Sunday 21st May
ERWFL League Cup Final
Moving onto this season’s ERWFL League Cup Final, played this season between two sides vying for runners up spot in the league as they meet in two crunch games at the end of the season, first in the cup with Stevenage FC Women taking on Luton Town Ladies. The Hertfordshire County Cup Champions playing the Bedfordshire County Cup Champions a little bit of neighbourly county rivalry to add the the mix.
The ERWFL League Cup the regional league senior cup competition with the Division One North and South sides contesting the 1st two rounds with 4 going on to join the 12 Premier Division clubs in the 3rd round.
The ERWFL Premier Division representing tier 5 of the women’s football, often competitive with a high level of talent on show. A tough league to get out of with only the winners guaranteed promotion to the FAWNL above. AFC Sudbury Women achieving that dream this season with a tremendous campaign to secure back to back promotions. Both Stevenage an Luton have tasted life in the FAWNL and the aim is to get back there themselves both amongst the title challengers this season but just missing out.
Stevenage FC Women relegated from the FAWNL last season, when there were 4 sides to be relegated following the FA’s re adjustment of the leagues following the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic. Harsh were close to hanging on to their league status, amongst the favourites to bounce straight back retaining a good portion of their squad under coach Fadi Mazloum in the top two for much of the season as the race for the title heated up with more sides emerging as strong contenders, Mazloum stepping down as head coach, assistant David Perry taking on the role on an interim basis guiding Stevenage to a fifth Hertfordshire County Cup win now given the role on a permanent basis. Amy Makewell Stevenage’s top scorer this season with 15 goals.
Luton Town Ladies themselves enjoying a long spell in the 4th tier before being relegated from the FAWNL were aiming to bounce straight back but Covid got in the way building a strong squad ready to mount a new promotion push were top of the league winning their opening 8 games only to see a points adjustment as Harlow Town Ladies withdrew from the league drop them back amongst the other challengers some competitive tussles at the top of the table have two games left to play one huge one against Stevenage at Barton Rovers this coming Thursday with the winner virtually gaurenteed runners up spot. Will be smarting from their other league encounter with Stevenage leading 1-0 going onto the closing stages Stevenage came back to score a winner at the death to take all three points. Captain Jess McKay and Elizabeth Sanders are joint top scorers each with 17 goals to their name, with Leyah Maddix all into double figures on 11.
Road to the Final
As I said the Premier Division Clubs entering in the 3rd round joined by the 4 Division One sides to progress from rounds 1 and 2 of the competition. Stevenage away to ERWFL Division One South leaders Barking FC Women in the 3rd Round. Emily Schofield scoring a 2nd half brace with Rosy Wodhams also getting a goal in the 1st half for Stevenage and goal for Amy Makewell early in the 2nd period securing a 4-1 win. Luton at home to Bedfordshire rivals and fellow Premier Division side Bedford Ladies, the pair often vying for the County Cup, Luton were the dominant side on this occasion, Elizabeth Sanders with a brace and a goal apiece for Jess McKay and Fiona Constable sealing a 4-0 win.
Stevenage away again in the quarter finals taking on Hertfordshire rivals Royston Tow Women who they would also beat in this season’s County Cup final. Tilly Fidler getting Stevenage off to a great start scoring in the 2nd minute, Nicole Farmer adding a 2nd late in the half, Royston scoring twice themselves, another goal from Fidler plus one from captain Lucy Webster seeing Stevenage into the last 4 with a 4-2 win. Luton hosting Colney Heath Ladies in their quarter final tie, the game though abandoned through an injury to a Colney Heath player rescheduled for a later date Luton leading 1-0 at the break going on to win 4-1 in the 2nd half with goals from Sanders, McKay, Tanya Blacksley and Tsaianne Leander.
A tough semi-final line-up with the Premier Division top 4 into the semi-finals, Both newly promoted sides Needham Market Women and AFC Sudbury Women doing very well. Stevenage travelling to Suffolk to play Needham Market. Amy Makewell from the spot to fire Stevenage into a 9th minute lead were to give away a penalty to see Lina Nagib equalise for Needham Market then hit another spot kick to put Needham Market in front. Becky Shephard striking in injury time to see it all square 2-2 at the break. A competitive 2nd half Rosy Wodhams curling in a strike to put Stevenage 3-2 ahead with 20 minutes left and secure their place in the League Cup Final. Luton at home to AFC Sudbury Women in their quarter final tie goals from Tsaianne Leander and Shanice Lewis the difference for Luton as they won through to the final.
