Hartpury’s footballers were able to do what Liverpool couldn’t as they saw off League Two side Exeter City at the first attempt in a 3-1 friendly win.
The university first team produced a strong performance against the Grecians, who just last week were at Anfield facing off against the Premier League giants in their FA Cup third round replay. It was the perfect preparation for their clash with Bath firsts in their final BUCS Premier South League fixture next week.
After finding themselves a goal to the good at half-time thanks to efforts from Elliott Keightley and striker Scott Wilson, substitute Joe White struck midway through the second half to secure a deserved win against their professional opposition.
While the Exeter squad was made up of Under-21s in the friendly, they included four first team players in their squad. New signing Jake Taylor from Championship outfit Reading made his first appearance, while former Crystal Palace star and Republic of Ireland international, Clinton Morrison, spearheaded the attack.
But Hartpury were the first to threaten the goal after just three minutes when an incisive pass from captain Jamie Edge found Wilson, whose ball across the goalmouth evaded everybody.
In the 10th minute, Hartpury went ahead when Keightley, playing in an unfamiliar right wing position, drifted inside to intercept a stray pass and produced a sweetly-struck left foot shot from 25 yards that caught the keeper unaware and nestled in the bottom corner.
This spurred Exeter into gear with Hartpury goalkeeper Andy Hannah having to make smart saves after good play down both flanks from Exeter’s wingers. In the 17th minute, Hannah was again alert to tip an effort over the bar after another sweeping move down the right flank, but minutes later, a ball played across goal from the left wing was palmed out by Hannah but only to an Exeter player who duly rolled the ball into an empty net.
Hartpury restored their goal advantage when they were awarded a fortuitous penalty, with Wilson sending the keeper the wrong way.
With Exeter looking to square the contest before half-time, Hartpury were able to threaten on two fast counter-attacks with forward Ed Williams seeing his shot blocked after good play by Edge, while the latter then miscued his effort from outside the penalty area a couple of minutes later after a surging run from Wilson.
The second half began with Exeter in the ascendancy and after Hannah produced another save, Morrison saw his first effort on goal hit the woodwork from the resulting corner. The striker was then involved in creating another opportunity moments later, when he teed up a team-mate for a shot from distance which Hannah had to tip over the bar.
Another spell of sustained pressure was seen out strongly by Hartpury’s backline, with the industrious centre midfield duo of Edge and Joe Benn harassing their opponents into rushed passes.
In the 65th minute, Hartpury were able to gather a bit of attacking momentum when substitute Sol Wheatley jinked inside from the left byline and his goalbound shot was saved by the keeper.
And five minutes later, Hartpury doubled their lead when defender Spencer Hamilton intercepted a pass and produced a long ball towards White, who muscled his way between two defenders and hit his half-volleyed effort beyond the reach of the keeper into the opposite corner.
Hartpury created a few more chances as the game rolled towards its conclusion, with midfielder Sirdick Grant at the forefront. Firstly, he made space in the box after some quick feet but his cutback was just intercepted by a recovering defender while a few minutes later, the winger produced a great ball from the right flank that was begging for a team-mate to apply the finishing touch.
Exeter continued to press as they looked to add to their tally but Hartpury were able to nullify their threats as they saw out the game to secure a morale-boosting win.