Sunday 23rd April
Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup Final
A trip into Hertfordshire this Sunday to watch another cup final, to watch the Hertfordshire FA Women’s County Cup Final between Stevenage FC Women & Royston Town Women.
Stevenage FC Women dominating the county cup in recent season’s have featured in every final since Women’s Football East started back in 2014 appearing in 8 consecutive finals regaining the cup last season as the competition returned after a 2 year hiatus caused by the Covid pandemic aiming for a 5th win in the competition. Royston Town Women looking to win the trophy for the 1st time. Both sides playing in the ERWFL Premier Division.
Stevenage FC Women currently 2nd in the ERWFL Premier Division attempting to bounce back at the first attempt after suffering relegation from the FAWNL last season. A tough ask in a strong competitive league with only one promotion spot up for grabs, AFC Sudbury Women looking strong favourites to take the title. Nevertheless a strong season from Stevenage once again reaching the County Cup final and also the final of the ERWFL League Cup. Fadi Mazloum stepping down as manager the club have appointed assistant Dave Parry as interim manager. Have a large squad backed up by a Development side, injuries haven’t helped maintain a settled side, players coming in have performed well. Amy Makewell the leading goal scorer with 14 goals to her name with Becky Shephard on 8 and Emily Schofield on 7.
Royston Town Women’s manager Lewis Endacott recently celebrating his 250th game in charge. Royston more often than not amongst the sides contending in the top half of the ERWFL Premier Division, aiming to build a side to challenge for the title and promotion to the FAWNL. That cause has been heavily thwarted by long term injuries to key players, captain Amy Cooper, attacker Emma Slater and new midfield signing Riana Badal all suffering ACL and MCL injuries. Becky Charter breaking her collar bone recently returning to the side. Have moved quickly to bring in experienced attacker Laura Mills from Haverhill Rovers Women along with Chloe Gunn once with Stevenage now dual signed with QPR Women. Poppy Smith joining Royston in the summer is the current top scorer with 12 goals, Gemma Croucher close behind netting 10 to date.
Road to the Final
No seeded teams in the Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup, 32 clubs entering in the 1st Round. Stevenage beginning the defence of the cup at home taking on Beds and Herts Premier Division newcomers Wormley Rovers Ladies. Becky Shephard scoring a brace along with a goal each for Holly Greenwood, Erin Price and Shianne Swarres to see Stevenage progress with a 5-0 win. Royston away to Garston Ladies new Development side playing in Beds and Herts Women’s Division Two, Emma Slater scoring a hat-trick with Royston dominating going on to win 7-0 with Ellie Pickard, Natalie Richardson, Becky Charter and Charlotte South also scoring.
Into the 2nd Round, Stevenage drawn away to play ERWFL Division One South side, Wodson Park Ladies. Jodie Bellinger on hand to score a hat-trick in the game for Stevenage who would go on to win 6-0 with Becky Shephard, Erin Price and Amy Makewell all getting a goal. It was raining goals too in Royston’s 2nd Round tie as they were once again drawn away to beds and Herts Women’s Division Two, Wheathampstead Wanderers Ladies, Riana Badal, Charlotte South, Natalie Richardson, Emma Slater, Gemma Croucher and Poppy Smith all scoring a brace each in a 15-0 win with Amy Houghton, Charlotte Grogan and goalkeeper Amy Martin all getting on the scoresheet too.
Stevenage progressing into the semi-finals without kicking a ball as the ERWFL Premier Division side was awarded the home win over Beds and Herts Division One side Hitching Town Women. Royston handed a tough looking quarter final tie away to Watford FC Women U23s. Lily Dolling scoring for Watford, Natalie Richardson found the back of the net for Royston to see the game end 1-1 and go straight to penalties. Royston edging the shootout 5-4 t0 advance to the semi-finals.
