EXETER City’s Under-18s suffered a defeat to Plymouth Argyle in a five-goal thriller at the Cliff Hill Training Ground on Saturday, writes Derek Baker.
That result leaves the Grecians in the bottom half of the Youth Alliance South West division on three points after three games, while the Pilgrims sit at the top with a 100 per cent record.
The hosts began proceedings strongly, and, in the opening 10 minutes, found numerous routes to Dan Holman’s goal, however, the Argyle shot-stopper stood firm with several athletic saves from Theo Cutler, Tom Dean and Santino Ohanaka.
But City’s pressure was rather relentless, and their bright start was rewarded shortly after when striker Cutler found the back of the net for the second consecutive home match this season to break the deadlock.
A quick set-piece routine allowed the Exeter attack to get inside the penalty area, before Aamir Stanford-Daniels fired at goal. With Holman denying the initial shot, Cutler reacted quickest and slotted in the rebound to make it 1-0.
Tom Donati had his team playing on the front foot both in and out of possession, and on 26 minutes, the Grecians doubled their lead after a mistake from Holman, who lost possession before committing a foul while trying to retrieve the ball to atone for his mistake. Cutler cooly converted from 12 yards to put his team in pole position.
Ohanaka received lengthy treatment for an injury, and his departure from the game proved decisive in how the rest of the game panned out.
Eight minutes after half-time, the visitors won a free-kick in a dangerous position, and Freddie Issaka curled an effort around the wall and into the bottom corner to half the deficit.
On the hour mark, the scores were tied courtesy of an attack down the Pilgrims right. Lewis Colwell picked out Joe Hatch, who looped a header over Dylan Shanahan to make it two goals apiece.
The comeback was complete in the 68th minute when the home defence failed to clear their lines. The ball came to Colwell, who powered a volley past Shanahan to make it 3-2.
A reaction from such a setback can show a lot about a group of individuals, and Donati and the City squad will be hoping to bounce back from this defeat to their rivals quickly, with the reverse fixture of the Devon Derby currently scheduled for mid-January. Exeter's youngsters return to action though on Saturday 16th September, when they travel to Bristol Rovers U18s.