Sunday 15th August
FAWNL South East Division One
It’s great to be back and can happily say I’m ready and raring to go looking forwards to what I hope will be a long and hopefully disruption free campaign. Starting the new season in Norfolk with a trip to The Nest in Horsford to watch the FAWNL South East Division One season opener between Norwich City Women and Billericay Town Women.
With the previous two season’s being voided due to the ongoing COVID pandemic it has been a tough and frustrating time for all in the football community. The actions taken of course to try and limit the spread and ultimately save lives. Thought go out to those we’ve lost and those who have lost a loved one. The vaccine programme bringing hope that we can get back to some kind of normality. The women’s game at grassroots level in need of it this period hampering the development and progress of a number of sides, like myself will be hoping for better times ahead.
The FA Women’s National League (FAWNL) going from strength to strength nevertheless, some shifting upwards within the pyramid seeing clubs promoted this season, Ipswich Town Women moving up from South East Division One to the Southern Premier Division signing many players up to a professional contract. Two sides joining South East Division One with Harlow Town Ladies and QPR Women joining from their respective regional Premier Divisions, sees 13 sides contesting South East Division One this coming season. The talent pool getting larger as the women’s game grows, clubs making some exciting and experienced signings the league will be stronger than ever.
Norwich City Women are long established as the leading women’s side in Norfolk have played in the 4th tier of the women’s football pyramid since the FAWNL or FAWPL as it was previously known was founded in 2014, members of the South East Combination prior to that. A new home for Norwich last season as they moved to The Nest a newly built sporting facility on the outskirts of the city. Along with that a trophy won after a long lean spell as they regained the Norfolk Women’s County Cup. Will be looking to use that as a springboard to push on up the South East Division One table having been at the wrong end of it for a few seasons. A trio of new signings made ahead of the new season with Mollie O’Callaghan, Freya Symonds and defender Chardonnay Johnston all joining from ERWFL Premier Division side, Wymondham Town Ladies. Goalkeeper Yasmine Walford also coming to Norwich having previously been with Royston Town Women. A few players also stepping up from the academy.
Essex side, Billericay Town Women acheived promotion to the FAWNL in 2018 after clinching the ERWFL Premier Division. Building in stature in recent season’s have become one of the leading sides for women’s football in the county. Essex Women’s County Cup holders have developed strong ties with Billericay Town FC which has seen the club attract a strong, talented squad that hit the ground running in the FAWNL pushing for the title right from the off. The pandemic dented those title ambitions but they remain firmly on track. Scott Chickelday taking over as 1st team manger from Kim Coster. Have kept most of the squad together whilst recruiting some new faces including left side attacking player Shannon Drewe from Millwall and most recently Mia Lockett who has impressed on trial from Tottenham. Billericay’s 1st team backed up by a Reserves and a Development side.
The venue for today The Nest, the new home of Norwich City Women. The new built sporting facility boasting a new artificial pitch next to a modern clubhouse and changing rooms featuring a cafe serving hot food and drinks overlooking the pitch with numerous grass pitches beyond. Restrictions lifting a decent number turning out to enjoy the match. The weather a little indifferent, cool under the dark cloud dotted around, warm when the sun manages to peek through. The Nest close to the airport, several plans and helicopters taking off over the ground.
Norwich City Women starting XI – Yasmine Walford, Leah Harper, Ellie Bishop, Chardonnay Johnston, Kate Parsons, Millie Daviss (C), Jodie Drake, Leilah Gooding, Samara Nche, Kathryn Stanley & Freya Symonds. Subs – Amy Durrant, Izzy Collins, Natasha Snelling & Katie Walker.
Billericay Town Women starting XI – Amy Mullett, Lucy Jones, Kerry Stimson, Ellie Jeffkins, Courtney Lumley (C), Jay Blackie, Georgie Morton, Zoe Rushen, Shannan Drewe, Mia Lockett & Logan O’Shea. Subs – Danica Dougal, Leonie Bezant, Ruby Sealey, Mayzee Seymour & Freya Fuller.
A change to the rules this season still a squad of 16, but now instead of 3 substitutes all 5 can be deployed. Billericay travelling with a full squad the front three, O’Shea, Lockett and Drewe making their competitive debuts. Norwich beginning the season with injuries to some key players whilst others are unavailable. Walford making her debut in goal whilst their are first competitive starts for Symonds and Johnston. The captains come to the middle Billericay to kick-off the first half wearing red shirts and socks with black shorts, Norwich lined up in their yellow and green kit.
