Exeter City Women return to action this weekend as they make the trip to Oxford United for their first pre-season fixture.
Lineup will be displayed here shortly before the game
Exeter City Women were defeated in their first pre-season game of 2023, but can be content with a strong performance at Oxford as the home side eventually ran out 3-1 winners.
The Yellows, who came to within one game of a place in the Championship last season, started brightly. Comfortable in possession and applying pressure, the Grecians were having to work hard to stop United creating a clear opening on Abbi Bond’s goal.
With ten minutes played, the first clear chance of the game would result in the opening goal. City failed to stop the byline cross and, after skipping past a challenge, United’s Leah Burridge calmly found the bottom corner with a drilled strike.
The goal kickstarted the Grecians, Ishbel Zuurmond weaving past outstretched legs to play a reverse pass to Sarah Stacey who shot wide. City were then giving a helping hand in getting back in the game. Pressure from the forward line led to a heavy back pass, Zoe Watkins blocking the Goalkeeper’s attempted clearance as the rebound found the back of the net.
Oxford responded instantly, City again indecisive in clearing a cross and a sharp one-two led to a chance being hit wide. Abbi Bond claimed a drilled shot as United applied pressure, before Jaydee Seaman’s low cross nearly connected with the onrushing boot of Jenna Markham at the back post.
Zuurmond was now starting to impact on the game with her sharp turns and driving runs, her latest surge into the Oxford half finding Watkins, her shot looping over the bar from distance. A minute later Markham had the best chance of the spell, running clear on the United goal only to see her effort smothered by the home Goalkeeper Paris Sercombe.
Markham, who had looked sharp all half, then surged clear again, this time her cross just falling behind Sarah Stacey who would surely have given City the lead. All square at half time in an absorbing contest.
Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley made five substitutions at the break, with Oxford making wholesale changes of their own, and it was to be the home team who started the more composed. Bond made an excellent save low to her left as the Grecians struggled to keep possession, but with Matilda Franchi’s pace the counter was always on and her efforts won a corner that was guided over the crossbar by Stacey from close range.
The two sides then exchanged great opportunities to take the lead, Oxford slotting a well worked opening wide of the upright before Franchi caused a mix up in the United defence, winning a challenge with the Goalkeeper but placing her shot wide from a tight angle.
Five more changes for City and they would pay the price for not being organised from the restart, a cross converted from close range by Sarah King as the Grecians failed to react. Bond made another strong save before City were hit on the counter for a decisive third. Tiring legs could not catch the United forwards and a low cross was again converted from close range.
Markham went closest to a consolation goal, driving goalwards from a clipped pass, her effort to find Franchi blocked by the home defence.
Britton and Wakley will no doubt be pleased with what they saw from their side, with promising debuts from Beth Ireland and Amber Pollock. With Zoe Cunningham, Tash Knapman, Becky Dandridge and Emily Toogood all set to strengthen this team over the coming weeks, the early signs look very promising for the Grecians.