A break to edit some pictures from the earlier game time to get back into The New Croft and refuel a cheeseburger ordered and get ready for the 2nd game of the day. The cloud cover hanging around, the supporters gathering the general consensus being for a close and physical match. Paving around the pitch with a small seated stand on one side beside the main building opposite the new dugouts.
Stevenage FC Women starting XI – Mia O’Brien, Hannah Nesbitt, Lucy Webster (C), Nicole Farmer, Vicky Neal, Erin Price, Hannah Bodily, Rosy Wodhams, Amy Gooderham, Kelsey Millen & Amy Makewell. Subs – Grace Brooks, Jodie Bellinger, Becky Shephard, Emily Schofield & Tilly Fidler.
Luton Town Ladies starting XI – Angelika Kopec-Knurec, Lilac Wilson, Adrienne Milton, Tanya Blacksley Elly Wade, Andie Dickens, Elizabeth Sanders, Ellie Sargeant, Fiona Constable, Jess McKay (C) & Shanice Lewis. Subs – Nancy Tucker, Hannah Major, Leyah Maddix, Maria Taylor & Shakeela Hussain.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
It’s Stevenage to get this season’s WERFL League Cup Final underway kicking-off the first half wearing red coloured shirts fading to black with red shorts and white socks. Luton lined up opposite wearing orange shirts and socks with dark blue shorts. The ball played back to Erin Price in midfield out to captain Lucy Webster on the right Luton rushing in to close the ball down out of play for a throw in. Stevenage looking to get the back on down the right for Kesley Millen, Ellie Sargeant moving to close her down clearing the ball.
Price getting the ball back into goalkeeper Mia O’Brien to clear as Luton’s Fiona Constable left lifts the ball up to Shanice Lewis in attack. Lilac Wilson getting across to the left to tackle Amy Gooderham on the left as she looks to get a throw under control. Luton captain, Jess McKay picking the ball up through the middle travelling strikes the ball from 30 yards out her low ball straight into O’Brien to claim.
McKay winning the ball in the middle lifting it into the right channel, cut out but Hannah Nebbitt for Stevenage played forwards for Gooderham through the middle, closed down the ball regain by Rosy Wodhams as Stevenage push on tries to get it back into Gooderham left, Adrienne Milton defending for Luton back up the line Nebbitt closing down to knock the ball on into Gooderham left of the D 20 yards out curls a strike over the Luton crossbar.
Elizabeth Sanders getting in to win the ball for Luton right side back for Milton put inside for Andie Dickens play spread into the left channel Constable with a low shot running in towards goal safely gathered by O’Brien. Gooderham looking to travel left on the ball for Stevenage a crossfield pass put out to Millen tracking on right side, Wilson getting in to steal the ball put it back for goalkeeper Angelika Kopec-Knurec to clear. A fast paced start to the game Luton rushing on to close Stevenage down win the ball get it into McKay and Lewis up top.
Kopec-Knurec out to the top of her area to gather the ball before Millen can get to the pass on the right as Webster drives on with the ball through the middle for Stevenage. Luton very vocal encouraging one another to get into the opposition. Sanders getting about the park looking to win the ball puts it out to Sargeant on the left, Webster winning the header to clear. Luton from a throw on the left inside the Stevenage half to Lewis right of the area knocks it down to the top of the area right of the D for Dickens to run onto her 1st time strikes swerving through the area as it sails wide of the right post.
Sanders looking to plough her way through the middle going shoulder to shoulder with Stevenage centre back Vicky Neal heading for the box Neal does well holding her up, getting the free-kick. Wodhams threading the ball forwards into the left channel for Makewell making a move out to the flank deep, Milton putting in the challenge the ball out for a throw. Nebbitt getting forwards to support Gooderham as Stevenage attack on the left the ball held up well fed inside to Makewell left corner of the area, holding off a defender plays the ball across the top of the area Wodhams leaving in to Hannah Bodily to run onto a strike beyond her the shot blocked by Luton’s Elly Wade out behind for a corner.
