Sunday 13th December
ERWFL Premier Division
Finally back on the football trail this Sunday after five Sunday’s off. Lockdown 2.0 halting the playing season for a month, several sides returning to action last weekend albeit I was again unavailable having to wait another week so glad to be back this weekend, making a trip over to the Branch Brothers Stadium in Peterborough to watch Peterborough Norther Star Ladies v AFC Dunstable Women in the ERWFL Premier Division.
The Eastern Region Women’s Football League (ERWFL) Premier Division always a highly competitive league and this season proving to be no less the case. As Christmas fast approaches the 12 strong league is breaking into two clear halves with 6 sides looking strong challenging for top spot, Norfolk side Wymondham Town Ladies leading the way by 3 points. With their match called off away to Royston Town Women due to a water logged pitch it presents a great opportunity for 2nd placed Peterborough Norther Star Ladies.
Todays hosts laying 2nd in the Premier Division table going into today’s game just 3 points behind the leaders and with one goal between them on goal difference too a win would see them go top for the first time this season. An established side at this level Peterborough Northern Star lost a few senior squad players in the close season but in return have brought in some good younger players used to playing with one another at Leicester aswell as securing the signature of Jessica Driscoll who was with FAWNL Southern Premier Division side MK Dons Women last season along with fans favourite Cassie Steward who is back playing after giving birth. Staring the season with a narrow 2-3defeat to Essex side Harlow Town Ladies then went on a 3 game winning streak before again suffering a narrow 2-1 loss to Wymondham. Returned from this latest lockdown with a 3-1 win away to Bowers & Pitsea Ladies. Steward and Driscoll between them have scored 16 goals so far this season (8 each)
AFC Dunstable Women came close to folding at the start of last season struggling for players it was touch and go for a while before bringing enough new faces in to begin the rebuilding process under manger Ashley Mead. Gaining promotion to the ERWFL Premier Division in 2014/15 season were pushing hard to catch up with Bedfordshire’s other to leading female sides Luton Town Ladies and Bedford Ladies. Now having to rebuild find themselves towards to bottom of the Premier Division however with 2 win from their 7 games so far are leading the pack in the bottom half and gaining confidence all the while. During pre-season Dunstable were mentioned more than once as a side that looked vastly improved. Have added to the squad recently bringing in experienced player Mollie Burgess from MK Dons Women, she makes her debut today. Has been quite a while since I’ve seen Dunstable play were still known as AFC Dunstable Ladies in fact. Chelsea Jeffery their top scorer so far with 5 goals in 8 games.
The Branch Bros Stadium the venue for todays game. Knew it would be a wet one rain forecast and with a few games around them getting called off did wonder if this one would survive the pitch however seeing no standing water would be slick but playable. The food hut open to get a cup of tea much needed. Heavy rain before kick-off making for a wet warm up a little cover to be found around the ground. Dull and gloomy, a heavy shower prior to kick off the rain stilling as the teams came out risked heading into the open albeit donning my furry hat which I have finally managed to relocate to keep the ears warm all set.
Peterborough Northern Star Ladies starting XI – Molly Bull, Samantha Davies, Larissa Frederick, Tilly Fantom, Chanade Henderson (C), Faith Horner, Jessica Driscoll, Katie Steward, Megan Breakwell, Jessica Price & Evie Driscoll-King. subs – Alexa Hunter, Amy Magnus, April Pearson & Olivia Smith.
AFC Dunstable Women starting XI – Nicole Raffermati, Louisa Sexton, Chloe Esposito, Mollie Burgess, Carrie Mancini, Gemma Darvill, Rachael Mumford, Louise McCay, Jodi McClelland, Lori Wilson-Phillips & Darcy Collins. subs – Hannah Ring, Shauna Smith, Rebecca Devereux & Chelsea Jeffrey.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Somehow I always manage to turn up at the Branch Bros Stadium when Cassie Steward isn’t playing and today is no less different, a chance for someone else up to. Peterborough to get the game underway kicking off the 1st half, wearing black and white vertical striped shirts, black shorts, along with black socks with white trim. Dunstable opposite lined up in an all blue kit. The ball played out to the right, knocked back inside for Jessica Driscoll she gets her head down and drives on with the ball three Dunstable players all converging on her to regain possession 25 yards out. Faith Horner quickly winning the ball in the midfield for Peterborough plays it right, Katie Stewards whipping in an early diagonal ball for Jessica Price to attack, Louise Sexton in well for Dunstable at the back to close her down and win the tackle 20 yards out.
