Exeter City Women secured their highest league finish in seven years with a 1-0 victory over Southampton Women’s FC on Sunday, the three points took City above their opponents and into third spot.
With both sides having similar league campaigns, this was always set to be a tight, cagey contest and so it proved, with chances at a premium in the early stages. A misplaced pass gave a half chance to the visitors prolific Sian Wylie, but her effort was over the crossbar. At the other end a Mollie Taylor cross evaded the final touch of Zoe Watkins. Both team’s commitment was undeniable, but quality in the final third was evading both teams.
City pieced together their best passage of play just before half time, Emily Toogood, Phoebe Baker and Sarah Stacey all combining before Stacey’s shot was hit over the crossbar. Jaydee Seaman was then required to keep the visitors from the taking the lead, Rachel Okoro surging through on goal and denied by a last gasp challenge. Southampton were now having their best spell and an Abbi Bond double save was the only difference in keeping the scores level at the break. Bond saved low to her right before City failed to clear and the follow up drew an even better stop, Bond deflecting the shot wide with a strong hand.
In a game of few chances, the second half again began with plenty of endeavour. Phoebe Baker nearly released Stacey in on goal, before Manfy Sharpe prevented Okoro from squaring the ball at the other end. Mollie Taylor connected with a Connie Pengelly set piece, only for the effort to blocked, and Stacey was almost the recipient of slick City football, that final pass continuing to allude the Grecians.
When the goal did arrive, it was from a direct route. A long pass forward was flicked on by Stacey and into the path of Pengelly, with visiting keeper Ellie Parker advancing, Pengelly went for the chip but her mishit finish ran along the ground and into the far corner. It was goal number twenty six of the season for the eighteen year old and sealed her place as the Division’s Top Scorer this campaign.
Southampton came close to an immediate response, a deep free kick was only half cleared and, as Wylie headed back across goal, a combination of Bond and Seaman managed to clear the ball from the goal line.
Charley Prouse entered the field for her final City appearance before departing to the United States in the summer and her presence settled the home side, managing the final minutes of the game without any further opportunities for the visitors.
Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley ended their first season in charge with a high league finish, a record equalling FA Cup run, a League Cup Plate Quarter Final, a Devon County Cup Final and the Team registering a new record thirteen clean sheets. It has been a busy eight months. Promotion is the aim for this team moving forward, they have shown on many occasions this year how close they are getting, the aim will now be for top spot in 2022/2023. Until then, a summer break, the promise of new recruits to strengthen an already talented squad and the excitement of what next season could bring.