Sunday 6th October
Women’s FA Cup
FA Cup weekend a trip down to Essex this Sunday to watch a game from 2nd Round Qualifying of the competition Harlow Town Ladies setting the early pace in the ERWFL Premier Division hosting another potential title challenger Wroxham Women.
Some 48 ties set to be played this Sunday however with plenty of rain falling across the country overnight several games called of pitches waterlogged. Today’s venue the Harlow Arena with a 3G playing surface meant the match would survive.
An intriguing tie in prospect Harlow Town Ladies starting the season well into their 2nd season playing in the ERWFL Premier Division have risen rapidly through the women’s football pyramid in recent seasons. Plenty of young talent to call upon backed up by a strong Reserves side last season, now just the senior side manager Dean Perrett bringing in several players to strengthen the squad and add experience with the likes of Hannah Porter, Nicole Farmer, Georgia Box and Amy Nash coming in having played higher league placed Essex sides AFC Basildon and Billericay Town in the past. Becky Shephard joining too a potent goal threat wherever she’s played most recently with Cambridge United WFC. Top of the ERWFL Premier Division in what will be a strong league once again. Unbeaten in 5 played with 4 win including a 4-1 away win over today’s cup opponents.
Had hoped to see Wroxham Women in the previous round of the FA Cup but circumstances conspired against me. Wroxham are a new name for a familiar side in the ERWFL Premier Division having previously been Acle United Women enjoying plenty of success under that guise the time was right to move on Wroxham showing an interest in wanting to get involved in the women’s game the partnership boosting the club going forwards having come so close to winning the Premier Division in recent seasons and with it promotion to the FAWNL. Will be amongst the title challengers again having retained most of their squad whilst bringing in Victoria Pleavin from Norwich City Women, Kayleigh Holloway from ERWFL Premier Division rivals Wymondham Town Ladies and Bethany Bygrave a former Tasmanian Football of the Year. Currently 2nd in the ERWFL Premier Division table losing one of their opening 5 games as previously highlighted. Reached today’s 2nd Round Qualifying match wit a stunning comeback at home to local rival Wymondham 2-0 down with 9 minutes to go getting back to 2-2 with Amber Rowland slotting in the winner from the penalty spot.
The Harlow Arena today’s venue, heavy rain falling for much of the journey games elsewhere getting called off, more or less stopped past Cambridge, dry by the time I arrived dark clouds still around but the sun trying to poke through. A bar and hot food available under the main seated stand with a covered terraced stand opposite. A 3G playing surface A fairly easy venue to get too with plenty of parking.
Harlow Town Ladies starting XI – Josie Burke, Nicole Farmer, Beth Chambers, Hannah Porter, Kaydee King (C), Fran Gamble, Chloe Bassett, Lucy Edmeades, Amy Nash, Becky Shephard & Liv Steele. Subs – Charlie Orwell, Harriet Lethbridge, Abbey Dell, Eve Doyle-Love, Ronnie Harrison & Jodie Sanderson.
Wroxham Women starting XI – Amy Bell, Anna Larkins (C), Victoria Pleavin, Grace Parker, Chloe Shields, Amber Rowland, Kate Pasque, Kayleigh Holloway, Naomi Cooper, Grace Birchall & Emily Leach. Subs – Bethany Bygrave, Kirstie Kindred. Olivia Mungham-Gray & Leanne Symonds.
The teams into huddles before kick-off a cry of ‘AHOY!’ from Wroxham quickly followed by a roar of ‘HARLOW!’ from the hosts it’s Wroxham to get the 1st half underway wearing blue and white vertical striped shirts with blue shorts and socks with Harlow wearing red shirts with a white front, red shorts and socks. The ball pressed right from the word go Harlow in to close Wroxham little head way made by either side in the opening exchanges play congested in midfield. Wroxham with a throw right side gain ground without getting a cross in the ball played back left to run on for the keeper to gather, Grace Birchall in attack for Wroxham sharp races in forcing goalkeeper Josie Burke into a save down to take at her feet before she can pounce.