The semi-finals saw an all Stevenage affair with the 1st team drawn against their Development side, no walk over this one the sides battling out a 1-1 draw to send the tie into penalties the 1st team winning it on sudden death 6-5. The game chalked off however due to some infringement/error leading to the game being rescheduled the Development side forfeiting the 1st team advancing to the final. Royston as they have been all competition drawn away from home to play Watford Ladies Development. Poppy Smith’s deflected shot seeing the side draw 1-1 at 0 minutes another shootout to settle things Royston again coming out on to taking it 5-4 to reach the County Cup Final to face their local rivals.
The County Ground, Letchworth the venue for today’s game the headquarter of the Hertfordshire FA next to the ground is also the home for Stevenage FC Women. A large artificial playing surface the ground undergoing alot of renovation in recent season’s. The cafe under the main stand serving hot and cold food and drinks. The seated stand over looking the dugouts with a terraced stand on the opposite side with viewing all round. An overcast and muggy afternoon. A few spots of rain around but nothing substantial forecast during the game.
Stevenage FC Women starting XI – Mia O’Brien, Nicole Farmer, Hannah Nebbitt, Erin Price, Vicky Neal (C), Holly Greenwood, Rosy Wodhams, Hannah Bodily, Kelsey Millen, Emily Schofield & Amy Makewell. Subs – Celine Rey, Lucy Webster, Jodie Bellinger, Becky Shephard & Amy Gooderham.
Royston Town Women starting XI – Amy Martin, Mistie Fox Baker, Annie Georgiou, Amy Houghton, Georgia Miller, Ailish Straver, Charlotte South (C), Laura Mills, Amy Josland, Gemma Croucher & Poppy Smith. Subs – Eloise Page, Hattie Bourne, Nicole Hendrick, Chloe Hunt & Becky Charter.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Vicky Neal captaining Stevenage with regular captain, Lucy Webster named amongst the substitutes. Charlotte South captaining Royston with Amy Cooper side lined through injury. It’s Stevenage to get the 2022/23 Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup Final underway kicking off the 1st half wearing red coloured shirts fading to black across the bottom half and top of the sleeves, red shorts and white socks. Royston lined up opposite wearing white coloured shirts, with black short and socks. The ball rolled back into midfield out to Nicole Farmer at right back launched forwards for Kelsey Millen to chase, cleared by Royston’s Annie Georgiou.
South fouled inside her own half as she looks to carry the ball forwards, goalkeeper Amy Martin to play the set-piece hit long out to the right channel for Gemma Croucher, Hannah Nebbitt across her run to see the ball out for a Stevenage goal kick. Erin Price operating in the back line for Stevenage this afternoon, defending well up against Poppy Smith as the ball is fed into her as she bursts into the box from the right. Neal with a firm clearance at the back for Stevenage sending the ball long up to Amy Makewell in attack 20 yard out shifts the ball inside form the left to shoot firing the ball wide of the far post, the offside flag however is raised against her.
Lively start to the game the Stevenage back line spread out the game open both sides looking to get on down the flanks. Stevenage come right Millen breaking clear on the right cutting the ball back inside for Hannah Bodily the ball clipped up into the area, central won’t drop kindly for Makewell as she lines up a strike, Georgia Miller clearing for Royston. Stevenage press the ball high regaining possession the diagonal ball finding Millen running into space on the right into the corner her cross in low caught by the keeper inside her six yard box.
Stevenage coming on well, Rosy Wodhams winning the ball in midfield, lifting the ball out to Emily Schofield on the left, Mistie Fox Baker closing in to win the ball back for Royston. Price winning the ball at the back for Stevenage coming out into midfield before attempting the through ball for Makewell pulling into the left channel, Miller intercepting the pass for Royston. Holly Greenwood cleaned out as she plays the ball on for Millen on the right, Georgiou defending play brought back for the free-kick with no advantage. Right of the circle, Nebbitt over the ball hit long towards the far post the ball out for a goal kick.
Royston attack down the right, Croucher on for Smith in attack challenging for the ball with Neal, Laura Mills rushing in to get onto the loose ball race into the box right of goal pulls the trigger her shot running wide of the far post. Schofield up on the left flank pulled down Stevenage getting a free-kick in the corner. The ball dropping far post no one getting a telling touch before Amy Houghton strikes it clear for Royston. Croucher pressing winning the ball playing in on for Smith up top, Price stretching out a leg intercepting for Stevenage.
