As warm up games go, this one was very warm. The hottest day of the year was not the ideal conditions for Exeter City Women to ease into the new season, but with a determined display, they overcame an equally hard working Portishead Town side at Speeds Meadow on Sunday afternoon.
With recent signings Abbi Bond and Katie Grigg making their debuts, City started brightly. Using the width of Toogood and Grigg, the ball was spending most of the team in the Portishead Town half. It would not take long to create a meaningful opportunity, Mia Preston escaped her marker and crossed for Esme Kilburn-Thompson who diverted the ball into the net for an early lead.
Despite that initial superiority, City were nearly in trouble from the restart. The Portishead forward was in on goal before being forced wide by the on rushing Abbi Bond, the subsequent effort was brilliantly cleared off the line by Katie Grigg before Manfy Sharpe blocked the follow up to deny the visitors.
Scare survived, the Grecians were now settling in possession. The right hand side would again provide an opportunity to extend the lead. A perfectly weighted pass from Steph Beck found the willing run of Grigg, her cross was deflected into the path of Kilburn-Thompson, whose effort was wide of the target.
Jess Sandland was next to try her luck from distance, whilst a deep run from Steph Beck created a shooting opportunity that the midfielder could not quite get the accuracy on to test the goalkeeper.
The half hour mark saw a break in play as the players hydrated, with Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley choosing to make changes to offer opportunity to the squad. One of those substitutions, Connie Pengelly, made an instant impact. Her corner found a way through to Katie Grigg who struck a fierce shot towards goal that was innocuously diverted over the crossbar by a City player. Pengelly, who was working hard to time her running off the last Portishead defender, was then put in on goal by a Mollie Taylor pass. The City Number Nine chose to shoot early and was narrowly wide with her effort.
Jess Sandland was the next to go close, her effort from a corner trickled towards goal before being cleared, whereas one of City’s two trialists on the day then had an effort well held by the Portishead keeper. Emily Toogood would go closest of all shortly before the break, a fierce strike from the edge of the penalty area thumped the underside of the cross bar and out for safety.
The City Management made some more changes at half time, rotating the squad in the now soaring afternoon heat. The Grecians would start the second half in the same way they had the first, with a goal. Connie Pengelly twisted and turned in the penalty area before hitting a powerful shot high towards the goal, the visiting keeper could not hold on and the linesman signalled that the ball had crossed the line for the second goal.
Pengelly and her Trialist strike partner were linking well, a cut back to Connie saw her shot just dip over the bar as the pressure continued. A fiercely struck corner was almost converted by City’s other trialist, but again the goal line was well marshalled by the Portishead defence and the chance was cleared.
For all the home sides dominance in possession, the visitors were battling hard and created their best opportunity of the game moments later. A free kick from the City right was swung in and the headed chance went over the crossbar.
Pengelly was next to trouble the Somerset side’s defence, collecting a Sandland free kick, she hit a fierce shot on the turn that was well saved at the near post. City were to go close yet again as a Grigg cross made its way across the six yard box, the trialist forward just failing to connect for a goal that her work rate deserved.
With both teams tiring, the game ended without incident, although young goalkeeper Lucy Spiller did come on and make her debut in the closing moments. It was Spiller’s first opportunity at Senior level and was reward for her hard work in pre season.
After three weeks of industrious training, these were the ultimate conditions to test out that preparation. Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley will be pleased to have come through the game with a win and a clean sheet, the next test comes on Thursday evening with the visit of Bideford to Speeds Meadow.