U18s taste final day defeat
Match report and reaction as young Cherries are defeated in Exeter.
AFC Bournemouth Under-18s’ 16-game unbeaten run in the league came to an end with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Exeter City on Saturday.
Exeter had been the only team to manage a victory against the Cherries in the league this season when they secured a 3-2 win at Canford Arena in August.
The home side’s three points mean that they join Bournemouth in qualifying for the Merit League 1, in which the top sixes sides from the South West and South East Youth Alliance Leagues will compete for the rest of the 2018/19 season.
Saturday’s game had an end of season feel to it for Bournemouth, who couldn’t climb or fall any positions in the table regardless of the result. Alan Connell’s side were not their usual, free-flowing selves, and goals from Cheick Diabate and Theo Simpson wrapped up a straightforward win for the hosts.
A quiet opening period culminated on the eighteenth minute, when Tom Parker-Trott was called into action to deny Charlie Lawrence with a strong save from close range. Shortly after, the Cherries worked the ball up the other end and Christian Saydee got his first sight at goal, forcing an equally fine reaction from Feux Norman.
Chances were hard to come by for Bournemouth in the first half, save for a Jake Cope shot dragged wide on the 28th minute, as well as a free-kick smashed over from Cope on the brink of half-time.
Following a half-time team talk in which Under-18s manager Alan Connell emphasised the need for his players to press higher up the pitch, the Cherries came out with a bit more urgency and tenacity in the second period.
The improved tempo didn’t pay dividends, as Exeter took the lead through Diabate on the 55th minute. He bundled in a lofted free-kick from James Dodd from close range to open the scoring.
Luke Pardoe registered a shot on target with half an hour remaining, cutting inside from the right wing onto his left foot, but his effort was too narrow to trouble Norman.
The Cherries had to defend resolutely to stay in the game, Parker-Trott making another good stop from close range and Zeno Ibsen Rossi clearing the danger as Theo Simpson looked like doubling the lead.
Simpson sniffed danger, however, and marked his name on the score-sheet with 25 minutes to go following a misplaced clearance from a Bournemouth goal-kick. Parker-Trott could do little to prevent Simpson smashing it into the bottom right corner for 2-0.
Bournemouth never looked like surging a dramatic comeback but did come close on two occasions in the game’s dying embers. Tom Dinsmore crashed a shot against the crossbar from distance, while Saydee flicked a header onto the post in two of the away sides’ best chances of the game.
Ultimately, Bournemouth couldn’t create enough chances to cause Exeter any real concern, as the home side saw out a routine win over the Cherries. The result means Bournemouth finish the Youth Alliance League South West Division in second place, seven points behind champions Oxford United, and six ahead of third-placed Exeter.
Following the game, Under-18s manager spoke to afcb.co.uk about the following topics…
A rare defeat
“We hadn’t beaten Exeter this season, so there was an incentive to do that. First and foremost, I wanted to see a good performance. We didn’t get that. We were a bit flat and a yard off the pace with our press. We didn’t control the ball or pass it well enough.
“When we’re not quite one hundred percent on our game on or off the ball we can look a little bit flat. It’s disappointing because the boys have put so much effort and good work into the last few months.
“They’re young players and you can have a bit of inconsistency so it was a disappointing day for us but one that we will learn from. It might be a good thing in the long run.”
Finishing as league runners-up
“It is pleasing to finish where he have because it means we’ve played well, but more important is the philosophy of the club and how the boys develop. That remains the case, but obviously the players have got to have an understanding of how to win games.
“Generally, we’ve performed well. We had a bit of a slow start to the season, but we picked up and had some really good performances. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of them.
“Before and after the game, I reminded the players that if they want to have careers, they’ve got to get used to playing Tuesdays and Saturdays. Having that physical and mental resilience to be able to play in midweek and on the weekend is vital in their development.”
“We welcome Chelsea to Canford Arena on Saturday for a prestigious friendly match. That will provide us with really good opposition ahead of the FA Youth Cup Fifth Round game against Aston Villa.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure we’re ready. Villa are a category one academy with a great catchment area, so we’ll go into the game as underdogs, but I’m demanding that we give it one hundred percent and play how we can play. We’ll look forward to it.”
The AFC Bournemouth Under-18s side are sponsored by Strategic Solutions.