Preparations for the upcoming Devon County Cup Semi Final were stepped up on Sunday afternoon, as Exeter City confidently beat visiting Callington Town.
The Cornish side play in the same division as the Grecian’s Semi Final opponents, and so this proved to be the exact challenge needed as the players continue their return to football after the lengthy suspension of play.
With the confidence of last weekend’s victory with them, City started brightly. Meg Robinson was proving a threat to Callington’s right side and a through ball from Zoe Watkins gave the forward an early chance, Goalkeeper Sara Rowe quick off her line to deny the opportunity on this occasion. Mia Preston was next to go close to opening the scoring, her shot from a tight angle rolled across the face of goal before being cleared for a corner. Mollie Taylor rose highest from the resulting delivery, being denied brilliantly by Rowe who palmed away the powerful header.
City did have the ball in the net shortly after, Connie Pengelly tucking home the rebound after an Emily Toogood shot from distance had been saved, frustratingly for the home side, the flag was raised for offside. Mollie Taylor and Mia Preston were linking well on City’s right and the two combined to provide a chance for Connie Pengelly, again it was to be Rowe on hand to deny an opening goal.
Meg Robinson was now proving a constant threat to the visitors and she came close to breaking the deadlock with two quick chances, the first saw a low drive hit the inside of the post, before a defence splitting pass from Zoe Watkins saw another one one one opportunity and more Rowe heroics. Frustration was building as City’s slick passing was bringing the chances but not the goals it warranted. However, with ten minutes before half time, more good play on City’s right led to Meg Robinson receiving the ball in the penalty area and striking low into the corner. It was a lead the Grecians had deserved.
After patiently waiting for the opening goal, one quickly became two. Mollie Taylor won the ball in a strong tackle before receiving the return ball on the edge of the penalty area and guiding it into the far corner. It was Taylor’s second goal in two games since her arrival from Buckland Athletic and gave City a more comfortable lead at Half Time.
The Second Half began with a flurry of goalmouth action. Anthea Kaptein, who had linked play from midfield and attack so well all afternoon, found an Emily Toogood run and her cross was drilled home by Steph Beck with the help of a deflection. City’s Midfield, full of quality and experience, was now dominating. Zoe Watkins, who had been the provider of so many chances herself, found space in the penalty area to release a shot that found the far corner of the net for a fourth. A free kick in the centre of the pitch was taken short for Jaydee Seaman to send a wonderful curling cross into the area and it was emphatically met by Connie Pengelly to further extend the home side’s lead. 5 goals in twenty five minutes of play either side of half time had changed the complexion of the game completely.
With the result secured, City Managers Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley rang the changes, giving opportunity and minutes to a young bench. Mia Preston went close to extending the lead, her fierce shot again bringing the best out of Rowe. Preston had run the channels endlessly all game and, with her considerable technical attributes and link play, is beginning to realise her considerable potential. Having the confidence to take opportunities to shoot when offered will only aid her development further, slotting home a rebound minutes later would have seen a deserved goal, sadly the flag went up to deny her.
For all the positives from the afternoon, Callington did find the net with ten minutes remaining. The City defence, of which had been so dominant all afternoon and a considerable part of building attacking play, failed to clear a bouncing ball and it was punished by the visitors who were finishing the game strongly.
With time running out on a hot afternoon, City would end on a high note. Jess Sandland, only just turned sixteen years old and newly promoted from the Girls Development Centre, found space in the Callington penalty area and drilled home at the near post. Sandland was making only her second appearance but already looks a considerable talent and will be a player whose progress will be one to watch heading into the new league campaign.
A comfortable home win, as City again showed that they have returned from the Lockdown period fit and ready to make the most of the opportunities on offer before the summer break. Next up is that all important Semi Final and the chance to finish a stuttering campaign with the prospect of some silverware.