The hosts starting well getting hold of the ball inside the Dunstable half putting their opponents under pressure working the ball up the left side before Megan Breakwell’s cross angled in is seen safely into the side netting by Dunstable goalkeeper Nicole Raffermati who had her near post covered. A free kick given away in the middle of the park gives Dunstable a chance to relieve the early pressure they’ve been under played forwards down the right channel for Louise McCay to chase down does well to forces Peterborough into conceding a throw deep in their territory the visitors can’t capitalise however and Peterborough break quickly the ball fizzed forwards a good ball into the feet of Evie Driscoll-King controls it well before turning spotting Driscoll racing on plays the ball into her path sliding into the shot outside of the area the low ball runs on straight into Raffermati who drops onto the ball.
Peterborough are making good use of their wide players Breakwell left and Steward right offering got options. Breakwell this time out wide left angling a cross into the box defended well by Burgess her interception seeing the ball come left picked up by Chloe Esposito who sends it down the line for McCay bombing forwards into space, Peterborough captain Chanade Henderson at centre back getting across on the cover to charge in and clear the ball for a throw. Dunstable keep the ball inside their opponents half winning a corner on the left. A inswinging delivery the ball is dealt with by Henderson heading clear at the near post. The hosts break Steward away on the right wing into space, Burgess coming across sliding in with a no nonsense tackle to nullify the threat.
GOAL! 10 minutes on the clock and Peterborough open the scoring the hosts awarded a free kick wide on the left 30 yards out. Steward on the ball strikes it well going for goal the ball angling in has a great arc on it just enough to beat the keeper as she jumps for it dipping late to creep under the bar at the far post a nestle into the side netting 1-0.
Conditions aren’t great very muddy out on the field passing difficult the ball bobbling the rain now returning Dunstable look to thread a ball through the middle the Peterborough defence passing it back to the keeper, Molly Bull spooning her clearance up into the air headed back to her by a defender, Bull almost loses it with Darcy Collins putting her under pressure for Dunstable top of the area, her catch not clean the keeper is able to pounce on the loose ball. Horner is busy in the middle of the park for Peterborough often the first to intercept as Dunstable look to feed it through the centre into heir attackers.
Steward advancing with the ball up the right wing flashes a squared cross into the six yard box cut out by Burgess to concede the corner kick. The delivery going long is reclaimed far side and fired back into the mix scrambled away Dunstable have a chance to counter attack the ball put on up top for Lori Wilson-Phillips to chase has plenty of pace, Larissa Frederick close enough to get to the ball first send it on into her area for her keeper to clear up field.
Price I think with a shot clipped over from the top of the box as a clearance falls to her taking a nick off a Dunstable player a corner awarded. Steward playing the ball in from the right cleared back to her from inside the six yard box her 2nd attempt headed clear by Burgess.
GOAL! Peterborough extend their lead the ball kept in play on the left played on for Driscoll getting into an advanced position inside the box on the angle Raffermati coming to close her down gets her shot past the advancing keeper Driscoll-King sliding in unmarked centrally setting the ball over the line from close range to score 2-0.
Dunstable look to get straight on the attack from the restart, captain Jodi McClelland in space on the left hitting the ball early her cross/shot angled dangerously across the top of the six yard box no one can get a touch on it to divert it towards goal. The visitors keep it in play Peterborough defence regrouping conceding a throw before preventing a cross coming in.
GOAL! Dunstable having committed numbers forwards are caught out at the back as Peterborough break quickly the ball fed into Driscoll-King racing clear on the left pace taking her on with the ball sends a diagonal ball into the area Steward having raced up the pitch from the right getting into the box free to met it inside the six yard box and send over the line for her 2nd of the game 3-0.
