Sunday 2nd September
FAWNL Cup Determining Round
The sun has made a welcome return for the start of September as the FAWNL Cup begins with it’s traditional Determining Round all the FAWNL sides contesting the winners going on to compete for the Cup the losing sides going on to play for the Plate. A trip to Mildenhall Town FC this Sunday, the home of South East Division One side, Cambridge United WFC as they take on Southern Premier Division side, C&K Basildon Ladies.
The FAWNL the new name for the league known as the National League now as a pose the previously being called the FAWPL (Premier League) the format of the leagues still the same two ‘Premier’ Divisions, Northern and Southern and four regional Division One’s, South East, South West, Midlands and Northern. 72 sides in all. Alot of changes in regards to the teams within following the restructure and new licences issued to clubs joining the FAWSL. Player movement on the whole has been at it’s highest levels too this close season.
Cambridge United WFC amongst those that have brought in several new faces which include Vicky Neal who has played for Watford FC Ladies whilst they were in FAWSL 2. Attacker Becky Shephard who has scored plenty of goals at every club she’s been at rising through the women’s football pyramid was at ERWFL Premier Division side, Royston Town Ladies last season. Kelly Bingham joins having played for the likes of Watford and MK Dons previously. Steph Gale has 8 years playing experience in the USA, was at Luton Town Ladies for a spell last season. Abi Davies enjoyed a good season with Histon Ladies last campaign. Emily Smith from Peterborough United Ladies and Albany Hodgson with King’s Lynn Town Ladies will also be looking to progress.
Cambridge’s reserves squad will be playing in the FAWNL Southern/South East Reserves league this coming season. The First team has started the season well unbeaten in their opening two league games a draw and a win against AFC Wimbledon Ladies and Leyton Orient WFC who were both in the hunt for the title last season.
A whole new era for C&K Basildon Ladies, the Essex side making a rapid rise through the leagues, achieved their highest ever finish last season, runners-up to Charlton Athletic Women in the FAWPL Southern Premier Division. For all that time the club has been well supported financially by Peter King, whose passion for the side saw it become one of the leading forces for women’s football in Essex. Peter King has now retired and this signals a new beginning for C&K Basildon Ladies, not that Peter won’t be around.
Gone is manager Steve Tilson and almost all of the 1st team squad from last season. A new side, players brought in the emphasis very much on youth. A good base for this is last season’s Development squad that won the FAWPL Southern/South East Reserves league last season. Les Thompson managing that side is joined Luke Pierre in managing the new look team. Alex Bailess handed the captain’s armband. Courtney Clarke is the latest addition to the squad the former Writtle forward adding a goal threat up front. Two big losses to begin the new league campaign against Portsmouth and Cardiff a team that has to hit the ground running alot to ask, but confidence is high within the squad that is getting to grips with what the management team is asking of them.
The FAWNL Cup Determining Round a distraction from the league clubs have approached it in various ways in the past, with no one knocked at this stage, and ending up playing for the Plate is no less important, silverware is silverware just as Lewes FC Women and West Ham United Women.
Mildenhall Town FC the venue for today’s match, been here several times before but for anyone who hasn’t it is distinctive for its sloped pitch from one goal mouth to the other. An immaculate playing surface too offering plenty of width. New dugouts a clubhouse beside the pitch. A contrast from last Sunday, raining everywhere, today the sun is high in a clear blue sky.
Cambridge United WFC starting XI – Savannah Smith, Abi Davies, Carrie Bennett, Kayleigh-Anne Burt, Fran Gough, Kelly Bingham, Amy Howlett, Amber Cantwell, Becky Shephard, Kelley Blanchflower (C) & Steph Gale. Subs – Emma Jenkins, Gabrielle Whitehurst, Holly Northfield, Faith Hewitt & Mollie Coupar.
C&K Basildon Ladies starting XI – Chelsea Hinz, Grace Gillard, Danielle Sillitoe, Nicola Moore, Alex Bailess (C), Madelyn Thomas, Sophie Rhodes, Gemma Abela, Katie Whitehead, Courtney Clarke & Ella Tooley. Subs – Jodie Osborne & Madelene Wright.