In low towards the near post Kopec-Knurec down well to grab it Luton look to counter the ball with Milton on the right lifted on for Lewis going through the middle won by Nicole Farmer for Stevenage. A tense encounter the two sets of players into each other Luton looking to close the ball down. Nebbitt on the left outside the box turns on the ball to cross in central, Makewell seeing her shot charged down deflected out for Constable to clear. Bodily on for Wodhams central Stevenage send it on for Makewell inside the area, Wade blocking her shot the ball deflected behind for the corner.
The ball angle in under the crossbar Kopec-Knurec up well to get a fist on the ball turn it wide out the left side for another corner. Cleared straight bac to the corner taker tries to hit it back in across goal on the volley goes behind. Webster picking the ball up for Stevenage driving on through the middle going all the way as she exchanges a one two with Wodhams, arriving top of the area, Wade in to close her down. Wodhams sending a great ball into Gooderham on the left, Milton getting in to defend well for Luton.
Luton sending players up from the back as they win a free-kick inside the Stevenage half to the right of the centre circle, Wilson on the ball played in deep to the far post Wade knocking the ball down into the keeper.
GOAL! Constable up on the left playing the ball into Lewis laying it into Mckay driving on central central taking the ball on into the right of the D before getting her foot over the ball to smash a powerful strike past the keeper to put Luton into the lead midway through the 1st half 0-1.
Stevenage looking for a quick response out to Nebbitt forwards on the left putting the ball on for Gooderham takes the ball down into the corner turning inside moving into the box her low cross put straight at the keeper. Bodily getting the ball out to Millen on the right for Stevenage coming to the top of the area squares a cross in near side for Makewell, Tanya Blacksley in to close her down for Luton as she goes to shoot.
Wade bringing down Wodhams inside the box as she looks to turn on the ball played into her from the right, the referee pointing to the spot, Penalty! Makewell on the ball goes for power looking to place it top corner, instead misses sending it over the bar.
Blacksley in again to put in the block on Makewell right of the area as she looks to turn and shoot the ball coming into her off a throw. Luton looking to break from a Stevenage corner the ball right put on for McKay attempt to head it on for Lewis racing on left channel, Farmer intercepting for Stevenage. Farmer in again to cut the ball out stepping out to head the ball away as Sanders right turns to play the ball in along the top of the area.
Luton closing the ball down in the middle well, Sargeant then Dickens playing the ball out to Lewis top right corner outside the box puts a shot in across goal narrowly wide of the far post. Lewis across to the left to press the ball high putting it back to McKay 20 yards out to blast goalwards, O’Brien down to save pushing the ball behind for a corner on the left. Wade knocking the ball on near side, the free-kick given away as Sanders fouls Nebbitt going for the ball. Neal winning the ball well against Luton’s Sanders as the ball lifted on for her.
Sanders covering alot of ground for Luton getting across the pitch to close the ball down on the right has Milton bursting on past her given the ball, Milton sends a cross in low across the top of the Stevenage area cut out by Price. The ball on Luton’s left rolled inside for McKay 25 yards out sees it across her body turning to strike sends the ball over the crossbar.
Stevenage come left themselves Nebbitt getting ahead of Gooderham as she plays the ball on into the full back using the outside of her boot to deliver a cross into the top of the six yard box, behind Millen closing in central lays it out to the onrushing Wodhams to strike on the run from 10 yards out the ball crashing into the base of the right post and out for a goal kick. Sargeant down over on the far side with an injury for Luton the trainer on to administer treatment is back to her feet able to play on as plays come over to the benches to take on fluids.
Into the closing stages of the first half Stevenage with a free-kick right of the circle players up from the back as the ball in dropped into the area, Milton in to take the ball off the head of Neal to clear for a corner kick. Into the mix Price looking to attack it, Luton defending well close to goal to win a goal kick as the ball is turned wide far side. Sanders fouling Farmer as the Luton midfielder looks to take the ball on left channel, Luton not amused with the decision.