The 2021/22 is underway, Billericay looking to get the ball out wide Norwich in to close down smartly. Jay Blackie in central mid-field for Billericay gets hold of the ball knocking it forwards played through for Lockett to break central, Kate Parsons reading the pass for Norwich the centre back getting across Lockett to prod the ball back to her keeper for Wolford to launch clear. Passes going awry early door as both sides work to hustle the ball, Norwich clipping a ball on up the right wing won well by Billericay’s Kerry Stimson on halfway, plays a great diagonal pass out to Drewe making a run left side who in turn played it early into the middle for Lockett to attack inside the D, full back Ellie Bishop sliding in well to defend for Norwich.
GOAL! Just 4 minutes into the game and we have the 1st goal of the season featured on Women’s Football East and it is something of a controversial one. Billericay are gaining momentum out on the flanks attacking right O’Shea in space, the defence in ahead of her to take the ball Norwich lay it back to their keeper inside her six yard box Wolford bringing it onto her left foot looks to shift it to clear on her right, Lockett is rapidly on her in to challenge for the ball the pair tangle, Wolford appearing to bring down Lockett the ball loose Zoe Rushen is on hand to slide onto it take it over the line… at the same time the referee blows her whistle. I think everyone thinks it’s a penalty and most likely a sending off for Walford. However after taking her time and consulting with the assistant on that side a goal is awarded 0-1 Rushen credited with the goal.
An early blow for Norwich, but it could have been alot worse had their keeper recieved her marching orders. Both captains called over by the referee as both sides want clarification on what happened before the game resumes. Billericay are beginning to impose themselves on the game short quick passes at the back keeping the ball moving before looking for a runner on the flanks, Drewe and O’Shea looking to go forwards the latter winning a corner on the right taken short into Rushen played back to the corner taker the cross sent in to the top of the area knocked inside for Rushen to latch onto shoot on the angle, the ball put straight into the keeper Walford having her near post covered.
Kathryn Stanley getting into some space on the left for Norwich comes inside before rolling it back into Bishop behind her the full back placing it central into Jodie Drake 30 yards out attempts to pick out forwards Symonds who is tightly marked inside the D the ball rolling harmlessly through for Billericay goalkeeper, Amy Mullett to deal with. Rushen central for Billericay looks to have put the ball on a plate for Lockett in attack central, outside the box, is a superb recovering tackle from Parsons as she dives in to take the ball away from the strikers feet.
O’Shea has pace to burn on the right side of attack for Billericay, the ball won on the middle of the park she is constantly ready to receive it, Bishop being kept busy tracking her the visitors hustling Norwich giving the hosts no time to settle on the ball. Likewise Drewe on the left picked out well by Rushen, touch and go racing on down the wing fires it into Lockett making a near post run, looks to see it across her and turn into the shot, Johnston getting close enough to put her off then clear.
GOAL! 18 minutes played Billericay push players forwards quickly Lockett getting in behind making a left channel run laying it back towards the top of the area that sees Georgie Morton get hold of the ball a strike a low straight ball hard to race past the diving keeper inside the near post 0-2.
GOAL! No sooner have the visitors gotten into a 2 goal lead they make it 3. Norwich are guilty of dallying on the ball at the back, left side Drewe closes down to tackle and win the ball taking it on in behind into the area, shooting on the angle to fire the ball wide of the keeper into the bottom corner of the net 0-3. Drewe with a goal on her Billericay debut.
Norwich are on the back foot, Billericay full of confidence closing the ball down all over the park, getting out wide quickly, Parsons needing to close down Lockett she skips inside from the right. The hosts unable to get the ball into Symonds up top can’t get anyone close to support her. Moreton and Blackie putting in good tackles to get Billericay back on the offensive.
GOAL! Chaos in the box as Billericay surge forwards Drewe with the ball on the left sending a cross flashing in across the six yard box to the far post O’Shea close in attacking it knocks in back down across the face of goal, Norwich don’t clear. sliding in one of Billericay’s attacker sends a shoot racing goalwards strikes the under side of the cross bar dropping down into the six yard box where O’Shea quickest to react to tap the ball over the line for her first of the season 0-4.
25 minutes played and Billericay have a firm grip on the game, Norwich rocked and struggling to regroup as Rushen 30 yards out left of goal drags a shot wide. Bishop on the ball for Norwich looks to play it long for Stanley on the move, Ellie Jeffkins at the back deals with the threat comfortably for the visitors. A chance for the hosts to get players up into the box as Moreton gives away a free-kick inside their half. Leah Harper from the right clipping it into the box, Rushen back to defend gets a good header on the ball to clear for Billericay.
O’Shea races away in behind on the right of attack for Billericay goes inside before flashing a cross/shot along the goal face Norwich clearing at the far post. Rushen central with another pinpoint pass to find Lockett moving left into the box wide of goal looks to check inside create a better shooting angle, Parsons does fantastically well for Norwich getting in on her to make a strong but fair tackle. Walford the busier of the two goalkeeper down at her near post to gather as a shot is rifled in. Moments later comes out to the top of her area well to make a blocking save against Lockett closing in from the left.
