Exeter City Women completed pre-season with an impressive performance at Liskeard on Thursday evening, hitting the hosts for six on a wet, foggy evening in Cornwall.
With the home side sitting deep and defending their penalty area, the Grecians began with a stronghold on possession, required to stay patient to create chances. Combination plays from the City attack allowed an opportunity for Zoe Watkins to stride into the penalty area, her low cut back was blocked as the Grecians began to break down the home side’s resistance.
Amber Pollock and Ishbel Zuurmond linked twice in quick succession to test the handling of home Goalkeeper Sara Rowe, before Zoe Cunningham drilled a low effort narrowly wide of the post. Zuurmond hit a dipping shot from distance that nestled on the roof of the goal, before Pollock again burst clear of her marker, her cross volleyed goalwards by Jenna Markham to test Rowe once more.
Markham’s latest cross just evaded Phoebe Baker, before more patient build up released the forward to provide another drilled cross, this time Zuurmond’s header brilliantly kept out by Rowe on the Liskeard goal line. After a period of patience from City and strong defensive play from the Blues, the chances were now starting to flow. Pollock ghosted past her marker once more and was again denied by Rowe who stood firm in the home Goal.
In a half of defence against attack, City would break the deadlock through a rare Liskeard counter. Winning the ball on the edge of their own penalty area and, with the Blue’s now out of shape, the Grecians pounced. Mollie Taylor lofted an exquisite pass for Markham to stride onto, her cut back found the supporting Zoe Watkins and she slotted the ball past Rowe for the lead.
Zoe Cunningham pinched the ball away from a home defender before drilling a shot past Rowe just before the half time whistle and that quick-fire double saw Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side head into the break with the lead their play had deserved.
City’s pressing play would bring more rewards as the second half began, Zuurmond winning the ball and racing clear, Rowe saved her effort, but Markham was in place to smash home the rebound. More fluid City football made it four, Jaydee Seaman driving into space, her pass to Watkins led to a clipped pass over the home defence and Markham was through on goal. Rowe would again deny the Grecians with a smothered save, this time Zuurmond the recipient of the loose ball as she finished from close range.
A host of substitutions from both sides broke the rhythm of the game and by this time the rain was torrential, Manfy Sharpe headed in a Phoebe Baker corner as City made it five, a steady flow of chances continuing as the Grecians passing wore down the tiring home side.
Cunningham and Pollock again came close, but it would be the returning Connie Pengelly who wrapped up the night’s scoring, lashing in from the edge of the penalty area after Zuurmond had twisted and turned past her marker for the final time.
A strong night for Britton and Wakley’s team and a good test for the season ahead as breaking down a resilient backline will be a key factor in how successful City can be in 2023/24. Bridgwater United await on August 20th for the first league game of the season and on the evidence of recent weeks, you can only surmise that City look ready for the new season.