Wednesday 13th April
Hunts FA Women’s Senior Cup Final
A busy week of cup final action on Women’s Football East, starting this Wednesday evening with a trip to Eynesbury Rovers FC or the inaugural Hunts FA Women’s Senior Cup Final between Cambridge United WFC and St Ives Town Ladies.
Huntingdonshire FA’s inaugural Women’s Senior Cup at last taking place after Covid put pay to the final being played last season. 7 women’s sides featured within the county with representatives varying from county level right up to FAWNL Division One the 4th tier of the women’s football pyramid.
The two strongest sides within the county reaching the final of the competition with Cambridge United WFC playing their football at St Neots Town FC playing in FAWNL South East Division One taking on St Ives Town Ladies from the ERWFL Premier Division below.
Cambridge United WFC manager, Darren Marjoram taking on familiar opponents having joined the FAWNL side at the start of the season having previously been manager at St Ives Town playing a major role in the clubs development and rapid rise up the football pyramid. Overall a successful 1st season with Cambridge pushing for a top 4 finish at one point tailing away towards the end with consistency proving a challenge will secure a mid-table finish with a good platform to build on next season. Cambridge United WFC enjoying closer ties with Cambridge United FC which will benefit them going forwards have traditionally been a dominant force within the county cup competition in Cambridgeshire itself, now with their base in Huntingdonshire have the opportunity to contest for silverware once again.
St Ives Town Ladies having reached the ERWFL Premier Division 3 seasons ago after a fast and strong rise through the leagues, were looking strong in their debut season, then Covid came along and put an end to proceedings, the following season likewise affected stifling development for a lot of clubs. A change of management this season with Ben Green eventually taking charge. Have found this season in the ERWFL Premier Division a struggle winning just one of their opening 8 league fixtures and with one game left to play are unfortunately at the bottom of the table and facing the prospect of relegation, yet the mood in the camp remains positive and recent results giving the squad some much needed confidence going into this evenings final.
Road to the Final
With 7 sides contesting, new side Huntingdon Town Ladies made up largely of the old St Ives Town Ladies Development side were the ones to receive a bye into the last 4. Cambridge United WFC starting their cup campaign away to Cardea FC Ladies,, 2nd in the Cambridgeshire Women’s Division One, 3 divisions between the sides Cambridge running out comfortable winners with both Ruth Fox and Laura Mitchell scoring a hat-trick in an 11-0 win. A equally high scoring victory for St Ives Town Ladies in their quarter final away to Cambridgeshire Women’s Division Two side, Brampton Ladies. Charlotte Noble on target with a hat-trick with top scorers Angel Lyden netting a brace in a 10-2 result.
Into the last 4 and Cambridge were drawn at home to Cambridge Women’s Division Two title chasers, Eaton Socon Ladies. A good test for the visitors young squad, Cambridge once again racking up the goals powering into the final with a 13-0 win. St Ives at home to Huntingdon Town Ladies in their semi-final. Georgia Stancombe on target with a brace with a goal each for Kati Stancombe and Sasha Smith seeing them through to their first county cup final.
The venue for the inaugural Hunts FA Women’s Senior Final, Eynesbury Rovers FC. Like St Neots, Premier Plus Stadium situated in a residential area, featuring a very large grass pitch which will offer plenty of width in great condition. A seated stand along one side of the ground opposite the dugouts, housing the changing rooms with the bar/clubhouse with kitchen hatch alongside. Another seated stand behind one of the goals a good sized crowd building. A pleasant warm day carrying into the evening mild with no wind or rain forecast.
Cambridge United WFC starting XI – Lauren Webb, Carrie Bennett, Kayleigh-Anne Burt, Lauren Rouse, Abi Davies, Gisela Otten (C), Abbi Griffin, Faith Hewitt, Laura Mitchell, Nicole Emmings & Ruth Fox. Subs – Kira Markwell, Grace Waygood, Alysha Stojko-Down, Libby Fraser & Niamh Day.