Harlow with an opportunity to play a ball into the box players forwards as they win a free-kick 35 yards out as Fran Gamble is fouled bringing the ball on. On the left a good delivery in from Amy Nash flighted in towards the far post Amy Bell in goal for Wroxham with a solid punch of the ball to get it away. A good start to the game from Harlow players all over the park quick to close down and press the Wroxham defence. Nash with a great crossfield pass to find Lucy Edmeades on the right wing takes the ball on to the by-line sending a cross in collected cleanly by Bell at her near post.
GOAL! Harlow’s good start capitalised upon with a goal a great strike from Becky Shephard to give the hosts the lead 6 minutes into the game. Picking up the ball central 35 yards out no one comes to close her down encouraged to shoot shifts the ball before letting fly the ball arrowing in past the keeper to make it 1-0.
Harlow press play turned around win the first corner of the game on the right delivered near post players up goes through everyone to drop across goal no one to attack far side Wroxham clear. Wroxham not seeing much of the attack early doors gain ground on the left wing the ball played inside for striker Emily Leach has to dig the shot out of her feet 25 yards out on target lacking the power to trouble Burke.
Harlow continue their high tempo pressing game getting players forwards passing quickly Nash putting Shephard away on the left wing into space squares in a cross along the top of the Wroxham area, Chloe Shields clearing for the away side the ball picked up by Gamble central drives in a low shot from 25 yards out, Bell down to push the ball wide. Harlow spreading play well Hannah Porter winning it at the ball has options up field Beth Chambers racing up the left wing from full back a good pass to pick her out lays it forwards for Shephard ahead of her the ball travelling quickly on the 3G surface Shephard despite a lunging dive can’t keep it in play.
Wroxham captain Anna Larkins playing right back reads the danger well across central to nip in front to win the ball from attacker Liv Steele as a great through ball from Gamble almost has her in on goal. Harlow quicker to the ball, Wroxham not getting any momentum frustrated on the back foot. Attacks broken up before they get going Harlow quick to turn play around Edmeades right with an early ball on into the area Nash having made a near post run looking to take the shot in through her stride a defender on her shoulder doesn’t connect with the ball.
Shephard challenging for the ball 25 yards out getting free on the left to chase down the wing fires a cross in central Shields defending again getting to the ball ahead of Steele in front of goal. Wroxham having to work hard to get anything going in attack, Amber Rowland in strong to win it central rolls it forwards into Birchall holding off her marker left side in front of goal spins well to lay the ball on for fellow attacker Emily Leach, Porter in to win the ball back for Harlow.
Larkins down after a challenge from Steele play goes on with Wroxham in attack Birchall in the final 3rd on her own taking players on doing well to win a throw high on the right. Kayleigh Holloway receiving the ball off the throw dribbles on towards the area her low cross driven in cut out put behind by Chambers for Wroxham’s first corner of the game. The delivery put in high safely caught by Burke unchallenged on her line.
Harlow on the attack players breaking left and right as Gamble wins the tackle to break up Wroxham’s build up possession in the final 3rd Harlow have Wroxham penned in a cross played in cleared straight to Chloe Bassett right side of the area her shot fired in with power 25 yards out blocked the ball on the right whipped into the box deflected behind for the corner. The delivery in high near post Porter up heads it on down central Steele their doesn’t get a clean connection on her shot six yards out. Bassett with another shooting opportunity a few minutes later 25/30 yards out right sees her effort race wide across goal. Harlow with the upper hand quicker to everything.
The hosts winning a free-kick wide right outside the box more or less a corner as Nash comes across to take players forwards captain Kaydee King amongst them gets a glancing header on the ball enough to deflect it back to Bassett waiting far side inside the box lines up to shot through bodies low back across goal narrowly wide of the post. Porter goes for a foray up the pitch no one from Wroxham challenging until she threatens to get in past the back line into the area itself. Bassett seeing the ball into her feet 30 yards out plays a great a ball on into the area for Edmeades to attack racing in from the right wing, just too much on it allowing Bell to come and claim.
