Sunday 23rd February
Left it to the last minute before committing to a game this weekend with another band of rain falling overnight, the two previous weekend it by Storm’s Ciara and Dennis respectfully as it was I headed to the game I planned on seeing a fortnight ago, the ERWFL quarter final match between Bedford Ladies and Millwall Lionesses.
Mind you if I’d have known how bad the roadworks would be between Norfolk and Bedfordshire I might have headed in the opposite direction as it was it was a trip well worth making as you shall read on later on.
The ERWFL Cup into the quarter final stage put on hold this past fortnight with the bad weather virtually no football played teams keen to get back at it this weekend. A strong line-up in the last eight of the competition the ERWFL Premier Division in particular highly competitive, Millwall Lionesses the only Division One side left from outside the division.
Bedford Ladies coming into the game in a good run of form winning 6 straight games in league and cup a run that has seen them climb up to 4th in the ERWFL Premier Division. An long established side at this level briefly playing higher well amongst the sides battling for a top 4 finish anyone down to 9th position still in contention. Bedford reached the final of the League Cup last season eventually losing out on penalties to Cambridge City Ladies completing a league and cup double last season. A 2-1 away win against Division One North side Newmarket Town Women saw then advance into the last 8 of this season’s competition.
Millwall Lionesses a new face in the ERWFL. Virtually a new side rebuilding after the women’s section broke away from Millwall in go independent as London City Lionesses keeping their FA Championship status as a result. Millwall Lionesses left to start over a fresh. Know a little of what that’s like myself having been a Lincoln Ladies fan in the FAWSL before they ‘rebranded’ still every cloud has a silver lining and without that Women’s Football East would never have been born. This is about Millwall Lionesses however a new side, has great support from Millwall FC, a strong and passionate fan base and excellent media coverage as they look to start again in the 6th tier of the women’s football pyramid.
Playing in ERWFL Division one South are top of the table with 8 games played unbeaten and aiming for the title, Essex side Hutton Ladies with a 100% and games in hand their main rivals can’t afford to take their foot off the gas. The ERWFL Cup featuring a group stage for the Division One sides this season 4 groups of 4 with the winners going on to the knockout stages joined by the 12 Premier Division sides. Millwall Lionesses neck and neck with Division One North leaders in Group B a play off match needed to decide the winner Millwall Lionesses progressing to play AFC Dunstable Women in the 1st knockout round a single goal enough to win the game netted by top scorer Shannan Drewe setting up an away trip to Bedford in the quarter finals the clubs sternest test yet.
The Eyrie the venue for today’s match home of Bedford Town FC, just off the A421 into Bedford, my first trip to the stadium featured a large clubhouse leading into the ground with a bar serving hot food and drink. A large wall mounted TV screen great for showing sports events. Leading out onto a stadium itself a seated stand on one side a terraced stand the other cover at both goal ends. A nice layout a good sized pitch in good condition despite the recent bad weather. Cloudy but the rain had passed the sun setting behind one side of the stadium would cause a few issues during the game… but I can’t really complain about the sun can I.
Bedford Ladies starting XI – Lauren Webb, Mollie Robinson, Nina Regolo, Gemma Franklin, Ashley Emerton, Jasmine Ajayi, Priya Bhatti (C), Shianne Swarres, Matilda Fidler, Maya Sidhu & Natasha Fensome. Subs – Alicia Cobb, Chelcie Alleyne, Lauren Murray & Setor Acolatse.
Millwall Lionesses starting XI – Kelly Webster, Millie Connell, Alyssa Miranda, Elena Stonebrook, Sian Fitzpatrick, Libby Stubbs (C), Katie Klosinski, Kaitlyn Lewis, Olivia Gregory, Shannan Drewe & Molly Hawkins. Subs – Jansu Mentesh, Samantha Middleton, Daniella Correa.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Bedford to get the cup tie underway kicking off the 1st half wearing blue and black vertical striped shirts with black shorts and socks. Millwall lined up opposite in their away colours white shirts and shorts with navy blue socks with white hoops. The ball played back in their defence Millwall rush on to close the ball down quickly preventing Bedford getting out the ball pinging around in the middle, Millwall captain Libby Stubbs sets Olivia Gregory away free on the right wing to chase the ball down, Gemma Franklin coming across to get back on her slide in to make the tackle and send the ball out for an early corner.
