A crowd of 1550 were treated to a classic contest as Exeter City Women continued their winning start to the 2023/24 National League season in an eight-goal thriller.
City started brightly, Sarah Stacey’s low cross just evading Jenna Markham’s run before Ishbel Zuurmond had a shot blocked by the Money’s defence. As the visitors settled, the flow of the game was broken with a series of offside decisions before the afternoon’s first big chance fell to Karl Watson’s side. Grecians Goalkeeper Abbi Bond cleared the initial danger, but with Captain Manfy Sharpe down with a head injury and Bond now back peddling, a shot was sent goalwards and stunningly turned away from goal by the fingertips of Bond.
City hit back from the scare with a big chance of their own, Stacey’s square pass to Markham bringing a smart stop from Georgia Jenkins in the Moneys goal.
With the game lacking any real flow it needed a goal and Mollie Taylor obliged just past the half hour mark. City broke down their right side and as the ball was cut back to the edge of the penalty area Taylor fired into the top corner, a third successive goal at the Park for the defender.
The Grecians would double their lead shortly before the break, Stacey playing in Zuurmond and her square pass fired in by Markham. For all the fragmented nature of the half, this was a moment of real quality from City and strengthened their position at the interval.
Markham came close to extending the lead early in the second half, controlling a Taylor cross before hitting a low shot against the bottom of the post.
City had looked comfortable but would come unstuck with some poor defensive play. In trying to keep the ball in play, the Grecians only sprung the visitors into a counterattack and a wonderfully weighted ball across the six-yard box was thumped past Bond by substitute Kau’inohea Taylor
For the first time in the game, City looked troubled, Rozalia Sitarz attacking space and the backline under pressure. The equaliser came soon enough, a lofted ball fell between Bond and Jess Sandland and as the ball pin balled around it fell to Taylor who directed the ball into the unguarded net. There was a strong suspicion of handball, signaled by the linesman, by the referee overruled and the goal stood.
After surrendering a two-goal lead, City fought back instantly. Markham timed her run to perfection and strode away from the Moneys defence, calmly slotting past Jenkins to regain the lead.
Markham was the architect for the Grecians fourth, cutting the ball back for Stacey to tap in from close range as City regained their two-goal advantage. Job done and three points secured? Moneys had other ideas. With the game heading into stoppage time, a mishit cross thumped Bond’s crossbar and was blocked for a corner. The set piece was volleyed home by Kim Fuller from close range and it was game on once more.
Markham had been a constant threat, and it was her run that led to City finally gaining the three points. After striding away and seeing her effort on goal stopped by Jenkins on two occasions, the referee pointed to the spot for a handball from a Moneys defender. Steph Beck calmly slotted the penalty beyond Jenkins and the game was finally settled in City’s favour.
Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side will be delighted to have won on such a big occasion at St James Park, but more importantly this is a significant three points in the context of the season over an impressive Moneyfields side. A vocal crowd, an entertaining game and three league points. Not a bad afternoon at The Park for Exeter City Women.