Exeter City Women | 2020/21 Season Recap
With the new season just around the corner, Exeter City Women's media-man David Gribble gives a recap of the end of last season's cup-winning team.
The conclusion of March was greeted with bad news, another curtailed season at National League Level and the prospect of the break from football lasting beyond the three months that had already been endured. However, the nationwide relaxation of restrictions for social groups did allow for a return to training and, within a couple of weeks, the mood was lifted as a return to competitive football was agreed. The Devon County Cup would go ahead and the motivation to win a trophy became a driving force before the summer break.
Significantly, City were undergoing some off-field changes. Clive Watts stepped away from his role whilst convalescing from knee surgery, the announcement soon following that Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley would take over the reins. The duo wasted no time in adding to the playing squad as experienced defenders Mollie Taylor and Jaydee Seaman signed from Buckland Athletic and Plymouth Argyle, respectively.
The Grecians returned to action in slick style, disposing of Feniton in Round One of the County Cup. Goals from Steph Beck and Mollie Taylor were accompanied by a hat-trick from Connie Pengelly. A friendly fixture against Callington was next up and City hit six this time. Goals from Robinson, Taylor, Watkins, Pengelly and Beck were upstaged by a late strike from Development Team graduate Jess Sandland in what was only her second appearance.
City would travel to Ivybridge to face Marine Academy for their Semi Final fixture. Two goals from Pengelly and one from Anthea Kaptein looked to have the Grecians cruising, before two late strikes from the Plymouth side set up a nervy finish prior to a place in the County Cup Final being confirmed.
Visiting Cardiff City Ladies were the friendly preparation before the Final and, as higher division opposition, offered a challenge to a team that had come back from lockdown so strongly. Showing the ability to compete against such strong opposition, City took the lead through Jess Sandland. Despite the game being level at half time, goals from Taylor, Baker and Kilburn-Thompson gave the Grecians a 4-1 lead, an advantage that would survive a late Cardiff fightback, as the game ended 4-3.
The final game of a stop start season was to be the Devon County Cup Final. A final played against
rivals Plymouth Argyle, no less. More higher division opposition and more success. Two first half goals from Esme Kilburn-Thompson saw City take the trophy, despite a late Argyle consolation, and finish the year on the highest of highs.
Whilst many Clubs will have felt the return to football for a few weeks before the summer interval was a period that offered little chance to progress, for City, it was anything but. The new management team of Abbie and Aaron were able to implement their ideas and settle in two new signings with considerable success, both Jaydee and Mollie are players that have already considerably improved the group. Of the twenty goals scored by the Grecians in this end of season period, eleven came from players developed at Exeter City and under the age of eighteen. Young Forward Connie Pengelly finished the year as the Team’s top scorer and was awarded the Exeter City Women Supporter’s Club’s Player of the Season in a fan’s vote. City would win all five of their fixtures and finish with a Trophy, it really could not have gone much better.
Off the pitch things continue to improve, a strength and conditioning coach, alongside a performance nutritionist, will be on board with the team this season, offering more professionalism to the group. Interest in the team has increased, with attendances up on previous years and the team even featuring on BBC Spotlight before the Cup Final.
The final cherry on top of the cake came a week after the victory against Plymouth, Captain Manfy Sharpe, Emily Toogood, Steph Beck, Phoebe Baker and Anthea Kaptein travelled to London to take part in the Neymar Jr Five’s Tournament and only went and won it! As the UK National champions, the City quintet will get the chance to fly to Brazil later in 2021 to compete in an international tournament. Exeter City players and an adventure in Brazil, an historical connection.
The team returned to training in July, with all players retained from the end of the past season and some new additions likely. Momentum is a key factor in football and Exeter City Women’s Team have it in abundance. It looks set to be an exciting 2021/2022 Season.
A big thank you to Neill Richardson (@Falselights) for kindly providing the photographs for this article.