EXETER City’s Under-18s were only second best as they suffered a 4-0 defeat away to Bristol Rovers U18s at the weekend in their latest fixture in the Youth Alliance South West division, writes Derek Baker.

Saturday saw ECFC’s Under-18s Lead Coach, Tom Donati, hand starts to Harry Crees, Kieran Wilson and George Birch, while Sean Hart dropped to the bench.

Despite the changes, however, the Grecians failed to really click into gear during the opening exchanges. They were able to carve out two decent openings inside the first five minutes but they were unable to take them and secure an early lead.

It was those few chances that prompted a strong reaction from Rovers, and they tended to dominate most of the play from that moment onwards.

A breakthrough for the Gas came as no real surprise later on in the first period, but the Devon outfit tried to respond as they put together another spell, however, they were unable to make the most of the openings they created, and therefore, an equaliser never arrived.

The hosts doubled their lead before the interval came, giving Donati and the rest of the Exeter coaching staff a real headache in terms of solving the problems in front of them.

After half-time, City used their bench to try and change the flow of the game, however, despite the effort being high, they were unable to shift the momentum of the contest as the Pirates racked up their third goal to compound the away side’s misery.

The Bristol goalkeeper looked assured and confident in between the sticks, and despite the prolific Theo Cutler leading the line for the Grecians, they were unable to beat the Rovers shot-stopper.

The Gas managed to net another to secure an emphatic result, meaning the Devon team will have to look to bounce back in this weekend's league fixture against Cheltenham Town U18s.

After the match, an honest Tom Donati acknowledged his team were largely second best on the day.

'To be honest we didn’t think we started too brightly, but we created two chances to score. But from then on we allowed them to dominate us. We didn’t take our chances just before the second goal, and we have got to be better in those moments, and not get drawn away from what we are trying to do.

'At half-time, we tried to change things, but we had a young team, and had a bench made up of Under-16s. We changed to some of those young players, but it was difficult for them, though their effort levels were high.

'I have touched on it before, but we have got so much work to do with the group, which is exciting. The mindset needs to change in terms of everyone stepping up to what is required. It was a rather recipe for disaster here. Their goalkeeper played very well, but we lacked a cutting edge to our play.'