Millwall’s casual approach to this match was their un-doing as this fed through to their players. The previous ties played by the Exeter City youngsters had been played in the club’s main arenas and treated as a proper match, including provision of team sheets. None of this from Millwall and a trip out towards Bromley and their training ground was in order.
Three of City’s previous ties had gone to penalties. But they were now in the Southern Area final of the Football League’s Youth Alliance Cup, to give it its proper title.
Coach Kwame Ampadu has inspired his team to produce some great football, from a self assured goalie in Jake Viney through to forward Jamie Reid who is not unafraid to nutmeg an opponent. Their ability to switch play from one wing to the other with accuracy was a joy to watch. This was proper football, with a strong desire to play the game in the final third.
Both teams had chances in the first half, with both defences having to work hard. City had their chances, a great save by the Millwall goalkeeper and a clearance off the line following a corner was the best chances by Exeter City.
The game at half time was nicely poised at 0-0.
In the 2nd half, Millwall tried to take the game to City. In the 55th minute their persistence was finally awarded. A corner from their right came in close to the 6 yard box, a yell of “leave it” seems to have caused some confusion and a Millwall player was able to shoot the ball in to the top of the net.
The Millwall goal only inspired the City youth to get back in the game. Just 2 minutes later Steven Carvell took the ball down the left wing, beating a Millwall defender and from within thebox let off a powerful shot that the Millwall goalie could only parry. The ball came to Jamie Reid at waist height, but he was able to get a foot to it and scored. 1-1.
The game continued apace, but neither side were able to get the winner. Millwall unable to up the tempo of their game to create clear cut opportunities, whilst City played with dogged determination. So after 90 minutes, the score was 1-1. Straight to penalties, no extra time.
Whilst Millwall ballooned their penalties over the bar, Jake Gosling and Jordan Moore-Taylor converted theirs. Millwall then scored a penalty, whilst City then had one saved. Jake Viney then saved a penalty leaving Ollie Knowles to score the winning penalty. So, City won 3-1.
The City players can feel very pleased with their performance against a strong and tall Millwall team. To cap their excellent season on the league, they now have a national final to come. This will be against Doncaster up at St James Park early in May. Details to follow.