Sunday 20th May
It’s the final day of the FAWPL season, ending it with a trip to Plantation Park to watch Norwich City Ladies up against Luton Town Ladies in South East Division One.
The last season in fact for the FAWPL with the women’s football pyramid being restructured from next season it will become known as the Women’s National League and there will be some restructuring amongst the teams that compete in those league too.
Neither of today’s sides can improve on their final placing Norwich City Ladies will finish 2nd bottom in the FAWPL South East Division One table. Have unfortunately been struggling at the wrong end of the table for a few season’s now. Change potentially around the corner. Chairman and General Manager Mel Swift bringing in Grant Palmer to join the club as first team manager assisted by Carla Dickinson, following a successful spell developing and winning titles with Harlow Town Ladies. Since arriving in January results have started to pick up without necessarily picking up the points. Relegation a possibility will come down to the restructuring of the league and at present not known.
Luton Town Ladies are currently 5th in the FAWPL South East Division One can’t finish any higher although they can be caught by 6th placed Stevenage Ladies who are just a point behind ending their campaign away to Denham United Ladies. Have been a regular in the top half of the table over recent season’s finishing 4th, 4th, and then 5th last season in the league. Have brought a number of youth players up through the club to make the 1st team squad this season. Were in action in midweek at home to Cambridge United WFC coming back from a goal down twice to secure a point in a 3-3 draw.
Plantation Park the venue home of Norwich United FC and Norwich City Ladies. A warm sunny May afternoon to end the season the pitch looking in reasonably good shape after seeing alot of football played upon it. Dry however and fairly hard underfoot. Offers plenty of width to. Campers behind the goals getting a ring side seat of the action.
Norwich City Ladies starting XI – Eilish Brogan, Luka Goodfield, Vivian Moyo, Sasha Diston, Emily Moerkerk (C), Jodie Drake, Millie Daviss, Aimee Durrant, Summer Ward, Brooke Osborne & Chelsea Garrett. Subs – Hayley Turner, Natasha Snelling, Eliza McDonald, Paige Shorten & Laura Thacker.
Luton Town Ladies starting XI – Grace Brooks, Rachel Kosky, Lucy Webster, Rachel Carter, Lucy Tape, Lisa Dixon, Zara Carroll (C), Dionne Manning, Jess McKay, Funmi Babalola & Nicola Henman. Subs – Natasha Fensome & Erica Bryon.
It’s Luton to kick off the match wearing orange shirts and socks with navy coloured shorts. Norwich lined up opposite in their yellow and green kit. A quiet opening to the game Luton putting the ball out to the right Norwich winning the throw in concede a free-kick on halfway, to the right the ball flighted in towards the off of the area the Norwich defence deals with it and sending the ball out to the right wing set up a counter attack Brooke Osborne travelling with the ball up the wing sending a cross in across the six yard box the ball dipping as it arrives at the far post so to is Norwich’s Aimee Durrant her touch flicking the ball up over the bar.
Luton play the ball up to Nicola Henman in attack holding it up plays the ball back to Lisa Dixon rolled into Zara Carroll the Luton captain attempts to play the ball over the top for Henman to run onto, too much weight on the pass runs out for a goal kick. Norwich captain, Emily Moerkerk plays the ball into Summer Ward moving away to the right, Lucy Webster in to tackle the ball out for a throw, high up the pitch Norwich get players forwards the ball into the area cut out by Lucy Tape for Luton, launch a rapid counter through the middle the ball fed through to Funmi Babalola into the left channel gets a shot away from outside the box her low effort running narrowly wide of the near post.
Millie Daviss brings the ball on over halfway for Norwich central on to Chelsea Garrett her back to goal spins the ball away to her right Ward taking it on down the left as Durrant makes a central run into the box the cross squared into her run she shot is placed wide across the face of goal. Norwich build another attack the ball played out to Garrett peeling out to the right wing up the line cuts her cross back towards the top of the area, Carroll getting her foot around it to clear for Luton the clearance runs straight to Norwich’s Jodie Drake 30 yards out takes on the shot the ball skimming in towards goal, Luton goalkeeper Grace Brooks diving to her right claims it.
Risky from Norwich goalkeeper Eilish Brogan as she comes racing out of her box to close down Henman as she is put through on goal, does well however controlling the bouncing ball with her chest to take it away from the attacker before kicking it up field. A good tempo to the game certainly doesn’t have that end of a long season feel to it.
Henman is causing the Norwich defence problems early on timing her runs well playing off the shoulder of the last defender, gets away on the left channel in front of goal, Sasha Diston doing well for Norwich recovering the ground lunging in to take the ball away from Henman out for the corner kick. A good delivery into the area from the left the inswinging ball take well by Brogan as she jumps for the ball with Henman coming in on her.