Gamble fouled top of the circle inside the Wroxham half players go forwards the ball short wide to Chambers left side comes infield preparing to strike a fantastic block… probably not what referee Callum Dorling intended. A drop ball the result these no longer contested. Pleavin with a great intercepting tackle to stop Edmeades getting clear on the right for Harlow. Wroxham need to get something going in attack have soaked up alot of pressure the ball fired up to halfway Birchall doing well to stay on her feet after a tackle takes the ball forwards a strong run into the area draws defenders to her squares the ball to Leach unmarked central hit’s it hard, Burke with the blocking save to keep the ball out at close range the rebound taking the ball out of the area Naomi Cooper gather left to shoot from outside the box sends her shot over the bar.
Late into the first half Harlow becoming a little loose with their passing Wroxham applying a little bit of pressure Birchall with Porter on halfway a coming together that sees the defender down injured the advantage with Harlow though play goes on getting bodies up into the final third.
GOAL! The attack broken up Wroxham send the ball long up to Birchall into the space Porter would have been occupying had she not still been down Birchall racing away from King to carry the ball with pace into the box right of goal Farmer almost getting there as she strikes the ball low and fast across the keeper into the bottom corner to level the scores 1-1.
Birchall celebrating is then shown a yellow card presumably for a foul on Porter prior the the counter attack. Harlow having been strong all through the first half have an opportunity straight from the restart to retake the lead direct play Shephard receiving the ball central in for Steele one on one win the advancing keeper top of the area looks to shot across Bell, the goalkeeper down saves well with her legs. The last opportunity of the 1st half going to Wroxham, Leach controlling the ball 25 yards out sending her shot wide across goal.
Half-time Harlow Town Ladies 1-1 Wroxham Women
The scores all square at 1-1 at half-time. Harlow starting well and taking an early lead continued to dominate pressing Wroxham all over the pitch quicker to the ball and releasing players early didn’t add to that lead however and Wroxham having few opportunities took one late in the half to equalise, know there’s room for improvement. The scores level remains all to play for 2nd half.
Harlow out of the changing rooms early for the 2nd half no changes for either side the hosts getting the 2nd game underway the game to go to extra-time even penalties if needed has to be decided on the day. Harlow beginning as they started the first half on the front foot pushing deep into Wroxham territory winning a throw on the right.
GOAL! Farmer looking to play the ball on the defence pressured right the ball cleared picked up by Bassett outside the box left of the D strikes her shot well, Bell static central the shot wide of her creeping inside the post 2-1. Harlow retake the lead.
Harlow’s pressing game effective in on Wroxham’s defenders early making playing out from the back difficult the midfield forced deeper as a result. Bassett and Gamble breaking thing’s up effectively as they had for much the first half. Harlow attack overlapping on the left the cross in vicious across the face of goal long as Bell scrambles across her line Steele up on the right side into the box getting to the ball looks to smash her shot back in across goal. Bell with a superb save her momentum taking her one way to get back the other to flash out a glove to deflect the ball away from goal.
A corner conceded on the left taken short by Harlow back to the taker coming higher to cross the delivery spot on King getting her head on the on the ball put straight at Bell for a comfortable save. Harlow on the offensive switch play Shephard running clear beating the keeper left in attack sees her shot come back off the far post. Wroxham respond an early change 2nd half Pleavin off with Kirstie Kindred on to join Leach in attack with Birchall moving left side Cooper dropping into defence.
Is a physical game between two competitive opponents. Larkins, Porter and King needing treatment in the first half, Pasque and Parker for Wroxham getting clattered in the 2nd period. A cruncher of a 50/50 between Cooper and Farmer sees both hurt. Birchall fouled left side top of the circle a chance to relieve the early Harlow pressure players go forwards with Parker over the ball a high ball into the area headed clear Harlow look to counter quickly left, Holloway doing the defending to stop the advance for Wroxham.
Larkins with a fantastic ball from the back to release Birchall away on the left the attacker keeping possession well cutting inside allowed to shoot on her stronger foot the ball swerving through the air moving wide across the face of goal wide. The substitutions and movement of players seeing Wroxham start to get a foothold in their opponents final third and for the first time in the game have a period of sustained possession in and around Harlow’s area a ball played on sees Birchall charging down King the ball cannoning up into the air inside the box, King keeping her eyes on it to launch clear.
