Exeter City progressed to the first round of the FA Cup with a relentless performance at the Waterways Stadium, recording the biggest win of Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley's tenure.
Saltash United came into the fixture as underdogs and City began the game with an urgency to set the tempo of the game. Connie Pengelly was the first to go close when her shot from close range was blocked on the line, but the reprieve would prove brief. City saw two goalward efforts blocked and, as the City Number Nine went to deliver a cross, the ball swerved and dipped under the crossbar for the lead.
The Grecians have a habit of scoring in quick succession and Pengelly was soon at the double. A lofted pass found Emily Eaton, as Saltash United Goalkeeper Rachel Cain advanced the attempted shot diverted into the path of Pengelly and she tapped into the unguarded net.
The Grecians survived a scare as Nicola Champion hit the crossbar from distance, but the quality of the City play was now bringing regular reward. Chloe Gilroy was enjoying another impressive afternoon and, when given time to shoot on the edge of the United penalty area, she sent a perfectly weighted shot over Cain and into the net.
Gilroy was narrowly wide with her header after a perfect Katie Grigg cross, before City made it four from an unlikely combination. Jaydee Seaman retrieved a short corner and her deep cross was glanced in at the back post by Manfy Sharpe. It was the City Captain’s first goal in over three years.
Not content with the goal, Sharpe then turned provider, playing a neat one-two and driving through the United defence before squaring the ball for Emily Eaton to tap in for her first City goal. Eaton, at her best linking play between midfield and attack, was having a positive impact, her lay off leading to a series of shots that eventually saw the ball fall at Pengelly’s feet and she fired in for her hat trick. Half Time and, thankfully, the driving rain was beginning to relent.
Any suggestion that City may lower their intensity in the second half was soon dispelled as Gilroy’s shot required a block on the goal line, Eaton misjudged a strong chance at the back post and Steph Beck fired over. The pressure was mounting for the Ashes once more.
Eaton and Gilroy, both technical players, were linking well and their incisive play created the chance for Pengelly who took one touch to steady herself before finding the net once more. Pengelly then took the opportunity to add herself to the growing number of assists, sending in a powerful set piece that was headed in by Emily Toogood from close range.
Eaton and Gilroy linked play with Grigg to create the next opportunity and Pengelly was the recipient once more, chipping an exquisite shot over the head of Cain for the Grecian’s ninth and her fifth.
After a tiring afternoon on a heavy pitch, the sight of Jenna Markham entering the game was not going to be a good sign for the Saltash United defence, her pace soon skipping past challenges before a pass to Phoebe Baker made it ten from close range.
No passage of play better underlines City’s relentless play than the eleventh goal. Jaydee Seaman sprinted out of defence, running the full length of the pitch, to receive an Emily Eaton pass before crossing with precision onto the head of Markham. Patient play from a free kick eventually created a shooting chance for Steph Beck and her drilled effort squirmed under the keeper as City added a twelfth.
Whilst City’s progression to Round One was anticipated, the clinical nature of the performance will have greatly please Britton and Wakley. Using the opportunity to give some of the season’s fringe players game time, their contributions were considerable in a dominant performance. None more so than sixteen-year-old Ellen Dixon, who made her first start for the Grecians. Awareness of the game, high quality in possession and willingness to receive the ball, it was a performance of maturity and offers an indication of just what a talent City have in their squad. After a decisive win, all eyes will now turn to today’s draw for Round One.