It’s Cambridge to get the game underway attacking up the slope in the 1st half, Vicky Neal out and Emma Jenkins on the bench, Fran Gough and Abi Davies make up the right side of the defence for today’s game. Wearing their home colours amber shirts with black shorts and socks. Basildon have a few players unavailable for the match themselves, are kitted out in an all blue kit. The ball played up the left by Becky Shephard her through ball gives Basildon goalkeeper Chelsea Hinz an early claim inside her box.
At the other end Cambridge goalkeeper, Savannah Smith is quick to race out of her box clear the threat as Basildon build with pace on the right Courtney Clarke looking to play the ball on for Ella Tooley trying to break in behind. The game has started at a quick pace Cambridge attack Gale coming to the halfway line to receive the ball tries to get Kelley Blanchflower away into the right channel, Hinz reaching the ball first. The ball fired into the Cambridge area from the left a deep cross, Kayleigh-Anne Burt clears for a throw on the left. Katie Whitehead and Gemma Abela combine from the throw-in Whitehead sending a cross into the area claimed by Smith.
Despite the heat both sides are attacking the ball, pressing time to settle at a premium, Nicola Moore breaking up a Cambridge forward move the ball played out to Whitehead on the left, her pass forwards cutting open the Cambridge defence no one there to attack the ball as Fran Gough sweeps the ball away. A hopeful effort from Alex Bailess a long way out on the left side falls wide of Smith’s far post.
Davies with a great ball forwards causes problems for the Basildon defence as Steph Gale strong outwits her marker and getting free for a shot on the edge of the box can’t open up her body enough to curl the ball in on target as it spins out of play for a goalkick. Cambridge are beginning to build some momentum Davies able to get ahead of the attackers to put a cross in sees her initial effort blocked by Grace Gillard the ball coming back out to Amy Howlett wide on the wing a dangerous ball flighted high into the box, Hinz is able to claim it high without challenge on her goal line.
Basildon have tried it a couple of times already and this time it almost comes off as they build on the right Clarke deeper playing the ball through for Tooley running clear can reach it just before the onrushing Smith can close her down outside the area, lobbing the keeper is always a heart-stopping moment when the ball goes over the keeper, turning though Smith sees Tooley’s effort sail over her crossbar.
Kelly Bingham is reading the game well in the middle of the park, Basildon are looking to attack quickly the midfielder breaking up play setting Cambridge up for an attack of their own. The ball played forwards is retrieved by Gale on the touchline left side of the area, time to place her cross Blanchflower is making a good near post run, the ball coming into her, closely marked by Gillard the Basildon defender does brilliantly to deny the chance.
Blanchflower and Gale are looking a threat up top for Cambridge linking up well both searching for pockets of space to run into, combine on the right as they bring the ball forwards a one two on the corner of the area Gale’s cross in sliced lands in the side netting. Clarke hasn’t had much opportunity to get into the box for Basildon early on does so as the visitors have a throw in the left the cross fired into her left side a good first touch to evade her marker half a yard for a shot on target but straight down Smith’s throat.
Now my handwriting is abysmal at the best of times but today it’s suffering badly no sooner has one attack finished the ball is down the other end, high tempo Cambridge get a corner, Amber Cantwell over the ball a great delivery long dropping at the far post Gale I think gets something on the ball to divert it goalwards from inside the six yard box Basildon though have numbers back somehow they keep the ball out. Basildon break on the left, Whitehead with Tooley inside her have Davies outnumbered the right back reading the situation perfectly to cut it Whitehead’s intended through ball. A free-kick almost in the corner right side for Basildon the ball stood up across goal Smith goes to glove it away misses as does Clarke jumping unmarked behind her.
GOAL! 20 minutes played and Cambridge take the lead it’s Cantwell on the ball in the middle of the park with a fantastic diagonal pass to send Blanchflower clear on the right shooting from the top of the area sends the ball up over Hinz to drop into the back of the net 1-0.
Basildon press the ball Madelyn Thomas getting clear in the middle to play the ball on for Tooley in attack 25 yards from goal Abela is close by given the ball she takes on the shot a curling effort that falls wide of the goalpost. Cambridge are looking the stronger of the two sides Shephard, Cantwell and Howlett through the middle all looking to support Blanchflower and Gale in attack. Cantwell drifting into space on the right sees her cross deflect of Gillard favourably for Hinz to claim in the box.
