Match 23
4th November 2023
FA Cup 1st Round
Wigan Athletic (h)

Football League Youth Alliance
Forest Green Rovers (a)

Match Report:
Exeter City 0 Wigan Athletic 2

It was Groundhog Day for Exeter City as once again they were beaten 2-0 by Wigan Athletic, despite plenty of chances in the FA Cup First Round.

City created some great chances throughout the game but were punished as they were unable to capitalise on effort after effort. Thelo Aasgaard poked in a rebound to put Wigan ahead before Steven Sessegnon sealed the tie in the closing five minutes with a curled effort. 

Manager Gary Caldwell, who was watching the game from the gantry following an accumulation of yellow cards, named four changes from Tuesday’s game. Pierce Sweeney, Vincent Harper, Jack Aitchison and Yanic Wildschut came into the starting XI to replace Admiral Muskwe and Kyle Taylor who are on the bench. Jack Fitzwater and Demetri Mitchell missed the game due to injury.  

City’s defence, who were set up in a four, didn’t have a lot to do in the opening ten minutes as City dominated possession in Wigan’s half of the pitch. The Grecians had the best of the chances, playing short passes on the edge of the box and delivering lofted balls into the box to be headed wide of the target. Wildschut was causing the Wigan right-back problems with his pace and strength, getting in behind on multiple occasions, just lacking the final ball.

As the clock ticked over the 25th minute, Wigan were enjoying some sustained possession of the ball. The Latics’ Scott Smith released a venomous strike from the edge of the box, forcing an impressive save from Vil Sinisalo. Down the other end, the Wigan goalkeeper pulled off, arguably, an ever better save to deny Zak Jules whose header had the trajectory to nestle into the bottom corner.  

A City corner nearly ended in disaster. Sweeney played the ball short to Ryan Trevitt, who turned and passed. The ball found its way to Harry Kite, City’s furthest man back, who took a shot from distance: this shot was blocked by a Wigan man and the rebound sent Martial Godo on a threatening counterattack. Kite, who took the initial shot, tracked back and put in an excellent sliding challenge to steal the ball from Godo and end the attack. The referee, who had been lenient throughout the first-half, deemed this a booking-worthy offence and so Kite picked up a yellow.  

The teams went into the break level as City failed to convert any of their 12 first-half shots. In what was threatening to be a re-run of their meeting a fortnight ago, City would have to be more clinical in the second-half if they were to avoid a replay in two weeks’ time. 

City came out in the second-half looking most likely to score. Aitchison shimmied past three players on the left-side of the pitch, running at the Wigan box but failing to get a shot off. City’s best chance of the initial flurry came as James Scott hit the ball on the half-turn from close range and sent the ball over the bar and into the Big Bank. City continued to dominate the chances and if either team were going to score it looked to be the Grecians: they just needed a moment of inspiration. 

Whilst they needed a moment of inspiration, City got the opposite. Against the run of play, Wigan found a good opportunity to shoot, and did so. Sinisalo made a fantastic save to deny Jordan Jones but Aasgaard was the first to the ball and poked in to put the visitors ahead. City would need to turn this around if they wanted to continue in this competition. 

In a bid to spark a change from the gantry, Caldwell brought on Muskwe to replace Zac Jules in a positive change. Wigan’s goal took the wind out of City’s sails and whilst they remained to put the pressure on, their chances had less energy and looked less threatening. The Wigan defence remained strong as they locked down, keeping at least two players between the ball and the goal at all points. 

In the closing five minutes, Wigan put the nail in Exeter City’s FA Cup coffin and matched the scoreline from their last trip to Devon. Sessegnon picked up the ball on the edge of the box and curled a wonderful effort into the top-right corner, beating Sinisalo and sending the Latics through to the second round. Much like the league fixture a fortnight ago, a late goal proved a sucker punch with the Grecians punished for not being clinical enough in the final third. 

Exeter City: Sinisalo, Jules (Muskwe 65’), Aimson (C), Hartridge, Trevitt, Scott (Taylor 75’), Wildschut, Kite (Richards 89’), Sweeney (Diabate 75), Aitchison, Harper. 

Unused subs: MacDonald, O’Connor, Cunningham. 

Wigan: Tickle, Smith, Sessegnon, Morrison, Jones, Humphrys, Hughes, Godo, Clare, Adeeko, Aasgaard. 

Subs: Amos, Lang, Magennis, McManaman, Pearce, Rekik, Shaw, Smith, Stones. 

Referee: Craig Hicks. 

Attendance: 3,512 (136 away). 


U18 Report:
Forest Green Rovers 2 Exeter City 4

Derek Baker reports on a fine comeback win for the U18s.