St Ives Town Ladies starting XI – Sarah Aftelak, Mollie Flack, Sasha Smith, Anna Hicks (C), Georgia Stancombe, Hannah Seymour-Shove, Jessica Conyard, Sarah Mosley, Angel Lyden, Katie Stancombe & Elle Jefferson. Subs – Lauren Bird, Poppy Lyons & Penelope Ford.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Three former St Ives players following Darren Marjoram to Cambridge all featuring in this evenings final with Ruth Fox, top scorer for Cambridge this season with 14 goals leading the attack and Abbi Griffin starting in midfield. Goalkeeper, Kira Markwell on the bench. Cambridge to get the game underway kicking off 1st half wearing amber coloured shirts with black shorts and socks with St Ives opposite wearing white shirts with black vertical striping, black shorts and socks. The play played diagonally out to the left wing for Nicole Emmings, Mollie Flack gaining possession for St Ives lifting the ball back into the middle.
St Ives closing in on the ball Jessica Conyard playing it out to Angel Lyden on the right support with Sarah Mosley down the flank the pair playing a good one two on, Carrie Bennett across the ball for Cambridge to see it safely out of play for a goalkick. Cambridge winning a free-kick captain Gisella Otten on for Laura Mitchell on the right takes the ball on squaring it into Ruth Fox top of the area, Georgia Stancombe defending for St Ives the ball back with Kayleigh-Anne Burt on the right spreads play across to Lauren Rouse moving left on for Bennett up for Emmings taking the ball up up the left whistling a cross into the box, Fox the target central, St Ives captain Anna Hicks getting her foot on the ball to clear.
St Ives build on the left getting a free-kick the ball played on cleared is picked up by Katie Stancombe out left 30 yards out strikes the ball goalwards, arrowing in, Cambridge goalkeeper, Lauren Webb with a spectacular save, athletically diving to her right gloving the ball away for a corner kick. The corner delivery lofted into a crowded near post, Webb coming in amongst everyone to jump punch the ball down, cleared up to Mitchell looking to break, Sarah Aftelak keeping goal for St Ives out of her box to clear.
St Ives with a fast start looking to press the ball get it moving forwards quickly, Elle Jefferson in attack nudging the ball on for Lyden, Burt closing in to tackle, halt St Ives progress for Cambridge. Lyden getting on well right side with Jefferson supporting, Faith Hewitt across to put in the tackle. Cambridge rushed on the ball as St Ives work to close down passes not finding their targets. Rouse at the back for Cambridge onto Hewitt with Bennett going on left side her diagonal ball flighted into the area seen out at her near post by Aftelak. A busy opening 10 minutes from St Ives have caught Cambridge a little off guard, Mosley in to tackle Otten put the ball out to Lyden, Emmings tracking back to challenge get the ball back into Cambridge’s possession.
Emmings with Bennett up the left checks back inside firing a cross into the area Fox the target too close to the keeper Aftelak snatching it up into her gloves. Griffin down in the middle for Cambridge needing treatment after a challenge, is okay to continue. Play resuming Flack with a timely interception getting her foot on the ball as Emmings looks to thread a pass on in behind. Katie Stancombe with the ball driving on left side pace forced back up the line before turning and seeing her long range strike charged down. The ball up to Fox in attack right channel 25 out played back to Hewitt central out out to Mitchell on the right advances before flashing and angled shot wide across the St Ives goal.
There positive start giving St Ives confidence, Jefferson linking up well with Lyden on the right keeping Bennett occupied at the back for Cambridge. Aftelak with a good catch high at her near post as Cambridge attack right Mitchell sending the ball in. Cambridge lose the ball at the back Rouse tackled by Katie Stancombe right sent onto Jefferson racing into the area evading Burt’s challenge, Griffin running back closing in to block before Jefferson can unleash a shot. St Ives quick to counter whenever they have the ball Lyden on the right looking to set up Jefferson ahead of her, Rouse defending well for Cambridge shielding the ball putting it back for Webb to clear.
