Exeter City Women began the new season with a comprehensive victory over Keynsham Town in front of a bumper Exwick Hub crowd.
It was a win that sent the Grecians to the top of the division after the first round of matches.
City had seen their final two friendlies cancelled at late notice and the appetite to put into practice a fortnight of training was clear from the off, Sarah Stacey going close after a slick passing move had created the chance. More frantic Keynsham defending led to a second minute corner and Emily Toogood’s inswinger was met perfectly by the head of Stacey to reward the fast start.
Debutant Becky Dandridge shot wide, before her burst from midfield saw a low cross fired over by Stacey. Zoe Watkins was next to test the handling of Xanna Kierk in the Town goal, whilst the threat from Toogood’s set piece delivery continued to ask questions of the visitor's defense.
Jess Sandland showed composure in possession to beat the K’s press and find Steph Beck in space, her pass to Dandridge set the midfielder clear and, when the cross was delivered, Stacey was in position to head in a second goal. A slick City move that went from defense to a goal in just four passes.
Not content with their healthy two goal lead, City pressed a now shaky looking visiting defense and won the ball back through Beck. Her pass found Zoe Watkins and a delicate chip gave Kierk little chance.
Bow Jackson, another debutant for the Grecians, hit over after Manfy Sharpe had tricked her way down the visitor's right side before Dandridge again tested Kierk’s handling from distance with a low drive.
However, for all City’s neat incisive play, it was a set piece that again brought more joy. Toogood whipped in another swinging delivery and, after a scramble, Jess Sandland tapped in from close range.
Toogood was close to getting her name on the scoresheet just moments later, her low shot hit the post and it was Stacey in the right place to tap home the rebound. Town must be sick of the sight of City’s talismanic front woman; it was her second successive hat trick against the Somerset side.
Dandridge again burst clear from another precise lofted Sandland pass, after muscling her way in on goal her shot was just over the bar.
Moments later it was a familiar tale, Toogood’s set piece delivery causing problems for Keynsham, Steph Beck’s glancing header bundled past Kierk and City had six. Not a bad first forty-five of the season.
The second half saw little reprieve for the visitors, Stacey and Dandridge continuing to find shooting opportunities, although neither finding the accuracy to extend the home side’s lead.
Zoe Watkins’ first half chip was a deft skill, her second of the afternoon was far more candid. The midfielder found opportunity and space on the edge of the penalty area to shoot at goal and her fierce effort flew past Kierk and into the roof of the net.
A succession of substitutions saw debuts for Emily Eaton, Ellen Dixon and Emma Hunt as City continued to attack. Toogood’s defense splitting pass saw Stacey with a one-on-one opportunity, but Kierk was quick off her line to smoother the effort. Phoebe Baker then hit a fierce effort that the busy visiting keeper tipped over, before Baker again saw her effort kept out after neat link play with Stacey.