Sunday 8th March
FAWNL South East Division One
No storm sweeping in across the country this weekend so for the first time in a month it was nice to make plans early get a game sorted, keen to get some action in from the FAWNL, headed to St Neots Town FC this Sunday to watch Cambridge United WFC v Stevenage FC Women.
Battles shaping up well at both ends of the table competitive in the top half for the title race and in the bottom half although no one wants to be there a crucial period coming up for the sides wanting to avoid relegation. The two promoted sides Kent Football United and Cambridge City Ladies positioned in the bottom two are just a couple of positive results (if they can find them) from getting clear of trouble, the sides immediately above scrapping for points themselves to keep clear of danger amongst those today’s opponents Cambridge and Stevenage. Norwich in the mix too and all the sides in the bottom five have crunch games against each other coming up.
Cambridge United WFC into the 2nd of a 4 game run against the sides in and around them. An Emma Jenkin’s goal enough to secure all 3 points away to bottom side Kent Football United last weekend lifts them up to 8th in the South East Division One table 5 points clear of the bottom two with a trio of home matches to come starting with Stevenage this afternoon, then local rivals Cambridge City and Norwich City Women at The Abbey Stadium on Weds 18th March. The women’s sides making the switch to a new ground this season now at St Neots Town FC’s Premier Plus Stadium along with their Development side.
New beginnings bringing mixed fortunes, a new era of sorts an great opportunity to grow a new fan base great facilities but a change in coaching set up saw several player departures before the season started the squad smaller struggling for results early on, out of the cups early. A long period without a game more changes in management Ben Yeomans stetting up from assistant to first team coach. New faces coming in the club has never been sort of positively. The move to St Neots seeing Cambridge United unable to defend the Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup this season but now within the catchment area of the Huntingtonshire FA have reached the final of the inaugural Hunts FA Women’s Cup, facing St Ives Town Ladies on Thursday 23rd April at Eynesbury Rovers FC.
Stevenage FC Women themselves playing in the Hertfordshire Women’s Challenge Cup final next Sunday taking on Watford Ladies U23s for the second successive final. Will be Stevenage’s sixth consecutive County Cup final appearance and will be looking to regain the trophy from their opponents. Joining forces with the Stevenage FC Foundation this season were looking to push on become an established side in the FAWNL having recently gained promotion. Injuries a few long term and being unable to secure a main shirt sponsor hampering their season somewhat falling to 10th spot four points clear of the bottom two have been unlucky with some results scoring goals okay just conceding too many. A narrow 3-2 defeat away to Leyton Orient WFC last time out. Beat Cambridge United comfortably 4-0 in the reverse fixture back in September and have home games against the bottom two to come.
Once I’ve successfully negotiated the roadworks on the A14 at Cambridge the venue for today’s game The Premier Plus Stadium home of St Neots Town FC as well Cambridge United WFC. The entrance to the pitch through the clubhouse hot drinks available onto the stadium itself the grass pitch in great condition offering good width. Dark cloud around and quite breezy didn’t talk of much rain around but short sharp showers would be a feature of the afternoon, one before kick-off as the teams warmed up seeing an early retreat to the changing rooms. Headed to the mainstand myself but the wind blowing straight into it offered little protection. Like to be on the opposite of the pitch however and as the rain died decided to risk it.
Cambridge United WFC starting XI – Amy Butler, Charlotte Crisp, Carrie Bennett, Albany Hodgson, Jemma Moore, Faith Hewitt, Gisela Otten (C), Amy Howlett, Emma Jenkins, Amber Cantwell & Kelley Blanchflower. Subs – Abi Davies, Kayleigh-Anne Burt & Katie White.
Stevenage FC Women starting XI – Grace Brooks, Leah Dunnage, Gemma Biggadike, Lucy Webster, Dominique Godbeer, Cara Breckenridge, Amy Josland, Ashleigh Deacon, Tamsyn Sibanda, Amy Makewell (C) & Nicole Emmings. Subs – Charlotte McLucas, Erin Pope & Katie Knell.
Amy Butler making her debut in goal for Cambridge, new arrived from ERWFL Premier Division side Colney Heath Ladies. Allowing Albany Hodgson to rejoin the defence having donned the goalkeeping gloves herself in the last couple of matches, injuries at the back also seeing Charlotte Crisp usually operating in midfield at right back. Stevenage to kick off the first half wearing white shirts with red vertical pinstripes, red shorts and socks. Cambridge opposite wearing amber coloured shirts with black sleeves black shorts and socks. Playing the ball back towards their defence Cambridge press high the ball released sent long out to the left knocked on into the box, Butler with an early touch of the ball off her line to kick clear.
