Match Report – Cambridge United WFC v AFC Wimbledon Ladies

Sunday 13th January

FAWNL South East Division One

The football action this Sunday on Women’s Football East from the FA Women’s National League, Cambridge United WFC v AFC Wimbledon Ladies in South East Division One.

The two promoted sides Crawley Wasps Ladies and Billericay Town Ladies getting off to a blistering start, to lead the way Billericay with 5 straight wins to start life at the higher level, Crawley Wasps have yet to drop a point 9 wins from 9 whilst continuing on in the cup competitions. A 5 point lead at the top for Crawley over 2nd placed Billericay, a further 4 point gap to the chasing pack where it is very tight just 3 points separating 3rd to 7th.

Cambridge United WFC would dearly love to be amongst that mid-table cluster but instead find themselves looking nervously over their shoulders 3rd from bottom, they are in need of the league points. Have played less matches than everyone else in the league, largely due to involvement in various cup competitions that have actually seen them play just 3 league matches since the end of September, that coupled with postponements and the sides around them getting games in and picking up points pushing them down the table now into 2019 league points are the priority. Win those games and they are back amongst the mid-table battle.

AFC Wimbledon are the side leading the chasing pack in South East Division One currently in 3rd spot. Finished runners-up in the league last season, leading for the majority before Milton Keynes Dons Ladies winning their games in hand eventually overhauled them to win the title. A slower start this time around, it has been the nature of the league this season that any team getting a run together can propel themselves up the table. Wimbledon doing just that at to climb up to 3rd.

Are enjoying success in both the FAWNL Cup and FA Women’s Cup. Beating higher league sides to progress in the FA Women’s Cup, Southern Premier Division side, Portsmouth FC Women in the 2nd Round and just last Sunday a 3-0 away win against Hull City Ladies of the Northern Premier to reach the 4th Round of the competition for the 1st time in their history where they have been drawn at home to FAWSL side Bristol City Women.

Wimbledon are also into the quarter finals of the FAWNL Cup beating today’s opponents Cambridge United WFC at home 2-1 to advance. The two sides sharing a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season.

Mildenhall Town FC, Cambridge United WFC’s home ground. A sloping pitch from one goalmouth to the other as I’ve mentioned before. A wide pitch plenty of space to exploit. Another gloomy day cloudy, a light drizzle in the air prior to kick-off. The bar open, hot drinks and food available.

Cambridge United WFC starting XI – Savannah Smith, Abigail Davies, Holly Northfield, Kayleigh-Anne Burt, Jemma Moore, Amy Howlett, Vicky Neal, Jade Bell, Becky Shephard, Kelley Blanchflower (C) & Mollie Coupar. Subs – Emma Jenkins, Carrie Bennett & Charlotte Crisp.

AFC Wimbledon Ladies starting XI – Edie Kelly, Rosie Russell, Jordanne Hoesli-Atkins, Sarah Wentworth, Hannah Billingham, Kelly Highman, Becky Mclaren-Johnson, Rebecca Sargent, Georgia Heasman, Katie Stanley & Caroline Bisson (C) Subs – Linsey Clarke, Sian Wylie, Megan Kowalski, Jenny Nagle & Hannah Baptiste.

It’s Cambridge to get the 1st half underway attacking up the slope wearing amber coloured shirts with black shorts and socks Wimbledon lined up opposite all in blue. The visitors quick to press the ball from the start won in midfield played back to Sarah Wentworth the central defender sending it long, striker and captain Caroline Bisson spinning in behind, goalkeeper Savannah Smith out to the ball early kicking it clear for Cambridge.

Wimbledon busy in the opening minutes of the game pressing looking to move the ball quickly and spread play, Rebecca Sargent putting herself about in midfield, sets up the first opportunity winning the ball in the middle spreading play out to the left wing Katie Stanley coming inside bringing the ball down shapes to shoot 30 yards out the attempt looping up into the air drops wide of the Cambridge goal.

Cambridge struggling to get anything going in the final 3rd in the early stages win a throw high on the right, captain Kelley Blanchflower with a driving run with the ball into the box, Hannah Billingham clearing the ball for the visitors. Wimbledon have Cambridge penned in their own half Sargent with some powerful runs supported by Becky Mclaren-Johnson and Kelly Highman, the ball fed into the left channel, Kayleigh-Anne Burt coming across to defend put the ball out for a throw.

Wimbledon come again building from the ball the defence on the halfway line the pass into Jordanne Hoesli-Atkins left side she attempts a through ball to unleash Bisson, well intercepted by Jemma Moore in the centre of the Cambridge defence. Wimbledon win a corner on the right side the delivery in towards the near post headed on across the area by Billingham looping down at the far post Wentworth stretching for it can’t direct her effort on target behind for a goalkick.