Howlett with a diagonal ball out to Shephard on the left on with the ball swings in a cross Blanchflower attacking it far post her header downwards taking the ball wide of the upright. Bailess comes left to intercept as Blanchflower looks to run clear on the right. Cambridge press the attack Shephard’s cross almost headed in off a Basildon head as the clearance is made but an offside flag would have saved the day.
Bingham bringing the ball on looks to combine with Blanchflower and Gale, Basildon getting numbers back, as Moore clears the ball. Gillard defends well nipping in between Blanchflower and Gale on the right as they look to get into the area. A few tackles coming in but nothing malicious such is the high tempo of the contest. Howlett sliding in on Bailess one such example but little complaint from either side.
Cantwell with an ambitious effort all of 40 yards out perhaps intended for Gale left of the D the striker dummies letting the ball run on towards goal, Hinz though has time to set herself to gather cleanly inside her six yard box. Cantwell is upended inside the Basildon half top of the circle picks herself up to take a god delivery into the box Cambridge have runners one connects with the ball Blanchflower I think but the effort is over so she might say it was somebody else.
One last attack in the first half for Basildon Gillard getting down the left to support Whitehead, getting her return ball the full back sends a cross in deep towards Clarke, outside the area right of the D good control the attacker spins into the shot, her low effort seeing Smith produce an excellent save diving to her left to push the ball away from goal then scramble to smother the ball.
Half-time Cambridge United WFC 1-0 C&K Basildon Ladies
A narrow lead for the lower league side at the break, Cambridge go into the dressing room 1-0 to the good following Blanchflower’s 20th minute strike. Have been the better side pressing the ball all over the pitch ad finding space to exploit. Bingham breaking up attacks regularly in the middle. Basildon have worked hard themselves high tempo looking to get the ball into their attacking players whenever they can just haven’t found the room on the the wings Cambridge have. Still with such a narrow lead Basildon are far from out of it and you feel Cambridge need another goal to press home their advantage.
Needed to retreat to the shade 2nd half or risk becoming a lobster so to the stands on the opposite side, sheltering from the rain last Sunday I suppose I shouldn’t complain. No changes for either side during the interval, Basildon to get thing’s underway attacking up the slope. The visitors making ground on the left Whitehead getting a throw in. Whitehead does well to get a cross into the area high at the far post Burt gets her head on it and knocking the ball up does well defensively as Clarke puts pressure on her getting the ball out to Shephard to launch clear.
Strength shown by Blanchflower in attack as play s stretched Basildon players caught up-field as the ball is driven forwards at pace along the ground 25 yards out robs the Basildon defence and heads for goal left side Hinz comes to close the angle sliding saves with her legs as Blanchflower unleashes a shot saved the rebound comes to Gale central, little time to adjust sends her effort over.
A free-kick for the home side as Bennett is fouled coming forwards, wide on the left Shephard rises to head the ball down top of the area, on for Gale, she can’t shake off Bailess as she aims to take a shot from the top of the area, the Basildon captain having none of it. Is a big pitch and with so much put into the contest first half more space is opening up. Clarke strong on the right side for Basildon tries to power her way forwards Bingham getting across to support Bennett and Burt.
Whitehead attacking left side has a throw moves into the area herself as the cross is played into her tries to drag the ball under her feet turn into a shot Cambridge defend close quarters the ball coming to Thomas at the top of the D, takes on the shot slices her effort wide across the Cambridge goal. Smith is called into action racing out to close Tooley down on the right side of her box as the attacker looks to burst in on Clarke’s forward pass, the goalkeeper sliding in to make the vital touch. Gale finds herself free on the right space to run into fires in a dangerous ball full of pace across the Basildon goal, Blanchflower attacking it but excellent defending from Moore the ball out for a corner.
GOAL! Cambridge get the goal they needed taking a 2-0 lead in the match 10 minutes into the 2nd the ball to be played in from the left into a crowded six yard box. Gale central gets her head on the ball turns it goalwards the ball is scrambled off the line but far from safety as players from both sides go for it the ball popping up kindly for Burt at the near post, Cambridge United’s club captain heading home from close range for her 2nd goal of the season.
Cambridge are looking strong in attack Shephard bringing the ball on down the left plays the ball inside to Blanchflower, twice she takes on the shot, both times the Basildon defence block. A corner won taken short up the line the ball swung into the area Hinz claims it well under pressure as Burt closes her down at the near post. Davies sends the ball out to Gale moving right coming inside the attack the area Moore stands up well against her to win the ball. Cambridge are enjoying a dominant spell Basildon have let their heads drop a little.
