Exeter, Devon UK • Apr 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home SportLocal Her Game Too in Exeter

Her Game Too in Exeter

Mikhail Shklover, Online Sport Editor, was at St James Park to watch Exeter City Women take on Maidenhead as part of the 'HerGameToo' campaign.
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HerGameToo - Exeter City Women, St James Park
Image: Mikhail Shklover

Predicting the outcome of Exeter City Women’s second designated St James Park fixture of the season was hardly ever an unsolvable challenge to the Grecian supporters. For those who were previously fortunate to attend the Exwick Sports Hub on numerous occasions and had mindfully followed the Grecian National League campaign to the home encounter with an inconsistent Maidenhead side offered limited intrigue in terms of result. As always for a Grecian home game, the common question was how many – how many times will Exeter find back the of the net against a side struggling in mid-table obscurity. However, off the back of a semi-final League Plate defeat to third tier Derby County, as well as an extended break in the league, the well-rested squad of Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakely strived to put things right on the turf of SJP.

More broadly, the game between Exeter and Maidenhead appeared to be the second chapter of an exciting weekend double header at St James Park – Exeter City men’s game encompassed in the action too. With emphasis on the widely celebrated International Women’s Day, Exeter City once again partnered with a successful national campaign tackling sexism and discrimination within the beautiful game. Sunday’s game meant the return of an annual occasion and was therefore special. It was all about ‘HerGameToo’!

Sunday’s game meant the return of an annual occasion and was therefore special. It was all about ‘HerGameToo’!

Exeter City’s role as the first ever official partner of the ‘HerGameToo’ movement cannot be understated and this was vividly shown in the lead up to the game. Themed colourful matchday programmes, ‘HerGameToo’ labelled jumpers worn proudly throughout the warm up by the Grecians and the Magpies, finally the appearance of Lucy Ford, one of HerGameToo’s founders, on Exeter City’s Official Podcast ‘Park Life’. The event was treated with immense care and responsibility.

As for the players, their desire to perform in front of a bumper crowd was immediately visible. In a squad, where individuals balance full time jobs with football, it was an invaluable opportunity to showcase their passion and uncover talent within the squad on the biggest stage in town while highlighting the clubs ongoing progress, development and achievement. Just 24 hours after a late equaliser broke the hearts of Big Bank supporters during Exeter City men’s League 1 encounter against Bolton, the fans in red and white had a second game to attend. At a club that believes in inclusivity and equality, this was a game for the Exeter City family.

The ‘HerGameToo’ jumpers were put to the side, as the clock passed 2pm and the Grecian girls, now wearing traditional red and white colours, marched at the vulnerable Maidenhead defence. With early chances from various set piece routines setting the stage in front of the Stansfield Stand, the deadlock was broken inside ten minutes. The Grecians advanced down the middle like a knife through butter as Jess Sandland floated a ball into the opposition’s half. A headed flick on from Jenna Markham played in Sarah Stacey keeping her onside for a rendezvous with Maidenhead’s Wilmott Joyce. A composed finish saw Stacey hit twenty in her season tally.

A few minutes was all it took for Exeter City’s lead to double. Amber Pollock made a run down the left wing and with a beautifully timed ball from Sandland the wing back found a pocket space. Skipping away from two defenders and entering the penalty area, Pollock spotted the unmarked Jenna Markham. A gentle cross ball, a comfortable finish and two for the Grecians, with Amber Pollock’s presence in the starting lineup immediately justified. It was the young wingback again providing the creative spark in the later part of the half as she broke down the left with pace and menace. A cross ball to the edge of the penalty area failed to find an Exeter striker, but with limited defending from the Magpies, Baker capitalised from the edge. A spectacular strike from the midfielder rifled into the top corner avoiding the inside of the post caught Joyce by surprise. The keeper stood like a statue, the main stand was brought to life.

5-0 to the Grecians and the young supporters around the park cheered on, inspired by their role models.

Unlike the excellent first half momentum, Exeter City’s lethargic early second half display silenced St James Park supporters. Nevertheless, executive managerial decisions returned the Grecians into ascendancy, while the controversial replacement of Stacey for Connie Pengelly ultimately paid off. It was Pengelly herself, who soon became the outstanding performer. A bullet-header with one of the opening touches bounced back into play from the woodwork, but a majestic free-kick just moments later became Connie’s redemption and saw lift-off at SJP. A late stoppage-time tap-in from inside the six-yard box, also by Pengelle, settled the final score. 5-0 to the Grecian women and the young supporters around the park cheered on, inspired by their role models.

Exeter City women dominated again in what became more than a progressive stride towards potential promotion. Full time scenes with hundreds of young fans in the stand interacting with the players through post match autograph and photo sessions, illustrated the game’s key message – we are all a family and Exeter City Women is a family club. The collaboration of Exeter City FC and ‘HerGameToo’ proved to be a success once more, with the final attendance number reaching two and a half thousand. The stance against inequality within the beautiful game continued with great support shown to the stoic squad of Grecian girls in what was simply a great day of football.

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