Bishop recieves the first yellow card of the game as she slides in to bring down Lockett centrally as the striker drives towards the box giving Billericay a free-kick in a dangerous position. 20 yards out to the left side of the D, Lucy Jones over it goes for goal blasted in Walford doesn’t react the ball smashing against the fence behind her goal. No doubt Norwich are rattled at conceding 4 goals on the back foot can’t get anything going in attack, Billericay playing their part not letting anyone settle on the ball, lack of movement hindering the outlet ball being found, Symonds often alone up top marshalled well by the Billericay defence.
Stanley played in by Leilah Gooding central puts a good crossfield pass into Samara Nche on the right, has Symonds making a run into the channel ahead of her, Blackie and Morton combining to slow her down and regain possession, Drewe picked out on the left, Harper sliding in to halt her advance. Parsons with another last ditch crunching tackle on O’Shea as she threatens to burst into the box as Drewe sets her up from the left. Billericay continue to press on the left Drewe wide firing a dipping ball in Parsons can’t get high enough to clear near post the ball though drops wide of the far post.
Half-time Norwich City Women 0-4 Billericay Town Women
A dominant first half display from Billericay to get their season of to a fine start taking an early lead if somewhat in controversial means, nevertheless capitalised strong in the final 3rd quick on the ball scoring two more in quick succession before adding a 4th whilst keeping Norwich quiet at the other end the host yet to trouble the keeper have seen little action in the final 3rd. Backs to the wall the hosts have a mountain to climb if they hop to salvage anything from the game half-time a chance to regroup if they are you think the next goal has to be theirs’s and it will have to come early on.
The hosts making a change at the break with Aimee Durrant coming on for Nche on the right side. No changes for Billericay as Norwich get the 2nd period underway win a corner on the right side early on bring players up from the back, the delivery in near post headed on by a defender onto the roof of the net for a 2nd corner, again from the right is dropped in centrally headed clear by the Billericay defence.
GOAL! The break on the ball pushed up to Lockett bursting on through the middle takes it on into her stride has Drewe breaking on the left rolls the ball on into her feet the left sided attacker moving the ball on into the area before stroking a shot wide of the keeper and in 0-5.
The perfect start to the 2nd half for Billericay, the worst case scenario for Norwich. Billericay full of confidence getting forwards at will O’Shea with her pace breaks forwards central with Lockett to her right picks her out the ball into the box claimed by Walford at her near post. Norwich rocked, have been on the back foot throughout, Drake sliding in to get the ball back Gooding clips into Durrant right side attempts to drive on, Jones putting in the tackle for Billericay.
Blackie with the forward pass into Rushen outside the box, shifts the ball between her feet 20 yards out before releasing a shot, blocked it skips up for Lockett to chip over the keeper and into the goal beyond but it won’t count as her celebrations a cut short by a raised offside flag. Durrant getting hold of the ball is looking to get up to support Symonds feeds the ball into her path out on the right Symonds has to go it alone no one in the box, pushing on Lumley closes her down to make the tackle regain possession. Harper with a rare opportunity to get forwards from the back for Norwich on the right delivers an early cross into the box, Mullett can claim it high unchallenged inside her six yard box.
Drewe shifts the ball between her feet left side looking to skip past one player, going down the line rides another tackle before squaring the ball into the area from the by-line Walford down inside her six yard box to lay claim to the ball.
Remains high tempo from Billericay, Norwich with no respite as Jones powers forwards on the left making it to the by-line before hooking a cross into the near post O’Shea attacking in close on the goalkeeper, takes a deflection off Walford on its way wide giving the visitors a corner. Taken short before being sent long to the far post where no one can get a touch on it before it runs out of play.
Billericay make their first change on 55 minutes bringing off Morton on in her place comes Leonie Bezant to make her debut. The visitors remain rapid in their build up play Rushen on to Lockett who turns and shoots right outside the D the effort straight at Wolford in the Norwich goal. Daviss on the overlap with Symonds for Norwich just too much on the final ball allowing Billericay to clear. O’Shea wins the ball high up the pitch right side turns and strikes a shot in on the angle from 25 yards out, well struck but Walford sees it all the way.
Drewe closing in on the top of the box left side sends a cross in along the 18 yard line, Lockett goes to strike it first time her effort is blocked by the Norwich defence. The visitors are attacking at will Lockett picking it up central has Rushen breaking on towards the area passes the ball, Rushen checks back playing it back to the advancing Bezant, she attempts to thread it through for O’Shea central, cut out by Johnston deflects to Drewe left side her cross sent in towards the far post is attacked by Lockett but she can’t get anything on the ball. Drewe’s last action of the game as she is replaced by Ruby Sealey who goes to the right of attack Lockett coming left.
