Exeter City moved to within two points of league leaders Cardiff City with a comprehensive win at the Exwick Hub. Sarah Stacey starred with four goals in twenty-five second half minutes.
With a well contested fixture anticipated, the game began with both teams battling in midfield and few chances created. Mollie Taylor’s back post header fell comfortably into the hands of Siren’s Goalkeeper Ellie Parker, before Ishbel Zuurmond weaved her way into the penalty area, drawing a challenge from a visiting defender. There were strong calls for a penalty but the Referee waved them away.
Emily Toogood had the opportunity to add to her free kick tally with two efforts from distance but Parker was untroubled. At the other end, a Shannon Sievwright corner was firmly struck towards the Grecians goal, Phoebe Baker heading off the line as the visitors began to create more attacking threat. Hope Suominen squared up Taylor, before driving into the box, the forward’s final touch giving Abbi Bond the chance to sprint from her line and smother the ball before a shot came in.
As half time approached both teams will have been content, but keen to make more of their attacking threat.
The Grecians began the first half in confident fashion, Jenna Markham hooking the ball to the back post and Toogood’s header just evading Sarah Stacey from converting a simple tap in. An injury to the Referee resulted in former Football League official Brett Huxtable taking control for the second half and he was soon in action, Sarah Stacey clipped from behind and a penalty given to City. Zoe Watkins has been clinical from the spot all season and she fired past Parker for the opening goal.
Scoring goals in clusters has been a hallmark of the Grecians season and one became two five minutes later. Ishbel Zuurmond, who excelled in her first start, patiently built play before playing an exquisite pass to Toogood, her cross found Markham who eased past the defender to cross for Stacey to tap in from close range.
The Sirens enjoyed a sensational comeback last weekend and were soon back in this game. Abbi Bond had made a stunning save to keep out a header from another Sievwright delivery moments earlier, but Suominen raced clear on the City right and her precise pass allowed Sievwright to slot past Bond.
Whilst the goal provided the visitors a way back in, Stacey and Markham were causing a host of problems for the Sirens defence and Stacey’s physicality alongside Markham's boundless energy were to put the game back in City’s favor just two minutes later. Markham raced away from her marker before drawing a strong save from Parker, Stacey quickest to react and power in the rebound.
Phoebe Baker’s dipping shot was palmed into the ground by Parker and Stacey was in the right place once more to nod home the loose ball. City had increased their intensity in the second half and were enjoying the reward for their efforts.
Jess Sandland came off the bench to deliver one of her customary excellent set piece deliveries, Stacey powering above the visiting defence to score her fourth and the team’s fifth.
Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side were well aware of how tough this game and the fixture against Moneyfields would be, strong preparation and intense match day performance has resulted in two fantastic City victories. Next up it is the visit of Cardiff City to the Exwick Hub, with two points separating the teams at the top of the division. Cardiff are enjoying an incredible season and were comfortable victors over the Grecians earlier in the season. Victory for either team on Sunday will have a big say on how the second half of the season concludes.