Sunday 20th March
Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup Final
At Letchworth’s County Ground this afternoon for the 1st cup final of the season. Back after a 2 season hiatus the Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup. Plenty of massive fixtures across the region this weekend but this will see the 1st bit of silverware lifted with Colney Heath Ladies featuring in there first ever county cup final taking on Stevenage FC Women who have featured in every final covered by Women’s Football East to date.
Covid of course the reason for the 2 season hiatus, but it’s great to see end of season showpieces returning with a busy schedule looming, (wouldn’t have it any other way). Hertfordshire usually the first of the county cup finals to be held getting underway back in September with 35 entrants. The finalists with contrasting history in the competition.
Colney Heath Ladies reaching the County Cup Final for the 1st time. Promoted to the ERWFL Premier Division in 2017 have gone on to become an established side in the league. Youth at the heart of their development an influx of talent the season before last has seen the side push on this season and although Wymondham Town Ladies already have the title sown up the race for runners-up spot is very much on Colney Heath currently 6th just 4 points off 2nd with games in hand on all the sides above them. Was at the County Ground I first saw Colney heath play in their first ever final the ERWFL Plate, this their greatest achievement to date reaching the County Cup Final for the first time.
Stevenage FC Women playing in the league above are in a battle to avoid the drop from FAWNL South East Division One. Now run by the Stevenage FC Foundation, the restructuring seeing quite alot of player movement along with a managerial change with Fadi Mazloum now managing the 1st team. With 4 sides likely to go down this season Stevenage were struggling for points 2nd bottom however a run of 3 wins from 4 against the sides down there with them has put them right back into contention to wrestle free of the drop zone and given them momentum and confidence at a crucial stage of the season. have dominated the County Cup in recent seasons. This now Stevenage’s home ground too with the County Ground their base although for today’s game they are the ‘away’ side.
Road to the Final
A bye for both sides in the 1st Round of the competition. Colney Heath were to take on Beds & Herts Division Three newcomers St Margaretsbury Women at home in the 2nd Round, a convincing win in the finish against a side who would go onto win their league, 13-0 with Lily Hall bagging a double hat-trick. Stevenage were at home to facing Beds & Herts Premier Division side Garston Ladies. Holly Greenwood with a brace amongst the goals in a 4-0 win.
Into the 3rd Round Colney Heath presented with a tricky tie away to ERWFL Division One South high flyers Cheshunt FC Women. Goals from Christina Freestone and Lucy Hancock seeing them edge the game 2-1 to progress to the last 8. Stevenage awarded an away win against Hitchin Town Women Canaries.
Colney Heath at home to another Division One South side in the quarter finals taking on Wodson Park Ladies. A comfortable 4-0 victory putting them into the semi-finals. Stevenage at home to ERWFL Premier Division side Royston Town Women pushing for the title at that point, goals from Greenwood and Vicky Neal securing a 2-1 win to take them into the last 4.
Coney Heath drawn to face cup holders Watford FC Women Development in the semi-finals, Sasha Manders firing them into an early lead. Grainne Kellet later on doubling the advantage to send Colney Heath into their first ever County Cup Final. Stevenage away to Bed & Herts Premier Division side Oaklands Wolves Ladies 4 divisions between the sides Stevenage were comfortable winners. Paige Pryor netting a brace with a foal each for Greenwood, Dionne Manning, Vicky Neal and Lucy Webster to take them into another final.
Been a while since I’ve ventured to the County Ground, in Letchworth home of Hertfordshire FA. Today themselves launching a pledge to level up the gulf that still exists between the numbers of men and women registered to play the game within the county. Stevenage themselves amongst a growing number of clubs supporting the #HerGameToo initiative to tackle sexism within the game.
The ground with some redevelopment in recent seasons a new artificial playing surface, overlooked by the large main seated stand with terracing around the ground. The cafe/clubhouse upgraded too. The pitch a decent size, a great day for the final bright and sunny with no chance of rain as we enter spring. The sun low behind one goal may well cause issues during the game.