Cambridge work the ball through the middle Amber Cantwell putting it out to the right for Amy Howlett running on up the line cuts inside, Stevenage’s Leah Dunnage closing in to put in the tackle prevent a cross. Pace from both sides going forwards Stevenage come on the diagonal pass into Ashleigh Deacon on the right side, bursts on with the ball travelling into the box players rushing on through the middle to join her the ball squared along the top of the six yard box, Hodgson cutting it out for Cambridge. Deacon a threat on the right side early on getting hold of the ball taking it on fires another ball into the six yard box Nicole Emmings seeing it into her feet laying it back to captain Amy Makewell top of the area strikes it back on on target low but well seen by Butler back on her line down to save.
A lively start from both sides Faith Hewitt getting hold of the ball on halfway for Cambridge sending it up field to Emma Jenkins on the right Gemma Biggadike staying with her Jenkins forces a corner. The delivery long through the six yard box before being cleared. A crunching 50/50 ball in the middle between Stevenage’s Amy Josland and Cambridge captain Gisela Otten the rebound favouring Stevenage Emmings getting hold of it on the left jinking her way into the area Butler coming to close the angle takes it around wide on the angle shoots the ball landing in the side netting.
Lucy Webster coming across the back line to tackle Jenkins as she gets free on the left for Cambridge. Emmings causing problems in attack for Stevenage moving out to the left head down on the ball looks to get in behind a good tackle from Crisp to regain possession. A good contest in the middle of the park, the ball closed down Cara Breckenridge this time playing the ball to Deacon on the right has Makewell giving her a run ahead of her into the box laying it into her path, Jemma Moore gets across well to lunge in front of her to take the ball away before the attacker can pull the trigger.
Cantwell getting forwards with the ball at her feet, is brought down, the advantage played as the ball runs straight to Kelley Blanchflower she plays it across the top of the area to Jenkins left side, upended by Webster, Cambridge get the free-kick this time. Jenkins herself to take floating the ball into the area, Stevenage’s Dominique Godbeer winning the header dropping down outside the box, Cantwell after it puts her foot through the ball her strike charged down. Neither side on top getting forwards quickly Cambridge have it on the right a throw won taken quickly Cantwell laying it on up the right for Blanchflower, strong on the ball takes it in towards goal a defender on her shoulder gets a shot away the ball wide across the face of goal.
Blanchflower seeing the ball into her feet right channel 25 yards out takes it on into the area Godbeer sliding in as she shoots the deflection seeing the ball come out to Hewitt 20 yards out top of the D strikes it first time screws it high and wide of the left post. Hewitt with a fantastic tackle to win the ball inside the Stevenage half attempts to thread it through for Blanchflower a little too much on it allows Stevenage goalkeeper, Grace Brooks to claim. Both sides looking to get their wide players on the ball Jenkins is fouled as she tries to get into the box coming in from the left. Jenkins has a go for goal a high ball presenting a danger to Brooks back on her line as it drops goalwards… but lands safely on the rook of the net.
GOAL! 19 minute played and the deadlock is broken, Stevenage getting forwards well pressure in the final third, Deacon with the ball right side takes in on towards the corner, players race on through the middle to support Deacon sends a dangerous ball into the six yard box, Hodgson falling cutting it out central sends it out towards the top of the area, straight to Amy Josland she strikes it first time getting curve on the ball sending it swerving away from the keeper into the bottom corner to give the visitors the lead 0-1.
Stevenage lively getting forwards well Makewell giving an option drifting into the right channel the ball fed to her takes it on Moore closing her down the pair tussling for the ball Makewell fouling the free-kick going Cambridge’s way much to her annoyance. Stevenage on through the middle Sibanda inside for Josland, Hodgson intercepting and sending up field to Howlett on the right goes on finding Blanchflower ahead of her powerful with the ball at her feet holding off her marker the angle tight sends her shot into the side netting.
Jenkins with the ball left side Hewitt up with her inside 25 yards out gives her the ball, opens her body to clip it forwards for Blanchflower stealing in behind, Brooks down well to save at the strikers feet. Hewitt involved again winning it central her pass finding Cantwell 30 yards out right of goal takes on the shot the ball held by Brooks. Otten with a couple of challenges to slow Stevenage down before a somewhat out of control tackle by Cantwell sliding in gives the visitors a free-kick 25 yards out right of goal. Sibanda over it goes for goal her effort wide of the near post.
Stevenage coming on well in the last 5 minutes getting bodies forwards pushing Cambridge back Deacon right side a corner won. A good delivery into the six yard box Otten does well to clear for Cambridge play brought back for a head injury to Hodgson. Josland in quick to win the ball, up to Emmings the striker can’t find the room to get a shot away top of the box before being crowded off the ball. A high ball played forwards into the Cambridge area awkward for Hodgson to deal with Makewell in close attention the ball bouncing, Makewell getting to it first hitting it on the angle towards the near post Butler can’t take any chances down to palm it behind for the corner. From the left inswinging into the six yard box Cantwell doing well getting there ahead of Godbeer to put it behind for a 2nd corner on the right. Another good delivery across six yard box Godbeer free this time at the back stick rising to head the ball her effort coming back off the crossbar.