Gough defends inside her area as Clarke coming left with the ball looks to play Whitehead on on goal. Getting forwards down the left Shephard is tackled b Rhodes before she can line up the cross. Howlett comes forwards with the ball for Cambridge into space before setting up Blanchflower for a shot inside the box coming in from the right, Hinz saving well at her near post conceding the corner, a long delivery from the right goes all the way out to the left before being played back in towards the near post Hinz running in to catch the ball low.
Basildon keep attacking when they can get the ball forwards, Clarke looking the most likely to make something happen as she and Tooley drift across to the left side of the Cambridge area as Whitehead surges forwards with the ball at her feet on the left her pass inside finding Clarke positioned just outside the area, she aims to set up Tooley for a shot, Cantwell back in the box defending intercepts launching the ball out of the ground for what must be the dozenth time. (was Cantwell every time mind you).
Cambridge make the first change of the game, Gale the player coming off, Mollie Coupar the player coming on Shephard switching to the right. Clarke coming deeper for the ball powers on through the middle moving left the pass played on for Whitehead playing off the shoulder of Davies at right back strong cuts inside and despite being challenged gets a shot away from the top of the area her low drive held by Smith. Bailess takes on a very ambitious lob from distance with Smith well off her line and backpedalling Smith isn’t sure where its going to land until it lands behind her goal.
Gillard gets her head on the ball as Howlett runs into the space vacated by Shephard on the right as she takes the ball inside before laying it off for Blanchflower who has seen Howlett’s run. A vital header by the defender. Cambridge are getting a little sloppy giving the ball away Basildon are pushing on are leaving space in behind now but can sense they might get a goal back. The visitors with a free-kick wide on the right players forwards into the box, Tooley near post the target Burt defending well for Cambridge.
Basildon hit the woodwork a fantastic strike from distance on the right side as Thomas allowed time on the ball lays the pass across the Sillitoe on the right hits it well racing in across the Cambridge goal throwing herself at it Smith is beaten, the ball cannoning off the woodwork. Basildon press the ball high up the pitch a free-kick won on the left 30 yards from goal a chance for Abela to play it in the delivery long to the far post is unchallenged runs out of play.
With Basildon attacking in force as the game nears the end Cambridge have the opportunity to hit them on the counter the ball won on the left played on for Coupar making a run into the area gets her shot up over the keeper as she comes sliding in to close her down, the attempt fired over the bar. A 2nd change for Cambridge Howlett the player coming off, on comes Gabrielle Whitehurst into the midfield.
Clarke on the ball right side takes on the shot from all of 30 yards her effort bouncing harmlessly wide of the Cambridge goal. Clarke with energy to take on the Cambridge defence late on in the match fires a cross in from the top of the area a favourable deflection off a Cambridge defender almost sends it into the path of Whitehead clear at the far post but she cannot get a touch on the ball. One last effort to pull a goal back Basildon pushing Cambridge back Bennett is adjudged to have handled the ball (just) outside the area central inside the D the ball is placed Clarke on it goes for goal on target Smith is right behind it.
Full time Cambridge United WFC 2-0 C&K Basildon Ladies
A 2-0 win for Cambridge they advance to enter the FAWNL Cup proper C&K Basildon will now contest for the Plate. A fast paced game especially first half, everyone pressing the ball little time given in possession affected the quality somewhat but nevertheless highly entertaining. I watch the game once and can pick the tempo right up again with my notes it felt like I was writing this at a higher tempo too. Cambridge were the better side deserved the win but certainly needed the 2nd goal. Basildon never lost faith kept attacking rather than settle deep and defend at all costs credit to them, will grow as a team. Need to get a win under their belts to bolster the confidence. Cambridge
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Picking today’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match is a relatively straight forwards affair looked good in attack players getting forwards to support Gale and Blanchflower. It was central midfield however where they had their linchpin new signing Kelly Bingham breaking up a tremendous amount of Basildon attacks which ultimately prevented the visitors getting forwards with the numbers they would have liked.
Am enjoying the start to the season another enjoyable match report to write-up. My thanks to both sides for the team details and Les Thompson and Luke Pierre of C&K Basildon Ladies for taking the time to chat before the match.