Exeter City Women kick off the season with a visit to Bridgwater United, the Grecians hoping to make it a winning start in a rare league meeting between the cross-county competitors.
United have undergone a difficult transition period in the last twelve months. Finishing fourth in the Southern Premier League in 2022 and reaching the fourth round of the FA Cup, last season, in contrast, was a big disappointment. As the core of the 2022 team departed, Bridgy were left in a rebuilding position and no wins in their final twelve fixtures confirmed relegation on the final day of the season.
Key departures of experienced duo Charlotte Buxton and Ffion Llewellyn, alongside talented youngsters Tia Asker and Ellie Sara has left Manager Grant Fisher in the hunt for new players. Forwards Chloe Snook and Georgia Vandries have arrived from Larkhall Athletic and Bristol Rovers respectively, whilst Katie Davies also joins from The Gas alongside former Plymouth Argyle youngster Taylor Ford. One player the Grecians will know well is Lexie Watts, who was a consistent performer for the City Reserve team last season and joins United for the new campaign.
United have had a mixed pre-season. A 4-3 win against Liskeard Athletic at Fairfax Park was followed by a comfortable win against Warminster Town. A heavy defeat at Rugby Borough, a big win at Cardiff Met and a draw against Marine Academy Plymouth completed a pre-season that underlined that this is a team currently finding its way after a summer of change.
Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side will go into the game in confident mood after a good pre-season preparation. Sunday’s game might come too soon for those recovering from injury, Tash Knapman, Jess Sandland and Emily Toogood all now returning to full contact training. Connie Pengelly will certainly miss out though as she serves a three-match suspension.
The Grecians spent the majority of last season playing catch up after a slow start to the campaign and will be keen not to make that mistake again, victory on the road on opening day will certainly lay down their first marker of what is hoped will be a successful season for the team.