Exeter City Women restored their nine-point lead at the top of the division in an entertaining clash with Selsey on Sunday afternoon, running out 4-2 victors.
It was the Grecians seventh successive win played out in front of a record crowd of 364 at the Exwick Sports Hub.
In the fixture on the south coast, City were punished for a slow start and knew that the intent had to be better in the return fixture. After a couple of half chances had been comfortably dealt with by Seals Goalkeeper Nicole Robinson, Ishbel Zuurmond’s neat turn was followed by laying the ball off for Zoe Watkins to strike, her looping effort dropped in over the head Robinson and gave the Grecians the start they were looking for.
Watkins came close to doubling the lead moments later, weaving her way into the penalty area before drawing a save from Robinson. Phoebe Baker’s influence in midfield was growing, her driving run and cross was turned towards goal, the clearance off the line quickly followed by a chance for Sarah Stacey that lacked the required connection to beat Robinson.
After a spell of early City pressure, it was the visitors who had the best chance to score. A deep corner was met with a strong header towards goal, Baker using every inch of her height to head the effort off the line.
That scare negotiated, the Grecians doubled their advantage. Manfy Sharpe’s pass into Stacey was flicked over the top of the Selsey defence and Markham hustled in front of the defender before steadying herself and drilling low past Robinson.
Sensing a chance to kill the game, City began to ramp up the pressure once more. Watkins saw a shot saved, whilst a host of dangerous crosses were well marshalled by the Selsey backline.
With half time minutes away, the away side would get back into the game. Skye Bacon, who had an impressive afternoon for the visitors, delivered a dangerous cross that City failed to deal with on the initial contact. As the ball dropped for the lurking attacker, Jaydee Seaman made the block, before Bond saved the rebound. The referee deemed Seaman’s block to be with the hand and awarded a penalty, Maisie Guymer expertly dispatching the spot kick past Bond to make it ‘game on’ heading into the second half.
The Grecians felt aggrieved by the award of the penalty, but responded in the best way possible as the second period began. Mollie Taylor clipped a dangerous pass in behind the Selsey backline and the ever-willing Jenna Markham beat Robinson to the ball, poking it past her and into the unguarded net to restore the two-goal advantage.
If City were aggrieved over the penalty, Selsey would be equally unhappy with the Sin Bin of Amber Howden. However, despite being down a player, they fought back. A perfectly weighted pass behind the City defence found Bacon and she had plenty of time to calmly slot past Bond to narrow the margin once more.
The exciting nature of this game was to see another twist within minutes, Zuurmond tricking her way into the penalty area before Markham smashed the lay off into the top corner for her hat trick. The forward has been an integral part of the City attack this season and an afternoon of goals is just reward for that work.
City pressed for a fifth, creatively getting the ball to the edge of the Selsey box but perhaps guilty of over playing the final pass or not taking on the shot in good areas. Taylor’s clipped pass to Stacey saw her effort hit over as City finished the afternoon without any further scares on their goal, but unable to add to their two-goal lead.
These two teams served up an excellent game of National League Football once more, with goals, contentious decisions and quality play. For City, the win was the requirement of the day and they never looked likely to fail that objective once Watkins had given them the lead, despite the admirable spirit and effort of Sadie Blakely’s Selsey side. One more game to go, with all eyes on Cardiff City to see what the last game holds for the Grecians. One thing is for sure, they cannot do much more than they are currently doing.