A RELATIVELY satisfied Tom Donati acknowledged the weekend provided one of his team's 'better performances of the season' as Exeter City’s Under-18s secured a 0-0 draw against Oxford United U18s, writes Derek Baker.

'I’m glad we managed to keep a clean sheet, but I am slightly gutted that we didn’t get the win,' stated Donati in his post-match comments.

Donati handed a first start to a trialist in the Exeter goal, while Theo Cutler came back into the team following his absence for the match against Cheltenham Town U18s.

Playing at the Cliff Hill Training Ground for the first time since the end of August, a strong opening from the hosts rather typified how the afternoon panned out.

After a week of solid preparation in the build-up to the game, the Grecians quickly nullified the Oxford threat, while using their tactical knowledge to create openings of their own, however, they were unable to take full advantage.

The away team began to create a few half-chances as the first half went on, but the Devonian’s trialist never had a real save to make, and it was his teammates that moved the ball better and looked the more dangerous.

Donati’s men consistently got the ball into some advanced areas of the pitch, however, the final piece of the jigsaw to send the ball past Monty Marriott was the only thing missing.

A strong penalty appeal came from the home side which was turned down by the officials, while they also hit the post three times, through Kieran Wilson, George Birch and Alfie Cunningham.

Leo Snowden squandered United’s best opening, while Exeter’s Cutler continued to be a menace to the opposition goalkeeper and defence courtesy of his goalscoring instincts, and he came agonisingly close to snatching a winner when he flashed an effort across the face of goal.

But ultimately despite both team’s efforts, when the referee blew for full-time, neither were able to find a way through. That meant the Grecians secured their first clean sheet of the season, which will give the players confidence for their upcoming matches.

The draw here lifts the Devonians into seventh in the Youth Alliance league standings, ahead of Saturday’s Youth Alliance Cup tie away at Sutton United U18s.

'That was certainly one of our better performances so far this season," said Donati, before adding, 'We showed some good composure and got the ball into the right areas, but we just had some players missing in the vital positions. We had a blatant penalty turned down, and we’ve hit the post three times. We looked a bit more dangerous at set pieces, but we just couldn't break the deadlock.

'From the first minute, we knew what Oxford would throw at us, and that helped us gain more control. They still had a few chances, but our goalkeeper had no real saves to make in the game. The real positive is the clean sheet as I thought we defended more effectively.'