Sunday 7th January
Beginning 2018 with a game from FAWSL 2 a trip to Cheshunt FC to watch the leagues newest members Tottenham Hotspur Ladies take on Brighton & Hove Albion WFC.
Two ambitious clubs joining the FAWSL as it enters a new and challenging era adjusting to a return to the winter calendar too. A reshaping of the leagues seeing clubs bidding for either a place in FAWSL 1 or FAWSL 2 having to meet stringent criteria. Tottenham Hotspur Ladies looking to retain their FAWSL 2 status have bid for place in that league whilst Brighton & Hove Albion WFC receiving significant backing from the club have bid for a place in the new FAWSL 1 where all clubs will have to be fully professional.
Both following the same path to the FAWSL, both prominent clubs within Women’s Football East the FAWPL Southern Division being the top league that is covered. Brighton & Hove Albion WFC were crowned Champion’s 2 season’s ago with Tottenham Hotspur Ladies winning the title the season after both going on to win the subsequent FAWPL Playoff game between their Northern Division counterparts to achieve promotion.
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies have had a solid start to life in FAWSL 2 the move from summer to winter not affecting them at all. Have strengthened their squad by bringing in defender Ashleigh Neville from Coventry United Ladies and experienced WSL attacker Sarah Wiltshire from Yeovil Town Ladies and young prospect Lauren Pickett. A narrow opening game defeat away to Durham Women FC, Tottenham responded well winning their next 2 league games a along with their 2 opening Continental Tyres Cup group matches unbeaten in 5 before ending the year with 3 straight defeats in league and cup. In 6th place in the table a win today puts them onto 10 points amongst those challenging at the top of the table.
Although Brighton & Hove Albion WFC were promoted the season before Tottenham Hotspur Ladies this is technically their first season of FAWSL 2 football too as they entered the league during it’s transitional period prior to reverting back to the winter a one off Spring Series played during the 1st half of 2017 each side facing their opponents once. Would have benefited Brighton the most giving the club an opportunity to get used to the league and it’s strengths.
Operating with an interim manger during that period the club has shown it’s ambitions by bringing in former England manager, Hope Powell to coach the 1st team. Several new faces joining the playing squad too bringing FAWSL experience with them, ex-Notts County player Danielle Buet along with Aileen Whelan and Fern Whelan who were with Everton ladies prior to coming down to the South Coast. Ini Umatong who was previously with Oxford United Women along with Fliss Gibbons and goalkeeper Lucy Gillett. Currently in 4th spot in the FAWSL 2 table one of 3 sides on 10 points looking to challenge leaders Doncaster Rovers Belles for top spot with 3 wins and a draw from their opening 5 league matches.
The two sides met in November in the group stages of the Continental Tyres Cup, Brighton & Hove Albion WFC winning the game away from home 4-1. The venue for today’s game Cheshunt FC a large pitch offering good width, has fared well despite the recent heavy rain. Quite an open stadium a bitterly cold day at the beginning of January but dry. Hold food and drinks available along with a bar.
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies starting XI – Chloe Morgan, Lucia Leon, Ashleigh Neville, Jenna Schillaci (C), Renee Hector, Sophie McLean, Hannah McKenzie, Sarah Wiltshire, Lauren Pickett, Katie O’Leary & Ronnell Humes. Subs – Toni-Anne Wayne, Maya Vio, Wendy Martin, Coral-Jade Haines, Bianca Baptiste & Ryah Vyse.
Brighton & Hove Albion WFC starting XI – Lucy Gillett, Beth Roe, Sophie Perry (C), Laura Rafferty, Fern Whelan, Kirsty Barton, Jenna Legg, Kate Natkiel, Bronwen Thomas, Fliss Gibbons & Ini Umotong. Subs – Laura Hartley, Sophia Pharoah, Lucy Somes, Natalie Taylor & Vicky Ashton-Jones.
It’s the away side to kick off the game Tottenham changing ends to have the low sun at their backs in the 1st half. Brighton in their away colours an all yellow kit with bronze across the shirt shoulders. Tottenham in their home colours white shirts and socks with navy shorts. Brighton looking to keep the ball moving along the ground work the ball forwards out to Fliss Gibbons on the left she is tackled by full back Lucia Leon the ball out for a throw in.
Getting the ball forwards the long pass finds Ronnell Humes in space drifting right for Tottenham, Fern Whelan coming to put in the tackle prevents the striker getting a shot away as she enters the box. Brighton launch a quick counter attack the ball moved forwards quickly the diagonal ball aimed for Bronwen Thomas running down the right is tackled in the corner by Ashleigh Neville to concede the 1st corner of the game.