Colney Heath Ladies starting XI – Naomi Swift, Ella Holmes, Lucy Hancock (C), Kelly Hancock, Sofia Santangelo, Lauren Appleby, Esme Hume, Grainne Kellet, Tia Steadman, Sasha Manders & Terri Harvey. Subs – Lily Hall, Lilly Nellis, Daniela Monastero, Melissa Godino & Annie Hickey.
Stevenage FC Women starting XI – Tea Oldroyd, Kate French, Lucy Webster (C), Chloe Gunn, Vicky Neal, Holly Greenwood, Shianne Swarres, Jodie Southby, Jodie Bellinger, Emily Schofield & Amy Makewell. Subs – Poppy Bennett, Stef Paci, Dionne manning, Ailish Straver & Paige Pryor.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Ex-Arsenal and England player Sian Williams the guest of honour for today’s final, introduced to the teams before kick-off. A great sized crowd gathered around the ground for the match. It’s Stevenage to get this season’s County Cup Final underway kicking off the 1st half wearing red and white shirts with red shorts and socks. Attacking into the sun with Coney Heath lined up opposite wearing black and white vertical striped shirts black shorts and socks. The ball clipped long out to the right wing Colney Heath defending seeing the ball out safely for a goal kick.
Kate French bringing the ball on into space on the left for Stevenage plays the pass into central midfield for Shianne Swarres, she in turn sweeps a diagonal ball out to the right with Jodie Bellinger bombing on, Colney Heath captain Lucy Hancock over on that side regaining possession. Colney Heath sitting back inviting Stevenage on somewhat in the early exchanges Kelly Hancock challenging for the ball lifted into Amy Makewell outside the D, spring a counter attack the ball fed out to Sasha Manders over on the left travelling on into the corner wrapping her foot around the cross lifting a high ball into the box is taken high by Stevenage goalkeeper, Tea Oldroyd inside her six yard box.
Esme Hume nipping in to win the ball inside her own half lifting the ball forwards quickly for Terri Harvey to go after, Chloe Gunn getting to the bouncing ball first to clear at the back for Stevenage. Grainne Kellet exploiting a gap on the right to run into taking the ball on for Colney Heath, doesn’t get far as Vicky Neal racing across to cover the ground puts in a strong tackle to send the ball out for a throw. A long throw put into the box from the right by Colney Heath bouncing up over Harvey at the near post, Oldroyd grabbing it into her gloves beyond.
Tentative start overall Stevenage allowed to come on with the ball Colney Heath deep keeping compact not easy to break down. Colney Heath’s, Kelly Hancock across to tackle Amy Makewell as she moves into the left channel looking to provide the passing option for Holly Greenwood winning the ball back in central midfield. Swarres is proving a formidable barrier in midfield for Colney heath to bypass, more often than not the beginnings of an attack is snuffed out by the central midfielder with Jodie Bellinger an Southby looking to provide options left and right to keep the pressure inside their opponents half.
French moving left with the ball spreads play diagonally out to the right Southby, tackled, Colney Heath look to counter Manders taking the ball up the line Swarres moving in quickly to tackle keep the pressure on down the right side Stevenage winning a corner kick. Players up from the back the ball in near side headed out of the area away to the right Swarres getting hold of it with support from Neal looking to work and opening, Kelly Hancock getting the tackle in Holly Greenwood onto the loose ball attempts to battle through the defence the box too congested no way through.
Esme Hume with the ball on the right helping to break up a Stevenage attack sets up a counter mover feeding the ball on for Grainne Kellet out on the flank, travels a long way with the ball holding off a challenge to get down to the by-line and fire a low cross in towards the near post met by Terri Harvey six yards out turns the ball goalwards, Oldroyd is right behind it to make the save. Colney Heath are compact making it a challenge to drive through the middle space available out with the full backs able to come on a corner won on the left.
An inswinging delivery to the near post the defensive header sending it out to the right side well beyond the far post, falling to Emily Schofield she shoots on the angel the ball looping towards goal. Colney Heath goalkeeper Naomi Swift back-peddling to reach it with a good save to glove the ball away to safety taking a knock in the process, play stopped so she can receive treatment. Colney Heath with a free-kick on the right out to Hume on the wing forwards her cross driven into Harvey arriving top of the area right of the D, Swarres rushing back sliding it with a strong challenge to win the ball.