Drake with a good pass out to the right to pick out Osborne the Norwich winger taking it on evades a tackle getting in behind to send a cross in along the edge of the box Garrett meeting it far side sends her shot wide of goal.
GOAL! Luton open the scoring and it’s Henman who gets the goal, a handful for the Norwich defence to deal with the ball played up towards her 25/30 yards from goal to the right sends a chipped effort up high into the air looping over Brogan the keeper caught off her line can’t get back as it falls into the back of the net 0-1.
GOAL! Straight away from the restart however Norwich get the ball up the other end and level the scores the ball lifted up towards the box bouncing as Brooks comes out towards the edge of her area, Garrett in behind challenging the keeper for the ball knocks it past her and taking it away to the right of goal gets her foot up over it to turn it back across the line to score, almost tumbles head over heels over the barrier behind the goal in the process 1-1.
Brooks required treatment after the goal is okay to continue. Carroll playing the diagonal pass out to Jess McKay on the left she looks to cut inside is tackled by Norwich’s Luka Goodfield, Diston clearing the loose ball.
GOAL! The goals keep coming a 3rd scored in as many minutes and it’s Luton who once again take the lead. Norwich are caught in possession high up the pitch as Luton press the ball, Henman stealing the ball on the right 25 yards out shifting it inside, players drawn across she sends the low cross in across the area McKay free at the far post 10 yards out opens up her body to divert the ball past Brogan to score 1-2. 18 minutes played.
A change for Norwich, Goodfield coming off on comes Laura Thacker. Henman strong on the ball threatens to get in behind once more, Diston doing well to get across her and play the ball back to Brogan to clear inside the box. McKay and Henman combine in attack on the left a give and go between the pair McKay coming infield lines up a shot from distance the ball screwing away from goal. Luton coming forwards with purpose looking to spread the play across the pitch inside the Norwich half.
McKay into the box a similar position to which she scored the ball in from the right dropping the attacker striking it first time the shot spun wide of goal. Dixon winning the ball in the middle for Luton inside to Carroll her pass out to McKay away on he left crosses into the area Henman goes for it Diston challenging the Luton attacker getting a glancing header on the ball places it wide at the far post. Luton on top pushing forwards.
Henman continues to hassle the Norwich defence supported by McKay on the right. Thacker with good defensive work for Norwich to get the ball back to her keeper. Babalola with support from Dionne Manning on the right the ball crossed in towards the top of the area headed on by the Norwich out to the left retrieved by McKay who sends a high ball into the box, Brogan taking it well as she falls forwards. Babalola steals in on the ball taking it off the Norwich defence playing it through for Henman she is flagged offside.
GOAL! McKay is fouled in a central position 30 yards from goal, Luton send players forwards as Carroll places the ball. She goes for goal strikes the ball well, arrowing in towards the top corner Brogan flings herself at it in vain as it smashes down against the crossbar and down, scrambled away the officials though signal a goal scored and Luton extend their lead 1-3.
Luton with a throw in on the left inside the Norwich half Dixon making the run in behind takes the ball to the byline before sending in a cross bouncing across the face of goal cleared at the far post. Luton pressing the ball well, McKay always ready to break in behind whenever the ball is played up to Henman. Henman herself charges down a clearance from Brogan top of the area, aims to get the loose ball turned in on goal, Brogan recovering well back pedalling is right behind the strike.
Late into the 1st half the ball with Norwich on the left a foul committed inside the Luton half a chance to send players forwards towards the top of the box, a good delivery into the area bouncing near post, Daviss getting in front of Tape, almost gets on the end of it, Brooks palming it away to her right.
Half-time Norwich City Ladies 1-3 Luton Town Ladies
A strong first half performance from Luton after an initially flurry of goals taking the lead then conceding straight away, only to score again taking the lead again and dominating from that point on. Henman and McKay causing all sorts of problems for the Norwich defence as they pressed the ball high. Good movement on and off the ball supported by the midfield. Norwich with a couple of great chances themselves in the opening minutes of the match. After conceding the 2nd goal struggled to get the ball out caught in possession created a few of their own problems. Luton on course to secure 5th spot in the table.
Norwich to get the 2nd half underway. Drake has the ball in the middle wide to Ward out left taking the ball on sends a cross into the box Durrant with the run gets her head on the ball put straight at Brooks the keeper holding onto the ball. McKay getting forwards with the ball sends a cross into Henman positioned outside the box, Diston closing her down preventing her from attempting the lob. Thacker with a vital interception at the back as Dixon looks to play the ball on through the middle.
