Exeter City Women Report

4th November 2019

Exeter City Women 3

Cheltenham: Bevan 24′, Martin 42′ 61′, 75′
Exeter: Britton 49′, 59′, 89′

Cheltenham Town Ladies confirmed their place in the First Round Proper of the SSE Women’s FA Cup with a seven goal thriller against Exeter City Women which saw two hat-tricks.

The game had a bit of pace to it from the off, with both teams playing some good passing football and pressuring the opposition. The teams traded set piece opportunities in the early minutes but neither were able to really capitalise. After things settled down, Exeter started the better of the two teams, playing some good flowing football and looking to exploit Cheltenham’s slow start.

After withstanding the pressure of a number of Exeter attacks, Cheltenham were able to fashion their own chances with a couple of good opportunities falling for Kerry Bartlett, however the striker was off balance and couldn’t convert.

After Exeter were stopped by an offside flag, Cheltenham tried to play quickly, only to hand possession back to the visitors, but it was Abby Bevan who would open the scoring for Cheltenham; the Robins pressuring the Grecians’ defence as they tried to play out from the back. A Bartlett tackle saw the loose ball fall to Bevan, who struck her shot first time, getting the precision just right. The shot flying in, hitting the top corner with frightening accuracy from 25 yards out.

Exeter would respond with a venom in their play, a good run and drive into the Cheltenham penalty area stopped only by the left foot of Mai Butler. While at the other end, Annie Martin (pictured) and Bartlett would be a constant threat to the Grecians’ back line, both with and without the ball as they chased and battled for anything coming their way.

The game would develop into something of an end-to-end, fast-paced, FA Cup tie, with Exeter showing ever increasing signs of danger going forward, Butler and Ellis both on hand to deal with the sweeping passes.

But arguably against the run of play, it was Cheltenham who would extend their lead. Martin chased a ball down the left, before stepping inside, taking it past three Exeter defenders and whipping a shot just inside the near post.

Minutes later Martin would be in again, in almost the same position, however, her cross to Bartlett was cut out by a superb volley. Exeter would hammer on the door for the remaining minutes, with Fensome, Dolloway, Butler and Hallsworth all involved in keeping the visitors out at the break.

Half Time: CTLFC 2-0 Exeter City Women

While the visitors couldn’t find the net in the first half, it didn’t take long for them to get on the scoresheet at the start of the second half. Four minutes were on the stopwatch before a cross into the box was prodded home by Abbie Britton from only a couple of yards out.

Cheltenham would look to attack from the restart but couldn’t find a way through the yellow defence, with Exeter closing down, dispossessing and recycling out from the defence.
Cheltenham would make an early change, with Ella Hitchcox coming into the game to replace Sarah King,

Shortly after, through piling on more pressure, the vistors would find an equaliser through a Britton header. A half-clearance from an Exeter cross saw the ball returned into the box for the striker to head home.

Cheltenham would restore their lead less than 2 minutes later, with Annie Martin providing a fantastic finish from the edge of the box after Cheltenham caught Exeter’s midfield on the back foot.

Seconds later Ella Hitchcox was almost gifted a chance after catching the Exeter keeper out as she dwelled on the ball. The Grecians’ shot stopper was looking for a pass as Hitchcox pinched it from her but the pace of the ball saw it go out for a goalkick before she could shape to finish.

With 75 minutes on the clock, Martin would go on to complete her hat-trick. Exeter squandered a free-kick deep in their own half, finding Bevan in the midfield who sprayed a wonderful pass forward to give Martin time and space to provide a finish directly into the bottom corner, beyond the reach of Rhiannon Dumper in the Exeter goal.

The visitors were not going to lie down despite the two goal deficit, and pushed on, creating a number of chances, including rattling the crossbar as Cheltenham looked to stifle the Grecians’ forward play.

With two minutes to go Britton was at it again. Racing onto a perfectly weighted through ball, the striker would go on to complete a hat-trick of her own and bring her side back within touching distance of the Robins.

Despite a late flurry of action, including an Exeter free-kick which demanded nothing but the best defending from the hosts, Cheltenham were able to scramble the ball to Butterfield, who sensibly took it to the corner and ran out the clock.

Cheltenham: B. Panniers, S. Hallsworth, C. Dolloway, M. Butler, L. Ellis, L. Fensome, G. Brown, A. Bevan (C. Criddle 82), S. King (E. Hitchcox 55), K. Bartlett (S. Butterfield 66), A. Martin.
Subs note used: C. Rogers, A. Leask, B. Wilkins, A. Kempski

Attendance: 68


Manager Alex Cheal was happy to be in the First Round Proper but admitted that his side had not been at the races:

“In terms of the game, it was a normal cup game I suppose. Not what we’d like in terms of performance but the end goal is to get into the First Round and that’s the most important thing.
At 2-2 you could possibly see the game slip away from us, and we said after the game that it showed great character to get it back to 4-2 and then we just slip deeper and deeper and invite the pressure onto us.
And I’m not under any illusion, we got away with one today. Exeter were good and played the better football but we’re in the next round so we’ll take that as the ultimate goal from today.

“You asked me a couple of weeks ago about cup draws and who we want to get, and we’ll take Leyton Orient, I’d take a different team, a side we don’t know. We know about Exeter, and we know we were lucky last season and we’ve been lucky again today cause they’ve come on leaps and bounds as a side. We know nothing about Leyton Orient, so it’s another week where it’s a 90 minute game and we’ll see what happens from it. We’ll do research on them but we’re limited to the region and where they are, but it’s another 90 minutes where the players can go and enjoy themselves and we’ve told them to go and create a little bit of history here cause as far as I’m aware, we’ve never got past the first round before. We got there last year so lets go and see what next week brings.

“We needed today really, you can see that we were a little rusty today. There’s no substitute for matches and we’ve trained well but we’d rather be playing matches, so for us to have played today will be a benefit going into next weekend. We just have to be better than we were today.”

Cheltenham Town Ladies continue their SSE Women’s FA Cup run next week, at home to Leyton Orient Women (1pm). Tickets are £2 per adult, with children, Cheltenham Town FC season ticket holders and Robins Trust members going free.
Adults may also get free entry when showing their CTFC FA Cup match ticket from November 9th on the gate.

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