Exeter City Women convincingly dispatched visiting AFC Bournemouth on Sunday in one of their most complete performances of the season.
The Dorset side arrived in need of a win to keep their promotion hopes alive, yet with Cheltenham Town’s win over Chesham United, this year’s Title will head to Gloucestershire.
The tempo of the game was set from the early minutes, Sarah Stacey’s block of the attempted clearance of Cherries ‘keeper Sam Chrippes an indication on the high press the Grecians were going to compete with. A City corner was delivered with precision by Jess Sandland, Connie Pengelly’s close range header brilliantly clawed away by Chrippes, before Emily Toogood’s follow up was cleared from the goal line.
The Sandland-Pengelly combination was not to be kept at bay for long, a corner from the City right was again invitingly driven in and this time Pengelly’s header was powered home for the lead. Pengelly and Stacey linked to force a good Chrippes save, before Sandland again caused problems from a set piece, this time a low cross just evading Mollie Taylor.
From front to back, the City desire to press the visitors was evident, and that fervency to overturn possession soon brought further reward. Zoe Watkins won her battle in midfield before driving forward with the ball at her feet, a perfectly weighted pass drew Chrippes from goal, allowing Stacey to take the ball around her and pass into the unguarded net to double the lead.
The Grecians battling qualities were, as is often the case, typified by Captain Manfy Sharpe. Her brave block from a Becki Bath free kick left her dazed, the defender unable to continue as a precaution and replaced by Charley Prouse.
A tireless first forty five was to offer one final reward. Pressure on the Cherries backline led to a misplaced pass, Pengelly setting herself before a delicate chip underlined both her confidence and City’s dominance. A commanding first half lead.
Jess Sandland’s switch to a wing back role has gained huge rewards, the teenager following up the previous weekend’s sensational performance with another one on Sunday afternoon. Her exquisite first touch beat the defender and a low cross was hit wide by Phoebe Baker on the slide. Sandland was not to be denied adding to her growing number of assists shortly after. Pengelly held the ball with strong forward play before setting up Sandland, her defence splitting pass was rolled past Chrippes by Sarah Stacey and City had four.
Emily Toogood had tested Chrippes’ handling earlier in the half, but her header from another Sandland set piece was well held on the goal line to deny the returning defender a goal. Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley opted for changes as the game became spread, the intensity of City’s play only beginning to show signs of easing in the last ten minutes of the contest.
Abbi Bond had enjoyed a quiet afternoon, but strikes from Bath and Katie James were now giving the City defence plenty to think about. Jaydee Seaman had showcased her custom competitive skill set with another outstanding performance, the defender now battling even harder to keep the visitors out.
With Steve Cuss’ side enjoying their best spell of the game, City struck a final decisive blow. Mollie Taylor stepped out of her defensive role and, when the Cherries backline dropped off, she is not a player that needs asking twice to take on the shot. A fierce dipping effort flew over Chrippes and into the net, City had five.
With this year’s promotion race over, this was a chance for the Grecians to make a mark for what they will hope to achieve next season, and they certainly did that with a commanding performance. When this team play with a consistent intensity, coupled with their signature ability to play free flowing football, they are devastating to watch. City will likely need to follow this performance up with another two wins to secure third position, but before that comes the Devon County Cup Final on Friday evening and the chance to retain that title for the first time in the team’s history.