A quiet opening to the game both sides looking to get on the ball make progress up the pitch Brighton pressing the ball inside the Tottenham half well not letting the home side retain any meaningful possession. Leon gains ground on the right supporting Lauren Pickett, Whelan is across again to stifle the threat, when Tottenham eventually get a cross into the area it is caught by Lucy Gillett at her near post.
Brighton come forwards Jenna Legg finding a bit of room on the ball 30 yards out central attempts the slide the ball forwards for Ini Umotong making a run towards the top of the area, Renee Hector closes her down for Tottenham gets her foot to the ball first directing it back to goalkeeper Chloe Morgan to clear. Sarah Wiltshire gets forwards for Tottenham sees her cross swung in from the right claimed by Gillett.
GOAL! Brighton are soon down the other end of the pitch a free-kick is won just outside the box to the left of the D, captain Sophie Perry comes forwards to take it as referee Stacey Pearson moves the Tottenham was back. A quality free-kick from the Republic of Ireland international the ball whipped past the Tottenham wall with plenty of pace just inside the post evading the diving Morgan to give Brighton an 11th minute lead 0-1.
Tottenham look to respond right away Wiltshire with the through ball for Humes is closed down by Laura Rafferty, Gillett coming out of her goal to prevent the ball spinning away for the corner. Brighton work the ball forwards through the centre enjoying good possession before the pass is played out to Thomas on the right cutting inside with the ball attempts to curl the shot towards goal, angled in is straight at Morgan who saves comfortably.
The visitors are working well as a unit to break up any Tottenham forward play then moving it forwards with purpose when in possession using the full width of the pitch, full back Beth Roe putting in the tackle as Humes is played in through the centre, Barton in the middle plays the ball forwards with Umotong making a good run from left to right across the top of the Tottenham area aims her cross back across the box for Gibbons far side who lashes the ball into the back of the net even as she receives the ball the flag is up for offside.
A free-kick to Brighton on halfway the ball lifted up in towards the top of the box is headed clear dropping for Barton 30 yards out controls well on her chest before volleying a shot in towards goal on target the ball is caught low by Morgan right behind the shot. Neville brings the ball on up the left for Tottenham plays a cross into the area cleared for a throw. A one two between Katie O’Leary and Humes the latter seeing her cross cut out as Whelan clears for Brighton.
A great tackle by Tottenham’s Hannah McKenzie to deny Brighton’s Umotong as Legg plays the ball into her path breaking forwards. Up the other end Whelan is reading the game well for Brighton winning the ball as the home side try to find a way in behind. Kate Natkiel coming forwards the ball played on to Legg out to Thomas right side 25 yards out takes on the shot curling in again top corner, Morgan has time to get across and take the ball into her gloves.
Tottenham come forwards Sophie McLean on for Wiltshire the pass out to Pickett on the right plays the cross into the box, Gillett claiming it well at her near post with Humes and Wiltshire both coming in. Another free-kick in a dangerous position for Brighton top right corner outside the area this time Perry with the step over as Gibbons curls the ball in towards the far post Tottenham win the header the ball cleared, Brighton quickly regain possession the ball played into the box Whelan still up from the back directs her header wide of goal.
The visitors are finishing the 1st half the stronger winning the ball in the middle Barton with a good challenge, Natkiel comes forwards lets fly form 25 yards out her shot deflected wide to the right Thomas after the loose ball sends her shot wide across the face of goal. Leon is fouled late in the 1st half a free-kick to Tottenham 10 yards inside the Brighton half players come forwards from the back as captain Jenna Schillaci plays a great ball into the area bouncing inside the six yard box their are appeals for a penalty as Hector goes down appearing to get caught by a high boot. Play stopped so she can receive treatment the protests are waved away.
Half-time Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 0-1 Brighton & Hove Albion WFC
Sophie Perry’s 11th minute set-piece goal the difference between the two sides at half-time Brighton leading 1-0 have had the better chances in the 1st half. Have enjoyed more of the ball pressing Tottenham inside their own half whilst defending as a unit have prevented their opponents getting anything meaningful going forwards in attack. Just the 1 goal in it however plenty of time for Tottenham a turn it around with the 2nd half to come.
It’s gotten decidedly colder with a strong breeze blowing across the stadium has had some effect on the ball too during the match towards the end of the 1st half. Tottenham to kick-off the 2nd half have made a change at the break Maya Vio on for McKenzie in midfield. An early attack for the home side a tidy spin as the ball comes into her for Wiltshire 30 yards out sends the pass on looking for Humes making the break into the box, Gillett spotting the danger is out to the top of her area quickly to slide in and take the ball at the strikers feet.
