Exeter City Women suffered defeat against MK Dons in the League Cup on Sunday, but not without giving their higher league opponents a scare on a cold December afternoon.
The Grecians were looking to bounce back after a disappointing performance at Portishead the week previous, and had a great chance to take the lead within the first minute. Jess Sandland hustled possession and her low cross found Jenna Markham, her effort on the stretch brilliantly blocked by MK Goalkeeper Chloe Sansom.
The visitor's Captain was again called upon moments later, Emily Toogood’s corner was punched away by Sansom, with Sarah Stacey unable to direct the loose ball goalward with a headed effort. Sandland fired a shot over the crossbar before Stacey had the ball in the net, heading over the advancing Sansom from a lofted pass, but the linesman's flag ruled the goal out for offside.
For all of City’s bright play, it would be a mistake that gave the visitors a foothold in the game. Mollie Taylor’s under hit back pass fell nicely into the path of Mollie Coupar and she calmly slotted past Abbi Bond for the lead.
City hit back immediately. Bow Jackson surged down the right and sent in a low cross that just evaded the back post run of Markham. Sandland had another effort from distance, failing to trouble Sansom, as City looked to get level before the break.
However, it would be the Buckinghamshire side who had the clear chances to add to the scoresheet before the interval. City were caught playing a loose ball into midfield, Coupar’s resulting cross diverted towards goal and forcing a brilliant save from Bond, Jaydee Seaman clearing the loose ball. Coupar was in on goal again shortly after, her lofted effort comfortably claimed by Bond as City held firm.
The Grecians two big moments would come early in the second half. Zoe Watkins and Markham combined to create a one-on-one opportunity for Stacey, her shot agonisingly wide of Sansom’s right hand post. Stacey’s physicality and relentless running was causing the visiting defence problems all afternoon and she again found herself one-on-one with Sansom, this time the shot was over the crossbar from close range.
Abbi Bond made a good low save as the game became a midfield scrap, neither team creating clear cut opportunities as City pressed for an equaliser and MK looked to settle the tie. With the visitors resilient and restricting City to few attempts on goal, the pace and energy of their substitutions always looked a threat, and so it proved. As the game entered it’s tenth minute of injury time, Angelina Nixon neatly turned away from the last defensive challenge to race clear and send Charlie Bill’s team through.
An entertaining cup tie, with Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side matching their higher league opponents for large parts of the game and delivering a performance to be proud of. The focus can now turn to the League for 2023, with two important fixtures scheduled before the Christmas break. City will now be hoping for a high placed finish and to be in pole position to pounce should Cardiff City drop points.