EXETER City’s Under-18s endured a difficult day in their first away game of the season as Portsmouth U18s defeated them 4-0 on Saturday, writes Derek Baker.
Buoyed by the Grecians’ opening day victory against Swindon Town U18s, ECFC U18s Lead Coach, Tom Donati, took City’s youngsters up to Hampshire to see if they could build upon the solid foundations they built themselves.
But despite the positive vibes in the Devon camp, it was the home side who began the brighter inside the opening quarter of an hour.
That strong start led to a Portsmouth breakthrough albeit in contentious circumstances. Brian Quarm’s cross was adjudged to have been handled by an Exeter player, and, despite the protests, the officials awarded a penalty; Koby Mottoh converted expertly from 12 yards to open the scoring.
Even though the visitors had started on the back foot, the goal was a real sucker-punch as they never gained a foothold from then on despite the amount of ground the team managed to cover.
Before half-time arrived, the hosts struck once more with Quarm heavily involved once again. With the Pompey right flank causing plenty of problems, Quarm’s inside pass located Maxwell Hurst, who created space for a shot, before firing the ball past Dylan Shanahan to extend the advantage.
The Hampshire club’s momentum continued after the break, and Hurst netted his second of the afternoon following some bright build-up play. Mottoh’s cross was only half-cleared, before Hurst ghosted in and smashed the ball home despite the City appeals for offside.
The result was sealed with a fourth goal a little later in the half when a flurry of passes moved Portsmouth up the pitch. Despite a scuffle for possession in the attacking third, Mottoh added the final touch to divert the ball into the back of the net for 4-0.
With Donati’s men returning to Devon empty-handed, they will be hoping to bounce back with a reaction in their next game, however, with no league fixture this weekend, all their focus will be on the Devon Derby on 26th August.
A disappointed Donati admitted in his post-match comments that it was a day to learn from.
'It was a rather flat day for everyone. We started relatively slow, and although the penalty decision for the first goal had everyone aggrieved, it took the winds right out of our sails, but, in truth, I don’t think we ever really had it, and we never really got going after that, which I take full responsibility for. The lads worked hard, but that was in the wrong areas at the wrong times.
'Coming into the game, we knew what to expect, and we felt like we were well prepared, and although we went with a weaker squad, both physically, and in terms of numbers, I didn’t see the game panning out like this but we didn’t show the fight, togetherness and cohesiveness we had done in previous weeks.'