A bitterly disappointing afternoon for the Grecian’s as a return to League action resulted in a heavy loss to Chesham United.
The Buckinghamshire side arrived sitting second in the National League and they cemented their encouraging start to the season with a victory that saw twelve goals over the ninety minutes.
After conceding first in every fixture so far this season, it was City that took the lead. A volleyed effort floated towards the top corner and Lucia Delves did well to tip over. The resulting in swinging corner was headed home by Anthea Kaptein and City had an early lead. Chesham momentarily wobbled as the Grecian’s dominated, but once they regained composure and possession, the chances came. United were finding plenty of space in wide areas and a ball into the City penalty box was easily slotted home for the equaliser by Gemma Fraser. Kyanna Orchard was then at her best to keep out an effort that would have mirrored the visitors first goal, the space left by the home side’s attacking full backs was really being punished when play broke down. Sadly, the reprieve was short lived, more good play on City’s left side and the low cross was tapped home by Kirsty Gladwin to turn the game around.
For a Team that has been so resilient in responding to adversity this season, the Grecian’s uncharacteristically fell apart. As the ball broke on the edge of the area, Anneka Nuttal, a former Women’s Super League player, slotted home goal number three. It would be Nuttal’s corner two minutes later that drifted straight in for number four. Emma Delves then raced on to a straight ball down the middle of the pitch to lob Orchard for number five. Three goals in five Minutes and City had a mountain to climb. The fifth goal coming with an assist from goalkeeper Lucia Delves, whose lengthy kick gave the opportunity for her Wife Emma to score, it was that sort of afternoon.
After being stunned by the wave of goals, City fought back. Abbie Britton had two opportunities to pull a goal back, one strike going narrowly over and the other well saved by Delves. The next five minutes summed up the Home Side’s afternoon. Hope Suominen was fouled for what looked a clear spot kick but the referee felt otherwise, a minute later another corner from Nuttal drifted in at the back post. Chesham were so clinical in attack they now had two goals from crosses they were not even trying to score from. An error in central midfield led to the final chance of the half and, as had been the case all afternoon, the visitors did not miss. Riva Casley took a good first touch and slotted the ball past Orchard for Number Seven.
When faced with a tough afternoon, the Grecian’s needed to show the character to respond in the second half. Ellie Sill made way for Megan Robinson and the start to the half was bright. Hope Suominen was found in the penalty area by Zoe Watkins but her effort did not have the power to beat Delves. With good possession and a positive tempo the fight back was then sucker punched by the visitors, City were again caught on the ball from Chesham’s high press and Gemma Fraser struck from distance to further extend an unassailable lead. Undeterred, City kept playing their football. Hope Suominen found Steph Beck and her firm strike found the corner. The Home side were now in control of the game, but the visitors carried a threat with every attack, and once again found the net. A clean strike from Tasha Smith hit the inside of the post and City were looking at conceding double figures.
In front of a good home crowd City found a moment that brought the biggest cheer of the afternoon, Esme Kilburn-Thompson regained possession and her ball wide found Emily Toogood whose fierce drive gave Delves no chance and was certainly the goal of the game. The match then became bad tempered as the frustrations of the afternoon bore out, but City can be proud of how they reacted in the Second Half as the game came to its conclusion.
A fantastic away performance from Chesham United, their clinical play meant City could not make mistakes and they were sadly quality of too many on the day. With the chance to progress to the FA Cup First Round up next, the Grecians will look to bounce back and, as they have shown on many occasions already this season, that is something this squad excels at.