Harlow make their first change Ronnie Harrison coming on to replace Farmer. The substitute with a great run forwards lays the ball on for Bassett breaking through the centre one on one with the keeper bearing down towards the area Bell commits to the floor diving left as Bassett looks to take the ball around her the goalkeeper, stretching out an arm managing to pluck the ball away from her feet. The danger now cleared players rushing forwards the ball loose gathered on the left Bell up but not set the shot fizzed in Larkins has got back to cover the goal successfully intercepts and clears the threat.
The game opening up as Wroxham take more risks in search of a 2nd equalising goal. Porter with an ambitious effort from over halfway dipping late as it come into the box Bell pushes away for the corner. The ball put into the box from the right defended the clearance straight to Gamble strikes a shot back into the crowded area takes a wicked deflection Bell however able to catch the sting taken out of the shot as the Harlow bench goes up collectively with shouts of “handball”… play continues.
Harlow with a 2nd change, Steele coming off on comes Abbey Dell. Dell involved straight away getting forwards with the ball on the left crosses into the box for Shephard unable to turn and get a shot away. Gamble smashing a 25 yard strike over the bar as she latches onto a clearance. Bassett next to line up a strike from distance for Harlow, the attempt straight at Bell. Wroxham counter Birchall moving wide Harrison defending well for Harlow. Chambers getting forward left side for Harlow played on by Bassett central shoots from the angle the ball over the crossbar.
A free-kick for Harlow in a dangerous position central 30 yards out, players forwards King over the ball going for goal a curling effort past the wall hasn’t the high a comfortable take for Bell. Dell nip in to win the ball for Harlow central her low strike put straight at the keeper. Wroxham come forwards right side Holloway carrying the ball on 30 yards out coming in field, Kindred taking the ball to hit a shot from distance runs wide of the left post.
GOAL! Wroxham equalise for the 2nd time in the match the ball played up toward the top of the area, Burke down at the feet of Leach the ball popping up and beyond, Leach staying on her feet to run on and send the ball into the empty net beyond 2-2. A little over 10 minutes left to play.
The game opened right up both sides going for it Wroxham sending it long the bounce leaving the Harlow defence static high up as Birchall latches onto the ball races away down the left coming back inside as Harlow get back to defend their area taking the ball across the top of the area no opening for a shot cuts back looking to put in Kindred the pass behind her, lunging to try and retrieve it brings down King the free-kick given. Wroxham making another change Leanne Symonds coming on in place of Leach.
Harlow advance on the right with Dell putting Edmeades away her cross along the top of the six yard box dealt with by Larkins at the far post with Chambers running in from wide. Larkins called into action again, Bell high in her box as Shephard comes on central closing in on the keeper her shot partially saved as Bell takes some of the power of it as it strikes her legs through them on target Larkins round to cover the goal clears the ball up field. Neither side wanting extra-time looking for a winning goal Shephard fizzing a shot from wide left across the face of goal.
A throw conceded deep in the corner on the right t Harlow, Gamble with Dell winning a corner the ball n deep smashed goalwards blocked. A player down needing treatment, Pasque okay to continue after a pause in play. Harlow rallying late on moments left on the clock a free-kick won on the right Edmeades to put in towards the far post Shields defending to head the ball clear for Wroxham.
Full time Harlow Town Ladies 2-2 Wroxham Women
The game goes to extra-time an additional 30 minutes for either side to find a winning goal. Wroxham coming back well 2nd half after conceding an early goal, the game opening up Bell with some vital saves with Harlow stretching the defence at times.
Wroxham to get the first period of extra-time underway. Harlow getting hold of the ball Shephard away left passes inside for Nash 25 yards out has a shot the ball pushed down by Bell, before diving onto it wit Dell rushing in on the follow up.
A marauding run from Birchall right side taking the ball and players on, comes inside across the top of the area looks to set up Kindred central, Birchall though is hauled over as she releases the ball the referee blows up, close to being a penalty instead a free-kick a foot out inside the D.
