A busy first week of pre season for Exeter City Women, but a highly successful one, as a five goal victory over visiting Liskeard Athletic made it three wins from three.
City started in their customary probing way, building play from defence and looking to find the opening with patient possession football. After a succession of crosses had failed to find their target, Phoebe Baker was to create the first big chance. Intercepting a Liskeard pass, she drove towards goal before hitting a low shot across the goalmouth, with the ball being cleared, Emily Toogood’s follow up strike was over the crossbar.
The best of the Grecian’s early build up was the result of interplay between Taylor, Grigg and Baker. Katie Grigg’s latest cross looked destined to be headed home by Sarah Stacey, but some excellent defensive cover cleared the ball for a corner. Stacey was again causing a threat moments later, receiving a long pass on her chest, she volleyed the ball onto the roof of the net as City got closer to the opening goal.
However, for all the home team’s dominance, it was Liskeard who had the best chance of the opening half hour. The high bounce of the ball deceived the City defence leaving a one-on-one opportunity, fortunately the effort was just wide of the upright. With that scare survived, City went in front. A ball into the channel from Emily Toogood was picked up by Connie Pengelly, the young forward created the angle for the shot and curled the ball into the top corner. Pengelly hitting her sixth goal of the week as her preparation for the new season could not be going much better.
With the visitors sitting deep, City were up against a far more resilient opponent than they had faced during the week, and it was becoming a frustrating period as they looked to extend the lead before half time. As the interval loomed, Liskeard would again give notice of their threat on the break, with the goal in sight, the shot would again go narrowly wide. City were left in no doubt that there was still a game to be won in the second half as they whistle blew for the break.
Phoebe Baker was making here first appearance of the season and her dominant presence in the Grecians midfield was evident as the second half began. Slaloming past defenders and increasing the tempo of the home sides passing, Baker was a key part of the chances being created as City looked to gain a bigger advantage in the game.
Natalie Warman replaced Connie Pengelly with an hour played and immediately made her mark on the game. Intercepting a loose pass from the Liskeard defence, she drove towards goal before playing the perfect cross for Sarah Stacey to tap home. Stacey’s prowess in being in the right place at the right time looks set to see her contribute plenty of goals to the Grecian’s cause this season.
As good a week as it has been for City, the dominance in performances has not helped the Goalkeepers in their preparation for the new season. Another Liskeard break resulted in a brilliant low strike that looked set to get the visitors back into the game, however Abbi Bond was down well to palm the ball away for an excellent save.
Mollie Taylor and Emily Toogood had attempted to link on several occasions throughout the afternoon, with the perfect ball just eluding them. Yet, with twenty minutes left to play, that ball would arrive perfectly from Taylor. Toogood, who had seen an afternoon of half chances, was not going to miss such an opportunity and volleyed home for a City third.
Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley continued to ring the changes, as a large City squad all felt the benefit of minutes on the pitch. One player who had been subjected to change was Jess Sandland, coming on after half an hour to play in defence before switching to a more familiar midfield role. However, regardless of position, Sandland continue to impress at just sixteen years old. Her thunderbolt of a shot with a quarter of the game remaining was undoubtedly the goal of the afternoon.
Buoyed by the strike, Sandland was now a dominant figure in midfield, distributing the ball with quality whenever in possession. With time running out, Sandland turned the defender on the edge of the penalty area and sent a brilliant curling effort into the bottom corner to round off another excellent afternoon, for both herself and her team.
Natalie Warman nearly made it six, her constant threat on the City left this time resulting in a shooting chance that Sara Rowe did well to push away.
A busy week, but three wins and no goals conceded. City’s strikers have all felt the ball hit the net and it has been a week of hard work with plenty of reward. The final match before the big kick off comes next weekend with the visit of Swansea City Ladies, a team who completed the Welsh Premier League and Cup double last season and are preparing for a Women’s Champions League Fixture against CSKA Moscow. Don’t miss it!