Exeter City Women progressed to round two of the Women’s National League Cup with a strong performance over London Bees. It was City’s seventh consecutive victory in all competitions.
The Grecians have been starting games brightly in recent weeks and, after a scrappy start, it was a trend that continued when the first chance fell City’s way. A pass was clipped forward and fell into the path of Jenna Markham, the City forward raced clear and chipped the advancing Mia North in the Bees Goal for an early lead.
Playing in the Division above the Grecians, it was no surprise to see the Bees hit back. Juliet Khinde Adebowale raced clear from a precisely weight through ball and her cross just evaded the onrushing forward at the back post.
With pressure starting to build, City were given the perfect chance to double their lead. Jess Sandland won a corner with a driving run into the visitor's box and as the resulting cross came in Mollie Taylor was clumsily bundled to the ground. Zoe Watkins is enjoying her most prolific season in front of goal and is not one to be flustered from the spot, she calmly struck the ball into the bottom corner and the Grecians had two.
When Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side gain momentum in games they rarely fail to take advantage, with the Bees under pressure, Sarah Stacey closed down a back pass and blocked North’s attempted clearance, tapping in to the empty net for a three-goal lead within twenty-four minutes.
City were nearly the makers of their own problems moments later, a needlessly conceded corner was headed onto the outside of the post but that reprieve would prove a brief one. Bees were awarded a free kick on the edge of the penalty area and as the ball was touched wide of the City wall, Danielle Puddefoot drilled past Bond.
Markham and Stacey both had attempts on goal as the game headed into the break, a finally poised Cup tie.
Connie Pengelly had a glorious chance to finish the tie in the early moments of the second half, in behind the visitors defence, she clipped the ball over North but it was the wrong side of the side netting for City’s liking.
The next goal always looked set to structure the pattern of the half and it would go to Marie Hourihan’s side. Patient build up play provided the opportunity to cross the ball into the City penalty area and as Bond and Taylor O’Leary collided it was the visiting striker who got the final touch to set up a thrilling finish.
The Grecians have been in strong defensive form of late and, as the Bees pressed for the equaliser, that form was tested. Jaydee Seaman and Manfy Sharpe were winning their individual battles, with the visitors largely restricted to play outside of the City penalty area and few moments to trouble Bond despite the territorial advantage.
A lobbed effort from the lively Whinnett that dipped over Bond’s crossbar was as close as the visitors would come, City’s move to a big three in the closing moments denting the Bees threat. It was actually the Grecians who came closest to a goal, Emily Toogood and Bow Jackson both heading narrowly wide from Mollie Taylor free kicks.
A feisty cup tie, with the referee in the game as much as any player, but one that City will be delighted to have been victorious in. The League Cup Trophy may not be a priority for the Grecians this season, but the opportunity to prove the squad's ability at a higher level is always welcome and Britton and Wakley’s side have again shown their capability. All eyes now turn to the FA Cup this weekend with the visit of AFC Bournemouth to the Exwick Hub.