GOAL! Birchall over it a packed area in front of her strikes it low and hard the ball taking a wicked deflection that Burke can do little about as it races wide of her into the back of the net 2-3. Wroxham leading for the first time in the match. The goal stands despite Harlow complaints the ball was moving as it was struck the breeze strong blowing across the pitch.
Birchall gathering the ball into her feet on halfway drives on into the area taking defenders with her to the right turning well to leave 3 behind to line up a shot, no powers behind the ball Burke down to gather. Dell with a great turn and hit from 30 yards out Bell behind it but spilt throws herself down to smother it with Chambers racing in.
A free-kick for Harlow in half-way the delivery high into the area dealt with by Parker the ball looping back out of the area spinning as Nash goes to hit it causing it to swerve and drop wide of goal. Harlow make a change with Harriet Lethbridge coming on for Nash. A corner won on the right for Harlow the ball in creeps over everyone near side falling for Porter central volleys over must have taken a nick as another corner is awarded.
Harlow pressing the attack the crossbar struck cleared for a corner. Porter off the field for a change of shirt, having collected a bloody nose earlier in the game. The corner taken another near post delivery attacked put across goal cleared Lethbridge to play back in Bell taking it well with Shephard close in.
Shephard sees her shot outside the box blocked by Pasque, handball indicated a free-kick to Harlow inside the D more or less identical to the one that led to Wroxham’s goal. Shephard to strike it hard and low bodies in the way this time to block the ball rebounding out of the area straight to a Harlow shirt a rising shot coming in on target Bell must be unsighted with so many in the box produces a fantastic save throwing herself back to glove the ball away to the right, a corner for Harlow.
GOAL! The pressure from Harlow pays off players stay up field the delivery this time long across the face of goal beyond the far post King getting her head on the ball to knock it down towards goal a scramble on the line to get the ball away but in vain as the goal is given 3-3. The first half of extra-time finishes with the tie all square once again.
Harlow to get the 2nd period of extra-time underway. Edmeades played through to attack on the right into the box an opportunity to shoot opts instead to square the ball across goal Larkins stepping up to intercept and clear. Harlow regaining possession a snap shot fired over. Dell winning a corner for Harlow, Parker defending for Wroxham sees it put back to taker Edmeades another opportunity to cross deep King up far past a glancing header wide.
Wroxham making a change Olivia Mungham-Gray coming on for Kindred. Birchall away in the right her cross in deflected by King thankfully straight to Burke in the goal beyond. Cooper fouled by King central a free-kick 25 yards out Birchall to strike her effort gloved down and held by Burke.
GOAL! Time running down in the 2nd period of extra-time Harlow are pushing players on swarming around the Wroxham box the ball at the feet of Gamble 20 yards out to the left of the box fired in to nestle in the back of the net and put the hosts back in front 4-3.
Wroxham behind late on have to come forwards Harlow though have a late rush of energy to close the ball down and keep momentum with them. Shephard taking the ball into the corner. Holloway breaking late for Wroxham no way through as she tries to pick out Birchall, Harlow solid at the back the final whistle goes and players rush onto the pitch to celebrate.
Harlow through to the next round of the Women’s FA Cup, the draw later this Monday. Deserving of the win overall despite making thing’s harder for themselves doing the job in extra-time. On the front foot early in the game getting the goal should probably have gotten more 1st half credit to Wroxham to come back to equalise late on. An early goal 2nd half for Harlow seeing Wroxham come on more and enjoy a better period of attack getting back on level terms to force extra-time and then take the lead themselves. Harlow keep coming though and King headed in to make it 3-3 the hosts prepared to have a strike from distance all game seeing one beat the keeper late on through Gamble to win the tie.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. Grace Birchall in attack and Amy Bell with some superb saves doing well for Wroxham. Harlow showing good movement and energy across the pitch, Amy Nash creating several opportunities strong in central midfield, Chloe Bassett close but edged out by Fran Gamble who had a fantastic game in the middle breaking up play getting forwards well and spreading play scoring the winning goal.
A enjoyable cup tie knew it could well be a close one and was, entertaining and the rain held off. My thanks to both sides for the team details as always much appreciated.