Is a close contest, Stevenage with more of the ball able to come on Coney Heath soaking up pressure. Schofield moving out to the right taking the ball on from Bellinger drives on with the ball at her feet lets fly from the angle her shot fired in across the face of goal wide, Southby closing in can’t quite reach it to deflect in at the far post. Swarres sliding in to halt another Colney Heath advance, lifting the ball over to Bellinger on the right, the flag up however ha strayed offside. Hume putting the ball on into Harvey up top for Colney Heath combines with Tia Steadman looking to release Manders on the left in behind the pass short intercepted by Gunn.
Swarres winning the ball 25 yards out threads it through the defence, Schofield breaking clear into the box, Swift advancing it lay claim to the ball first. Amy Makewell with a strike from outside the D moments later, held by the Colney Heath keeper. Hume charging down Greenwood’s attempted cross as the gathers the ball from a throw on the left. French forwards on the left inside to Swarres some 35 yards out time and space to line up a shot sent in on target but at a comfortable height for Swift to catch.
Colney Heath competing for the ball well enough but deep back defending there box getting out in numbers is proving difficult, Stevenage regaining possession coming straight back at them, Bellinger over on the left now going in to challenge for the ball deflects favourably to let her run in behind. Towards the area turns inside looking for an opening to shoot, Colney heath captain, Lucy Hancock closing in to make a great tackle to thwart her. Kelly Hancock in turn out to tackle Bellinger, Hume taking up possession on for Kellet on the wing a race with French, the full back getting across her to roll the ball back to her keeper to clear.
GOAL! Midway through the 1st half and Stevenage’s pressure brings the opening goal attacking on the left the ball at Bellinger’s feet she drills a great ball across the six yard box with Schofield wriggling free to connect and turn the ball past Swift into the back of the net 0-1.
Changes then for both sides, Dionne Manning coming on for Stevenage, Melissa Godino for Colney Heath replacing Appleby. Kellet has pace out right for Colney Heath looks to travel with the ball whenever she can, French needing to stay alert getting back on her to lunge in to tackle. A free-kick won for Stevenage wide right top of the area the ball lifted in near side headed out to the top of the D put back inside Kellet heading it away, falling to Gunn who sends a curling diagonal ball back into the far post Colney Heath in again to win the defensive header clearing the threat.
Godino taking the ball on through the centre for Colney Heath has Manders moving into space over on the right picking her out French closes her down challenging to regain possession unfairly however Colney Heath with the free-kick. The ball into the box comfortably defended by Stevenage. Colney Heath with a 2nd change, Lily Hall on for Steadman. Webster advancing on the right for Stevenage with the diagonal pass inside for Schofield right of the D turns into the shot a low effort gathered by Swift back on her line. Swarres moving on through the middle with the ball unleashing a shot from 20 yards out right side of the D runs wide of the far post.
Stef Paci a recent signing for Stevenage from London bees comes on replacing Greenwood in the midfield. Makewell battling for control of the ball 25 yards out squeezes it through to Schofield top of the D, shifts to shoot pulling her strike narrowly wide of the right post. Colney Heath working the ball into their attackers, Harvey and Manders linking well in the middle rolled back to Godino who in turn sweeps a pass out to Ella Holmes free on the right getting into the box takes on the shot the ball angled low into the keeper at the near post. Hall running on with the ball top of the area her shot blocked by Gunn.
Kelly Hancock fouls Makewell as she tries to get the ball under control as it is cleared up to her from the back, the free-kick to the right. Makewell with Webster on the right the cross fire into the middle of the box Manning can’t get it down onto her feet before the ball is scramble away to safety. Colney Heath getting players further forwards late in the 1st half are hit on the counter with Bellinger coming away with the ball on the left. Plays in diagonal pass inside looking to pick Schofield, Kelly Hancock intercepting for Colney Heath.
Holmes central with space in midfield plays the ball on for Manders on the right of attack, shifts inside before taking on the strike top of the are, swerving through the air but doesn’t cause Oldroyd any problems. Into stoppage time at the end of the first half, Colney heath coming forwards left side the cross turned away to the right for a throw in, another long delivery in the box, bouncing Oldroyd claiming it high.
