Sunday 31st October
ERWFL Division One South
A road trip down south this weekend into Suffolk to watch a game from ERWFL Division One South for the first time this season with AFC Sudbury Women hosting one of the leagues newcomers Herts Vipers.
Tier 6 of the women’s football pyramid seeing an influx of new sides following the previous two seasons disruption due to the ongoing COVID pandemic. The ERWFL aiming to reach it’s full capacity in the near future as the county leagues below continue to expand. A total of 7 sides promoted to the regional set-up this season with 4 of those joining ERWFL Division One South, Essex sides, Billericay Town Ladies Development and FC Barking Women along with Hertfordshire pair Cheshunt FC Women and Herts Vipers.
A great start to life in tier 6 for 3 of those sides with Herts Vipers, Cheshunt and Barking 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectfully in the table. With just 5 points separating the top five right now with Essex side Leigh Ramblers Ladies setting the pace. All five of those sides losing just the one match so far so the league looks like the title race will be hard fought.
AFC Sudbury Women currently in 5th spot in the ERWFL Division One South table having played 5. With 3 wins an draw and one loss. Started the season strong with 7 points from their opening 3 fixtures. Defeat in the FA Women’s Cup and their 1st loss of the season at home to Barking following before Sudbury returned to winning ways at Suffolk rivals East Bergholt at the start of the month. An extended period without a game return to action with successive home fixtures against 2nd place Herts Vipers followed by leaders Leigh Ramblers next weekend.
Phoebe Guiver currently top scorer with 4 goals so far this season with both Alex Penny and Jessica Allen having 3 goals apiece. AFC Sudbury with an academy set-up for both boys and girls with the Women’s 1st team backed up by a Reserves sides playing in the Suffolk Women’s Premier Division. AFC Sudbury as a whole looking to push the women’s game forwards including giving experience to young female referees, one running the line for today’s match.
Herts Vipers burst onto the scene at the beginning of the 2019/20 season entering a women’s side in Beds & Herts Women’s Division Three. Right from the off the squad assembled looked too strong for that division surging to the top of the table off the back of a number of high scoring wins. Didn’t get to celebrate a title win however as COVID came along to see the season ending null & void. Were promoted straight into the Beds & Herts Women’s Premier Division the following season whilst setting up a new Development side. Again were making good progress with Nicole Jancey in particular scoring plenty of goals which would see her go on to play for London Bees in the FAWNL Southern Premier Division. The 20/21 season of course following the same fate as the previous season the Beds & Herts league adapting their season into a mini-league formant where Herts Vipers went on to win Group A alongside fellow Premier Division sides, Oakland Wolves Ladies, Hemel Hempstead Town Ladies & Garston Ladies.
Applying for promotion to the ERWFL regional set-up Herts Vipers are an ambitious club and have started life in tier 6 very well winning their opening 3 matches. A draw and first defeat of the season at home to Hutton following before they bounced back to win 3-1 at home to Billericay Town Women Development a fortnight ago. Making history too in the FA Women’s Cup beating East Bergholt 4-3 last weekend to reach the 1st Round Proper of the competition where they will be at home to FAWNL South East Division One side Stevenage FC Women. Kelsey Millen top scoring so far this season with 5 goals with, Georgia Royall, Rachel Wall and Natalie Powell hot on her heels with 4 goals each.
The MEL Group Stadium the venue for today’s match, the weather as much of a factor for determining today’s game as anything else. An artificial pitch inside the main stadium with a training pitch beside the carpark. A new build clubhouse with seated stand along side one side of the ground another terraced stand on the opposite side, covered areas behind both goals. A wide pitch, plenty of volunteers about the place getting the stadium ready for the clubs upcoming televised FA Cup clash against Colchester United. Heavy rain moving across the region to start the day leading to several postponements. Forecast to clear by early afternoon had stopped by the time I arrived at the ground and the sun was forcing it’s way through which with the clocks going back this weekend would pose an issue setting behind one goal.
AFC Sudbury Women starting XI – Becky Platt, Jodie Donley, Amber Provan, Teigan McHale, Bonni Shephard, Kate Edwards, Phoebe Guiver (C), Bella Crawford, Evie Creaton, Alex Penny & Jess Allen Subs – Brandi Whymark-Broyd, Georgia Thorpe, Emily Smith, Tye Smith & Georgia Sleep.
