The Click Hub Devon Women’s Premier Cup Final
Exeter City Women 1 (4 – 5) 1 Torquay United Women
Played at Coach Road, Newton Abbot 22/04/2022
Football has an uncanny knack of throwing up surprises and this was no exception. The Torquay women, from the South West Women’s Premier Division were very much the underdogs, playing up against an Exeter team from the Women’s National League Division One South West and, for a large part of the game it showed. Being without their regular goalkeeper did not help but, putting outfield player Sasha Mole between the sticks proved to be a masterstroke. Her handling was excellent throughout and although she had some help from the woodwork in keeping the ball out of her net, her main asset was in her astute distribution often setting her teams wide players Ellie Bishop and Esme Kilburn-Thompson away. With Bethany Evanson joining them and Alice Gue marauding down the right the Exeter defence had to be at their best to keep them out.
The Torquay defence did their utmost to protect Mole though, and it wasn’t until the 16th minute that she was called into serious action, racing from her line to take the ball off the toe of Zoe Watkins who had broken through an erstwhile compact back four into the penalty area, and it was the 20th minute before she was really tested, producing a good parry to deny Sarah Stacey.
Exeter gradually got on top but were largely profligate in front of goal with a number of attempts off target. Having seen Watkin’s 15 yard effort go wide of the near post in the 22nd minute and, two minutes later, watched a shot from Stacey miss the target, Mole was next called into action again in the 31st minute, grabbing a 25 yard drive from Stacey.
It wasn’t all Exeter though as, in the 40th minute, Torquay had probably their best chance of this first half, Ellie Bishop racing down the left and putting over a superb cross to the far post which Kilburn-Thompson just failed to reach. The next good scoring opportunity fell to Exeter’s Mollie Taylor in the first minute of added time, drawing another good parry from Mole, Stacey putting the rebound wide.
The half closed with the scores level at nil – nil but, the lack of goals wasn’t due to lack of effort in what was turning out to be a much closer encounter than expected. The Torquay management team of Steve Elswood and coach Alan Wyatt must have been encouraged by the effort their charges put in.
Within two minutes of the restart Exeter should have taken the lead as a deep free kick swing from the left found leading scorer Connie Pengelly six yards out at the back post, her chip clipping the bar and bouncing down, luckily for Torquay, in front of the goal line for Mole to clear.
Torquay went on the attack and in the 50th minute Bishop again raced forward leaving defenders in her wake, but again her colleagues were unable to get on the end of her cross. Three minutes later it was Exeter on the front foot, a shot from wide to the near post from Phoebe Baker well saved by Mole.
A minute later, as Exeter pressed forward, Everson tricked her way through their back line to send in a low cross to Kilburn-Thompson, whose instinctive volley was scrambled clear by the Exeter custodian Abbi Bond, her first meaningful action of the match.
As the Torquay players visibly tired, many suffering from cramp, Exeter got on top with Stacey finding space all over the pitch. Her cross from the right just past the hour mark was headed over from close range by Taylor. In the 67th minute another cross from Stacey found Steph Beck whose header came back off a post. In the 70th minute Mole did well to punch out a dangerous inswinging corner from Baker whose follow up shot went wide of the far post. In the 74th minute an excellent passing move between Baker, Stacey and Beck finished with the later firing her shot over when she should at least have made Mole work.
It was backs to the wall stuff for Torquay and with five minute of normal time remaining the pressure eventually told, Pengelly getting on the end of a pass from Baker to give Rose no chance, slotting into the far corner from ten yards.
Elswood had made astute use of his substitutes replacing those suffering most with cramp, but it seemed to no avail however, his team appeared visibly lifted as the assistant referees board went up showing 7 minutes of added time to be played. They forced Exeter back and 4 minutes into that time gained a free kick some 35 yards from goal.
Tracey Cross found Evanson who raced into the box only to be taken down by a rash tackle from Baker. Referee Leigh pointed to the spot and, following a long delay, Leah Brooks stepped up smash her penalty kick past Bond into the net. Two minutes later the final whistle came and both, who had given their all had to face the lottery of kicks from the penalty spot to decide the outcome.
Mole, not content with her work as stand in goalkeeper, stepped up to smash in the first kick .She then proceed to save from Beck. Danni Wyatt and Brooks converted the next two for Torquay with Anthea Kaptein and Stacey replying for Exeter. Three two in favour of Torquay. Bond then saved from Emma Hunt to bring the scores level before Kilburn-Thompson and Pengelly each slotted to bring the score to 4 – 4 and take us into sudden death.
Alice Gue stepped up for Torquay and hit the target putting pressure on Exeter. Jess Sandland came forward for Exeter but only succeeded in scuffing her effort and giving Mole the easiest of saves as she dropped to her knees to gather the ball and ensure that the Cup went to Torquay
Star Player - Sasha Mole (Torquay United Women)
Devon County FA
Photo credit: PPA UK