. The forward then sorted his feet and arrowed a low shot past the goalie for 5-0.

Both Dean, and substitute, Giulio Marroni, squandered late chances as the clock ticked down, but, in truth, there was never any sign of City losing control of the contest. The referee called an end to proceedings after two minutes of stoppage time, meaning Exeter's youngsters secured a well-deserved victory, in one of their best performances of the season, which provided five different goalscorers as well as a clean sheet.

Exeter City’s Youth Development Phase Lead Coach, Chris McPhee: “I think it is important for the group to feel a sense of achievement from the scoreline. It was pleasing to see that they were rewarded for their performance with a win, and a clean sheet, which were all outcomes from the processes we had in place. We took our chances at the key moments, and pressed with real intent, which was important because that helped our young back four. Then, when Cheltenham were able to beat our press, the resilience and bravery the defence had to go toe-to-toe with a more experienced opponent was really good.

”We scored early and got off to a good start which really set the tone. The intensity of the performance, particularly out of possession was excellent. We scored our goals in different ways, which showed a real understanding from the players of how to hurt the opposition. It is great to come away from a 5–0 win where there is still room for improvement though. There are still areas where we can make better choices, and we did concede some good chances. However, the performance, on the whole, was encouraging, but there are still areas we need to focus on.

“The boys had only been back in for four days of training prior to the game, so it was great they came back with the right frame of mind and belief. There is a real collectiveness in this group, and they appreciate everyone’s role in the team. I must appreciate the effort and maturity the back four displayed, and praise the performance of Dan Layer in goal, who relieved the pressure, and swept up everything that came his way. He was very mature in his distribution, which is really encouraging as his scholarship began with setbacks due to injury.

“We are away to Plymouth Argyle U18s next, and over the years we have had lots of battles with them. We know what they’re like, and the intensity they bring, and they will look to press us into making mistakes. It will be a different ball game to this game here, which will provide some difficult moments. There will be that rivalry to the match, and psychological side to it, but it will be great to see if our boys can take the confidence from this performance into the derby game.”

Exeter City Under-18s: Dan Layer, Louie Cayless, Liam Cartwright, Tobias Alsop, Jude Horn, Harry Crees, Tom Dean, Jake Richards, Callum Graham, Lloyd Asamoah, Theo Cutler

Subs: Guilio Marroni, Aidan Bown, Santino Ohanaka, Kieran Wilson, George Birch

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