Herts Vipers starting XI – Sasha Tucker, Rebecca Edge, Ciara Meeking, Eva Ramsey (C), Rebecca Scott, Katie Moule-Betell, Sarah Payne, Georgina Royall, Kesley Mullin, Natalie Powell & Rachel Wall. Subs – Maisie Threadgold-Smith, Danielle Cliffe, Chloe Clay & Ellie Stammers.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Bright sun by the time kick-off arrived behind one goal is definitely going to pose an issue as the game draws on. Sudbury with the kick off in the 1st half wearing an all yellow kit with Herts Vipers lines up opposite in an all light grey strip. The ball lofted forwards cleaned up by Herts Vipers centre back and captain Eva Ramsey, play spread out to the left the forwards pass infield for the advancing Sarah Payne, looks to thread it through into the box for Rachel Wall, Becky Platt quickly out of her six yard box to gather for the hosts.
Herts Vipers making a positive start to the game the ball fed up the right for Natalie Powell to run onto wins the visitors and early corner, players coming up into the box the delivery by Kesley Millen whipped invitingly across the top of the six yard box is Powell rising at the far post narrowly missing the header.
A high line defensively for Herts Vipers, striker Jess Allen caught offside as the hosts attempt to move out quickly from the back. Millen winning the ball on halfway for Herts Vipers passes it forwards early with both Wall and Powell after it as Teigan McHale finds herself under pressure heading for her own goal, keeps her composure though playing it safely back to her keeper, Platt launching it up the pitch. Herts Vipers get players up to support Georgina Royall on the left inside to Payne 25 yards out shoots on the angle the ball skipping along the surface gathered by Platt covering her near post.
Powell runs in behind on the right side, Bonni Shepherd getting back on her forcing the attacker wide, holding the ball up Millen gets down the line in support the ball laid back to her she attempts to return it to Powell making a move into the box the pass too heavy runs out of play. Payne links up with Powell central 30 yards out the ball put out to the right as Millen bursts forwards towards the area her shot blocked by Jodie Donley. Herts Vipers keep the pressure on in the final 3rd won back on the left Wall turns 25 yards out striking the ball on the angle in low towards goal, Platt behind it once again.
Herts Vipers are applying pressure to the Sudbury defence early in the game, Powell central hooking the ball over the top for Wall to go after Platt comes racing out to meet her Wall attempts to chip the ball over the keeper can only put it straight into her gloves.
GOAL! For all their bright start to the game Herts Vipers are undone on 10 minutes as captain Phoebe Guiver plays the ball through on halfway from Allen to run onto driving forwards central bearing down on the box getting inside the centre back sets her sights slotting the ball low past the standing keeper before she can react into the back of the net 1-0.
A mix up at the back almost presents Herts Vipers with a quick reply as Powell goes after a hopeful pass long into the box right of goal with both centre back and goalkeeper coming for it, Platt out of position rapidly back peddling as Powell gets hold of the ball on the by line the angle very much against no one else in the box plants the ball into the side netting. Powell a threat up top getting away on the right off a throw in the Herts Vipers attacker cutting it back towards Wall top of the area right side of the D, looking to turn into the shot as the ball run across her doesn’t get a clean connection the ball deflected off a defender out to Powel who fires it back in on the angle, Platt down to get behind it make the save.
Alex Penny taking the ball on down the left for Sudbury whipping a dangerous cross into the six yards box headed clear by Herts Vipers, Rebecca Edge. Up the other end Powell latches onto a poor goal kick taking the ball out to the right wrapping her foot around the ball flashed in across the penalty spot, Payne has gambled breaking from midfield arriving the cross narrowly beating her. The ball being hotly contested in midfield, Guiver winning it plays an early ball forwards for Allen, the raised flag halting her progress. The wind picking up behind Herts Vipers back hindering there forward play ball running on form both Payne and Millen.
The visitors pressuring the Sudbury defence, Amber Provan gets it clear, on for Guiver right side she sends it long for Allen making a run into the right channel takes on the shot early 30 yards out blazes her effort over the bar. Guiver influential in the middle of the park is down having picked up an injury, is unable to continue Sudbury making the change bringing on Emily Smith with Kate Edwards taking the armband.
Powell is upended wide on the right Herts Vipers awarded a freekick. Millen over the ball angled in towards the far post runners closing in the ball knocked back down across goal comes back out to Millen on the right clips a high ball back into the area dropping down at the far post Platt gets up well to claim high taken a blow as she is clattered into. A pause in play as the goalkeeper recieves treatment but is okay to continue.