2 goals in 2 minutes seeing Peterborough race into a 3-0 lead with less than 20 minutes gone. A free-kick for Dunstable inside the Peterborough half players forwards into the box as the delivery from the right is put into the area, Collins up well to get her head on the ball knocks it down from inside the six yard box to drop wide of the far post, the angle tight Sexton nevertheless attempts to square it back into the near post, Bull with an acrobatic safe diving to push the ball behind for a corner. Is a vicious delivery in from the left racing across the face of goal, frustration shown from Rachael Mumford at the far post as she comes close to getting a telling touch.
Peterborough continue to gain ground on the flanks winning a series of corner kicks left then right. Dunstable defending but unable to get it clear the pressure stays on Steward on the right sees another corner cleared back to her the ball played into the congested crowd inside the D, Driscoll gets hold of it bringing it down shifting it half a yard to her right opening up room for a shot gets her foot up over the ball to send it in towards goal, an excellent save from Raffermati is shifting across her line readjusts well getting a glove down to knock the ball down and smother it.
Tilly Fantom getting forwards with the ball for Peterborough sees her cross into the box go behind for a corner kick off Burgess. Pressure inside the six yard box as Steward plays it in cleared back to her a high ball in Raffermati up but spills it stabbed wide for another corner this time Mumford defends to send it clear for the visitors near post. Dunstable can’t retain the ball however and are getting a little disorganised at the back as Peterborough press the advantage. Alexa Hunter comes on for Peterborough. Esposito forwards as Dunstable win a throw on halfway left side plays it on into the box, Wilson-Phillips inside the area attacking it Frederick slides in strongly to put the ball out of play.
Hunter fresh into the action has the ball at her feet on the right spins inside 20 yards out before lifting a dipping cross into the area for Peterborough, Driscoll meeting it centrally six yards out lifts her first time strike up onto the crossbar the rebound falling at the far post headed wide.
GOAL! Isn’t long before Peterborough add another goal catching their opponents on the break once more the ball won at the ball played forwards with pace through the middle for Steward to chase in behind is clear to attack with Raffermati racing out to close her down Steward getting there just ahead of the keeper to stab it past her to score a 1st half hat-trick 4-0.
37 minutes played Peterborough dominant for a large portion of the 1st period having control of the score line attacking with purpose stretching Dunstable at the back. The visitors on the back foot still prepared to commit players forwards Gemma Darvill spinning inside on the right playing a ball into Mumford who lays it forwards for Wilson-Phillips, who is quickly closed down by Fantom. Steward in particular causing problems out wide for Peterborough, Dunstable haven’t been able to get their wide players into the game at all.
Wilson-Phillips pace is the one thing troubling the Peterborough defence getting joy as she moves right her touch knocking it in behind the advancing keeper has Bull stranded at the top of her box as she attempts to get hold of the ball before it can run out of play wide of the near post sends it flashing across the face of an open goal, collected far side is fired back in , short of wearing a cape Bull flying in appears out of nowhere to send it behind for a corner kick.
GOAL! From the set piece unstable pull a goal back have offered a threat from corners the initial ball cleared is collected by Esposito to launch a cross in from the top corner a great delivery into the six yard box comes perfectly for Mumford free at the far post to nod into the back of the net 4-1.
Steward advances with the ball right side for Peterborough late on in the 1st half gets her side a corner. Plays in the ball is cleared by McClelland for Dunstable, can’t get the counter attack going conceding a free-kick on halfway, taken shot to Horner 40 yards out nevertheless goes for a audacious strike on goal lifting the ball in on target is collected safely by Raffermati. Devereux plays the ball on right side for Wilson-Phillips her pace taking her in behind the Peterborough defence flashes a cross in Bull at her near post making no mistake bringing it down safely, Collins closing in behind her ready to capitalise if she hadn’t.
A good triangle inside the final third played between Wilson-Phillips, Devereux and finally Sexton as the visitors look to find a way into the box the attack broken up by Peterborough’s Fantom. Peterborough come forwards left side Driscoll on for Driscoll-King who sends it on further for Price breaking into the box her shot blocked by Burgess goes bend for another corner kick the ball headed long wide across the six yard box as the whistle blows.
