Sunday 1st May
FAWNL Southern Premier Division
The beginning of May sees some mammoth games taking place on the final day of fixtures across the FAWNL, one in particular in the Southern Premier Division as Milton Keynes Dons Women host Keynsham Town Ladies in a must win game to see them extend their tier 3 status into a 5th season.
25 matches played and it all comes down to the final game of the season. Plymouth Argyle Women getting the point they needed to survive in midweek against Bridgwater leaving it between Milton Keynes Dons Women and Cardiff City Ladies on the final day. Milton Keynes with the advantage 2 points clear of 10th placed Cardiff. A better goal difference too for Milton Keynes would mean a point would be enough so long as Cardiff don’t win by 4 clear goals a tall order as they travel to league champions Southampton FC Women who have lost just once this season. Victory guarantees safety for Milton Keynes and that is very much the aim.
Milton Keynes making a terrible start to the 2021/22 campaign in an expanded league of 14 sides following the Covid hit season’s previously. The down side as the FA looks to balance thing’s up again next season 4 are most likely to go down. Losing 8 of their opening 10 league games with just 2 points gained Milton Keynes looked in serious trouble. Back to back wins at the turn of the year giving the side something to take forwards into the new year. Player departures and injuries, notably to captain Laura Bright with a serious ACL injury that will keep her on the side lines for some time. The squad has fought on though and in stark contrast the 2n half of the season has seen Milton Keynes win 5, along with some hard fought draws particularly against title chasing Ipswich Town Women to see them claw there way out of the bottom 4 and get themselves into the position they are now with their fate still in their own hands, one more push needed.
In complete contrast, today’s opponents Keynsham Town Ladies have had a terrible 2nd half of the season winning just once the losses stacking up some heavy defeats along the way too to see them pulled into the relegation mix and 2nd bottom their 3 year stay in the Southern Premier Division comes to an end. Down the bottom of the table all season a 3 game winning streak a strong response after 2 heavy losses getting them out of the bottom 4. Just one win since doesn’t mean Milton Keynes can take anything for granted Keynsham beating them 2-1 in the reverse fixture back in November.
Stadium MK the venue for today’s match, Milton Keynes Dons Women playing the bulk of their matches here. A great venue to host any game of football, the mens side narrowly missing out on automatic promotion to the Championship with be hoping the achieve that goal through the play-offs. Will be hosting several matches too during this summers Women’s Euro’s which is on course to be fantastic for the further growth of the women’s game in the country, will be back here for a couple of games myself including the semi-final. A great playing surface offering plenty of space the fans on one side, up in the press area myself on the opposite side. A mild but overcast afternoon. Considering it’s a bank holiday weekend made good time getting down here from Norfolk.
Milton Keynes Dons Women starting XI – Chloe Sansom (C), Hannah Warren, Kerry Newman, Sofia Stovold, Tally Miles, Gemma Biggadike, Rhianne Rush, Nicole Pepper, Lucy Wood, Chez Albert & Mollie Coupar. Subs – Marianne Taho, Laura Mills , Amy Gooderham, Dominika Netschova & Mathilda Brown.
Keynsham Town Ladies starting XI – Xanna Kierk, Lily Withers, Amy McCorkell, Nadine Grogan (C), Celyn Garton, Jade Munro, Henna Butcher, Natalia Bak, Justine Lorton, Laura Williams & Kerry Bartlett. Subs – Courtney Adams, Ylenia Carabott & Nia Sparks.
It’s the visitors Keynsham to get the match underway kicking off 1st half wearing green shirts with black sleeves and white trim, black shorts and socks. Milton Keynes lined up opposite wearing and all white strip. The ball sent out to the left side for Laura Williams seeing the ball down into her feet looks to drive forwards towards the area is fouled giving Keynsham an early free-kick. Players up from the back the ball floated into the box, goalkeeper and captain Chloe Sansom coming forwards calling to claim taking a confident catch.
Milton Keynes carrying the ball out for the back the ball fed through to Chez Albert top of the D, 25 yards out looks to spin in behind left side, Celyn Garton putting her foot out tackling for Keynsham to thwart her attack the ball cleared out to the right side lifted back in towards goal, caught by Keynsham’s goalkeeper, Xanna Kierk. Milton Keynes seeing more of the ball in the early stages able to travel to the halfway line unopposed as Keynsham get everyone behind the ball. A few signs of nerves however as the final ball fails to find it’s mark on a few ocassions.
Seeing the ball into her feet back to goal right side Pepper spins right sending the ball out to Lucy Wood on the wing pushes on into the box as Wood attempts to slide the ball into her, Garton on her to defend for Keynsham clear the ball. The free-kick count growing as niggly challenges are put in. Milton Keynes get forwards on the right side Woods squaring a cross into the box, Amy McCorkell with a strong challenge for Keynsham sending the ball behind for a corner kick. Delivered in from the right across the six yard box comes to Pepper at the far post jumping has to lean back to get any power on her header, sends it wide of the post.