Penny forwards on the left for Sudbury has help from Allen the pair pressuring the Herts Vipers defence forcing a corner kick. Put in from the left, Shepherd hooks it in towards goal from the top of the area, the ball headed clear inside the six yard box. Wall fouled on the left presenting Millen with another set-piece opportunity 30 yards out, plenty of pace on her strike racing through the area, Wall closing in far side can’t reach it as it runs wide of the far post.
A change for Herts Vipers with Ellie Stammers coming on up top for Wall. Teigan McHale winning the ball at the back for Sudbury plays it upfield for Allen moving out to the left wing, looks to take it in behind, Ramsey getting across to slide in on her put the ball out for a throw in. Shepherd getting up on the left to support Penny on the wing the pass inside looking for Edwards well placed 25 yards out, Payne throwing out her leg to intercept for Herts Vipers.
Millen finds herself out on the eft running onto the ball left of the D prods it on into the box for Powell to see into her feet, Shepherd close on her the striker attempting to turn get inside her marker, Shepherd doing well to prevent an attempt at goal knocking the ball away runs back to Millen who has moved back to the right takes on the strike from distance Platt saving pushing the ball out to her right.
GOAL! Half an hour played and the hosts go onto double their lead similar to the opening goal it is a fantastic pass from midfield by Edwards opening up her body too release Allen in attack taking the ball on in behind the defence to run at the box can’t be caught and once again keeps composed to slot it low under the keeper to score 2-0.
Herts Vipers respond with a double change, bringing off Powell and Royall on come Chloe Clay and Danielle Cliffe. Rebecca Edge with a crucial tackle on Allen as she moves into the left channel seeing the ball into her feet looking to shift and spin in behind Edge timing her challenge perfectly to come away with the ball.
Allen is put through on goal central for a third time by Edwards running over halfway, out pacing the defence bearing down on the area, goalkeeper Sasha Tucker out quickly to the edge of her area getting down low to make the blocking save as Allen attempts to slot it past her, denying Allen her hat-trick. The second goal denting Herts Vipers confidence, giving an obvious lift to Sudbury as they close the ball down higher up the pitch, Crawford onto Edwards plays it forwards for Allen peeling away into the left channel shooting from outside the box, Edge blocking her effort deflected to Crawford 25 yards out right of the D her attempt at goal put over the bar. Katie Moule-Betell brings the ball forwards for Herts Vipers playing it on for Millen right side taking it on into the area hasn’t many options doing well to win a corner.
Millen playing a good ball into the six yard box, an inviting height, Stammers up well centrally can’t direct her header on target. Into the final 5 minutes of the first half Rebecca Scott challenging for the ball in the middle for Herts Vipers on for Payne who looks to thread it through for Clay inside the D, McHale intercepting for Sudbury. Allen bats the offside flag for Sudbury for a moment looks to be away but Ramsey recovers superbly to slide in take the ball away from her before being fouled herself.
Millen getting a throw deep in the Sudbury half played into Stammers turning on the by-line in near post Clay attacking it, doesn’t get hold of the ball, hurt as she turns needing treatment. A frustrating half so far for the visitors the final ball just not happening. Creaton taking the ball on down the right for Sudbury moves infield pushed on to Allen, turns but runs straight into Edge who tackles well for Herts Vipers setting up an immediate counter attack finding Millen on the right plays it on early through the middle with both Stammers and Clay after the ball the wind though favouring the advancing goalkeeper as Platt gets to it first.
Creaton powers on with the ball right side for Sudbury strikes the shot in on the angle, Tucker down to her left with a sharp save the ball pushed away across goal, for a moment Allen looks certain to turn the ball into an empty net but can’t get the ball down before the Herts Vipers defence get back on her to scramble clear. Sudbury finishing the half strong, Edwards on for Creaton comes inside from the right clipping a shot over from 20 yards out.
Half-time AFC Sudbury Women 2-0 Herts Vipers
Arguably Herts Vipers have created more chances but it’s the visitors who find themselves trailing 2-0 at the break. The difference being Sudbury and particularly Allen have been clinical with their finishing when through on goal. Sudbury have dropped deep inviting Herts Vipers on at times but that has left room for Allen to run into whenever play is turned around. Frustration too for Herts Vipers as the final ball evades them. A confident start pressure early on a blow to concede. The 2nd goal seeing Sudbury grow in confidence finishing the half the stronger. You feel Herts Vipers need to score early in the 2nd half to get themselves back into the match.