Fox for Cambridge with a great first touch 25 yards out to take the ball in behind on the left channel, Lyden getting back on her shoulder to shoulder forces her wide before tackling to clear the ball. Cambridge with a free-kick on the left leading to a corner kick, players up from the back the six yard box loaded, the delivery in escaping the defender at the near post running on into the mix, a snap shot taken from close range Aftelak with a fantastic save leaping to her left to snatch the ball down with both hands.
Otten central spinning to evade a tackle playing the ball into Fox’s feet as she peels away left channel to run in behind towards the box shooting from outside the area her effort drilled wide of the near post. A tug back leading to a St Ives free-kick central, players up as Georgia Stancombe sends it up into the area Jefferson unable to get it down under control before being closed down the ball cleared. Half and hour played, Griffin wrestling free with the ball in the middle sending it through for Fox left of the D too heavy though the keeper gathering safely.
Lyden strong on the right getting in behind, pace taking her to the by-line flashes a cross along the face of the Cambridge goal Katie Stancombe beyond the far post can’t keep it in. Otten puts the ball on for Emmings into space on the left driving on wraps her foot around the ball angling a cross into the box swerving goalwards Aftelak with a confident take high at her near post. Otten strong in the middle winning a St Ives goalkick the ball out to Emmings again on the left shifts inside this time shooting wide from 30 yards out. St Ives forced back as Cambridge get players forwards Davies up with Mitchell on the right the ball cut out fed across the the left Bennett up field delivering a cross into the top of the area Georgia Stancombe clearing for St Ives.
Cambridge gaining some momentum as the 1st half draws to a close Georgia Stancombe clearing a cross the ball out for a corner on the left. Put into the mix in front of goal Aftelak getting a fist on the ball can’t claim, falling a scramble in front of her put clear, Jefferson breaking with it through the middle, Mitchell racing back for Cambridge to challenge. Fox taking the ball on as she sees it into her feet and turns 25 yards out, Conyard going with her lunging in to take the ball away from her.
Hewitt fouled in the middle played out to Mitchell on the right Davies looking to get on with her, Smith timing her tackle well to halt Mitchell’s run. Davies up with Mitchell on the right moments later the shot angled in low, held well by Aftelak down smartly at her near post. Hannah Seymour-Shove tackling in the middle out to Katie Stancombe on the left driving on, Davies challenging as Burt comes to clear. Won back up to Mosley, Jefferson moving into the D ahead of her, Rouse getting her foot in to steal the ball. Burt sending the pass on for Davies bursting forwards on the right, strikes the ball on the angle from distance, Aftelak untroubled as she sees it wide of her far post.
St Ives playing the ball on with pace through the centre Jefferson and Lyden looking to get into the box, Rouse across to put in the tackle before the ball is cleared for a throw on the left. St Ives winning a free-kick on their right, Bennett aggrieved as she goes in for a 50/50 challenge. Smith flighting an inviting ball into the box, Otten inside to defend with a firm header as push spotted however Cambridge getting the free-kick. Into the closing stages of the 1st half Cambridge attack on the right Fox up with Mitchell a throw won high up the pitch. The cross coming in off the throw sees Fox’s attempt near side charged down Mitchell getting hold of the rebound seeing her shot deflected wide for a corner on the right. Put in across the six yard box scrambled behind for another corner on the left this delivery cleared at the near post.
Half-time Cambridge United WFC 0-0 St Ives Town Ladies
Goalless at the break. A competitive game with St Ives starting brightly working hard to close the ball down, get it on take the game to Cambridge who were a little cold at the start caught off guard. Webb called into action with an early save. The work rate continuing from St Ives have counted well, whilst defending their box. Cambridge gaining momentum as the half wore on will be interesting to see if St Ives can match this tempo 2nd half, remains all to play for.
A triple change for Cambridge at the start of the 2nd half with Kira Markwell replacing Webb in goal. Also on defender Grace Waygood and midfielder Alysha Stojko-Down for Burt and Hewitt. Tactical changes too as Griffin goes to right back, Davies up to joined Fox and Emmings in attack on the right side. St Ives with the same 11 get the 2nd period underway the scores level after 90 minutes the game goes straight to penalties. The ball played forwards cleared by Waygood. Both sides closing down in the middle the start of the 2nd half disjointed with neither side getting hold of the ball.
