EXETER City’s Under-18s will be hoping they can bounce back from their latest outing with a Devon Derby victory over Plymouth Argyle U18s this coming Saturday in the Youth Alliance South West division, writes Derek Baker.
ECFC U18s Lead Coach, Tom Donati, and his young players endured a difficult day and a 4-0 defeat against Portsmouth U18s on August 12 in their previous league fixture, but, this weekend, the Exeter youth side return to the Cliff Hill Training Ground, the scene of where they picked up an opening day win against Swindon Town at the start of the month.
With their return to home soil, in front of their own supporters, City’s contest against their bitter rivals could be the opportunity they require to return to winning ways. The Grecians will be hoping they can avenge the 3-2 loss they suffered to the Pilgrims at home last December when goals from Freddie Issaka, Oscar Halls and Will Jenkins-Davies proved to be the deciding factor on the day; The two teams, however, have not faced one another since.
Donati has been without a number of players for his side's opening few league fixtures, but with no competitive game last weekend, the Devon outfit have been afforded extra time to nurse some of those individuals back into training and return them to their roster. City saw Santino Ohanaka drafted into the starting XI for his first appearance of the season in their previous fixture, while Scott Simmons featured in a match-day squad for the first time last time out following a brief injury lay-off. And in his post-match comments against Pompey, Donati hinted that several more of the group are expected to return for derby day.
'It would be nice to put this [defeat to Portsmouth U18s] right quickly with another game, but with no league match this weekend, it allows us more time to get three or four more players up to speed, so our Saturday off has not come at a bad time for us. We have had four or five [players] unavailable recently, so bringing them back will certainly help us, and the break will also give the others a chance to work hard and make a statement on why they should stay in the team,' said Donati.
City will have to perform at their highest level however, as Argyle themselves have started the season in terrific form courtesy of their 2-0 win away at Cheltenham Town U18s to begin with, which was followed up with an emphatic 4-0 scoreline against Forest Green Rovers U18s a couple weeks ago.
But form often goes out of the window in rival match-ups, and arguably it is the same here between these two clubs, as often keeping your discipline and nerve is almost as important as performing to the best of your ability. With 16 goals shared between the two sides in their last four league meetings, Saturday’s encounter may provide even more fireworks, as the eyes of the region are drawn all on to them for the bragging rights of Devon, and an all-important three points.