Exeter City Women took advantage of AFC Bournemouth’s postponed fixture to extend their lead at the top to nine points with a hard-fought win at Moneyfields on Sunday.
City created the game’s first big chance after five minutes, Sophie Gillies was bundled to the ground for what looked a certain penalty, but the referee instead signalled for a corner. Jess Sandland’s delivery was punched off the line by Money’s Goalkeeper Rosie Kite, City then having three efforts on target that were scrambled clear by the home side.
Gillies was denied her first goal since her return when the offside flag denied her minutes later as City pressed early on. A midfield battle ensued, the Grecians probing away but unable to create a clear-cut chance as the home side fought for every loose ball. Zoe Cunningham and Phoebe Baker both fired over the crossbar from distance as you sensed that the Grecians were looking the most likely to break the deadlock before the break.
Cunningham wriggled free of tackles on the touchline with clever footwork before cutting back to the waiting City forwards, her pass deflected across goal and Mollie Taylor was in the right place to smash home from a yard out as the opening goal finally arrived.
The Grecians quickly doubled their advantage. Taylor’s clipped pass put Sarah Stacey through on goal, the forward twisted and turned to get a shot off and, as the ball deflected from a Moneys tackle, Gillies was in the right place to drill home.
City had led by two goals at the break in the reverse fixture back in September, only for Moneys to fight back to level the game, so it was no surprise to see the home side mount early pressure. A shot over the crossbar resulting from a prolonged spell of possession.
With the pattern of the half looking set, the Grecians settled any nerves with a strike of their own. The impressive Gillies rolling a pass back to Taylor to blast into the top corner from twenty-five yards.
Karl Jackson’s side are always competitive, and they would not be giving up on the afternoon with the Grecians third. Manfy Sharpe heading clear a dangerous cross, before Taylor found herself clean through on goal but finished with the composure of someone who rarely finds themselves in such a position.
Kau’Inohea Taylor gave Moneys hope just after the hour mark, a powerful byline cross glanced beyond Bond to close the Grecians lead. Kimberley Fuller had a glorious opportunity to make it a tight finish with fifteen minutes to play, the City defence watching as a looped cross was floating in and the Moneys forward glanced a free header wide of the target.
Beth Ireland was the recipient of a slick City counter, Kerry Bartlett’s cut back finding the midfielder who saw her effort on goal blocked. It would be Bartlett’s involvement that helped seal the points, Stacey’s pass putting the forward in on goal, her miss-hit falling into the path of Connie Pengelly who found the corner of the net as she so often does.
The Grecians have faced four of the top five away from home in their last six league fixtures and will be delighted have picked up ten points. With a third of the season complete, top position in the league table, a League Cup Plate Semi Final against Derby County and Devon County Cup Final place all to look forward to, the Grecians have it all to play for in the next ten weeks.