Exeter City Women FA Cup Match Report

14th December 2020

Exeter 1

(Cheltenham win 4-3 on penalties)

Exeter: Britton 90′
Cheltenham: Haynes 32′
Exeter: Britton, Suominen, Toogood
Cheltenham: Criddle, Haynes, Bevan, Halford

Cheltenham Town Ladies and Exeter City Women put on another fantastic cup football clinic at Exeter College’s Sports Hub, in a game that saw plenty of drama.

The home side would start the game with a couple of quick attacks, calling Butler and captain Robyn Levett [pictured] into action within the opening couple of minutes.

Appeals for a penalty in the second minute were vehemently waved away by the referee, as Cheltenham dealt with a dangerous Grecians free-kick.

The sides would exchange attacking movements in their respective thirds, with Halford seeing an Exeter through ball out for a goalkick, while at the other end Billie Haynes would see her whipped cross beat everyone in the Exeter box.

Following these shared attacks, Exeter would create a spell of attacks that would see Cheltenham pinned in their own half, soaking up the pressure as Exeter’s final balls missed their mark.

The Robinesses would hold their ground and fashion fast flowing attacks with Scahill, Grove and Haynes all involved, however they couldn’t find a route through.
This allowed Exeter to create moves in the Cheltenham half and win a sequence of corner kicks, with Cheltenham’s blue wall standing strong.

Billie Haynes would break the deadlock after a fantastically weighted passing by Grove sent the winger on her way, and after holding off her marker inside the box, was able to tuck her shot around the Exeter ‘keeper.

Exeter would respond sharply by winning a free-kick on the edge of the Cheltenham area, with the fizzing shot getting past the wall but Levett was on hand again to make a solid stop, giving away a corner which Cheltenham would scrape clear. At the second attempt, the visitors would be able to relieve the pressure after a foul on Halford as she attempted to clear.

The teams would exchange attempts on goal one more time before the end of the half, with a Haynes cross being stopped at the near post, while a whipped Exeter free-kick was headed over.

Half-Time: Exeter City Women 0-1 CTLFC

Scahill and Grove would like in the opening seconds of the second half to send Bevan away but the offside flag thwarted the attempt. Minutes later, Exeter would find themselves deep in the Cheltenham half, and a good cross was flashed goalwards with Levett pulling off an outstanding reflex save to keep the home side out.

The hosts continued to look for a way back in, keeping the Cheltenham defence on their toes. Proceedings escalated as a Hallsworth clearance searching for Grove saw the strong striker receive a shoulder charge from the Exeter captain, forcing her into the pitchside barriers. No card was issued, with the defender only receiving a talking to, much to the astonishment of Cheltenham’s travelling supporters.

Grove would soldier on, but would be unable to shake off the knock, forcing Tom Davies to introduce Lauren Kayll to the fray. Grove heading directly to the changing rooms aided by coach Philip Pimlott.

Courtney Jones would come off the bench as Cheltenham looked to hunker down in midfield, Alice Kempski making way. Jones called into action early as Exeter continued to chip away at the visitor’s defence.

Exeter would have a sniff at goal after Criddle was adjudged to have fouled an Exeter midfielder. The ball into the danger zone would see a series of headers before Levett would take control of the situation.

Sarah King would replace Ruby Scahill as Cheltenham looked to hold the lead. It didn’t take long for the youngster to attract attention, drawing a foul and a yellow card for an Exeter player.

The home side would throw bodies forward, playing with pace down the left. Hallsworth would leave her feet inside the box to block the cross resulting in the referee pointing to the penalty spot as the clock went red. Britton converting in added on time to give her side a lifeline.

Conceding in such fashion would spur Cheltenham on, and some good linking play saw a ball forward to Kayll saw the striker in an offside position. With Kayll leaving the ball, Bevan would steam into the box, beat the ‘keeper to it and smash the ball into the back of the net. The goal ruled offside because Kayll had “turned to face the play” despite Bevan scoring from an onside position.

Full-Time: Exeter City Women 1-1 CTLFC

Much like the first half, it was The Grecians who would start extra time stronger, with pressure down the left. Lauren Ellis on hand to keep the cross out.

As fatigue set in, Exeter were limited to shots from distance. Two in quick succession saw a low drive fired wide before Levett did well to stop a stinging shot and collect under pressure at the second attempt.

King and Haynes would combine for Cheltenham, with Exeter equal to it and able to turn defence into attack. This time a low shot striking the post, allowing the visitors to clear.

Jess Hood would come in as Cheltenham shifted gears, Hallsworth the one to make way as Exeter continued to beat at the door.

Play would go end-to-end as Cheltenham delivered a searching ball which appeared to be handled by a defender. The referee showing consistency on handballs by refusing to award the appeals.