Half-time Peterborough |Northern Star Ladies 4-1 AFC Dunstable Women
A strong 1st half from Peterborough sees them leading 4-1 at the break, starting well opening the scoring inside 10 minutes 2 quickfire goals seeing the hosts 3-0 up inside 18 looked strong in attack particuarly on the flanks creating chances as Dunstable struggled to get a foothold in the game. The visitors kept pushing players on however and were always looking to score before Peterborough added a 4th late in the half. Dunstable grabbing a lifeline from a corner in the closing minutes giving them something to take into the 2nd period. You would think they would need an early goal to give them something if they wish to take anything from the game.
The weather very dull and gloomy pictures on the camera unlikely in the 2nd half the rain clearing but getting decidedly chilly as the players return. Dunstable to get the 2nd half underway. Win a free-kick wide on the right early on as Darvill is shoved in the back trying to hold up the ball from a throw. Sexton not capitalising from the set-piece as Bull sees it safely wide. A scrappy start to the game has gotten a little physical, Wilson-Phillips through the middle now looks to get onto the end of a great pass through the middle from Mumford, Fathom across to put in the challenge send the ball away for a throw in.
Out of no where Dunstable have a penalty! A cross from the left put into the top of the area referee Andy Phillips spotting a handball everyone caught unaware it seems Dunstable surprised. Words have been exchanged a pause before the penalty is taken. The referee having words with Darvill. Wilson-Phillips to take goes for height looking to send it into the top corner, is agonisingly wide of the post missed.
Despite all the attacking play offsides have be surprisingly rare this afternoon but one goes against Dunstable as Mumford’s long range past looks to send Wilson-Phillips in behind. It’s pretty muddy out there and it’s a great opportunity for a sliding challenge as a few players can’t resist on both sides, wouldn’t want to be the one washing that kit tomorrow. Dunstable have came out intent on attacking 2nd half Mumford backed up by McCay winning the ball centrally.
GOAL! The visitors strong attacking start paying off as they pull a goal back get forwards well on the left players overloaded through the middle on of those Darvill clear into the box left side as the ball is rolled into her by Esposito, slides in on the keeper attempting to get to the ball as Bull advances trying to close down the angle the pair collide the ball loose past her players in blue shirts racing in McCay there to pounce and put the ball over the line 4-2.
Dunstable pull a goal back 12 minutes into the 2nd half having committed players forwards, Bull is down injured and needs treatment however after a short spell the goalkeeper is able to continue. Peterborough having sat back a little at the start of the 2nd half are still a threat Steward put clear on the right dinks a ball into the box Price coming in can’t get a telling touch as Burgess gets close in on her.
Darvill with an ambitious effort at goal for Dunstable clips a ball goalwards as it falls to her a long way out Bull scrambling a cross her goal is forced to knock it wide for a corner. The visitors come forwards winning a corner on the right, Henderson defending near post her clearance across the area falling to Burgess far side 8 yards out swings a leg at it the shot screwed wide of the far post. Price comes off in attack for Peterborough.
Davis with a ball in diagonally from the left for Driscoll is fouled 25 yards out central the free-kick given. Driscoll over it a low ball fired into the mix blocked before being scrambled away comes back to Driscoll who then sends her strike wide of the target. Collins goes down after a challenge is in some pain her ankle I think can’t continue for Dunstable needs to come off Chelsea Jeffrey on. Breakwell getting clear in behind on the left for Peterborough flashes a cross into the six yards box Raffermati down spills it Steward racing in from the right centrally arrives to smash it goalwards over the faintest of touches by the keeper as a corner is awarded. In from the left Henderson with the stooping header turning it goalwards near post, blocked the hosts appealing for handball, nothing given as Dunstable clear their lines.
Very dark now cloudy the floodlights coming on Mancini tackling to deny Driscoll as she goes beyond Driscoll-King in the middle for Peterborough. Mumford with another great pass forwards but frustration from the visitors shown as no one is able to get onto the end of it Henderson bringing it on for Peterborough. Steward in central into the box cant get a telling touch as a high cross is lifted in from the right. Rebecca Devereux comes on for Dunstable replacing Mancini with 20 minutes left to play.