The game being played as a good tempo Stevenage come on through the middle Wodhams attempting to play the one two with Millen to her right, Miller cutting the pass out top of the D for Royston passing it back for Martin to clear. Nebbitt advancing well on Stevenage’s left forwards into Schofield taking the ball inside 20 yards out no room for a shot, Makewell taking the ball on with the same results Royston’s defence closing the ball down.
Croucher clipping the pass on for Smith pulling into the right channel, Neal across her well to safely shield the ball out for a goal kick. Martin racing out of her area to put her foot through the ball to clear as Price’s clearance at the back threatens to put Millen in on goal.
South getting into an advanced position on the left for Royston playing the ball to Amy Josland out wide left, she in turn putting it back up the line for Georgiou getting forwards closed down plays the ball back to Miller the defender firing a pass forwards into the D, Price going to put her foot through it to clear instead slices the ball in behind, Mia O’Brien in the Stevenage goal onto it sharply to claim before Smith can pounce.
Millen a good outlet for Stevenage on the right enjoying a good contest with Royston’s Georgiou, the full back’s clearance dropping to Greenwood some 30 plus yards out lines up a strike putting her foot though the ball arrowing in low possibly wide of the far post, Martin diving taking to chances getting hold of the ball.
Martin catching a high ball fired into the box from the right as Millen breaks on for Stevenage. Croucher attacking down the right for Royston sees her cross cut out by Stevenage’s Nebbitt. Houghton fouling Schofield on halfway a chance for Stevenage to send the ball up into the Royston area, dropping central Millen looking to attack it Martin coming to close her down doing enough to see Millen force her shot wide of the left post. Martin racing out of her area to clear the ball left side just about gets there ahead of Makewell, hurt as her follow through takes out the Stevenage striker, no appeals on field a few voices amongst the crowd feeling different.
Royston winning a free-kick on halfway the ball lifted in towards the top of the area, headed clear by Neal. Mills getting hold of the ball firing a pass forwards into the D left of goal, missed by Farmer going to clear, Josland after it, can’t capitalise before Stevenage regroup scramble the ball to safety. Martin goes down needing treatment on her back, both sets of players going to the dug outs for refreshment and instructions. The goalkeeper okay to continue play resumes a long ball played into the right channel for Smith to attack, Neal across lunging in to put the ball out for a throw.
Wodhams winning the ball the short pass into Greenwood plays a great threaded pass forwards looking to pick out Makewell breaking into the D, Houghton with a vital interception for Royston. 3pm arrives and as expected mobile phones go off with the government testing it’s new emergency alert system, hardly registers with an exciting game taking place Mills taking the ball on down the right for Royston, sending it inside for South, 25 yards out prepares to strike the ball, Farmer racing out of the back line to charge down the shot for Stevenage. Royston getting on well Ailish Straver winning the ball forwards for Mills attacking right channel, fed into the box, Price defending well for Stevenage.
Stevenage quickly on the counter attack the ball lifted on up the right wing for Millen racing forwards her low cross fired into the area cut out and cleared by Miller. Goes straight to Greenwood 25 yards out right of the D, drags her shot wide out past the left post. Stevenage winning the first corner of the game out on the left the ball swung in to the far post knocked down by Neal into the mix, scrambled away to the left for a 2nd corner kick. This delivery long beyond the far post.
Wodhams getting back well on Croucher to tackle and win the ball as the Royston attacker looks to take the ball on through the middle. Mills using the ball well for Royston getting it under control sending a quality pass forwards for Smith out right wing, Neal lunging in with an outstretched leg to send the ball out for a throw deep on the right. 35 minutes played.
GOAL! The deadlock broken Royston with players up field for the throw in the ball crossed in taking a deflection, sending it in towards Josland attacking the near post, close in nods the ball over the keeper and across goal into the bottom corner to score! 0-1!
