Exeter City Women’s impressive winning run came to an end as they suffered late heartbreak at AFC Bournemouth on Sunday afternoon.
It was the Grecians first league defeat since September and ended an eight-game run of National League victories.
These two teams had already met twice in league and cup fixtures during the season and there was to be a fast start to this contest. Emily Toogood’s low cross was diverted into the path of Zoe Watkins, her low shot not having sufficient power to test Cherries’ Goalkeeper Katie Scadding.
It was end to end football; Abbi Bond in the City goal soon forced to produce a stunning close range save after the Grecians defence had been caught with a swift Bournemouth counter. Molly Gladwell’s low cross was diverted towards goal and it was brave reaction to prevent the shot crossing the line from the City Number One.
With Bond denying the home side their first clear chance on goal, it was City who were left ruing a missed opportunity of their own moments later. Ishbel Zuurmond and Zoe Watkins’ neat one two created the chance to drill in a low cross, Sarah Stacey met the ball at the back post but diverted it over the crossbar from close range in a golden opportunity to open the goalscoring.
Sin Bins were the talk of last week's fixture and it appears they are on the rise, this time Bournemouth’s Molly Clark having to sit out for ten minutes. For all of City’s territory during the period, it was scraps being fed to the front pair, with Zuurmond and Stacey coming close to converting deep crosses as the Cherries defended their penalty area with confidence.
Two teams renowned for their possession football had been restricted to a battling first half, and it was more direct play that nearly opened the scoring in the second period. Jess Sandland’s corner was flicked on by the head of Bow Jackson, causing a melee on the goal line, the quick reaction of Scadding to claim the loose ball prevented a certain goal.
After a bright Bournemouth start, City had largely nullified the home sides’ threat, but it would be a straight ball through the heart of the defence that undid that control. Pearl Mortimer and Bond reached the lofted pass at the same point, but the Cherries forward got the first touch and tapped the loose ball into an empty net for the lead. Strong protests of the use of an arm were waived away and City were behind.
Undeterred, City hit back. Mollie Taylor’s blocked strike fell to Emily Toogood and the inform defender hooked the ball past Scadding to bring the game level.
Competitive and hard fought from both sides, City were restricted to efforts from long range as the home side sat deep, confident in the knowledge that their opponents would not be able to maneuver the ball with any tempo on the inconsistent surface.
A moment of quality was required as the game neared its conclusion and it was to be Bournemouth who provided it. Beth Everson’s direct run at the heart of the Grecians defence caused the overload and when her pass found Molly Gladwell, the forward slotted past Bond for the lead.
Desperate to win the game and pouring numbers forward, City had been undone on the break.
Late joy last weekend, late heart break this weekend. Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side may be disappointed to have handed the advantage back to Cardiff City, but you have to feel that this will not be the last moment of drama in the National League Title race. A chance to bounce back arrives quickly with Wednesday’s visit to St Austell.