Exeter City Women completed 2023 with a ninth league win from nine as they beat Abingdon United on Sunday afternoon.
With a two week break during a sporadic spell of fixtures, City showed no signs of lethargy as they started brightly. Zoe Cunningham hit a strong effort from distance as Jenna Markham turned the Abingdon defence, Ishbel Zuurmond causing similar problems with her direct running and ability to commit defenders.
Markham had the Grecians first big chance, racing on to a pass from Zuurmond, she shot across goal and produced an outstanding save from United Goalkeeper Hannah Cox. Sarah Stacey then had a similar chance which again produced another good low stop from Cox.
Bow Jackson and Cunningham played some slick interchange football to create a crossing opportunity, Zuurmond glancing the ball into the hands of Cox from close range with a tame header as the visitors pressed. Cunningham was doing her best to create that City opening, firing a free kick narrowly over before slaloming into the penalty area and firing a cross that somehow evaded a City connection.
With half time looming and frustration growing, the Grecians found a goal. Cunningham’s free kick was driven low and as Cox spilled the ball Stacey was in place to smash the loose ball home. A lead at the break.
With the home side well drilled on the edge of their penalty area, the second half began in similar fashion to the first, City probing away and looking for openings. Jess Sandland’s lofted pass found Zuurmond, her cross just beating the on-rushing Stacey at the back post.
With patience the key, the Grecians would eventually find that second goal. Jenna Markham was released with a precise through ball and the City Number Nine confidently fired in her seventeenth goal of the season.
With the game drifting towards its conclusion, it would be the introduction of Connie Pengelly that sparked the Grecians back to life. Manfy Sharpe’s defence splitting pass to Amber Pollock led to a perfectly weighted back post cross and Pengelly converted her first senior goal since returning to City this season from close range.
Buoyed by the strike, Pengelly turned her marker on the edge of the penalty area and struck narrowly over before coming even closer moments later as she struck the crossbar from a narrow angle.
A comfortable win for City and one that completes a ninth successive league victory this season, taking Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side joint top of the division. Twenty wins from twenty-one league games in 2023 is an astonishing level of consistency, yet the team will be aware that level will need to be met again in 2024 if the Grecians are to achieve their aim of promotion.