A strong second-half showing from Exeter City’s under-18s saw them come away from their trip to Forest Green Rovers under-18s with a 4-2 win on Saturday.

The Grecians fell behind courtesy of two FGR goals in the space of a couple of minutes, however, Theo Cutler and Callum Graham both netted just before the interval to level the scores.

Despite both teams hitting the woodwork in the second period, Santino Ohanaka handed the Devon club the lead for the first time with just 13 minutes remaining. Ohanaka scored his second, and his team’s fourth goal of the day in the dying minutes to wrap up the impressive victory, ensuring they climbed to sixth in the Youth Alliance South West division. City’s youngsters travelled up the M5 looking to kick on from their 2-2 draw with Newport County the weekend before. A young side was selected as both Louie Cayless and Aidan Brown were handed starts, while the versatile Liam Oakes returned to the youth squad with a place on the bench. But despite the unfamiliar line-up, the away side looked to implement the Exeter style on the game as they looked to play free-flowing football to unlock the opposition defence. Arguably though, the opening quarter of the game was rather frantic, and both sets of players enjoyed plenty of turnovers in possession, with Rovers attempting to gain the initiative thanks to their aggressive, front-foot approach. The home side took the lead on 21 minutes when they built from a short-corner routine. The ball moved inside to the side of the penalty area, and a deflected cross-shot took the ball beyond Dan Layer in the Grecians’ goal to open the scoring. Forest Green added another two minutes later in fairly fortuitous circumstances. Cayless looked to clear his lines, however, his kick struck one FGR forward in the face. The ball fell to another home attacker, and he made no mistake from six yards to double the advantage. That, in a way, sparked the Devonians into life, as they became braver with the ball, and located some good positions to play in. Harry Crees proved instrumental in their revival, while Ohanaka and Kieran Wilson began looking particularly threatening in the wider channels.

The deficit was halved in the 39th minute when Tom Dean and Ohanaka combined nicely in midfield. A neat through pass slipped in Cutler, and the City striker kept his composure to finish nicely to make it 2-1. And the scores were level again a minute before the break. Wilson attacked down the left flank and showed real positivity as he crossed the ball into the danger area. Cutler wasn’t able to get on the receiving end of the centre, but winger Graham turned the ball home at the far post to restore parity. The momentum remained with the visitors after half-time, and after tweaking their pressing tactics out of possession, their quality on the ball was excellent. Rovers clipped the post with a shot from distance in the early moments of the second period, but an immediate response from Exeter saw Ohanaka go up the other end and strike the woodwork himself. Oakes, alongside Jude Horn and Luke Hodgetts, were introduced from the Grecians' bench to freshen things up, as the team’s outstanding front-foot mentality saw them dictate most of the play. The Devon outfit deservedly made it 3-2 after 77 minutes. City managed to isolate Wilson against the opponent’s full-back, and Wilson’s forward-thinking allowed him to get onto his weaker side and clip another dangerous ball into the box. Ohanaka was the recipient, and he converted from close range to make it a five-goal game. The result was sealed three minutes from time as Ohanaka bagged his brace. Wilson again got the better of his man on the flank, before his centre found the Exeter number 10, and he buried his chance to score the visitors’ fourth, securing their first three-point haul since the opening match of the season.

Exeter City’s Head of Coaching & Player Development, Brad Miller: “We came away pretty happy it must be said. We picked an extremely young side with Jake Richards being selected for the bench for the first-team, and the squad having lots of injuries at present, but, we showed real endeavour and positivity, and a high competency in possession.

“Scott Simmons was our stand-out performer, but overall, the whole team were excellent. Tom Dean and Sam Joce were great, while youngsters, Louie Cayless and Harry Crees were very good also.

“Everyone played their part. The Under-15s and Under-16s were absolutely brilliant which demonstrates a real alignment in what we’ve asked the team to do. I’m really pleased with the togetherness we showed, and this would have provided valuable minutes for those guys wanting to earn scholarships, while it was also decent from those who are already scholars.

“This was the perfect preparation for our FA Youth Cup game on Monday night in terms of team minutes as we have recently had two Saturdays without a fixture. Ideally, we might have wanted an extra day to rest, but I’d like to think we are well equipped for the tie.”

Exeter City Under-18s: Dan Layer, Tom Dean, Louie Cayless, Scott Simmons, Sam Joce, Harry Crees, Aidan Brown, Callum Graham, Kieran Wilson, Santino Ohanaka, Theo Cutler

Subs: Ollie Saunders, Liam Oakes, Jude Horn, Jack Anthony, Luke Hodgetts



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