Bedford defending the corner look to counter attack bringing the ball on Millwall close the ball down keeping the pressure in their attacking third a diagonal ball played out to the right of the area a shot clipped in taking a deflection putting it wide for a 2nd corner. This time on the left attacked at the near post behind for a third corner. Bedford goalkeeper Lauren Webb coming out from her near post to catch the ball. Millwall lively early on aren’t letting Bedford out of their half Stubbs playing Gregory in to space on the right takes the ball on into the area flashing a dangerous ball across the top of the six yard box, Ashley Emerton defending against Molly Hawkins at the far post brings a 5th Millwall corner.
5 minutes played and Bedford finally get the ball over the halfway line Jasmine Ajayi bringing the ball on through the middle tackled by Millwall’s Katie Klosinski the ball sent out to the left Shannan Drewe taking it on wins another corner, again not beating the keeper at the near post. The action frantic at times Millwall winning the ball back on halfway Stubbs in possession plays it on down the left Drewe racing on fires a cross into the near post skipping up in front of Hawkins at the near post can’t get a shot away lays it back to the top of the box dinked back in a stooping header prodding the ball goalwards Webb flying to her right pushing it away wide of goal smashed back in by Drewe, blocked on the goal line by Bedford.
Bedford getting some joy through the middle now captain Priya Bhatti playing the ball up top to Natasha Fensome back to goal 20 yards out rolls her mark before unleashing a shot the attempt off target flying wide past the Millwall far post. Ajayi battling for possession in the middle of the park for Bedford takes it on before passing forwards to Maya Sidhu away on the left. Millie Connell getting back on her to slide in and put the ball out before a cross can be played. Bedford turn play around in the middle Millwall caught on the back foot Bhatti attempting to find Matilda Fidler making a move clear to the right, a timely interception made by Millwall centre back Sian Fitzpatrick.
Shaping into a good contest Bedford getting forwards well in attack the midfield looking to get the ball out to Sidhu and Fidler running the channels, Sidhu put in by Bhatti in the middle sends an early cross in from the wing towards the top of the a the clearance sliced by Millwall defender Alyssa Miranda falls behind her into the area Fensome sharp skipping in behind onto it the keeper to beat sends her shot narrowly wide of the near post. Millwall work the ball on through the middle direct play almost pays off the ball in behind seeing Hawkins get a yard on the Bedford back-line takes aim from the top of the area the shot lacking power runs safely through to Webb in goal.
The action end to end now both sides getting forwards quickly Bedford feed the ball on for Fidler moving forwards on the right into the area, Miranda stays with her the full back doing well under pressure to scramble the ball away. Gregory receiving the ball in her own half on the right brings it forwards riding a tackle skipping infield runs in prodding the ball into the path of Hawkins coming from centre to right in the box turns to shot gets no power behind it Webb saving easily. An even contest Millwall edging it in the first 20 minutes if anything Connell and Elena Stonebrook link up at the back right side up to Gregory on down the line a dangerous cross into the six yard box dealt with by Bedford’s Nina Regolo.
GOAL! Millwall score the opening goal midway through the first half, scoring from a corner. Haven’t made the most of their opportunities so far several not beating the keeper at the near post this delivery much better higher clearing Webb as she goes for in inswinging dropping at the far post close in Gregory on hand to bundle it over the line to put the visitors into the lead 0-1.
Bedford go straight up the other end from the restart and score… the goal however ruled out for offside. Getting forwards the ball played diagonally into Ajayi top of the area she screws her shot wide away from goal, turns into a good ball nonetheless as Fidler right side races onto it driving on into the area and angle tight gets a shot away under challenge past the keeper striking the base of the near post spins across the face of goal put in at the far post by Fensome but the flag is raised won’t count.
Bedford on the front foot, Bhatti away with the ball in the middle forwards for Fensome leading the attack, pushes on into the box, Fitzpatrick making a fine tackle for Millwall to regain the ball. Attacking Bedford come forwards in numbers Fensome drifting out to the right laying the ball central for Sidhu bursting forwards holds it up 20 yards out, Fensome not standing still has rushed forwards to make herself available inside the box, Fitzpatrick closing her down the loose back latched onto by Bhatti right of the D, her first time strike inches wide.
