Devon and Exeter League: University of Exeter 2nds 1, Wellington Reserves 4

Our Reserves eased their threat of relegation with an impressive second consecutive away victory.

Even with four enforced changes due to unavailabilities, Wellington started brightly and were soon on top.

After good periods of sustained pressure during the opening 15 minutes, it came as no surprise when Wellington took the lead. Connor Pengelly’s physical presence and sheer determination proved too much for the home side’s defence and, when the ball fell at the feet of recalled Josh Hawkings, he made no mistake from 12 yards for the lead.

The home team tried to rally but some strong tackling and disciplined defensive work kept Wellington in control.

The second came on 22 minutes … and it was a goal of pure youthful fearlessness. Robbie Broomhead fed right forward Ollie Holman who instantly cut inside past two defenders on to his favoured left foot. He unleashed an absolute rocket from 20 yards which left the home keeper rooted as it hit the back of the net for a deserved 2-0 lead.

Two became three in the 28th minute after another fine finish from Holman. Our 18-year-old keeper Rob Hall launched a huge high kick which sent the speedy Holman in a race with home defenders. As the ball bounced into the opposition’s 18-yard box, Holman coolly lobbed the onrushing keeper to increase his and Wellington’s tally.

University were given a lifeline on 35 minutes. Confusion in the Wellington defence led to the home team’s goal as skipper Mark Owen and player-manager Paul Pocock tried to clear the same ball, leading to an easy cross and header past a helpless Hall.

Wellington lost their cool slightly, allowing the home side to put some pressure on for remaining minutes of the half and the interval came at the right time with Welly 3-1 to the good.

The start of the second half saw the weather worsen and the pitch conditions become very difficult.

University started the brighter and, to their credit, played the better football but despite this they struggled to create any clearcut chances.

Josh Baker replaced Josh Hawkings on the hour and a debut was given to 18-year-old Tennessee Harlow on 68 minutes as he replaced Broomhead.

The only goal of the half came direct from a free kick on 80 minutes. The speedy Baker was put clear and, as he reached the box, he was crudely chopped down from behind. Bizarrely no card was shown to the offending player and a clear goalscoring chance was converted to a free kick on the 18-yard line.

But justice was done … up stepped the confident Holman who dispatched a powerful left-foot shot high into the top corner to complete his first senior hat-trick.

The strike gave Welly an unassailable 4-1 lead which they would see across the line without any further trouble.

This was great result, based on belief and determination. Special mention has to go to the midfield duo of Clay Westcott and Aaron Hawkings who between them covered every muddy puddle on the pitch.