One final roll of the dice by the home side saw them drive into the box but the final ball couldn’t find a teammate. Ellis charging down the eventual shot from a tough angle.

Full-Time in Extra Time: Exeter City Women 1-1 CTLFC

The game concluded with penalties, with Cheltenham’s four takers, Criddle, Haynes, Bevan and Halford all finding the net while Exeter’s first three takers, Britton, Suominen and Toogood all directed their shots past Levett.

With the shootout locked at 3-3, Phoebe Baker would drill her shot low, with Levett pulling off a fantastic save to stop and hold the effort. Rebecca Halford would step up and convert powerfully to hand Cheltenham the lead.

Cheltenham would go through to the second round with the final kick of the game as Exeter’s Anthea Kaptein fired her penalty against the crossbar.

Cheltenham: R. Levett, S. Hallsworth (Hood 106), M. Butler, R. Halford, C. Criddle, A. Kempski (Jones 72), R. Scahill (King 85), A. Bevan, B. Haynes, J. Grove (Kayll 70)
Subs not used: M. Ripley, H. Lambe.


After the dust had settled, manager Tom Davies, couldn’t speak highly enough of the work rate from his team:

“It’s difficult, ultimately Exeter are a fantastic side and it was a fantastic game and everyone’s come off the pitch and said that. Penalties are never a nice way to win or lose a fixture, and it’s difficult but it has to be decided. Ultimately just really proud. I said that before we went to penalties that I’m really proud of our extra time performance more than anything else, we were phenomenal. The work rate, the grit and determination was outstanding, so no matter what happened in terms of the penalty shootout, we’d already said where we’re at, and where we’re at in terms of our performance but it’s nice to get that extra one as well with the penalty shootout.

“The staff and I are tired, so I don’t know how they [the team] have done it to be honest! Phenomenal. Like I said, the work rate, went into full time and they [Exeter] were looking for that goal and they got that late goal, so we had to readjust and go from a defensive to a more offensive stance which is really difficult, especially when you’ve played 90 minutes of football. The girls took on the information and the girls worked so so hard and restricted their chances and created some of our own and we were unlucky not to get the win in full time or extra time.

“They’ve have flagged for Lauren being offside as she’s re-engaged with play. So it’s unfortunate because we’d built in a really good way and Lauren’s made the first run and checked herself to come back onside and the ball has been played through to somebody else and Abby has made a fantastic run and a fantastic finish, and we thought that was enough but unfortunately Lauren seemed to be engaged in play so we have to take it, it’s a decision whether it’s positive or negative, we have to take them, we have to move on and like I said the culture of the group is fantastic and we responded really well and we didn’t sit back and feel sorry for ourselves, we set back and we started again and worked really hard so it is what it is.

[On who he’d like to face in the next round] “Ultimately for the club, it’s a home draw isn’t it? Everyone wants to play at home and everyone wants supporters back which obviously we’re allowed to at the moment, so that’s what we’d like. Whoever we get, whether it’s a fantastic side in terms of the level above or whether we get someone at our level or around that, it’s a game of football. Ninety minutes or so, and it’s a chance to test ourselves and push ourselves and we’ll take whoever comes and give it our best shot and see what happens.

[On how the 120 minutes will affect the preparation for Southampton] “It’s not ideal, I’m don’t know how they got on today but it’s not ideal. But we’ll reassess, we change our week slightly and make sure we’re looking after players and giving them the information to need to look after themselves. Like I said, it’s an extra 30 minutes, they know they’ve pushed and we’ll just focus on a few other things rather than the fitness aspect. We’ll prepare as normal, we’ll go into that game and give it our best shot.

[On Lauren Ellis and Billie Haynes as wingbacks] “Yeah I’m proud of both of them. Ultimately, whether we change shape or not it doesn’t matter, we play in a certain way in terms of what we try to prioritise and what we try and do so whether we change the formation or not doesn’t matter but I’m proud of everyone. I don’t need to put anyone down in terms of their performance, work rate and effort, so I’m proud of everyone and how they’ve applied themselves and what we’ve done today.

[On Jade Grove’s injury] “She looked in pain. I’m not quite sure what the situation is at the moment, I think we’re going to take her to hospital and get it checked out so we’ll see how she is after that, but I thought Lauren [Kayll] was excellent to come on and I know she’s been working really hard in lockdown at college and she’s shown that today, she’s come on, worked really hard and put herself about and she’s linked play really well and something we’ve asked her to do and something she’s applied. So, delighted with Lauren’s performance and we’ll check in on Jade and we’ll see what happens”

The Robinesses advance to face Portsmouth Women away in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup Second Round on January 3rd 2021

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