Exeter City Women eased to their sixth league win of the season as they hit Portishead Town for five under the lights at the Exwick Sports Hub on Wednesday evening.
City started in fluid fashion, the pattern of the game set early as Town sat deep and set the Grecians the task of breaking down their defensive wall. Zoe Watkins thumped an effort against the Portishead crossbar as City’s creative midfield began to dominate, Ishbel Zuurmond twisting and turning around the visitor's penalty area with consistent threat.
Sarah Stacey’s effort from distance struck the top of the crossbar, before Zuurmond fizzed an effort narrowly wide of Posset’s Goalkeeper Yasmin Davies right hand post as the home side went in search of the opening goal. Davies tipped Stacey’s latest headed effort onto the crossbar as the Grecians grew increasingly frustrated by the visitors tenacious defending.
However, with half time looming, City would finally break through. Beth Ireland, who was growing ever influential at wing back in an impressive first City start, burst into the penalty area before easing past the defender on the byline and striking towards goal. Davies did well to keep out the deflected effort, but Zoe Watkins was in the right place to bundle the ball over the line for the lead at the break.
The second half would begin much like the first, Town well drilled in their defensive shape and City looking to create opportunities with patient build up. Half time substitute Zoe Cunningham was increasingly dominant in possession and her blocked effort looked goal bound as the Grecians probed away.
The referee’s whistle prevented City from doubling their lead, Markham’s header from a corner ruled out for a push. But the home side and Markham would not have to wait long for a goal, Cunningham played a perfectly weighted pass over the Town defence and Markham, one on one with Davies, slotted home for her tenth of the season.
After having to remain patient, Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side seized their moment. Bow Jackson’s floated cross was glanced in by Markham moments later as City hit three.
Three then become four in a frantic five-minute spell. Cunningham, who has built a reputation on her ability to strike from distance, hit her first City goal with a sweetly struck effort from twenty-five yards, the ball dipping below Davies.
Markham went close to a hat trick, her downward header dropping just the wrong side of the post, but it would be Cunningham who had the final say. Wriggling free of challenges on the edge of the penalty area and thumping a shot towards goal that Davies could only parry into the top corner.
Six League wins from six and a twentieth consecutive home win, City have made just the start to the 2023/24 campaign they had hoped for. A visit to Southampton is next up on Sunday afternoon, with the Grecians hoping to make it a magnificent seven and continue to apply pressure on early pacesetters AFC Bournemouth. The early signs are that this season may look similar to the last one, with the margins of error increasingly narrow in the hunt for promotion.