Half-time Colney heath Ladies 0-1 Stevenage FC Women
A narrow 1-0 lead for Stevenage at the break, scored midway through the half by Emily Schofield. Colney Heath soaking up alot of pressure defending deep at time wanting to be hard to break down has allowed Stevenage to come on at will at times their full backs joining the attack whilst the midfield, Swarres in particular have prevented Colney heath getting the ball out up to their attacking players. Chances created without the keeper being overly tested, Stevenage will want to be more clinical 2nd half. Defending well Colney Heath will have to come out more 2nd half if they want to score and with 1 goal in it still all to play for.
With roll on roll off substitutes it’s not always easy to keep track of who is on and who is off. Stevenage appear unchanged with Annie Hickey on at the back for Colney heath who get the 2nd half underway defending with the low sun in their eyes. Played out to the back Stevenage in quickly to pressure the ball, Paci out to Manning moving right her cross met by Schofield at the near post, takes a deflection as it runs wide of the post for a corner. Players up into the box the delivery from the right turned on to the left Gunn outside the area hooking it back in towards the near post Neal getting something on it heading the ball over the defence claimed by Swift beyond.
Manders is fouled trying to get forwards for Colney Heath on the left side no advantage play brought back. The game looking more open now Colney Heath looking to get players into advanced positions take the attack to Stevenage. Swarres in the middle out to Bellinger on the left side runs into traffic forced back play spread to Webster right on up the line for Manning her cross angled in to the area headed clear by Hickey.
Hickey then out of the area to charge down Swarres as she bursts forwards from midfield. Harvey moving out to the right for Colney Heath sending a cross long through the six yard box. Kellet back on the right for Colney Heath getting on with the ball cutting it back into Manders top of the box, is closed down quickly by the Stevenage defence. A different feel to the 2n half more open as Colney heath look to apply some pressure in the final 3rd. Paci turning on the ball centrally clipping a diagonal ball out to Manning on the right her cross dipping in front of goal headed away by Hickey.
Colney Heath break left side Hall bursting forwards her low cross for Harvey inside the are Oldroyd comes sliding out Harvey nicking it beyond her, caught by the keepers trailing leg, can’t get to the ball before it is cleared to safety, looked a good shout for a penalty but no one appeals play goes on. Stevenage making a change on the hour breaking on Paige Pryor up top for Makewell. Daniela Monastero on in midfield for Colney Heath moving on with the ball covering alot of ground before Neal moves out to close her down.
Kellett right side plays the ball inside to Steadman free for a moment top of the area turns into the shot no power behind her strike however as it rolls harmlessly through to Oldroyd. Gunn holding off Hall at the back seeing the ball safely back to her keeper to clear. Harvey taking on the Stevenage defence looking to plough her way through into the area, Neal across her though shielding the ball well back to Oldroyd.
Pryor looks to be in on goal left of the D bringing a cross down from the wing, Lucy Hancock getting back on her well to deny the chance, Swift down to smother the ball as Manning goes in for it. Changes around as Southby returns for Stevenage along with Ailish Straver replacing Bellinger and Swarres. Appleby returning to the pitch for Colney Heath. Pryor nips in to steal a misplaced pass at the back from Colney heath on the left side 25 yards out takes on the shot angled in low saved by Swift at her near post.
Colney Heath gaining momentum feeling they can get themselves back on level terms risking leaving gaps at the back. Manders on the left space to take the ball into her cross won by Straver. The ball bouncing through the middle Neal finding herself under pressure between two Colney Heath attackers isn’t fazed dealing with the threat comfortably. Godino winning the ball in midfield into Steadman, turns into traffic the ball lost. Poppy Bennett coming on for Stevenage replacing Schofield with game moving into the final 20 minutes.
Pryor moving across the top of the D left to right for Stevenage blazes a shot over the crossbar. The game stretched players tiring, the ball played into Manning top of the D spins it out to French clear on the right, Lucy Hancock recovering to slide in pressuring the ball back with her keeper. Stevenage pushing on looking to stretch Colney Heath at the back.