Hawkins up the other end put clear into the area left of goal closing down the keeper momentum sees the pair come together Hawkins effort wide across the face of goal, Webb stays down is badly hurt follows a long pause in play as she receives on field treatment lot of concern and unfortunately can’t continue the goal keepers jersey handed over to Regolo the defender going in goal as Webb is carried off the pitch by her teammates with what looks to be an ankle injury Bedford bring on Alicia Cobb to join the defence.
Play resumes after a long delay, Bedford get on the offensive Fidler getting away right side, Miranda recovering inside the area pressuring her shot the ball gathered by Millwall goalkeeper Kelly Webster. Franklin brings the ball out from the back for Bedford allowed to travel with it lays it on for Fensome, Fitzpatrick intercepts. Ajayi combining well with Sidhu out on the left side, Connell with the defensive work for Millwall, Bedford press the ball inside the Millwall half keep it in the final third Sidhu receiving the ball top of the box left turns beating her marking, the left foot strike on doesn’t fancy it looks to lift the ball goalwards with the outside of her right boot, Webster close by then catching the ball.
Millwall yet to test the replacement keeper, Bedford’s back-line preventing anything getting through. Gregory with an ambitious half volleyed attempt sends a shot over from outside the box. Fensome with a great crossfield ball to find Sidhu up in attack left of the D controls the ball well turning into the box closed down quickly, stabs a shot wide of the post.
Half-time Bedford Ladies 0-1 Millwall Lionesses
The first half ends with Millwall Lionesses holding the narrow advantage leading 1-0. An entertaining first half Millwall more than matching their higher league opponents starting well giving them confidence scoring the opening goal. Bedford responding well both side creating great chances in front of goal and on another day could be a 3-2 scoreline to either side. As it is the game still very much in the balance all to play for in the 2nd half.
No changes for either side, Millwall get the 2nd half underway, Drewe taking the ball gets in behind the Bedford defence, Franklin back sliding in to take the ball away from her inside the box the loose ball coming back to Hawkins 20 yards out right of the D puts her first time strike wide. Bhatti getting forwards for Bedford inside the D as the ball comes in to her from the right wing catches it on the half volley the shot scooped up over the bar. Bedford winning a free-kick wide on the left good delivery fired long towards the right side Fidler with the headed ball put back across the top of the six yard box, Fensome quick to react, the ball closer to Webster she can get her gloves firmly around it.
Sidhu a threat wide left in attack for Bedford taking the ball on is brought down, another free-kick for Bedford out wide, Ajayi to put the ball into the area Franklin forwards attacks it just over her, Fitzpatrick winning the header clearing for the visitors. Strength on the ball from Drewe as she takes the ball on down the left whilst holding off the pursuing defender wins Millwall a corner. Takes it herself played in central the ball headed over the bar a goal kick awarded. Drewe again drifting inside 20 yards out central as the ball is fired in to her from the right brings it down well turning to knock it on into the area, Emerton getting back on her able to run it out of play.
Bhatti on the ball for Bedford right has support ahead of her from Fensome, a give and go out to Fidler wide as she bursts into the area in behind Fidler picking her out closes in on goal opts to cross instead of pull the trigger squaring the ball across the six yard box leaving Webster stranded Sidhu racing in, Connell with the diving tackle lunging in to clear the ball. The game stretched at times both sides wanting to get forwards quickly Bedford turning play around getting on the offensive Shianne Swarres taking the ball on through the middle passing forwards into Sidhu she in turn sends it on for Fensome making a run central can’t quite take it in her strike, Stonebrook getting hold of it for Millwall 20 yards out.
Bedford win another free-kick wide left, make a change before it is taken Setor Acolatse on for Ajayi. The ball flighted in towards the top of the area half cleared back to the left, scooped back in again dropping at the far post 8 yards out Acolatse taking a swing, doesn’t connect, Miranda scrambles clear for Millwall.