GOAL! Billericay continue to get forwards at will O’Shea finding space around the top of the box it is Rushen with the assist in the final 3rd central clipping a diagonal ball into O’Shea on the move in space clipping a shot over the keeper from the top of the area for her 2nd of the match 0-6.
Billericay making another change this time at the back Jeffkins coming off with Danica Dougal going into a centre back role. Billericay comfortable both ends the defence under no pressure the full back pressing on to help the attack keeping a dispirited Norwich penned back. The hosts just looking for that spark that would at least give them something. Durrant on the right crosses in central Daviss in an advanced position taking it into her feet outside the area moves left then right looking for a way through, Dougal slowing her down before Lumley closes her down to win the ball.
A free-kick to Norwich wide right both sides guilty of giving needless fouls away as the game moves into the final 20 minutes. Durrant to play it into the area headed clear Billericay look to break left side, Lockett almost upended as a sliding challenge comes in manages to stay on her feet advantage played goes on Norwich get back as Parsons deals with the ball lifted into the box.
Into the final 20 minutes and a double change for Billericay as Jones and Rushen are replaced by Freya Fuller and Mayzee Seymour. A long diagonal ball clipped out to the left sees Norwich’s Stanley find her way in behind the Billericay defence into the box Mullett comes to close the angle Stanley looking to lift the ball past her the pair collide, Mullett pole-axed on the ground Stanley is after the deflected ball out to the left the angle tight digs a shot out but the visiting defence is round on the cover to clear on the line. Play stopped so the goalkeeper can receive treatment. Groggy but able to continue Mullett is clapped by the crowd as she gets back to her feet.
Winning the ball at the back Johnston sends it forwards for Durrant bursting into space on the right, Lumley getting across well from centre back to put in the tackle prevent Durrant going on. Both sides tiring challenges late leading to free-kicks late in the game, Lockett brought down 25 yards out on the left O’Shea playing it short to Blackie, closed down well by Drake up to Symonds clear on the right Mullett alert out of her area onto it launching back upfield. Norwich make a 2nd change Katie Walker coming no for Drake with 10 minutes left to play. The substitute combining with Symonds on the right as Norwich attack put in central Durrant never gets it under control as she drags her 25 yard shot wide of the mark.
GOAL! 7th heaven for Billericay as another player claims a goal on her debut and is a superb strike to boot as the visitors break attacking right side the ball squared inside 25 yards out Bezant on the end of it unmarked strikes the ball hard whipping it up and over the keeper to score 0-7.
A change at the back for Norwich with Izzy Collins going it at centre back late on Johnston pushed up.
GOAL! Billericay make it a quick fire double to extend their lead further coming right a ball sent up into the area attacked near side by Bezant knocked up into the air Norwich can’t deal with the threat dropping pops out to the right straight into the path of Fuller who drills her volley in from close range 0-8.
Lockett picking up a yellow card in the closing stages as the foul count keeps rising. Norwich frustrated nothing they’ve tried has come off, Billericay adding goals late on keeping their energy levels high. Lumley getting forwards with the ball playing it into Rushen central turns into traffic, Parsons urging her side on. The game long settled however the visitors celebrating a convincing win to open their campaign.
Full time Norwich City Women 0-8 Billericay Town Women
A convincing performance from start to finish for Billericay to get their season off to a fantastic start, on top right from the start with a somewhat controversial goal nevertheless got them on the front foot, don’t know how much it unsettled Norwich certainly the hosts struggled to get going Billericay strong in the final third their front 3 pushing on Drewe and O’Shea using the width well kept Norwich penned in. Scoring 3 goals in quick succession taking the game by the scruff of the net looked comfortable even untroubled in defence. An early goal 2nd half killing off any hope Norwich had of getting back into the match. Lively and energetic Billericay have laid down a marker to the rest of the sides in the division. An opening day to forget for Norwich never got going never got to grips with the midfield and never allowed any time on the ball couldn’t find an outlet ball. Can only look to put it behind them get on the training ground and regroup.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto the first Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. No surprise it’s going to be a Billericay player the question is which one. Was a strong team performance the driving force being the attacking trio, Mia Lockett full of pace bursting forwards into space central setting up a number of chances. Likewise on the left Shannan Drewe with a strong performance on debut moving well out on the flank coming inside taking her two goals well. The award though goes to Logan O’Shea attacking on the the right was a handful for the Norwich defence throughout and constantly available as Billericay looked to get on the front foot throughout the match scoring two goals.
It’s good to be back covering games and look forwards to many more this season. Always say I’ll try writing less but I never do. Women’s football is often action packed from start to finish. Never know what the report will look like just let the words flow. My thanks to both clubs for their help with the all important team details a contrasting day wish both all the best for the season ahead.
by Darren Gilham