GOAL! On 75 minutes Stevenage score a crucial 2nd goal, the ball put into Manning’s feet back to goal 25 yards out sees French breaking on her left, the ball rolled out to her right of goal she checks inside to strike a left footed shots around the keeper into the corner of the net 0-2.
Colney Heath with a series of changes Santangelo amongst those back on as Monastero plays the ball on for Harvey the cross in long Hall on the far side retrieving it on the by-line scooping a dangerous cross in near post, Steadman there close in on goal with Oldroyd, the keeper under some pressure bating it away before being cleared. French off for Stevenage, Makewell back on. Lilly Nellis on for Colney Heath for Steadman who has picked up a knock.
GOAL! Stevenage go on to extend their lead late on the game a blow for Colney Heath, their opponents coming down the left the ball played into the middle for Makewell right over the D bringing the ball down carry’s it in field into Straver who strikes the ball in towards goal a fantastic strike to lob the keeper from outside the box fly in under the crossbar 0-3.
Stevenage scoring two quick goals late in the game taking control of the final. A free-kick won in front of the centre circle Gunn on it goes for goal her effort bouncing wide of the post. Hall on the drive with the ball for Colney Heath on the left whips in a cross far post, Bennett rising to head it away for Stevenage.
GOAL! Into the final 10 minutes Monastero is fouled for Colney heath 25 yards out to the left of the Stevenage goal. Manders placing the ball down to take the set-piece. Takes on the strike is hit well sent up over the wall, to dip beyond beating Oldroyd rising on her line to drop under the bar and in 1-3.
Is there to be late drama in the game the tie going to penalties if the scores were to be level at full time. Stevenage though are an experienced side now comes down to ball management, Colney Heath looking to press the ball leaving gaps all over the pitch. Manning and Paci winning challenges in the middle the play spread. Neal and Gunn keeping it tight through the middle. Greenwood back on for Straver in the closing minutes. Kellett for Godino for Colney Heath.
Gunn playing the ball onto Greenwood eft of the D digging a shot out of her feet the dipping effort held by Swift. Space on the right Webster forwards crossing into the area the ball cleared turned back in cleared out to Greenwood top of the D lashes a shot in Swift up doesn’t get it as it comes crashing down off the crossbar before being scramble clear. Stevenage with the ball as 4 minutes of stoppage time is signalled. Colney Heath can’t find any meaningful possession in the closing moments Stevenage readily winning the ball back celebrate as the final whistle blows.
Full time Colney Heath Ladies 1-3 Stevenage FC Women
Stevenage winning the Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup for a 4th time beating Colney Heath 3-1. A game of two halves with Colney Heath soaking up alot of pressure 1st half allowing Stevenage to come on keeping it tight difficult to break down going in trailing by just a single goal. Was a more open 2nd half chances created for both sides, Stevenage scoring a quick double inside the final 15 minutes to take control of the game. 3-0 though harsh on Colney Heath a battling display getting a goal back to make it 3-1 a fine free-kick from Sasha Manders. Stevenage though were in no mood to throw it all away and kept the ball well to see out the closing stages coming close to adding to their score line.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. One player standing out a few performances of note to mention first though. For Colney Heath, Kelly Hancock was strong in defence with a number of tackles and interceptions. Sasha Manders out wide looking to take the ball on create openings up front scoring a superb free-kick. Esme Hume at just 16 years of age impressing too. For Stevenage Vicky Neal was solid and composed at the back unfazed and reading and dealing with threats. Up top Emily Schofield was strong getting into some great positions opening the scoring. The award today though goes to midfielder Shianne Swarres, broke up play on numerous occasions Colney Heath often seeing an attack broken up before it had begun. Used the ball well spreading the ball out to the flanks.
Congratulations to Stevenage FC Women on winning this season’s Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup.
Great to see a final back at the County Ground the first of many to report upon this season back to it on Tuesday night at the Abbey Stadium for the Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup Final between Cambridge City Ladies and Newmarket Tow Ladies. An enjoyable first final of the season to watch in front of a strong crowd. My thanks to Hertfordshire FA for there help today and both sides for the team details much appreciated.
by Darren Gilham