Norwich starting the 2nd half better getting forwards Osborne seeing a cross go behind for a goal kick on the right. Carroll carrying the ball on over the halfway line for Luton picks out Manning on the right with the pass as she makes a break forwards cutting inside towards the top of the box sends a low shot in towards goal, Brogan getting down gathers the ball into her body.
Diston slides in on the hard ground to try and take the ball away from Babalola as she makes a run on the right 20 yards out, the defender is hurt making the challenge Babalola retrieves the ball on the byline sends a high ball in across the face of Brogan’s goal the keeper doing well under challenge to get up and claim the ball. Norwich temporarily down to 10 whilst Diston receives treatment Luton press on in attack the ball played into the top of the area cleared back to Webster having gotten forwards the full back slices a 25 attempt well off target.
Diston comes back on but she is unable to continue, the substitution made on comes midfielder Paige Shorten. The tempo remains high Norwich gaining confidence, Shorten not afraid to strike the ball from distance central has a pop at goal from 30 yards out the ball dropping wide of the right post. Ward cutting inside with the ball on the left on to Shorten she dinks the ball over the top of the Luton defence for Durrant to chase, Brooks can reach it first.
Luton come close to extending their lead Manning getting hold of the ball on the right turning in behind to sends a low cross in towards the near post Babalola arriving meets it first time drills the ball narrowly wide. A third change for Norwich, Drake comes off as Natasha Snelling in brought on to support Garrett in attack. A corner for Norwich on the right taken short the ball crossed into the six yard box, Brooks can catch unchallenged.
A powerful run by Henman driving on with the ball up towards the top of the box evades a tackle knocking the ball on into the area fires a cross diagonally across goal from the right. Babalola racing in far post can’t get to the ball as it runs out of play. A throw for Norwich on the left the ball inside to Snelling pushed on for Garrett to attack arriving top corner of the Luton area lets fly with a shot the ball angling in near post Brooks saves well beating the ball away to her right.
Norwich pressing for a goal risk getting caught on the counter attack Luton timing their attacks the ball played up to McKay clear on the left drives for the box inside Brogan does well to save sliding in at her feet to deny the attacker a shot. End to end Norwich attack coming right side the ball played into the area loops up and on towards Garrett peeling in behind at the far post shapes to shoot deceiving Brooks who dives to her right the ball instead prodded square to her left the keeper reacts brilliantly throwing out her trailing leg to stop the ball getting past her out for the corner.
Norwich are pressing on looking for a goal Ward on the left inside for Shorten good hold up play by the midfielder outside the area left corner turns inside well lifting the ball over the defence into the box Snelling stretching for it sends her shot over the bar, had it been on target wouldn’t have counted as she was offside. Norwich looking strong Luton soaking up the pressure.
GOAL! That pressure increases however as Norwich get the goal they have been pressing for, Snelling with the ball on for Daviss moving left on for Garrett out on the wing she takes the ball on down the line cutting inside to the byline getting in behind and from the angle drills in a shot towards the near post Brooks diving for it can’t get there the ball finds the back of the net 2-3 will a little under 10 minutes left to play.
Manning looks to get forwards for Luton as Carter wins the ball at the back for Luton on to Carroll out to the right Manning pushing on Moyo getting back with her tackles her to regain possession for Norwich. Tape getting her head on the ball to clear for Luton as Ward plays a ball in from the left. Shorten is brought down by Carroll in the middle top of the circle, Durrant over the ball a great delivery in Brooks takes it well high on her goal line.
Not long left in the match Norwich have a corner everyone goes up including the keeper, the ball from the right goes long headed back across goal in towards the right post, Carter on her line to defend for Luton heading the ball away from danger. Luton have players back defending late on Carroll winning the ball gets it up to Babalola, possession lost Norwich push late on but can’t final a clinical final ball as Luton defend their lead and claim the 3 points on the final day and with it secure 5th place in the FAWPL South East Division One table.
Full time Norwich City Ladies 2-3 Luton Town Ladies
A competitive game to end the season for both sides gave it there all, Luton by far the better the 1st half taking a 3-1 lead. Sat back more in the 2nd half ready to launch a counter attack when on e presented itself Norwich improving 2nd half getting hold of the ball higher up the pitch and gaining confidence as a result creating chances pulling a goal back late in the 2nd half proved too little too late but a positive 2nd half to end their campaign. 5th place for Luton 4 seasons in a row now. Norwich 2nd bottom play the waiting game now to see whether they stay in the Division or drop down. An improved 2nd half of the season lots of positives to build on for next season.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
This afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match award goes to Luton Town Ladies, Nicola Henman proved a real handful for the Norwich defence especially in the first half playing off the last defender moving left and right to receive the ball supported well by McKay scoring the opening goal and setting up the 2nd.
My thanks to both clubs for their help today always appreciated.