The game opening up as Stevenage look for a quick response, Croucher getting back to tackle Nebbitt as she drives on with the ball left wing. Georgiou coming on with the ball left side for Royston inside for Straver who sends the diagonal pass out to Croucher on the right, forwards for Smith to chase too much on the ball out for a goal kick. Stevenage rapid to play the ball down the other end Bodily into Greenwood out to Millen wide right down the line her cross cut out by Georgiou out behind for the corner kick. Whipped in across the penalty spot runners coming in but no one gets a touch turned behind beyond the far post for a 2nd corner on the left. The ball cleared out of the area falling for Schofield left of the D to line up a strike the ball charged down by Miller for Royston.
Royston pressing well late in the first half Straver to Croucher right inside for South central her first time strike wide off target 30 yards out. Croucher pushed in the back winning a free-kick outside the Stevenage box left of goal. Georgiou over the ball sends her attempt over at the far post. Smith tussling with Price for possession of the ball right of the D, nipping onto the ball snatches her shot over the crossbar. Makewell fouled on halfway late in the 1st half, Price to launch the ball up towards the Royston area the ball cleared falling to Greenwood sees her shot charged down outside the box, Georgiou clearing for Royston.
Half-time Stevenage FC Women 0-1 Royston Town Women
507 in attendance for today’s final see Royston heading into the changing rooms leading by a single goal at the break. Amy Josland in at the near post to put Royston into the lead on 35 minutes. The game has been lively and open played at a good tempo with both sides using the wings particularly their right flank. Millen getting on well for Stevenage, Croucher and Mills both looking to feed Smith the ball for Royston. Few clear cut chances both defences with some vital interceptions with good one on one battles taking place all over the park.
Stevenage making a triple change at the start of the 2nd half bringing on, Lucy Webster taking over as captain for Nebbitt at left back with Becky Shephard and Amy Gooderham replacing Greenwood and Schofield. Royston unchanged kicking off the 2nd half played back into defence Stevenage quick to set their stall out rushing in to close down the ball. Pressure on the Royston defence, the ball cleared.
Royston get the ball on well through the middle Straver into Croucher has South up in support plays the short ball into her, South opening up her body attempting to put the ball in behind for Smith breaking into the box, O’Brien able to get her gloves wrapped around it first.
Shephard seeing the ball into her feet for Stevenage on the left with a clever back heel to send Gooderham away down the line her cross cleared by Georgiou. Georgiou busy at the back for Royston in ahead of Millen to clear the ball as Price sends it upfield. Mills off a throw on the left dragging the ball across her and shooting from 25 yards out putting the ball straight into the keeper.
Gooderham breaking on with the ball on the left for Stevenage sending it inside for Makewell inside the D, closed down by Houghton and Miller, sends the ball wide to Shephard left of goal 20 out her strike curled into towards goal straight into the keeper. Makewell with a sharp turn and strike from all of 30 yards out caught well racing in low towards goal Martin throwing herself down to her right full stretch getting her fingertips to the ball, turned behind, heart in her mouth for a moment the ball running behind narrowly wide of the post a corner awarded on the left.
GOAL! Stevenage carry a strong threat from a corner getting players up into the area to attack the ball and it’s from a set-piece that they find the equalising goal, the delivery whipped in fast across the face of goal attacked at the far post by Neal getting her head onto the ball and driving it home into the back of the net 1-1.
Stevenage finding the equaliser 10 minutes into the 2nd half. Royston get hold of the ball South laying it back for Straver to float a ball forwards up into the box, O’Brien catching the ball. Gooderham brought down on halfway giving Stevenage a free-kick and opportunity to send players forwards, Webster over the ball lifted into the box Shephard getting onto the end of it sending her shot over the bar.