Is developing into a scrappy battle in midfield both sides press the ball pinging back and forth it suddenly squeezes through in behind Bisson latching onto it slides into a shot before Burt can close her down 20 yards out the ball is knocked up and whistles past the top right corner. All Wimbledon have Cambridge pushed back a free-kick won wide right Billingham over the ball a great effort fired in bounces through the six yard box no one able to provide a telling touch.

Billingham is hurt moment later looking to seeing the ball out for a throw Mollie Coupar pressing her for Cambridge sliding in the resulting tangle of legs seeing the Wimbledon defender clatter into the metal railings surrounding the pitch, a blow to the head that sees play stopped for a lengthy period as Billingham receives treatment that ultimately leaves her sporting a unfashionable blue head bandage, thankfully able to return to the action. Cambridge pressure the throw in the ball coming into the area, Edie Kelly taking it cleanly as Coupar closes her down.

Blanchflower has her hands full with Sargent restricting her attacking runs, picking up possession in a favourable position drives forwards sends the ball put to Jade Bell up on the left wing her cross long to Coupar at the far post getting up looks to header it down for Blanchflower the Wimbledon defence crowding her out.

Sargent strong in the challenge wins the ball nips in to get hold of the ball 25 yards out turning well central spaces opens up in front of her she goes for the shot catching the ball well fired over the crossbar. Frustration creeping in from both sides, Amy Howlett fouling Sargent. The free-kick 40 yards out ambitious from Billingham but she sends the ball in towards goal drops kindly for Smith to claim in her mid-riff.

Cambridge are conceding free-kicks the next alot closer to goal, Billingham on it once again 25 out right of the area, the shot narrowly over the crossbar. Another free-kick soon after central Bisson over this one Billingham the target far post the ball flighted in Cambridge manage to deal with the threat. Stanley with a good bit of control as the ball is played into her moving down the left her touch taking it in field 30 yard out turns well and shoots the ball wide of the right post.

GOAL! The visitors have dominated possession but against that it’s the hosts that take the lead. It is a well worked goal nevertheless, Blanchflower getting forwards a throw won high on the left the ball played up into the box dropping into Coupar, shielded by Billingham holds it up well pushed out to the top of the area turns well sending the pass into Blanchflower peeling clear into space inside the box wide right her squared ball across the face of goal, Bell rushing in Kelly blocking her initial effort, the ball skips up wide of the grounded keeper, Bell alert sending it on into the goal 1-0.

Wimbledon have had all the possession are straight back on the attack, Howlett isn’t making any friends with another foul on Sargent. The free-kick wide left, Bisson to delivery a great ball up to the far post Billingham forwards not put off heading the ball whatsoever a stooping header back across the top of the six yard box Sargent there central leaning back catches the ball agonisingly up over the crossbar.

Wimbledon press forwards right side Sargent with a good ball Bisson ready to spring in behind, closing in on the area, Moore sliding in makes a great tackle to take the ball away. Howlett is booked for persistent fouling. Wimbledon remain the sharper to the ball have Cambridge with their backs to the wall at time but despite that the young defence are standing firm. Coupar working hard up front pressing the ball presenting an opportunity on the right for Bell to put a cross in from the byline cut out at the near post.

Abigail Davies wins the ball for Cambridge right side on for Shephard a slight hestitation before putting the cross on allows Billingham the chance to put a foot in win the ball. Sargent plays the pass on for Heasman sending the ball on she releases Bisson in behind, closing in on the box, Moore shows great pace to get back on her make the challenge.

Half-time Cambridge United WFC 1-0 AFC Wimbledon Ladies

Wimbledon have dominated the play in the first half, seeing the majority of the ball pushing Cambridge back, creating opportunities, could be leading themselves however at half-time they find themselves trailing 1-0. Cambridge have worked hard had their backs to the wall, their defence under pressure has coped well, getting up the other end a well worked move seeing them take the lead. An interesting 2nd half looms.

Cambridge’s Kelley Blanchflower with Wimbledon’s Rebecca Sargent

No changes for either side at the break the light starting to fade the floodlights are on Cambridge attacking down the slope 2nd half as Wimbledon get the game back underway. Cambridge with more intent inside the Wimbledon half right from the off, Neal adjudged to have fouled Highman on halfway. The home side launch an attack the ball flicked on by Neal to Blanchflower breaking forwards her ball down the right channel for Coupar to chase, Billingham across to stretch and cut it out for Wimbledon.

GOAL!  Cambridge’s bright start to the 2nd half sees them extend their lead have the ball on the left side building down the wing the ball played into Coupar head down she carries it on into the area before firing in a cross along the six yard box, Blanchflower timing her run perfectly ahead of the Wimbledon defence to smash the ball into the back of the net 2-0.