Half-time Stevenage FC Women 0-1 Luton Town Ladies
A highly committed tussle Luton working hard to close Stevenage down get hold of the ball, players winning their individual battles, Sanders looking to get on with McKay and Lewis in the attack making some good runs, McKay driving on to open the scoring mid way through the first half. Stevenage have had chances to equalise missing a penalty and striking the post, a close game as everyone predicted a single goal in it all to play for in the 2nd half.
Doesn’t appear to be any changes as the sides come back out for the start of the 2nd half, Stevenage looking to get at Luton as their opponents get the 2nd half underway. Stevenage almost undone straight away as Dickens closes the ball down put forwards for McKay breaking in into the right channel wide of the D going shoulder to shoulder with Neal holding off the defender to shot sending it past the on rushing O’Brien the ball crashing against the post deflected out across the goal loose, Farmer able to get there first to launch clear.
Milton pressing on down Luton’s right, Nebbitt in to challenge for Stevenage. A concern for Stevenage Wodhams hurt in the build up, has been a strong player for Stevenage in recent game unable to continue Stevenage forced into a change bringing on Becky Shephard. Sanders disrupting the Stevenage midfield closing players down. Milton tackling Gooderham the ball back into the middle of the park Sanders in to win it back for Luton on for Dickens puts it into McKay pulling right 25 yards out sends a shoot up to land on the roof of the net.
GOAL! Luton surge forwards Constable away on the left down towards the top of the area wide to flash a cross in central, attacked by Sanders, Price in to close her down the ball ricocheting off the pair out to Lewis free to the right of goal reacts quickly the ball into her feet digs out the shot lifting it rising into the top corner to double Luton’s lead 0-2.
Luton building on a strong opening to the 2nd half to score a 2nd goal, a further set back for Stevenage as they look to rally coming left the ball from deep cross to Gooderham breaking into the box from the right Kopec-Knurec out well to close her down sliding in to save at her feet. Intense as Luton go to close the ball down no quarter given the bench vocal encouraging Luton to get after the ball, Dickens and Sanders strong in the middle. Sanders getting back to challenge Millen as Webster bombs on through the middle Millen putting the ball in as Webster enters the D, Wade close putting in the blocking tackle.
Shephard on for Makewell central as Stevenage look to add some urgency to their play, lifted on for Gooderham on the left, Luton hold thier line catching her offside. Dickens sending the ball out to Constable on the left curls a cross in to the top of the area won by Stevenage’s Price. Stevenage making a double change bringing off Makewell and Gooderham for Emily Schofield and Tilly Fidler in attack. Stevenage with a throw high on the right the cross long charged down by Sargeant cleared Luton threaten to break, Lewis looking to get away through the middle, Price getting back on her defending well for Stevenage.
Luton come right Sanders up with Lewis the cross into the top of the area won by Bodily. Stevenage struggling to clear the ball as Luton push up on their box half cleared to the left falling to Constable hits it wide on the half volley. Lewis taking the ball out to right on for Sanders wide to lift a cross into the box, Neal winning the ball up against McKay, then gets fouled trying to play it out.
Wade getting in the way of everything inside the box up the other end as Stevenage attempt to find a way through on goal. Millen tracking back hurt as her goes to defend for Stevenage. Another double change made with Millen coming off along with Nebbitt, Grace Brooks on at left bac with Jodie Bellinger on to attack on the right with a little over 20 minutes left to play. A few tempers flaring is an intense contest.
Luton getting a free-kick out wide Constable to put a dangerous ball into the six yard box central in front of the keeper, O’Brien beating it down as she goes down the ball loose Neal doing brilliantly as she gets in to protect the keeper letting the ball roll across her body as Lewis closes her down. O’Brien stays down after but is okay after treatment. Luton looking strong on their right Milton getting on to support Sanders as she pulls wide the cross flashed into the area cut out by Neal away for a throw in.
Into Mckay wide smashes a hard shot across the face of goal, Sanders closing in far post stretching can’t quite get there to divert it home. Luton with a strong spell Stevenage struggling for an answer. Another free-kick for Luton put in from wide cleared by Price, no break on however as Dickens gets the ball back for Luton to keep the pressure on. Sargeant with a turn and swing from distance dragged wide of the left post.
