Exeter City Women progressed through to the Semi Final of the League Cup Plate Competition with an assured performance at Billericay Town on Sunday, knocking their higher league opponents out of the competition.
Jenna Markham was unable to force an opportunity on goal before Town Goalkeeper Alex Baker came to collect the loose ball, Mollie Taylor’s cross evading the outstretched foot of Sarah Stacey as City started brightly. The home side broke in behind the Grecians defence with a lofted pass, Jess Sandland reading the danger and clearing the low cross from danger.
Zoe Cunningham sent a volley towards goal from the latest City corner, the midfielder then testing Baker’s handling from a free kick. Zoe Watkins hustled back possession to provide a shooting opportunity for Markham to find Baker’s hands again, but it was only half chances for the Grecians against a well organised home defence.
On what would prove an afternoon were neither side would be left happy with officials, Stacey was sin binned for arguing her point too assertively and City would be down to ten for a ten-minute spell. The Grecians not only dealt with the numerical advantage comfortably, but also created their best chance of the game. Taylor intercepting a loose pass and driving forwards, her pass found Markham who committed the Town defence, a deflected effort brilliantly clawed away by Baker.
With five to go before the break, the home side were the next recipients of the referee's lack of patience, Maddie Biggs sin binned for dissent. It was a moment that nearly worked to City’s advantage. Phoebe Baker broke into the penalty area and saw her cross blocked, Taylor drilling an effort goalwards only to be denied by another strong hand from Baker. Goalless at the break.
The second half began with neither side able to provide the required composed football to create chances, Markham nearly profiting from confusion between the home defence and Baker in some rare goalmouth action. Sandland cleared the latest Town attempt to breech the Grecians defence, Taylor quick on the cover on the one time that the threat of breaching that back line caused alarm.
With the game looking set for Extra time, City forged in front. Cunningham won a free kick twenty-five yards from goal and took on the delivery duty herself, clipping a cross to into the Town penalty area for substitute Beth Ireland to compete for the header, the ball dropping kindly for Stacey to slam in from close range and give City the lead.
Ireland’s composure in possession and ability to drive at tired home defenders was giving City a new threat, Markham did well to settle a bouncing ball in the Town penalty area and her set allowed Ireland to drill in from the edge of the penalty area to double the lead with ten minutes to play.
The Grecians had performed superbly at Cheltenham Town in their last cup tie but allowed a winning position to slip away at the death, there would be no repeat as lessons were clearly learnt that day. City slowed the play down, took their moments to control the tempo and territory of the game and Grecians’ Goalkeeper Abbi Bond would have a quiet end to a quiet afternoon.
A memorable win against strong opponents, a game underlying that City have the ability to play the style of football that suits the occasion and find ways to win a variety of challenges. A semi-final awaits with the chance to play in a national final, Cambridge United their opponents as the team await the venue draw for the tie. Next up is AFC Bournemouth in a top of the table clash, games don’t come much bigger in the search for promotion and on this showing Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s team look ready for the battle.