Cambridge build on the left Bennett on for Emmings attacking down the wing crossed into the area for Mitchell played back out to Stojko-Down 20 yards out, her strike charged down by Hicks. Cambridge showing more attacking intent at the start of the 2nd half looking to get on the front foot Stojko-Down and Otten tackling in the middle, the former fouled by Seymour-Shove a free-kick lifted into the area defended away for a corner kick on the left. Played in to the near side Emmings coming towards the ball twists as she leaps looking to turn the ball goalwards plants it wide.
Smith’s clearance at the back has Lyden running in clear behind on the right, Markwell responding quickly advancing to the top of her area to grab the ball into her gloves. The ball clipped into Fox from midfield 25 yards out brings it down well turning to attack the area, runs into Georgia Stancombe who stabs out a foot to take the ball away. Davies and Emmings pushing on with Fox through the middle now in attack St Ives forced back, Otten and Stojko-Down in midfield winning the cleared ball back. Smith gets in a great tackle ,needed as Davies looks to charge on down the right side.
A flare-up on the right as St Ives win a free-kick, quickly extinguished by the referee, the set-piece send long into the area, Markwell unchallenged with an assured claim. Cambridge using the pitch better now as Otten coming right to win possession links up with Griffin the ball played into Stojko-Down central helped out to Bennett on the left forwards for Emmings her cross dinked into the area finds Fox getting a yard clear of the defence just inside she sends her shot in, narrowly over the crossbar.
St Ives with their backs to the wall as Cambridge mount an attack on the left Emmings getting help from Mitchell the ball flashed in across the six yard box Davies in far side with a 1st time effort back across goal can only find Aftelak who is down swiftly on her line to save. Stojko-Down on for Emmings left a high ball into the box Davies managing to keep it in but Smith tackles for St Ives, Davies fouled as she goes to retrieve the ball. 56 minutes played and the first change of the game for St Ives as Poppy Lyons comes on in attack in place of Jefferson.
Cambridge up on the left with a throw in put into Mitchell shifts infield to the top corner of the area shooting low the ball rolling into Aftelak getting down to claim at her near post. Lyden up on the right with Katie Stancombe, Bennett forcing her back before Stojko-Down regains possession for Cambridge. Davies with pace on the right adding an attacking threat turning St Ives around whips a dangerous ball in across the six yard box, Flack cool under pressure with a cushioned header back to her keeper.
Otten moving right with great foot work to back heel the ball on into the area, Mosley needing to track back to intercept, Katie Stancombe clearing options up the pitch limited Cambridge quickly regain possession. Smith in the wars for St Ives has taken another knock and this time needs to come off. Jefferson retuning to the pitch up alongside Lyons as Mosley drops back into left back. A ball played over the top for Davies attacking right of the D, Georgia Stancombe running with her to the ball first her attempted clearance hitting Davies rebounding goalwards, Aftelak reacting sharply to save.
Katie Stancombe’s pace an outlet for St Ives if they can get the ball out to her, on the left turns infield allowed to travel with the ball, it’s Rouse who gets back on her sliding in to tackle 20 yards out. Up the other end Georgia Stancombe lunging into tackle Davies 20 yards out as she shapes to shoot. Jefferson fouled top of the circle a free-kick for St Ives played long up into the area, Markwell not put off with Jefferson chasing in on the ball catching cleanly.
Seymour-Shove with a rash challenge catching Fox on the back of her achilles, presenting Cambridge with a free-kick to the right some 25 yards out. Griffin over the ball. Put into the box claimed by Aftelak. Closing in on the final 15 minutes, Cambridge strong in the 2nd half but yet to break down a resilient St Ives defence. Mitchell on the left side moving inside to cross whipping the ball in Fox her target, Georgia Stancombe going with her to intercept and clear for St Ives. Fox then sending a header over the bar as Emmings plays a cross in from the left side.
