Exeter City Women’s winning league run came to an end, but they will be delighted to bring a point home from Dorset as the top of the table clash with AFC Bournemouth ended all square.
The hosts came out the blocks quickly, turning the City defence with a series of lofted passes. Manfy Sharpe blocked an early Lucy Cooper cross as the Grecians backline were under significant pressure, not helped but giving away a number of free kicks for Bournemouth midfielder Molly Barron-Clark to pepper the penalty area with probing crosses.
Kenni Thompson broke clear of a square City backline to force Abbi Bond into a fantastic save with her feet, the turn and shot from the follow up producing and even more impressive stop as Bond clung onto Thompson’s low driven effort.
After the early pressure, City sprung a counter. Jenna Markham creating her own through ball to chase and firing over the Bournemouth crossbar on the stretch. It was a rare moment of quality in a game that soon transcended into a scrap, free kicks, yellow cards and a lack of any quality in possession had looked set to send the game into the break goalless.
However, the games two most threatening players would combine to give the hosts the lead just before the whistle. Barron-Clark worked a yard to send in a perfectly weighted cross and Thompson powered home the header beyond Bond from close range.
The second half required a City response and it came immediately. Phoebe Baker clipping a precise pass to Markham who deftly controlled the ball and fired home instinctively to level the game.
Bournemouth hit back with an effort of their own, Thompson striking from the edge of the penalty area, the shot tipped onto the upright with a stunning fingertip save from Bond. The frame of the goal took another hit minutes later, this time Alisha Buckingham striking an effort onto the top of the crossbar.
Barron-Clark struck a free kick into the top corner, Bond again at full stretch as she tipped the ball over her crossbar as the home side created all the chances to find a deciding goal. Jess Sandland’s back post corner just evading debutant Georgie-Marie Barbour-Gresham as close as City would come to claiming a winner for themselves.
On a bobbly surface, City never came close to playing their fluid passing game, the game generally transcending into a pattern of defenders running towards their own goals as midfield was bypassed. City’s front two were unusually isolated and it was an afternoon for winning battles and giving everything, which the Grecians certainly did.
Last season a late Bournemouth winner ultimately cost City the title as they missed out on goal difference, Sunday’s hard-earned point could therefore prove all important as this title race looks set to go to the wire.