Our Academy U-16 side became the first holders of the South West Midweek Floodlit Cup when they beat Exeter City last Friday at Axminster Town’s ground, thanks to goals by Harry Warwick and Kieran Phillips.
Lead Youth Development Phase Coach Tom Parrinello was delighted with his side’s performance; “Exeter came into the game with an unbeaten record this season, which included two wins against us so we were aware that this would be a tough match for us.
“We devised a game plan that, we hoped, would lead to us putting in a positive performance and obtain the right result and the lads executed that plan to perfection.
“We knew that they would be a threat from set plays and the intention was to combat that from the start. However the plan didn’t work initially, because they scored from a set piece in the opening ten minutes!
“After that we were happy to let them have the majority of possession and to soak up any pressure they exerted on us because we knew that we had the ability, and the pace, to hit them on the counter attack.
“As a result, we restricted Exeter to long range attempts on goal and equalised after half an hour thanks to a fine goal from Harry Warwick who won the ball on the half way line and raced towards goal, beating two men along the way before hitting a shot into the far corner of the net.
“We were still on level terms at the break and told the lads during the half time interval that they were executing the game plan to perfection and asked them for more of the same in the second half.
“Ten minutes after the restart Kieran Phillips, one of our U-15 lads, scored what proved to be the winning goal when he hit a shot across the keeper following an excellent counter attack.
“From then on we controlled the game and although Exeter continued to enjoy a great deal of possession, they rarely threatened to get back on level terms and we saw the game out comfortably.”
The South West Midweek Floodlit Cup is a competition that came about following a great deal of hard work put in by our Academy Manager Jonny Henderson, who wanted to increase the number of competitive fixtures for our U-15 and U-16 sides.
The intention was to begin with two groups of four, but one side pulled out at the last minute and so Rovers found themselves in a group with Newport, Swindon and Cheltenham, while the second group consisted of Exeter, Plymouth and Bournemouth.
All games were played under floodlights at non-league grounds, the idea being to try to replicate FA Youth Cup/U-18 football.
The EFL have now expressed an interest in rolling a similar competition out to other regions as they are pleased with what we have done in the south west this season.