GOAL! The ball is with Kerry Newman at left back plays the ball forwards for Albert ahead of her, taking the ball in down the wing, turns inside top of the area strong on the ball fires it into the D for Pepper, her strike is charged down by Keynsham captain, Nadine Grogan the loose ball rebounding out of the D straight to Rhianne Rush 20 yards out, connects with the ball her shot arrowing into the back of the net a great strike to open the scoring inside the opening 10 minutes 1-0.
Noticeable at times that Keynsham have no one inside the Milton Keynes half this is allowing the home defence plenty of time on the ball bringing it on with Wood and Albert looking to provide options left and right. Garton with the interception as Gemma Biggadike looks to link up with Pepper through the middle she in turn looking to fed the diagonal pass out to Albert on the left. Getting hold of the ball in the middle Keynsham look to up the tempo look more of a threat moving the ball quickly, Ex-England international, Justine Lorton still going strong in her forties threading the ball forwards comes close to sending Natalia Bak through on goal but for a timely interception from Milton Keynes centre back, Tally Miles.
Sansom sending the ball long out to the right from outside her box for Mollie Coupar the Milton Keynes attackers is fouled by Keynsham’s Lily Withers the hosts awarded a free-kick. The set-piece headed clear by McCorkell. The visitors give away another free-kick inside their half top of the the circle, lifted on into the area right side, Wood does well to keep into in play on the by-line, comes back to dink a cross into the middle the ball scrambled clear. The goal settling Milton Keynes down Woods sends the ball on down the right for Hannah Warren on the overlap a pacy run to the by-line her cross fired in near post, Kierk down sharply pushing the ball out into the middle of her area, the follow up turned wide.
The hosts press forwards Albert free on the left 20 yards out shifts inside pushing the ball on for Pepper, left of the D, 25 yards out her shot angles up over the bar. Lorton picking up the ball 30 yards out makes a surging run forwards, holding off players making it all the way into the box before numbers back crowd her off the ball. Keynsham regain possession in the centre Lorton looking to lift it over the top as Henna Butcher makes the run into the left channel, is narrowly offside.
Rush turning on the ball well in the middle out to Albert forwards on the left, her touch seeing the ball into the box, after it, a Keynsham defender comes sliding it, Albert caught doing well to stay on her feet moves central before turning and striking the ball goalwards, straight at the keeper, Kierk holds. A good shout for a penalty. Milton Keynes moving the ball well look settled with more possession. Pepper finding pockets of space in front of the Keynsham defence on the spin 20 yards out drags her low strike wide of the right post.
Little opportunity to take the game to the defence for Keynsham, coming back to receive the ball Bartlett passes it forwards to Williams breaking on the left, wide, Miles comes to close her down sending the ball out for a throw. Off the throw Keynsham swing a threatening ball into the box, neither Williams or Bak can get a touch in front of the six yard box as Milton Keynes clear to the left Newman up to Albert, drives on, is held up by McCorkell before Grogan comes across to clean out the ball.
Albert a threat out on the left strong taking the ball to the by-line plays it back to Newman left of the D, she shot goalwards swerving through the air but not troubling Kierk. Half an hour played Milton Keynes continue to create opportunities, Biggadike out to Warren as she burst on down the right wing closing in on the by-line she cross lifted in taking a deflection off a defender as Kierk puts it behind at her near post for a corner kick. The ball attacked at the near post, Coupar up behind for a goal-kick.
Butcher sending the ball out to Bak on the right she looks to drive on, Newman defending against her. Sofia Stovold carrying the ball on all the way up to halfway from the back for Milton Keynes has plenty of options ahead of her, lifted into Coupar right of the D, her touch inside favouring Grogan as she gets a foot out to knock clear. Bak bringing the ball down deep on the right well off a diagonal ball from the middle does well to win her side a corner. Milton Keynes are taking no chances everyone back to defend as the delivery comes to Grogan top of the area, is closed down before she can get a shot away.
GOAL! Albert always the outlet on the left side controls the ball on the wing shifting it level with the top of the area plays the cross inside for Pepper free outside the D. Seeing the ball across her she strikes it beautifully, a powerful drive that bursts the back of the net 2-0.
5 minutes left to play in the 1st half Milton Keynes with a crucial 2nd goal. An injury at the restart with Munro coming off the worst as she and Albert come together. After treatment is okay to continue. The hosts attack on the right Wood crossing into the area the clearance dropping straight to Biggadike 20 plus yards out right of the , struck first time the shot lifted over. Warren with alot of pace drives on past Wood before getting held up by Withers, squeezes the ball back up the line to Wood who strikes on the angle her shot racing wide across the face of the Keynsham goal.