Raffermati getting up well to glove down a high ball from the right the ball loose inside the box however, Burgess puts in the block the ball spinning away for McClelland to clear high. Peterborough make another change April Pearson on for Breakwell.
GOAL! Out of nothing the goal of the game is scored. A beauty of a strike from Driscoll-King to extend Peterborough’s lead. The ball into her feet all of 30 yards out right of the D isn’t closed down she takes her chance striking the ball perfectly arrowing it in across the static keeper to make it 5-2.
Dunstable respond with a double change McClelland and Esposito off with Sexton back on along with Shauna Smith.
GOAL! As soon as they’ve conceded a 5th goal however Dunstable a hit with a further hammer blow as Peterborough add another quickfire goal a superb ball from the middle out to Steward peeling away to the right side getting on into the area to send a shot low across the ground past the diving keeper into the bottom corner of the net 6-2.
Frustration from Dunstable thier confidence taking a hit continue to battle Horner breaking up play in the middle before giving away a free-kick. McCay with the ball forwards defended by Frederick at the back. The hosts able to break Steward on the ball centrally carrying in forwards options to ahead of her and to the left opts to go for goal 30 yards out her effort drops wide of goal.
GOAL! Peterborough take the game totally by the scruff of the neck late on as they add a 3rd quick goal to hammer home the score line. The ball contested strongly in the middle, Steward now central in attack in moving into space taking advantage of a tiring defence as the ball is fed into her path left channel taking it on into the box shots on the angle Raffermati down looks to have it covered but to her agony the ball squirms under her to roll on into the goal beyond 7-2.
Despite being clearly frustrated at conceding three goals so late on Dunstable are still willing to give it a go getting on well on their left a diagonal ball fired into the area Bull drops well to hold onto the ball. Devereux on the right sends her pass on for Wilson-Phillips right side in the closing moments Horner coming across sliding in to play the ball out for a throw. Dunstable with on last effort attempt to get a cross into the box goes long as the final whistle blows.
Full Time Peterborough Norther Star Ladies 7-2 AFC Dunstable Women
A 7-2 win for Peterborough Norther Star sees them go top of the ERWFL Premier Division. Started the game well on the attack taking an early lead creating chances and adding a further 2 goals in quick succession. Going 4-0 up Dunstable had few chances of their own but kept going and pulling a goal back late in the 1st half gave them something to take into the 2nd period. The Bedfordshire side starting well chances created getting bodies forwards, a missed penalty before getting it back to 4-2. Had it been 4-3 what then we’ll never now. Peterborough looked good going forwards and attacking created opportunities all game confident in her finishing after a first half hat-trick Steward fired in two more late goals to give her 5 for the match along with a superb strike from Driscoll-King to wrap up the 3 points a tough game at home to Luton Town Ladies to end 2020 next Sunday, whilst Dunstable head to Hertfordshire rivals Royston Town Women. A tough afternoon for the visitors in the finish no doubt a talented squad but early goals cost them leaving a mountain to climb still they fought back well and created chances off their own.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this Sunday’s Women’s Football East Player of the Match. A few performances to mention although the final decision is an easy one for a change. For Dunstable Mollie Burgess had a solid debut at the back making a number of important tackles and blocks. In attack Lori Wilson-Phillips looked a threat her pace testing the Peterborough defence. For Peterborough Faith Horner was strong in the middle of the park. Jessica Driscoll making some great runs too. Molly Bull in goal with some vital saves. But with 5 goals in the match their and a fantastic 90 minutes all round the award this Sunday goes to Katie Steward took her chances well and created plenty.
Good to be back at it if I was a little more rusty than I expected, enjoyed the game the ERWFL rarely disappoints. Have to say and I suspect it’s the same for alot of use spectators and players too those 90 minutes are about as normal as it gets in 2020, been a tough year nice to forget about those woes for a while. My thanks as always to both sides for the team details.