EXETER City’s Under-18s bowed out of the Youth Alliance Cup with a 3-2 defeat away at Sutton United U18s at the weekend, writes Derek Baker.

Due to the long distance and early kick-off time, Exeter’s youth side travelled up to Sutton the day before where preparations seemed to go well.

On a rather narrow pitch, the game began quite tight, with neither team really giving one another an inch of space.

While the Grecians looked to keep the ball on the floor, United played with a direct nature, and that allowed them to move through the thirds effectively.

The home side broke the deadlock when they played the ball in behind the City defence for their wide man. He was able to get within shooting distance before he slotted the ball in at the near post to open the scoring.

Exeter’s players were a little slow with their pressing game, therefore committing several fouls as a result. That enabled the U’s to cause problems when they lofted the ball from any resulting set-piece. 

Sutton doubled their advantage from a corner when one player rose unchallenged, and he was able to divert the ball into the back of the net for 2-0.

Just before the interval, the hosts added a third from another dead-ball situation on the edge of the penalty area. The direct free-kick was parried away by Ollie Saunders, but another United forward converted the rebound to compound the away team’s first-half misery.

Some honest conversations and tactical tweaks at half-time gave the Grecians some extra heart after the restart, and with both full-backs playing a little narrower, that allowed the wingers more space to exploit the opposition.

With more quality in their possession, City were arguably getting on top in the game, and with them able to move the ball into dangerous areas, some crosses that flashed in front of the hosts’ goal could have been converted had more players committed themselves forward.

The Devon outfit did pull a goal back after they won a free-kick wide on the left. Captain Max Edgecombe whipped a dangerous delivery into the danger area, which saw Sam Joce win his aerial duel to glance a header against the post. Scott Simmons reacted the quickest to the loose ball and he turned the ball in from close range to reduce the deficit.

Exeter continued to come forward and create more of the openings, and as the game entered the final period, they made it 3-2 to set up a thrilling finale.

The visitors worked a short corner to Edgecombe, before he curled another delicious ball into the 18-yard box. Coming onto the ball was Simmons, and his first-time finish was too good for the U’s goalkeeper, making it a five-goal game.

With more men thrown forward in the hope that they could force extra-time, the Grecians piled on the pressure, but, they were unable to create one more golden chance, and ultimately, they ran out of time as the referee blew for the end of the game shortly after.