Exeter City maintained their perfect start to the league season as they fought from behind to beat Swindon Town at the Exwick Sports Hub.
The visitors recruited strongly in the summer and will no doubt be anticipating a challenge for the title this season. The new look Town side soon emphasised their improvement by taking an early lead. A lofted pass was initially comfortably dealt with by the Grecians defence, but hesitancy in clearing the danger allowed Helena Diaz-Butcher to direct the ball goalwards and beyond City Goalkeeper Abbi Bond.
Ishbel Zuurmond came close to levelling just minutes later, her effort was bravely blocked by Town stopper Emily Mcgrogan, Zoe Watkins dragging the follow up wide of both the goal and the outstretched foot of Sarah Stacey. Zoe Cunningham’s dangerous free kick just evaded the run of Zuurmond as the Grecians responded well to the early setback and looked to level.
The visitors' game plan was simple but effective, long passes looking to find the pace in wide areas and that of forward Annie Colston. Colston latched on to the latest ball over the City defence to strike goalwards, but Bond held comfortably as the visitors continued to create half chances.
If the opening goal was avoidable from a City perspective, the equaliser was certainly avoidable from a Swindon perspective. Jenna Markham willingly chased a lofted ball before pouncing on a short back pass to level the game.
A scrappy spell of football followed, City lacking rhythm in their play and the forward lines of both sides left to feed off second balls. For all the disjointed nature of the half, the Grecians should have gone into the break ahead. Cunningham’s free kick fell to Zoe Watkins and her blocked effort dropped to Stacey, the Grecians forward turning an effort goalwards but denied from close range by a brilliant block.
The two sides exchanged big chances to take the lead after the break, Colston and Meg Jarvis both with efforts in the centre of the Grecians box that really should have tested Bond and put Town in front. Stacey was then slotted through on goal by another Zuurmond driving run, her shot just creeping wide of Mcgrogan’s upright.
Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley then made a triple substitution to bring some more cohesion to a fragmented City display, the change in formation allowing the Grecians to gather momentum in the contest. Markham and Mollie Taylor threatened with their willingness to attack the Town defence, Stacey and Zuurmond both having efforts on goal as City upped their intensity.
Amber Pollock added more threat for City as she entered the game, the Grecians now in control of the game but failing to find the final pass despite having the ball in some probing territorial positions. Jess Sandland added fresh impetus to midfield and the home side, who worked so tirelessly in pre season on fitness levels, were seeing the benefits with a strong finish in the soaring heat.
However, as City pressed to win the game, it would be the ball over the top that led to Town nearly taking the lead themselves, Bond saving well with her feet as Diaz-Butcher struck a low effort towards goal.
The Grecians continued to press with a tenacious work rate, they just needed that chance to fall, and it would come with five minutes to play.
Sandland swung in a dangerous deep corner and Tash Knapman, on as a substitute, stooped to head the ball into the net. The prolific forward has made an established career of being a clinical finisher and her first City goal since her return was soon followed by a second, the ball falling kindly from Markham’s blocked shot, as she slotted past Mcgrogan to secure the three points.
City failed to shake off the blues of last week’s performance in the opening half hour but will be pleased to have fought back and won a game against a side who will surely be in the promotion hunt this season. The Grecians have recruited strongly this summer and settling the squad and nature of play will take time, but two wins from two in the league lays a strong foundation for when City start to hit their full potential in the coming weeks, as a squad of this talent surely will. Next up is the visit of Torquay United on Wednesday evening at the Exwick Sports Hub (7.45pm.)