Exeter City Women made it nine wins from ten in 2023 as they overcame Maidenhead United at the Exwick Sports Hub on Sunday afternoon with a fifth successive clean sheet in a two-goal victory.
The Grecians started with bright intent, slick football creating early chances for Jenna Markham and Ishbel Zuurmond. Phoebe Baker’s free kick was tipped away by United Goalkeeper Gemma Harvey, the ball dropping on the goal line and cleared by the quick to react defence. Chloe Gilroy saw a fierce effort blocked before Harvey was quick off her line to smother an effort from Markham.
City had been asking all the questions and it was no surprise when the goal arrived, Toogood’s cross from another Grecians’ set piece saw Sarah Stacey rise to nod past Harvey for her twenty-fifth league goal of the campaign.
Zuurmond was beginning to find space to exploit, she eased past a defender and squared to Gilroy, her strong effort was stunningly palmed away by Harvey. Markham was denied a shot on goal with a last-ditch challenge, Toogood’s corner was headed off the line, Baker thundered an effort off the underside of the crossbar and Stacey was denied by the onrushing Harvey.
City had been dominant throughout the first half but will have been slightly disappointed that the scoreline did not reflect that ascendancy.
The second half began with a similar pattern, Toogood’s corner fell to Bow Jackson, but she could not direct a shot at goal, before Mollie Taylor’s header crept wide of Harvey’s goal. The United defence cleared another City effort off the line, Stacey’s header was tame from a Zuurmond cross before the former set up Baker inside the penalty area but her shot was dragged wide.
After a host of chances, the frustration was starting to grow for the Grecians, so who more likely to calm the nerves then the impressive Number Ten? Toogood’s chipped pass was chested down by Stacey and she smashed the ball past Harvey for the all-important second.
Mollie Taylor’s header was deflected off the line as Harvey and the impressive Gemma Bloor stood resolute against wave after wave of pressure. Zuurmond struck into the arms of the Goalkeeper as City looked to add to their tally, but they could be pleased to have secured a vital three points as the full time whistle blew.
Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side had seen a three-week gap between this game and the St James Park fixture, yet the fluency of the performance highlighted the hard work put in by the squad over that period. Cardiff City’s win over Selsey keeps the Grecians focus, but with the South Wales side not playing until the middle of next week, a win at Swindon Town on Easter Sunday would extend the lead to nine points and increase the pressure back on Cardiff. An exciting end to 2022/23 is now a guarantee.