Miles on the ball coming on for Milton Keynes sends it on into the path of Warren running down the right taking it on to the by-line her cross/shot his held by Kierk at her near post. Signs from Keynsham that Milton Keynes must stay alert at the back, Lorton on the ball 30 out controlling before attempting to lift it through for Bartlett trying to steal in between the centre backs, Stovold cutting it out well. Stovold with the opportunity to carry the ball over halfway in the closing stages of the 1st half a burst of pace taking her deep inside the Keynsham half before laying it out to Wood on the right put on for Coupar, Withers close on her tackling to regain possession.
Half-time Milton Keynes Dons Women 2-0 Keynsham Town Ladies
So far so good for Milton Keynes Dons Women a goal inside the opening 10 minutes helping to settle the nerves. Have had the majority of the possession since able t play the ball out from the back with little trouble as Keynsham drop off. Chances created using the wide areas well, a 2nd goal coming on the half hour to see the hosts 2-0 up at the break. Keynsham offering little in attack but the odd sign for Milton Keynes that they need to stay alert the jobs not done yet. The added bonus being Cardiff are trailing at Southampton. 2-0 is often a dangerous score where the next goal more often than not proves crucial.
The teams back out for the 2nd half Keynsham making a change with Maltese international, Ylenia Carabott coming on for Garton. Out on the left Williams dropping deeper. No changes for Milton Keynes as they get the final 45 minutes of the season underway. Put back to the defence, Miles plays it forwards for Coupar moving to the right, Withers getting in on her to defend for Keynsham.
GOAL! The perfect start to the 2nd half for Milton Keynes as they attack on the left Albert drives inside looking to get into the box tackled by Grogan the ball cleared up to Newman up to support on the left flank 25 out crosses the ball inside for Wood right of the D, does well to see the ball drop over her to run onto it touch into the box right of goal and rifle her shot in across the static keeper 3-0.
Milton Keynes confident at the start of the 2nd half attacking through the middle out into Albert left channel, gets the better of McCorkell to drive on towards the box, Grogan though comes sliding in with a strong challenge to dispossess her. Albert is causing Keynsham plenty of problems out on the left in attack shifting left then right riding a challenge staying on her feet as she enters the area, it’s Grogan once again with the robust tackle to take the ball and is fouled herself as she tries to carry it out of the area.
Butcher looking to get forwards more through the middle for Keynsham support Carabott out on the left, up to head the ball on trying to get on Newman comes to close down tackle and launch the ball forwards, Coupar after it right side can’t reach t before the keeper. Biggadike into Pepper central out to Albert on the left bringing the ball down 25 out move infield before striking a shot over the crossbar. Off a throw high on the right Pepper on the turn 25 yards out sees her strike held by Kierk in the Keynsham goal. Are a few tasty tackles flying in. Munro with a talking too from the referee for a foul on Pepper. The freekick to the left of centre lifted on into the area, Kierk keeps her eye on it taking the catch well as players rapidly close her down.
Carabott has had few opportunities on the left for Keynsham since coming on but is willing to take players on when she has the ball, a superb reverse ball on for Butcher has her through to attack the box, is thwarted by the raised flag. Milton Keynes need to stay focused Keynsham look a threat when they start moving the ball quicker, a diagonal pass finding Bak out on the right her angled shot in has Sansom scrambling across her goal line but can see it run safely wide of her far post. Moments later Sansom is called into action to save and feet of Butcher as she looks to get in on goal from a Bak cross from the right.
Kierk is called upon too at the other end making a great blocking save on Wood as she is fed in behind as Coupar flicks the ball on through the middle, to the left bursting into the box, the keeper rushing out to meet her stays big as the ball is struck against her. The game has suddenly opened up as Lorton lifts it through for Carabott clear in the left channel breaking into the box Sansom comes rushing out Carabott getting the ball beyond her inside looking to turn and shoot Miles on the cover though back to defend put in the tackle and win the ball.
Keynsham not going down without a fight looking to score a goal of their own, an over zealous tackle out left giving Milton Keynes an opportunity to play the ball into the box, floated in to the far post Coupar up but twisting can’t get near it as the ball runs out of play. Milton Keynes make their first change midway through the 2nd half Laura Mills coming on for Biggadike. The substitute battling for the ball on the right wing does well to come away with the ball powering infield attempts to put a ball in over the defence, Miles has ghosted in unnoticed from the back, as Grogan hooks it away.
A 2nd change for Milton Keynes sees Dominika Netschova coming on for Newman. Pepper on the ball central threads a low ball through on the diagonal for Coupar right side, too much on it as Kierk can claim before it can be attacked. Keynsham with a free-kick 30 yards out central the shot struck over by Bak. Grogan picks up the first yellow card of the game with 20 minutes left as she brings down Coupar on halfway. Grogan has to be careful with her tackles now as she closes Coupar down into the right corner, wins the ball.
