Women’s National League title clash concludes in a draw

The football club badges of Bournemouth and Exeter City over a blurred pitch and players shaking hands with the women's national league logo below

AN intense top of the table clash between AFC Bournemouth Women and Exeter City Women finished a goal a piece, in the National League South-West division one.

Prior to kick-off both sides were flying high with 100% win records in the division so far for the 2023/24 season, but both teams failed to get all three points in this crunch fixture.

The Cherries looked well on top in the first half of Sunday’s game, with midfielder Kenni Thompson having a few shots saved from close range by the visitors’s keeper Abbi Bond within the opening 25 minutes.

But Thompson couldn’t be kept at bay for much longer, Steve Cuss’ side went into the break one goal ahead thanks to her header inside the six yard box during stoppage time.

However it didn’t take City long to find an equaliser in the early stages of the second half.

It was the top goal scorer in the entire division, Jenna Markham who smashed it into the top of the net from a volley halfway inside the 18-yard box to level the score.

This added to her already remarkable tally, meaning she has now scored 20 goals from only 13 appearances in the league so far.

The home-side fought back with attempts from both Molly Barron-Clark and Thompson hitting the woodwork later on in the half, but it seemed their search for a winner was ultimately in vain as they failed to tighten the gap at the top of the table.

In a post match interview with BBC Radio Solent, Cherries boss Steve Cuss said his side put out an incredibly strong performance with a hard fought point:

“It was an excellent performance, I thought their goalkeeper made three outstanding saves, we hit the post, we hit the bar, a little disappointed with the goal we conceded.

“But overall it was a great performance from the girls, it’s just disappointing we couldn’t get the three points.

“I also thought it was a credit to the league, two top of the table sides going toe to toe, a hugely competitive game with some strong tackles and some real quality out there as well.

“I thought it was a good game and a good advert for the league”

Surprisingly it wasn’t a goal filled game as most followers of the clubs thought it would be.

The Devon club have scored now scored an astonishing 70 league goals as of Sunday in only 13 games.

But the South-Coast ladies still stood strong and only let one past their keeper, and the manager was proud of how his team crucially held their relentless opponents off:

“Exeter are a really good attacking side and I thought we nullified that a bit today, I don’t recall a huge save that our keeper had to make.

“I’m really proud as our normal back four was disrupted when Helen [Bleazard] got injured, and I’ve got to give a lot of praise to Kelly [Fripp] who came on and hasn’t had a lot of game time lately, but was ready, came on and I thought she was strong in her performance.”

There still remains a 6 point gap between the two outfits in the table. Exeter sit top on 37 points and Bournemouth sit one place below on 31 points but with two games in hand.

So if both teams impeccable league form continues, it may be down to the last game of the season, which is when they next face off, to decides who gets promotion to the National League Southern Premier division in 2024.