GOAL! Bedford equalise with 20 minutes gone in the 2nd period, Fensome making several great runs in attack throughout the game get’s half a yard on the Millwall defence as the ball is put long from midfield bouncing inside the box right of goal Fensome chasing it down closing in on the keeper, chips the ball over her looping beyond to drop in at the far post 1-1.
Millwall make their first change Daniella Correa entering the field for Klosinski. Stubbs getting hold of the ball lays it forwards for Drewe to race away on the left crosses into the box early looking for Hawkins, Regolo doing well donning the gloves off her line sharply to claim the ball. Bedford getting players forwards to support Fensome in attack left side the ball crossed in low into Acolatse not closed down scoops her attempt up over the bar. Franklin with a couple of great defensive tackles at the back to deny Hawkins an opportunity on goal.
Ajayi returns to the field for Bedford replacing Fidler. Fensome drifting away to the right channel as Bedford bring the ball on through the middle play into her feet she sends a superb crossfield ball out to Sidhu left side takes it on into the box momentum seeing the angle closed down close range hits it low and hard, Webster saving well with her legs the ball deflected out to the left wide fired back in the keeper beaten this time the ball smashing down off the bar into the six yard box, Fensome pounces stabs it over the top.
The game entering the final 10 minutes have the feeling it could go either way as Millwall bring on Samantha Middleton to join the attack replacing Gregory. Bhatti combining well with Acolatse and Ajayi as they trio work the ball on down the right Lewis tackling for Millwall. On the left side for Millwall Drewe is prepared to take the defence on at every opportunity racing on fires a cross into the six yard box, Regolo in bravely to catch the ball near side. Not long left of the 90 now Gregory returning to the field for Hawkins as Millwall as they win a corner the ball in headed clear by Franklin, Bedford break forwards Fensome getting hold of the ball, both Stonebrook and Fitzpatrick close her down to regain possession top pf the area.
GOAL! Into the final minute and Bedford score again taking the lead late in the game, Fensome in again with her 2nd of the game bursting in behind the Millwall defence off a long range pass her touch taking it to the left of goal strikes it back across the keeper and low into the bottom corner 2-1.
The hosts coming back from a goal down to lead 2-1 with 5 minutes stoppage time to play. Drewe twisting and turning on the ball outside the Bedford area drops her shoulder getting into the box screws her shot wide at the near post. Bedford bring Fidler back on for Sidhu.
PENALTY! Millwall press the attack Correa getting hold of the ball 25 yards out threading it into the box with Middleton racing on right side of goal, Regolo racing out to meet her has the ball in her gloves stooping in front of the attacker, Robinson racing back on Middleton shoves the attacker in the back causing her to fall awkwardly colliding with the keeper, the referee pointing to the spot. Robinson booked, Middleton has stayed down clearly in alot of pain, on field treatment seeing a long delay can’t continue helped off unable to put any weight on her leg, Hawkins coming back on.
GOAL! A long delay between the penalty being given and taken, Connell placing it on the spot isn’t affected as she strikes it sweetly lifting it right wide of the diving Regolo to nestle in the back of the net 2-2. Virtually the last kick of the game no time for either side to mount another attack the game heads into extra-time.
Full time Bedford Ladies 2-2 Millwall Lionesses
30 additional minutes to be played for either side to try and find a winning goal 2 15 minute halves or the tie will be decided on penalties. Has been a fantastic contest so far. Bedford thinking they’d won it at the death, Millwall scoring a last gasp penalty to force extra-time. Bedford to get the first half of extra play underway. Fidler bringing the ball forwards plays in to to Acolatse left side she clips it infield to Fensome inside the D back to goal controls well before threading it inside the box to Acolatse continuing her run, the angle against her fires her shot wide at the near post.
Bedford starting extra-time well on the front foot the ball fed on by Bhatti into Fensome central holding off her marker looks to see the ball run on past her into Acolatse’s path just not enough pace on the ball to carry. Connell in an advanced position for Millwall on the right joining the attack takes aim from 30 yards out hit well skipping through across the goal Regolo diving to her right the strike however past the far post. Sidhu returns to the field for Fidler. Regolo snatching up the ball inside her box just before Hawkins can latch onto it racing forwards having been put in by Gregory central.