Sargent continues her work ethic in the middle for Wimbledon getting hold of the ball fires a pass up the right channel for Heasman getting forwards she cuts her low cross back towards the D, Stanley closing in on it can’t keep her shot down as she sends her 1st time effort over. Is a bruising encounter between two sides that give as good as they get, largely in good spirit…sort of…

Wimbledon’s Katie Stanley

A busy afternoon for the officials too Wimbledon with a free’kick wide right Bisson over it lifted into the area Billingham escapes her runner near side from close range wide of goal can only find the side netting. Cambridge frustrating their opponents now enjoying more of the ball, Coupar scrapping away up front bundled to the ground.

Mclaren-Johnson pressurising for Wimbledon central with the ball at her feet has support going forwards from Heasman, her cross squared to Stanley cutting inside from the left shoots 20 yards out, Smith diving to her left pushing the ball away from goal. 20 minutes gone in the 2nd period and Wimbledon make a change, Hannah Baptiste coming on for Highman. Cambridge with a throw left inside the Wimbledon half into Coupar 25 yards out a touch taking it inside before curling a shot over the bar.

An open game now a complete contrast to the first half Cambridge coming on more now competitve remains a scrappy affair Holly Northfield preventing a crossing opportunity on the right for Wimbledon. Russell up the other end across as Bell tries to put Coupar away. Wimbledon attack Billingham with a great forwards ball into the area controlled well by Bisson, Cambridge win in the ball sent long…

GOAL! With the game more open and Wimbledon committing more players forwards Cambridge capitalise to score a 3rd goal Coupar getting on the scoresheet after being involved in the hosts opening 2 goals. The ball played long up to her peeling away into the right channel ahead of Billingham, Wentworth comes across pushes Coupar wide right of goal as she enters the box the young striker strong on the ball gets a shot away from the angle firing the ball across the keeper and into the bottom corner 3-0.

Neal with a firm tackle to deny Wimbledon building an attack through the middle. Moore with good defensive work at the back as the visitors attack through the right. Coupar tries to burst on with the ball Sargent back to defend against her for Wimbledon. Wimbledon make a 2nd change Jenny Nagle on for Heasman on the right side. A free-kick wide right for the visitors Bisson with the ball up into the area eventually cleared by Burt. Nagle attacking right Northfield sliding in to prevent the cross the ball out for a throw.

Mollie Coupar holding the ball up for Cambridge United WFC

Both sides make a change, Emma Jenkins coming on for Blanchflower for Cambridge. Sian Wylie replacing Hoesli-Atkins for Wimbledon with a little over 15 minutes left on the clock. Wimbledon continue to attack looking to pull a goal back that pressure bringing a corner, Stanley to take it from the right a long delivery to the far post Cambridge winning the header a determination set in to keep a clean sheet.

Smith with a point blank save going to ground in front of Bisson as the striker gets onto the end of a diagonal ball inside the six yard box fired in from the right. Wimbledon pressure late on in the game pushing players on into the last 8 minutes. Cambridge make a 2nd change Carrie Bennett coming on replacing Coupar late on.

Bell doing some vital work in defence late on for the hosts doubling up with Northfield as Wimbledon look to double up on the full backs. Winning the ball tries to release Shephard up front, Wentworth regaining possession for Wimbledon. Moore tackles Stanley a throw deep in the right, the ball kept up top a swerving cross in under the crossbar taken high by Smith.

Little time left now, Wimbledon’s frustrations mount a decision going against them protests voiced results in Stanley and Mclaren-Johnson yellow carded for dissent. A late late corner for Wimbledon right side an inswinging delivery pushed down and away by the jumping Smith falling to Wylie the defended stretching for it sends it across to the far post, cleared Wimbledon appeal for a penalty, nothing doing the final whistle blown soon after.

Full time Cambridge United WFC 3-0 AFC Wimbledon Ladies

A terrific result for Cambridge and 3 valuable points won. Most definitely a game of two halves. Wimbledon dominating the 1st half playing the ball quickly, spreading play and pushing their opponents back, chances created but not scoring paid the price as Cambridge took the lead against the run of play. A different story 2nd half Cambridge battling to defend 1st half buoyed by their goal came out on the front foot 2nd half scoring early. Took their chances well, a competitive tussle, expected nothing less, just adds to the excitement in what is undoubtedly a competitve league, with alot of talented players. Any side can beat the other on their day. That’s why I love it so much.

Women’s Football East – Player of the Match

On to this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match award. A few performances worthy of note. Firstly for Wimbledon, Rebecca Sargent was a driving force in the midfield, putting herself about getting forwards too with some timely runs and good passing especially first half. For Cambridge, Jemma Moore the newest face to line-up in defence played well making some great and well timed tackles the back-line on the whole learning alot from today’s game. Jade Bell too using her experience to great advantage opening the scoring for Cambridge and vital in defence late on. Overall though today’s award goes to attacker Mollie Coupar put in a great shift up top for the hosts prepared to get stuck in a willing learner, good hold-up play involved in both the opening goals and great individual skill and strength to score the 3rd.

Another good advert for women’s football in the FAWNL, scrappy yes but played by two committed sides, a good watch. My thanks to everyone for their help today always appreciated.

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