Shephard taking the ball forwards for Stevenage on the left crossing into the area, Makewell looking to turn central, Straver back to put in the tackle the ball not clear as Stevenage press Bodily out to Millen, Mills back to regain possession for Royston. Stevenage pressing well, Wodhams linking up with Bodily out to the right a free-kick won, the ball put in from deep dropping central Martin opting to punch the ball out of her area dropping to Wodhams 20 yards out puts her foot through the ball, Houghton getting in the way the ball deflecting off the defender behind for a corner on the right. Defended at the near post, Fox Baker looks to carry the ball up field for Royston Wodhams sliding in catching her on the ankle.
Josland tripping Gooderham as she takes the ball on left side, Shephard to play the ball into the box long to the far post attacked by Neal her effort headed over the bar. South driving forwards with the ball through the middle for Royston clipped forwards to Mills going right into the corner her cross cut back towards the near post headed away by Neal. Martin rushing out of her area just about getting there to stop the ball in it’s tracks as Gooderham breaks clear out on the left.
Royston quick to counter Fox Baker right lifting a great ball into the box central for Mills to attack, looking to lift the ball up over the advancing keeper, O’Brien with a tremendous save throwing herself to her left to push the ball wide, her defence clearing the threat.
Wodhams out to Gooderham attacking left her diagonal ball in towards the top of the area defended well by Miller turning it off her body into the keeper with Millen in the clear beyond. The game has really come to life open both side looking for a goal, Gooderham doing well on the left for Stevenage getting on cutting the cross inside for Makewell central 20 yards out despite being tackled deflects the ball through into the area for Shephard coming in far post, martin out to snatch up the ball before she can reach it.
O’Brien with another fabulous save for Stevenage Smith with the turn and hit at the top of the area left of the D as she sees the pass into her feet, heading for the top corner, O’Brien throwing herself across getting a glove onto the ball to turn it over for the corner. The subsequent corner cleared Stevenage make another change Jodie Bellinger coming on to replace Millen on the right.
Nicole Hendrick coming on for Royston to replace Croucher in attack. Royston finding Josland out wide attempts to put the ball into Smith moving across the defence, Price stretching getting her leg out to cut out the pass. Josland inside the box right of goal catching the ball on the half volley as it comes into her off a throw in, O’Brien diving forwards to save. Royston pressing high South to the right the ball inside the area finding Josland right of goal smashes her cross along the six yard box missed comes out to Hendrick far side blasts her shot over the bar.
The game finely balanced Wodhams on for Makewell sent out to Bellinger right, Georgiou back to defend. Mills getting onto the ball central driving forwards for Royston pulls away to the right before sending shot over the bar from 25 yards out. Wodhams on the right with a strong run linking up with Bellinger to the by-line the cross cut back to Makewell central her shot saved low by the keeper deflected away to the left, Shephard free with an open goal to shoot at can’t believe it as she slices her 1st time strike over.
Mills bringing the ball out from defence for Royston picking out Straver who drops a shot over from distance. Neal with a vital win at the back has to get there as Royston launch the ball forwards winning the ball at the ball from a free-kick, Mills and Smith threatening to run clear Neal slides in to send the ball out of the ground. Makewell down in the opposition box struggling with cramp, the change made, Schofield coming back on with the clock ticking down. Straight to penalties if the scores remain level.
Fox Baker defends well for Royston as Wodhams picks out Gooderham on the left. Royston making a change bringing Josland off, Croucher coming back on. Play paused as Straver has the ball smashed into her from close range.
GOAL! Into the 89th minute Mills getting hold of the ball for Royston carrying it p into midfield turns her ankle going down in agony, Stevenage rush onto the loose ball played forwards into the area left of the D, Gooderham in to pressure the keeper as Martins comes for the ball drags it away from her to the left and with and open goal to aim at makes no mistake to fire Stevenage into the lead 2-1!
A huge blow for Royston at the death worse still as Mills can’t continue, Chloe Holt coming on. Stevenage get the ball into Webster out left breaking forwards going shoulder to shoulder with Fox Baker the Royston defender putting in a good challenge to win the ball.