No change for either side at the break. The sun dipping low in the sky now the Herts Vipers defence with have that to content with too in the 2nd half. The visitors to get the 2nd half underway. Herts Vipers sloppy from the restart giving the ball away inside their own half out to Creaton on the right pressing forwards coming inside turning into the box, Ramsey tackling for Herts Vipers before Edge scrambles the ball away.
Creaton flagged offside moment later as Sudbury close the ball down, Edwards winning it in the centre. Cliffe left links up with Moule-Betell for Herts Vipers central looking to lift the ball forwards, Edwards snapping in on her to regain possession for the hosts. Payne bringing the ball on has Millen ahead of her central pushing the pass on Millen reverses the ball putting it into Stammers left of the D, head down drives for the box, Provan standing up against her defending well for Sudbury.
GOAL! Denied her hat-trick in the first half it doesn’t take long for Allen to claim it at the start of the 2nd half, the ball played out from the ball by Sudbury finding Creaton free on the right she helps it on quickly central in behind the Herts Vipers defence, Allen out paces Ramsey in the race for the ball taking her shot early smashing it high into the back of the net 3-0.
Platt saving at her near post off Cliffe as the Herts Vipers player gets a shot in close to the by-line on the right. The game becoming a little feisty free-kicks being given away as both sides try and close the other down on the ball, no one afforded any time to settle on the ball. No doubt Herts Vipers are frustrated. Creaton looks to plough her way through the Herts Vipers defence from the right but is stopped by Ciara Meeking. Creaton then gets back well to defend on Cliffe as she attempts to take the ball on down the right off a midfield pass from Scott.
Sudbury turn play around left side on to Allen up top she squares it to Creaton on her right the winger looking to come inside, goes with a left footed strike from inside the D the be swerving away from the far post. A little bit of rain in the air as Herts Vipers on the back foot press to get the ball, Payne looking to release Millen coming inside from the right, Platt though quickly off her line to slide in and take the ball on the edge of her area. Herts Vipers make a change with Cliffe coming off, Wall returning to the action.
GOAL! Creaton’s shirt pulled the hosts awarded a free-kick wide on the right players sent up into the box as the set-piece by Creaton comes in the ball looping in under the bar Herts Vipers fail to deal with it at the far post knocked across the face of goal a scramble ensues bodies flying in from both sides, deflected towards goal, Tucker gets her gloves around it on the ground hooks it away but by then it has already crossed the line, possibly and own goal, Donley with a touch claiming it for Sudbury 4-0.
A huge blow for Herts Vipers conceding a 4th goal. Sudbury on top leaving the visitors with a mountain to climb if they hope to get anything from the game. Powell returns to the action for Herts Vipers replacing Payne. Meeking with a good ball forwards from the left up the wing for Wall, getting down the wing squares it into the box but behind Powell as McHale intercepts and launches clear for Sudbury. Herts Vipers taking risks pushing players on trying to pressure Sudbury at the back, Clay nipping in to take the ball outside the D, Edwards is back on her sliding in to tackle before a shot can be unleashed.
The ball being hotly contested in the middle pinging back and forth deflects favourably for Allen up top after it, Edge comes round on the cover with a good challenge. Sudbury with a corner on the right defended at the near post behind for a 2nd corner. Dropping at the near post Tucker comes to catch, the ball kicked out of her gloves, she is smartly down to smother it inside her six yard box. The game opening up suddenly the Sudbury defence drawn out Clay seizes the opportunity lifting it over the top for Powell to chase looks to be one on one with the advancing keeper but for McHale her recovers her ground excellently sliding in with a well timed tackle.
Clay is caught hard on the ankle by a mistimed tackle out on the left, play brought back with no advantage for the free-kick. Clay though is in alot of pain, after lengthy treatment has to come off carried off the pick by her coaches. Royall coming back on. Edge on the set-piece long up into the area, Platt calls and coming through bodies claims well. A double change for Sudbury with Creaton and Allen coming off in attack. On come Georgia Sleep and Tye Smith. The low sun is making viewing difficult behind the Sudbury goal. Shepherd sliding in to block on Millen as she breaks into the box from the right a corner conceded. Donley defending for Sudbury.
