Exeter City Women exited the FA Women’s at the final qualifying round stage of the competition following a 4-3 defeat away at Cheltenham.
The Grecians started the match brightly, creating the better opportunities and dominating possession, but it was the hosts that took the lead after 24 minutes.
City felt there was a foul on Zoe Watkins in in the lead up to the opener, but Abbie Bevan dispatched her shot superbly into the top corner from 25 yards out.
The visitors hit back as Hope Sumonien went past several players before shooting wide and then Anthea Kaptein hit the post with a good effort. However, Cheltenham went into the break with a two-goal lead as Annie Martin picked the ball up on the left, dribbled past three players before unleashing a great shot that flew past Rhiannon Dumper at her near post.
The Grecians were back in the match four minutes after the break as a cross in was helped on by Watkins for player-manager Abbie Britton to poke home from two yards out.
Ten minutes later and the game was all square as Ella Mae Miller attacked down the left before delivering a cross that was half cleared to Eden May, who chipped the ball back into the box for Britton to head in her second goal of the game.
However, two quick-fire goals from Cheltenham saw them regain control of the tie. Both were good finishes from Martin, who completed her hat-trick, but came from uncharacteristic errors in midfield from the Grecians.
The Grecians kept pushing forward though and had the tie back in the balance with two minutes to go as Georgie Barbour-Gresham played a great through ball for Britton to slot home her third goal of the match.
However, despite a late free-kick, the Grecians could not find an equalizer and were left to rue their errors in the second half that gifted the hosts control of the tie after they had wrestled in back to 2-2.
City will be back in action this weekend when they are away to Swindon Town.
Aaron Wakely, Exeter City Women’s first team coach, said: “It was disappointing to concede two first-half goals, but the way the girls responded in the second half and took the fight to Cheltenham was great. I can’t fault their effort.
“This is a young squad and many of them are still learning the game. This is a huge step up for them, so game like this will only help their development.
“We wish Cheltenham Town the best of luck in the next round and we will look forward to meeting them in a couple of weeks’ time for the league fixture.”
Exeter City Women: Rhiannon Dumper, Ella Mae Miller, Emily Toogood, Hope Souminen, Manfy Sharpe, Abbie Britton, Georgie Barbour-Gresham, Anthea Kaptein, Eden May, Zoe Watkins. Subs: Katherine Mundy, Mia Preston, Bowman