Exeter City Women finished the season in emphatic fashion with a 4-0 victory over Swindon Town, sealing a faultless home record for 2022/23 and a National League run of form that has seen the team win 16 of their last 17 league fixtures.
If there were any early nerves for the Grecians it certainly did not show, Mollie Taylor glancing a header narrowly wide after two minutes, before the Jess Sandland-Taylor combination created another headed chance that missed the target. Zoe Watkins produced a fine save from Swindon Goalkeeper Emily McGrogan moments later, City unable to convert the follow up before Jenna Markham struck over the top from a lofted pass in behind the Town backline.
McGrogan and Sarah Stacey challenged for a cross with twenty minutes on the clock, the Town Number One landing awkwardly and dislocating a finger in the process. With no substitute Goalkeeper, it was up to midfielder Rianne Bourne-Hallett to put the gloves on and see off the Grecians attack.
Ishbel Zuurmond produced two successive moments that threatened to break the deadlock. Her cutback awaited a City forward to convert, but with no takers, Swindon cleared, the creative midfielder then heading over the resulting corner.
With frustrations starting to build, it would be down to one of City’s most reliable performers to ease the tension. Markham’s cross fell to Stacey and the Grecians goal machine converted on the turn for her 28th League goal of the campaign.
Mollie Taylor headed another Sandland set piece over before the break, with City ending the half on top but not producing the clear-cut chances their dominance in possession and territory should have generated.
With the half time downpour subsiding, City started the second half brightly. Sandland drove towards the Swindon penalty area before a precise delivery found the head of Stacey, her glance impressively denied by stand in keeper Bourne-Hallett. Markham and Stacey then had shots blocked, Stacey with another shot from distance that cleared the crossbar.
The second goal would come within ten minutes of the half played; Mollie Taylor delivering a cross towards Stacey whose classy volley gave Bourne-Hallett no chance.
Swindon had failed to cause Abbi Bond too much trouble in the City goal, however the ever-willing running of Annabelle Colston, who became isolated in the second half, kept the defence on guard. Bow Jackson making two strong challenges on the cover to deny the talented forward a shot at goal.
Taylor was proving a constant threat from set pieces, yet it was her run towards goal on the second phase of play that brought a foul and City a penalty on the hour. Watkins stepped up to complete an incredible goal scoring season, her tenth league goal, with a decisive spot kick.
City rounded off the afternoon with a classy goal, Jackson and Steph Beck with neat interplay before Jackson crossed for Jenna Markham to finish her season with another goal. However, with Cardiff City ahead at home to Southampton Women’s FC, the game petered out towards the final whistle.
An incredible season is complete with 19 wins from 22 league games and only 2 defeats all year. Without the equally impressive consistency of Cardiff City, you have to feel that Sunday would have seen a Championship trophy in the hands of Captain Manfy Sharpe. Now all the Grecians can do is wait.
The South Wales side will go to Moneyfields next Sunday knowing a win will secure the title, City will be hoping that Moneys can repeat their win over Cardiff from earlier in the season to send the title down to Devon.
Whatever next week brings, City are a side on the up, with over 8,500 people watching the team this season and average crowds close to doubling. Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side can look forward to a bright future, whatever division they find themselves in next season.