Mosley pushing Davies wide as she bursts on down the right gets to the by-line her cross drifting behind into the side netting. Otten with a strong header off a St Ives goal kick the ball with Davies on the right wins her side a corner. Long across the face of goal cleared falls to Stojko-Down 25 yards out left smashes a shot goalwards, takes a deflection on its way over. A pause in play with a St Ives player needing treatment. The corner from the right Emming’s leaping central can’t quite get there the ball cleared at the far post. Stojko-Down linking wit h Otten and Griffin central the ball fed forwards cut out by Hicks.
Into the final 10 minutes, Cambridge making a change bringing on Libby Fraser for Emmings on the left. Otten winning the ball in midfield out to the right Mitchell with Davies the shot on the angle put behind. Fox seeing the ball into her feet back to goal 20 out has support with Otten advancing she spreads play to the left Fraser with Mitchell, Flack tackling the ball out for a throw. Davies attacking right to the by-line winning a corner off Mosley. Mosley then clears at the near post as the corner is swung in.
The clock is ticking down, St Ives are absorbing alot of pressure can’t get the ball out off there half as Cambridge press hard, can they hold on, take it to the lottery of a penalty shootout? Mosley outnumbered on the left as Fox moves out to help Davies with Griffin getting up the pitch does well to get a challenge in halt progress with a throw. Defended a rare opportunity to break with Katie Stancombe in the clear on the left, Rouse though covers the ground well to slide in with the tackle. Niamh Day coming on in the closing minutes for Cambridge replacing Davies the game entering stoppage time 4 minutes to be played.
GOAL! Stojko-Down playing the ball on down the left for Mitchell deep her touch seeing her shift inside run into the area wide of goal no one from St Ives can get near her as she strikes the ball with her right foot a fantastic hit rifled home across the keeper into the corner of the goal! 1-0. One of those instances where you see the attack building and know the attacker is going to score.
The St Ives defence breached at last in stoppage time a valiant effort, Cambridge have been on top throughout the 2nd half finally have the goal. Little time left and St Ives have given it there all Katie Stancombe in space on the left can’t get a cross into the area. Cambridge with time to mount one last attack Fox put in behind on the right taking the ball to the by-line whipping in a cross that his cut out at the near post.
Full time Cambridge United WFC 1-0 St Ives Town Ladies
The final whistle blows and Cambridge celebrate as they win the inaugural Hunts FA Women’s Senior Cup. Laura Mitchell with the unstoppable strike in the 91st minute. Late heartbreak for St Ives who gave everything coming within minutes of taking their higher league opponents to a penalty shootout. Can rightly be proud of their performance was a valiant effort ran out of steam in the 2nd half absorbing alot of Cambridge pressure as their opponents adjusted things at half-time dominating the 2nd half despite not finding the all important winning goal until the end.
Women’s Football East – -Player of the Match
Onto the Women’s Football East – Player of the Match several great performances all over the pitch from players on both sides. Credit to the whole of the St Ives defence along with Sarah Mosley who did a fine job slotting into left back after Smith’s injury. Georgia Stancombe with a number of committed tackles throughout. For Cambridge, captain Gisela Otten was strong in the middle especially 2nd half winning the ball back on numerous ocassions St Ives unable to get out because of it. Laura Mitchell with the all important winning goal with a number of great attacking runs throughout aswell as Abi Davies on the right. The award ere though as it did on the night goes to St Ives goalkeeper Sarah Aftelak with some great saves and good positioning made sure her team were in the game right till the end.
Congratulations to Cambridge United WFC on winning the inaugural Hunts FA Women’s Senior Cup
The first of two mid-week finals completed a trip down to Essex on the heels of this one. 214 in attendance in what was a nail biting final no where near as one sided as some had predicted. Credit to St Ives for that smiles on their faces at the end despite the lose knowing they had given it their all. My thanks to everyone at Hunts FA for their help aswell as both clubs for their assistance with the team details and Ben Phillips for allowing me to use some of his pictures in the report.
by Darren Gilham