Our U18 side started 2018 with a trip to Yeovil, and the Young Exiles batted resolutely to come away from Huish Park with a 1-1 draw, courtesy of an injury-time penalty from captain Lewis Collins.
County fielded a side featuring five U16 players in the starting eleven, after it was announced that six second-year scholars would leave on a work-experience loan, in order to gain first-team experience.
Despite this, the Young Exiles would have the first chance of the game. Tom Hillman’s shot from just outside the box almost threatened Glovers ‘keeper Tommy Scott, but his strike went narrowly over in the 4th minute.
The hosts then took County by surprise only a minute later, with Yeovil forward Nestor Shako delivering a brilliant ball into the box, but it evaded his teammates and the Young Exiles managed to clear the ball away.
Byron Anthony’s side then missed a massive opportunity to take the lead in Somerset, with Ryan George playing an inviting ball into the direction of Liam Bishop, but the forward couldn’t get on the end of the cross in the 9th minute.
Nestor Shako continued to cause County problems, and almost scored against the run of play – but he dragged his shot wide of goal with 12 minutes gone.
Bishop continued to cause Antonio Falanga’s side problems with his movement, and the striker made a brilliant run, but saw his shot cleared off the line in the 18th minute of the game; two minutes later Ryan George was shown a yellow card for a late tackle.
County defender Callum Beckett made a vital interception in order to stop Shako from taking a shot from close range, after some fancy footwork from the Yeovil forward created the opportunity with 27 minutes played.
Three minutes later, Tommy Scott had to make an outstanding save, after one of his defenders headed towards Yeovil’s goal under pressure, but the keeper was alert to the danger.
Liam Bishop kept finding space in behind the Glovers’ defence, and was one-on-one with Scott, but Scott made a phenomenal low save from Bishop’s powerful strike to prevent the Young Exiles from going in front after 36 minutes.
County ‘keeper Lewis Webb was called into action only two minutes after his Yeovil counterpart made a brilliant save, and Webb stopped a powerful shot from Antonio Falanga’s side with an unconventional volleyed clearance.
Byron Anthony’s side had one final chance in the first-half, after Owen Taylor was played through on goal in the 40th minute, but Taylor was judged to be offside by the linesman; meaning that County went into the second-half with the scores level in Yeovil.
Yeovil made one change at half-time, with Bradley Chennett replacing Thomas Hayes.
The 2nd half started quietly, with neither side having any real chances early on, but it would be the Glovers who had the first chance of the half in the 55th minute. Yeovil captain Joseph Tomlinson hit a thunderous strike, but it never tested Webb, and went out for a goal kick.
Liam Bishop had yet another shot blocked, which had looked destined to put County in front with an hour played. Captain Lewis Collins’ played a brilliant ball through to Bishop, but the striker’s shot was blocked by the trailing leg of the host’s defender.
Yeovil’s goalkeeper was called into action yet again, and Scott made a brilliant double save, first from Liam Bishop and then the stopper made another great save to parry a powerful strike from Lewis Collins in the 64th minute.
The Young Exiles were left to rue their missed chances, as only a minute later, Webb was called into action to stop Jack Hilton-Jones’ shot, but he couldn’t stop Gabriel Rogers from putting the hosts in front with a brilliant strike into the top corner.
County made a double substitution in the 68th minute, with Owura Edwards and Shay Snell coming on for Ryan George and Liam Bishop as the Young Exiles pushed for an all-important equalizer in Somerset. Six minutes later, Lewis Johnson came on for Callum Jones before a fourth substitution was made in the 78th minute as Logan Bowkett replaced Ryan Scrivens.
With the clock running down, County made their fifth and final substitution, Jay Williams came on for Dom Jeffries as the Young Exiles tried everything they could to find an equalizing goal.
Finally, the away side had a breakthrough, substitute Jay Williams won a penalty in the 89th minute, after being fouled in the box. Captain Lewis Collins stepped up to take it, and calmly finished past Tommy Scott to level the scores in Yeovil.
A red card was shown to Tommy Scott during the County celebrations, with the keeper sent off for dissent in the 90th minute.
The referee called an end to proceedings after a few minutes of added time, and despite Yeovil’s injury-time efforts, County held on for a point in their opening game of 2018.
After the match, Lead PDP Coach Danny Elliott said: “It was a good performance from the lads today, who worked hard to pass the ball on a sticky surface, but all credit to the boys for sticking with it and creating some good chances; had their keeper not made some excellent saves we would’ve scored a few more and picked up the win.”
He added: “It’s a good base for this young team to build on and continue to develop going forward.”
County Starting XI: Webb, Jones (Johnson 74’), Scrivens (Bowkett 78’), Jeffries (Williams 85’), Murray, Beckett, George (Edwards 68’), Taylor, Bishop (Snell 68’), Collins (c), Hillman.
Yellow Card: Ryan George. (20’)