Brighton counter attack the ball moved forwards quickly with Gibbons finding space on the left take on the shot from distance cutting across the ball sending it sailing over the crossbar. Umotong a powerful runner on the ball hard to shake off wriggles clear as she makes a run towards the area, Hector across on the cover cuts out her strike. Up the other end Humes evades Perry’s tackle right corner plays a cross into the area Whelan heading clear at the far post for Brighton.
Neville getting forwards for Tottenham wins a corner left side the ball played in is cleared by Rafferty at the near post. A great run by Leon coming into the Brighton half from the right for Tottenham coming inside closing in on the box opens up for a shooting opportunity instead the full back opts to lay the ball on for O’Leary inside the area to her right, Gillett already on the move dives in to claim the ball at the strikers feet.
A 2nd change fro Tottenham closing in on the hour mark with Bianca Baptiste coming off the bench to replace Humes up top. An immediate impact by the substitute too as Tottenham come forwards she provides a great run across the top of the Brighton area as Wiltshire picks her put with a superb pass right of the D sends a shot it towards goal the ball inches over the crossbar.
Leon fouled wide right players up from the back into the box as Schillaci plays the ball into the area, caught in the strong breeze, Gillett is forced into the save pushing the ball behind for the corner kick. The ball in from the left is scrambled away by Brighton. The visitors make their 1st change of the match Vicky Ashton-Jones celebrating her birthday today coming on for Rafferty at the back. Tottenham doing better now getting more players forwards Leon down the right, Ashton-Jones slides in to tackle conceding the corner. Gillett calls for the ball catching the delivery at her near post.
A corner won for Brighton with 20 minutes left to play before it is taken Tottenham make their 3rd change bringing on Wendy Martin for O’Leary in attack. Neville wins the ball from the corner for Tottenham heading the ball clear of her box. Getting the ball up the other end Pickett gets the better of Whelan flicking the ball over the defender aiming to get in behind into the area Gillett is again out rapidly to stifle the threat.
Gibbons with the ball left side as Brighton advance plays the pass inside to Umotong she lays it on for Natkiel who puts the shot in towards goal from 25 yards out Morgan behind it all the way catches cleanly. The game is a little stretched late on as Tottenham look to try and find an equalising goal, Wiltshire’s ball into the box from the right is chested away by Whelan straight into the path of Baptiste coming in from the left her 1st time shot from 20 yards out flies wide of the near post.
A deflection on Baptiste’s shot a corner given delivered from the left in high towards the near post Martin gets her head on the ball knocking it down towards goal, Gillett smothering it makes the save. Martin receiving the ball into her body turns and releases Baptiste on the left she cuts inside her shot landing in the side netting.
Brighton attack as the game moves into the final 10 minutes Umotong with the run right side her cross from the byline saved at the near post is deflected towards the top of the box with Natkiel looking to strike it back in towards goal, Vio racing back does enough to prevent the no 10 taking the 1st time shot, keeping her composure Natkiel still has the ball at her feet sends her shot up over the goal.
There are a few robust challenges being made late on Martin’s complaints she her shown a yellow card. Brighton make a 2nd change Legg coming off to be replaced by Natalie Taylor. The home side continue to press chances remain limited however Gillett claiming anything played from deep into the box. The game moving into injury time a late free-kick for Tottenham as Wilshire is brought down the ball curled in towards goal claimed comfortably by Gillett.
A late chance for Brighton as they break the ball played up field into Umotong a powerful run on the ball into the box getting in behind the Tottenham back line as she moves left of goal six yards out looks to stab the ball wide back across goal past Morgan the goalkeeper down smartly makes a fantastic save.
The final whistle blows and Brighton with a clean sheet win the 3 points thanks to Perry’s first half free-kick. Keeps the status quo at the top with Brighton staying fourth as the side above them all claimed victory too this Sunday.
Full time Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 0-1 Brighton & Hove Albion WFC
One defeat from their opening 6 league games Brighton are looking well placed to challenge Doncaster Rovers Belles for the title along with Durham Women FC and Millwall Lionesses. A good performance today especially 1st half pressing Tottenham well for the ball inside their opponents half making it difficult for the home side to get any momentum going forwards. Solid at the back too with Gillett always alert to any threat behind her defence. Tottenham created chances in the 2nd half bringing on Baptiste and Martin just couldn’t find that one clinical chance to take anything from the game.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
The 1st Women’s Football East – Player of the Match in 2018 goes to Brighton’s Fern Whelan. I thought the central defender had an excellent game at the back covering the ground well to keep Tottenham finding a way in behind and defending well from set-pieces.
Good to be back at it after a lengthy break over Christmas enjoyed the football on display if not the cold. My thanks to the Tottenham staff for all their assistant today everyone was very helpful.