GOAL! Milton Keynes get forwards on the left Albert on for Netschova on the overlap her stabbed cross into the box cut out by Bak cleared to the top of the area, Albert steals in to regain the ball coming inside to curl a shot into the top corner from 20 yards out 4-0.
Baring a complete collapse Milton Keynes status in the Southern Premier Division is assured leading 4 nil with 15 minutes left to play. A triple substitution being readied for Milton Keynes as Keynsham attack the ball on the left fizzed into Carabott takes it on squaring a cross along the top of the area for Butcher, leaning back into the shot sends her low strike straight at Sansom who gets down to claim the ball. Quick to turn play around the ball through the middle finding Albert she turns playing it on into the box for Coupar right of goal, Withers going with her, Coupar hurt after initially fouling the defender a bit of afters as she goes to ground. The physios on Coupar appears in alot of pain. Has had terrible luck with injuries this season and it’s more bad news for the young striker as she can’t continue has to come off.
Coupar one of the 3 substituted she is replaced by Marianne Taho, also on Amy Gooderham for Albert and Mathilda Brown an MK Dons RTC graduate in her first season in women’s football making her home debut on for Rush. Mills breaking on right side down to the by line her cross whipped in turned behind at the near posy by the keeper. Butcher taking the ball away to the left with a good run on into the area pushed wide the angle rapidly going against her Miles closing down blocking her shot. Williams booked as she fouls Netschova attacking left side.
GOAL! The free-kick lifted into the box headed clear by Munro. Is quickly regained by Milton Keynes in the final third, into Wood right of the D turns inside to smash a shot goalwards, taking a slight deflection on its way home 5-0.
5 goals for Milton Keynes with 5 minutes left to play another superb strike from outside the box, Milton Keynes are staying up with style. Soon on the attack after the restart the ball into Taho 30 yards out turned on for Mills away right side inside the box sends her shot angling in wide of the far post.
GOAL! Time for one more goal and a small consolation for Keynsham as they get on down the right the ball fed on through for Butcher bursting into the box, getting there just before the keeper this time to stab the ball under Sansom and score. 5-1.
Taho moving right with the ball for Milton Keynes sees her cross into the box cut out by Williams. Cleared to the top of the area Pepper looks to retrieve but his closed down. A free-kick for the hosts right into the top of the six yard box cleared by Grogan. Butcher through the middle sends the ball into Carabott left side drives into the box is forced wide by Miles running out of ground attempts to lift the ball goalwards with the outside of her boot is cut out. and cleared.
Moving into stoppage time Milton Keynes attacking Wood central 25 out on for Mills on the right flashes a cross into the six yard box, Kierk scooping it up as Taho closes in. The game is open in the closing stages Keynsham tiring Milton Keynes full of energy Wood dragging a shot wide in the middle 25 yards out. The hosts with the ball Taho with Mills on the right her cross cut out by Withers, Pepper on the loose ball send out to the left Netschova linking with Gooderham her cross in seeing the flag go up. The final action of the season and Milton Keynes can celebrate as they turn their season around to secure league status on the final day!
Full time Milton Keynes Dons Women 5-1 Keynsham Town Ladies
5 superb strikes from outside the box to see Milton Keynes secure a 5-1 victory in their must win fixture. As it was Cardiff lost 4-1 away to Southampton to confirm their relegation. The win though moves Milton Keynes up a place to 9th in the table over Plymouth. A fantastic result a goal inside 10 minutes settling any nerves, 2 up at half-time a 3rd goal coming so quickly in the 2nd half were in control of the game throughout. An incredible turn around when they only had 2 points on the board from their opening 10 matches. Keynsham’s time in the 3rd tier comes to an end a tough 2nd half to the season costing them in the finish.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match, is a tough one have three contenders hard to single one out. A few performances of note to mention first. For Keynsham, captain Nadine Grogan gave her all in defence with a number of strong tackles, winning the ball. For Milton Keynes, Tally Miles was strong at the back with some great positional play read the game well. In the middle Nicole Pepper was strong going forwards bringing others into play and scoring a great goal. So too on the scoring front Lucy Wood a great game out on the right, always an option for the defence and midfield getting on with the ball, scoring twice. Narrowly edging them both out though today’s award goes to Chez Albert strong on the left side always available caused the Keynsham defence problems though out whether getting to the by-line or coming inside also on the scoresheet with a fantastic strike.
A long but enjoyable trip down to the Stadium MK this afternoon, look forwards to returning for the Euro’s it’s going to be a great occasion. My thanks to Milton Keynes for their hospitality and to Charlie Bill for supplying me with the team details. A day off then it’s 5 cup finals in 8 days!
by Darren Gilham