Royston get up the other end force a corner on the right into stoppage time everyone up into the box including the goalkeeper. goes long out to the left put back into the mix, the ball blocked come out off the area struck back in, O’Brien taking it on the bounce. Hendrick carded for a strong tackle on Wodhams as she attempts to bring the ball out. Royston win the ball back Croucher long for Holt out on the right her cross cut out by Neal. Schofield is stopped by the offside flag just over halfway as she looks to run away with the ball for Stevenage, one last chance for Royston to play the ball into the box…
GOAL! Martin to take the free-kick the goalkeeper sending a great ball into the Stevenage area dropping to the right of goal attacked by Miller, her shot driven in across the keeper into the bottom corner the defender racing away to celebrated chased by her ecstatic teammates 2-2!
Virtually the last kick of the game, Stevenage making a change the game heading to penalties swap goalkeepers, O’Brien off replaced by Celine Rey.
Full time Stevenage FC Women 2-2 Royston Town Women
A dramatic end to an exciting final both sides with chances in the 2nd half, Stevenage coming back to level the scores looking strong Royston defending well, the game remained open could have gone either way. Stevenage scoring in the final minute, Royston equalising with the last kick of the game we go to penalties. Harsh that it should be decided this way but both sides fought well, it now comes down to the lottery of the shootout. Just so happens I was making my way round the pitch at the end to end up behind the goal where the penalties are to be taken let the drama unfold.
Stevenage up first in the shootout, Jodie Bellinger walking forward to take the opening penalty, scores with a coolly taken low strike into the bottom right corner. 1-0.
Amy Houghton to take Royston’s first penalty opting for power well struck rising to the keepers right. 1-1.
Nicole Farmer up next for Stevenage placing the ball on the spot doesn’t get any power on the shot straight down the middle a straight forward save for Martin. 1-1.
Gemma Croucher to take Royston’s second spot kick calmly slotting the ball into the bottom right corner past the diving keeper 1-2.
Amy Gooderham up next to take Stevenage’s 3rd penalty kick, hit well high to the keepers left. 2-2.
Ailish Straver up next for Royston, a good strike rising to the keeper’s left to score 2-3.
Becky Shephard to take Stevenage’s fourth spot kick, placing the ball on the spot goes for power blasted home as Martin dives the right way can’t reach it 3-3.
Georgia Miller up next for Royston again looks for power, turns in agony as the ball smashes down off the cross bar. 3-3.
One penalty left for each then we enter sudden death, Emily Schofield to take Stevenage’s 5th penalty. Cool as you like low placed into the bottom corner the diving keeper can’t get to it 4-3.
Charlotte South to take Royston’s 5th spot kick, the captain sending the keeper the wrong way to send the tie into sudden death 4-4.
Vicky Neal up next for Stevenage places the ball into the bottom corner, the keeper can’t reach it 5-4.
Becky Charter up next for Royston places the ball on the spot and steps back and Rey saves. 5-4.
Stevenage race forwards in celebration as they win the Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup for the fifth time.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
A cruel way to end a game but huge credit to both sides for providing us with a hugely enjoyable cup final. Penalties are a lottery and right until the end the game could have been decided either way. Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. Some huge performances all over the park a few to mention. For Royston, Amy Martin with some vital saves and claims in goal. Annie Georgiou played well at full back winning the ball well on a number of occasions. Laura Mills getting hold of the ball with some great passing and skill. For Stevenage the Kelsey Millen provided a great outlet on the right especially first half. Amy Gooderham coming on 2nd half strong out on the left getting forwards with the ball creating chances scoring late on to put Stevenage into the lead. Erin Price with some great defensive work at the back along side Vicky Neal who won the ball well at both ends scoring the equaliser. Mia O’Brien with some huge saves. The award goes to midfielder Rosy Wodhams covered alot of ground in midfield getting after the ball coming forwards and setting up numerous attacks.
Congratulations to Stevenage FC Women on winning this season’s and their 5th Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup
A thrilling Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup Final. The result could have gone either way played at a good tempo, an open game both sides competitive till the end. My thanks to the staff at Hertfordshire FA for their help today and both teams with the team details
by Darren Gilham