Stevenage frustrated trying to lift it as they look to get themselves back into the game. Luton hungry for the ball determined to close it down. McKay with a wild strike over from the angle.
GOAL! Stevenage with a diagonal ball up into the top of the area for Schofield left of the D, looking to see it down take inside to shoot is fouled by the on rushing keeper. Penalty! Kopec-Knurec shown the yellow card. Grace Brooks over Stevenage’s 2nd penalty hits it to the keepers left Kopec-Knurec going the right way getting something on the ball but too much power behind the ball to keep it out Stevenage with a goal back in the 77th minute 1-2.
Sargeant picking up a yellow card for Luton. Sanders driving on down the right firing a cross in along the face of goal neither Dickens nor Lewis chasing in can get a touch. Webster at the back on for Shephard left lifts a diagonal ball up towards Fidler top of the turns to put her strike wide past the right post
Luton making a double change bringing on Hannah Major and Maria Taylor for Sanders and Wilson. The game moving into the final 5 minutes of regular play opening up as Stevenage look to press on leaving opportunities to exploit at the back as they have to gamble. Luton digging in Constable looking to relieve the pressure on the eft taking the ball on Farmer getting it back for Stevenage inside for Bodily looks for Schofield, Wade defending for Luton then wins the ball for a 2nd time a Shephard plays it back in from the left.
Bellinger fouled on halfway to the right Farmer putting the free-kick inside, Taylor defending for Luton lifted forwards for Lewis in attack, Farmer getting back on her just about winning the ball. Tense Lewis taking the ball into the corner looking to eat up time into injury time Makewell back on for Stevenage an extra attacker bringing of Webster in defence. Leyah Maddix on for Luton replacing Lewis up top. Everybody sent up for Stevenage bar the keeper Luton defending their box, Wade strong, Dickens back too.
Stevenage with a free-kick out on the left into Price helps it out to the right with Farmer up joining Bellinger given the ball cuts inside Blacksley blocking for Luton they get on the counter attack the ball Maddix running on with the ball through the middle Neal in to charge her down well, McKay out the loose ball to the right shooting over.
Sargeant out to Maddix on the left goes into the corner before being fouled, the Luton free-kick cleared by Neal, then Dickens with a high boot giving the free-kick away top of the area. Wade cutting out a ball fed into Fidler up top. Stevenage with one last chance to push everyone up winning a free kick left of the circle played long goes through every one out wide for a goal kick.
Full time Stevenage FC Women 1-2 Luton Town Ladies
Luton Town Ladies celebrate winning a cup double adding the ERWFL League Cup to their Bedfordshire Women’s County Cup success. A strong combative performance to get in to win the ball through out showing great energy to get amongst Stevenage leading by a single goal at the break were strong at the start of the 2nd half hitting the post before doubling their leaf. Stevenage struggling for an answer at times getting a goal back from the penalty spot to set up a tense final 10 minutes however Luton were determine in defence holding on giving nothing away to win the game.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto the 2nd Women’s Football East – Player of the Match award of the day again another difficult choice to make several strong contenders. Stevenage’s Amy Gooderham getting on well down the right creating opportunities linked up well with Hannah Nebbitt coming forwards. Vicky Neal putting in some vital tackles. Rosy Wodhams looking to get forwards into some good positions before coming off injured. For Luton, Elly Wade was superb at the back winning the ball, and getting out to block. Andie Dickens solid in the middle winning the ball preventing the midfield getting on, in turn allowing Elizabeth Sanders to get on put herself about wining the ball and making some excellent runs into the channels. The award though goes to full back Adrienne Milton had a excellent game at right back getting in to win the ball and winning her tackles.
Congratulations to Luton Town Ladies on winning this season’s ERWFL League Cup Final.
Another enjoyable day at Haverhill for the ERWFL Finals Day, rarely does the league disappoint with action, alot of talent on show. An entertaining game, tense tight as predicted, Luton joyous to emerge as victors. My thanks to Daniel Forde an Chris Abbott from the ERWFL committee for their help today… one game left and the season’s one.
by Darren Gilham