Sudbury are content to sit back invite Herts Vipers onto them the visitors with Scott on the ball out to Millen on the right, Shepherd out to her tackling to give away the throw. The hosts regaining possession off the throw moving the ball on up the left Sleep with the cross in along to top of the box cleared by Edge. Frustrations increasing the referee showing a card to the Herts Vipers bench as Crawford is fouled by Meeking on the right.
Millen driving inside from the right pushed into Wall inside the box plays it back to Moule-Betell to strike over from 25 yards out for Herts Vipers. The visitors pressing Stammers on the right plays it central for Royall top of the area heads it into the box, Platt down on it before Powell can pounce. Scott central out to the right for Stammers has support form Millen the pair exchanging passes before Stammers flashes a shot over the bar. Sudbury making a change with a little under 15 minutes left to play Georgia Thorpe coming on for Crawford.
Stammers getting down to the by-line well sends a cross along the face of goal only no one has gambled for Herts Vipers. McHale halting Millen’s progress as she looks to power her way through the Sudbury defence. Brandi Whymark-Broyd coming on in defence for Sudbury late on replacing Donley. Edwards out to Tye Smith on the left taking the ball on towards the box looses possession but quickly regains it squaring it inside for Sleep, Ramsey in well to defend for Herts Vipers.
Seems no matter what Herts Vipers try nothing will fall their way in the final third 2nd balls more often than not claimed by a Sudbury shirt. Payne comes back on for Meeking. Whymark-Broyd defending in the box for the hosts against Powell as Stammers crosses from the right. Scott central on for Stammers she spins the ball away to the advancing Millen’s on the right from a tight angle smashes a strike in Platt throwing herself at the ball a sharp safe tipping the ball up and away to the left. Herts Vipers pushing on winning a corner on the left defended for a 2nd corner, Shepherd clearing that behind at the near post for a 3rd corner. This delivery longer to the far post headed down into into the mix blasted over the bar from 10 yards out.
Late in the game Sudbury continue to soak up the pressure as Herts Vipers push on trying all they can to find a goal. Whymark-Broyd sliding into a challenge to stop Stammers advance. The ball inside the box pinging about a tackle, Platt picks it up, judged to be a back pass Herts Vipers are awarded a late indirect free-ick inside the box. Left of the goal 10 yards out Millen on it to tee up Edge. Sudbury slow to get players into there wall, gaps as Edge runs onto Millen’s nudge hits it hard through the fragmented wall giving Platt no chance as it’s hammered home for a late consolation goal 4-1.
Too little too late the clock ticking down, Sudbury make a change bringing Creaton back on for Tye Smith. The home defence frustrated at conceding so late in the game the ball out on the right as Herts Vipers attack Millen fouled picking up and injury is brought off there’s seconds left no sub is made as the ball is played upfield to Sleep the final whistle blows and the 3 points go to Sudbury.
Full time AFC Sudbury Women 4-1 Herts Vipers
A convincing win in the finish for Sudbury who climb above Herts Vipers on goal difference into 2nd in the Division One South table. A poor start to the 2nd half from Herts Vipers seeing Sudbury capitalise to double the 2 goal advantage they had at the break. After that the Suffolk side was prepared to sit back and soak up the pressure ready to hit on the counter attack. The defence all making crucial tackles. A frustrating afternoon for Herts Vipers who I am sure can play better. Created opportunities making a good start to the game. A sucker punch from Sudbury to take the lead. Allen clinical for her hat-trick. Rarely did Herts Vipers open up their opponents.
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 first. For Herts Vipers, Rebecca Edge made a number of crucial tackles in defence and carried the ball out from the back well. Kelsey Millen on the right looked a threat and looked to set up a number of opportunities for the attackers. Overall it was a solid all round team performance from Sudbury hard to single a player out. Jess Allen of course was clinical in her finishing to net her hat-trick. Creaton was a constant threat on the right. Teigan McHale with some fantastically timed tackles at the back. The award though goes to midfielder Kate Edwards enjoyed the battle in midfield getting after the ball rising up after being handed the armband, played a number of excellent forwards passes.
Another enjoyable trip to the MEL Group Stadium. I can see how much the club is looking forwards to their FA Cup encounter with Colchester and I wish them all the best of luck. Good to see both sides in action. Been wanting to tick Herts Vipers off the list for a while but like always this only means another side I want to see again. My thanks to both sides for giving me the team details as always much appreciated.
by Darren Gilham