Exeter City Women were well beaten on their visit to South Wales, as Cardiff City Ladies ran riot to record a 5-0 win and continue their faultless start to the new season.
The Dragons have been in exceptional goalscoring form, with sixteen goals in their first two games, and it did not take long for them to create chances in this fixture. A lofted pass in behind the City backline was raced onto by the Cardiff forward and her low shot was palmed away by Abbi Bond. Jenna Markham, on debut for the Grecians, then showed her pace and power by sprinting clear before her pass evaded the run of Sarah Stacey.
Whilst the home side's tactic was not hard to predict, it was proving effective and hard to stop, as another clipped ball into space was rewarded with another chance on goal. Jess Sandland recovered to make the tackle on the initial attempt but her interception only fell to the feet of Emily Poole who tapped in from close range for the lead.
The requirement to be more direct on grass surfaces is perhaps a lesson City will need to adapt to as the season progresses as, caught in possession in a deep area once more, Chloe Lloyd was slotted in on goal and her clinical finish doubled the lead.
Abbi Bond then came to her team's rescue with a strong save after City had failed to clear the initial cross, but it was only a slight reprieve as the home side made it three on half time. Space behind the defence was again exposed and, as the forward went to shoot, the defensive challenge sent her tumbling and the resulting penalty was dispatched for a well-deserved half time lead.
Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakely sent on Zoe Watkins and Connie Pengelly at half time and City started to impose themselves on the game, Becky Danridge broke from midfield to force O’Sullivan into her first save before Pengelly nearly got on the end of a Markham cross.
Caught in possession and exposed to Cardiff’s pace, the home side should have ended the contest ten minutes into the half. Ellie Sargent raced clear but her pass across goal was miskicked wide when it really should have been converted.
Watkins was busy in midfield and Sarah Stacey and Markham both had attempts at goal, but the good fortune City needed to find a way back into the game was not on offer as it was to be the Dragons who scored next. Retreating from another direct run the Grecians made two big blocks to prevent the initial shot, but the third time proved lucky enough as Emily Richards smashed the ball into the top corner.
City’s best chance came with ten minutes remaining, Markham, who had been lively throughout, rose to meet a Watkins free kick but her header was brilliantly palmed away by O’Sullivan.
Whilst City had improved considerably in possession in the second half, the threat was consistent from the home side and it was only a matter of time before Sargent’s pace brought reward. She effortlessly raced away from the Grecians' backline and slotted home number five with only minutes remaining to complete a comprehensive afternoon for Cardiff.
A sobering afternoon for City, who have started the season well, but will look upon Sunday as having witnessed this season’s side to beat. A team that conceded eighteen goals last season has now conceded eight in the first five games and, out of possession, City will need to improve to be in the mix come next spring. With a tough start to the season concluding with the visit of league leaders AFC Bournemouth at St James Park in two weeks time, staying in the pack and having a strong autumn will be the aim for the months ahead.