Exeter City Women will contest in the National League Cup this season after a confident victory over Maidenhead United on Sunday.
The Grecians have made a habit of conceding first in recent weeks, so it was a fast start that Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley were searching for and City’s management team were not to be disappointed. Zoe Watkins countered down the visitor’s left side and sent a low cross towards Sarah Stacey; her flick fell into the path of Connie Pengelly and she scored from close range.
Moments later it was nearly two as Jenna Markham exposed the Maidenhead left side once more, her cross just evaded the onrushing forwards.
After such a fast start, the game settled, Markham and Pengelly linked as the City number Nine chipped an effort on target before the visitors nearly found a way back into the game. An under hit back pass allowed Simone O’Brien to race clear, but under the pressure of tracking Pheobe Baker she put the ball over the top of the crossbar.
Zoe Watkins had an effort blocked, before a series of corners delivered into good areas failed to find a City connection, as good territory for the home side was failing to deliver clear cut chances. With the home side lacking proficiency in front of goal, it was United who struck next. City’s defence was pulled out of position allowing Megan Halfacree the space to line up a strike from distance, her fierce effort flew into the top corner past Abbi Bond.
Markham’s pace was proving a consistent threat and her latest foray into the visitor's penalty area provided the opportunity for a half-time lead. Markham’s square pass was controlled by Stacey and as she went to shoot the defender’s challenge failed to win the ball and a penalty was awarded. Zoe Watkins is as reliable as you will find from twelve yards and she calmly found the bottom corner for her fourth goal of the season. City ahead at the break.
The second half started with both teams failing to find any fluency in their play, cagey and mistake ridden, it would take a swift counter by Baker before Pengelly had the first effort on goal in the half. Markham was finding space to exploit as United legs tired and her driving run forced a corner. Baker delivered another pinpoint delivery and Pengelly rose highest to power home the header and give City a two-goal advantage.
Britton and Wakley chose to make a series of substitutions as the visitors were struggling to find a way back into the game, and the changes offered the threat of more goals for the Grecians. With space to attack, Markham and Watkins would both test Gemma Harvey in the Magpies goal for a game clinching fourth goal, the keeper denying both with strong saves. Emily Eaton added instant energy to the frontline with her introduction, thumping the crossbar with a brilliant effort before being denied by the legs of Harvey. The crossbar was again to the visitors rescue as Baker, who was exceptional in the Grecians midfield, hit a fierce effort only to see the ball rebound away to safety.
A comfortable afternoon for City, who never relinquished control of the game despite the visitors drawing level. Connie Pengelly amongst the goals is always a good sign for the Grecians prospects, with Markham again lively in attack and Chloe Gilroy making her debut as a second half substitution. St James Park awaits this weekend for the visit of AFC Bournemouth and no one in Red and White will be under any illusion as to how well they will need to perform to take the three points against the current league leaders.