Drewe sees a shot pushed behind by the keeper for a corner on the left, Millwall make a change before it is taken Jansu Mentesh on for Correa. Dropped in near post an easy claim for Regolo. Stubbs playing the ball long up to Hawkins in attack the Millwall attacker’s header cushioning the ball down outside the D, shoulder to shoulder wit Emerton looks to drive on the pair leaving the ball behind, latched onto by Mentesh passed across to Gregory right, can’t get a shot away before Franklin closes her down. Bedford counter attack plenty of energy shown still by both sides, Bhatti picking out Ajayi in space on the left she puts it back inside for Bhatti coming on 25 yards out takes on the shot drops wide of goal.
Franklin lunging in to block a shot from Hawkins at the far post as she drags the ball inside from a free-kick flighted in from the right. Fitzpatrick defending for Millwall against Sidhu as Fensome plays it long from halfway.
Half-time extra-time Bedford Ladies 2-2 Millwall Lionesses
All action an intriguing contest could yet go either way Millwall to get the 2nd period of extra-time underway. Miranda coming on from defence in to win the ball high on the left sends Drewe away with it on the left travelling with the ball her cross come shot bouncing wide beyond the far post.
GOAL! Bedford retake the lead early in the 2nd period possession on the right the ball put on into Fensome plays it in across the top of the area not cleared, Sidhu racing in getting hold of it left of the D strike the shot on the turn hit well wide of the diving keeper into the bottom corner 3-2.
Millwall straight on the attack from the restart commit bodies forwards the ball struck from range by Mentesh rattling the crossbar down and cleared. The visitors press winning a corner, cleared by Cobb Bedford look to get forwards on the counter. Millwall get the ball back played long picking out Hawkins in the box right lines up a shot on the angle straight at Regolo.
GOAL! 5 minutes left to play and a knock out blow for Millwall as Bedford score another goal, the hosts awarded a free-kick wide left top of the area players forwards a Swarres places the ball a fantastic strike fired in across the face of goal high evades everyone creeping inside at the far corner 4-2.
Millwall keep going getting forwards, Franklin in to deny Hawkins top of the area, a change made Emerton off late on with Chelcie Alleyne coming on. Stubbs getting the ball on for Hawkins peeling right her low cross in cut out at the near post.
GOAL! With the visitors committing players in search of a goal Bedford hit them on the counter attack to score a 3rd goal in extra-time the ball sent in early from the left Acolatse forwards making a run far post bringing the ball under control sending it back across the face of goal for Fensome to turn in from close range to score her hat-trick 5-2. The last action of the match Bedford finishing strong to win in extra-time book their spot in the last 4 of the ERWFL Cup.
Full time extra-time Bedford Ladies 5-2 Millwall Lionesses
Bedford with face Royston Town Women in the semi-finals after the Hertfordshire beat Wroxham Women 2-0 at home this afternoon. A really entertaining match Millwall the underdog giving a good account of themselves making a bright start to the game gaining confidence scoring the opening goal, both sides could have had more goals in the first half. The 2nd carrying on in the same vain, Bedford coming back to level then take the lead in the 90th minute. Gave away a penalty to see Millwall score a last gasp equaliser to send the game into extra-time. The first period coming to a close it could still have gone either way. Millwall losing out in the finish Bedford getting their noses in front going on to score another getting a 2 goal cushion, a 5th goal coming at the death with Millwall pushing on. An entertaining match as I said at the start of the report well worth the trip.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. A few performances to mention, for Millwall Sian Fitzpatrick was superb at the back making several vital tackles. Shannan Drewe too on the left of attack never stopped running a threat on the ball taking players on creating opportunities. For Bedford, Priya Bhatti with a strong game in the middle of the park. Gemma Franklin was excellent in defence made several crucial challenges and blocking the ball. The award though goes to Natasha Fensome in attack leading the line well, showing fantastic movement on and off the ball sees options all over the pitch took her goals well.
Enjoyed my first trip to The Eyrie a really entertaining match to watch always competitive in the ERWFL, my thanks to both sides for the team details and Bedford captain Priya Bhatti with a couple of other enquiries. Nasty injuries picked up by Bedford’s Lauren Webb and Millwall’s Samantha Middleton wish both well for a speedy and full recovery.