Cantwell and Jenkins combine well through the middle for Cambridge, exchanging passes before Jenkins plays it out to Howlett on the right, takes it on Dunnage in to win the ball back for Stevenage. A good take by Brooks low in her box as Cambridge come on Cantwell into Jenkins coming in from the left her shot taking a deflection, Brooks across down to save. Biggadike gets on right side for Stevenage ahead of Deacon fires in a cross/shot towards the near post Butler keeping her eyes on it well gathered even as Emmings lunges at it in front of her.
Cambridge picking it up in the closing minutes of the 1st half getting forwards better Hewitt winning it on for Blanchflower right of the D a good diagonal ball picks out Jenkins coming in from the left pushes it in cross the top of the six yard box looking to get a shot way just runs too far allows Godbeer to get across her and clear the ball out for a throw right side. Dropping into Blanchflower the Cambridge attacker turns and strikes the ball her effort a foot over the crossbar.
Half-time Cambridge United WFC 0-1 Stevenage FC Women
Stevenage slightly edging the 1st half with a 1-0 going into the break. A competitive game a good battle going on in the middle between Cambridge’s Otten and Hewitt up agianst Stevenage’s Breckenridge and Josland. Both sides looking to get forwards quickly use the width Deacon in particular on the right, Emmings in attack showing good movement, Cantwell with good options left and right with Blanchflower up top. One goal in it the 2nd half will be no less eventful. The rain making a return at half-time the reserve umbrella up just another light shower however as the sides return to the pitch.
No changes made, Cambridge to get the 2nd half underway. A early clearance presented to Blanchflower drifting left has support from Jenkins ahead of her rolls her in her cross into the area cut out by Godbeer for Stevenage. Cambridge making a fast start to the 2nd half the ball won back high play turned around Blanchflower left sends it on towards the box, intercepted by Webster deflects off her legs straight to Cantwell inside the D has Howlett free inside the box to her right plays the pass by even as Howlett’s shot nestles in the bottom corner the whistle blows for a raised flag, offside.
Under pressure early on the ball cleared up to the left, Makewell does well to bring it down keep in play putting it back to Sibanda a good strike of the ball to send it up the wing for Emmings running in behind takes it on, Moore getting across to challenge the ball behind for a corner kick. Players come forwards a vicious ball fired in low through the six yard box Emmings lunging at it far post isn’t too far away from making a telling contact.
Cambridge sharper to the ball now getting their tackles in high Hewitt out for Howlett right goes on with it, Sibanda getting back to tackle her. Crisp fouled as she gets forwards on the right. The free-kick put high into the area headed clear by Godbeer, Stevenage get on he counter attack Deacon out to Emmings moving right, Moore closing down to send the ball out for a throw. The sun making an appearance a rainbow over the ground. The tempo high Cambridge coming on Cantwell clipped top of the D as she looks to get a shot away a free-kick for Cambridge, Jenkins on it hits it low strikes the wall deflected out to the left more Cambridge pressing brings a corner. The ball cleared Stevenage can’t make any head way in attack as Cambridge come straight back, Cantwell left 20 out looks to thread it into Blanchflower inside the box near post, Brooks just about gets there but a deflection sees the ball behind for a corner.
GOAL! 56 minutes played and Cambridge equalise scoring from the corner, Cantwell to play it in a good inswinging delivery close over the goalkeeper, players attacking it beyond one of those Hewitt getting her head on the ball nodding it down into the back of the net 1-1.
Stevenage with a quick response coming close to retaking the lead within seconds of the restart, the ball into Deacon right side hits it on the run her strike clipping the crossbar. Stevenage come again another effort at goal stabbed wide by Josland from 25 yards out. Blanchflower making some great runs in attack for Cambridge now clear to the right takes the ball on into the corner options limited nevertheless spots Hewitt positioned inside the D sends the ball racing into her Hewitt not quite able to connect. Otten with a strong challenge breaking up a Stevenage attack the visitors frustrated now not getting the ball into their attackers as easily as they did first half.
Sibanda with some good tackling left side for Stevenage looking to get on up the field attempts to thread a pass through for Emmings in behind but Butler with a good starting position can get there first to claim. Blanchflower fouled on the left a free-kick awarded. Cantwell to deliver put in close to the keeper, Jenkins up with her Brooks gloving the ball up onto the bar before it goes over. A lively contest both sides going for it Stevenage’s Emmings shows good control on the ball to work it out to Deacon to her left, Moore coming in to close down with a good challenge.
Sibanda getting up to support the attack on the left on to Emmings comes inside striking the ball from 20 yards out, Crisp sticking out a leg getting in the block for Cambridge. Sibanda staying up high left winning a throw keeps the attack alive turning inside to get another shot away again Crisp is there to block near post. Stevenage with a good spell of pressure Emmings has it left on the by-line strong to turn inside sends a cross into the six yard box Makewell there gets a touch the ball send wide at the far post. Stevenage make the first change of the match bringing on Katie Knell for Breckenridge as the rain starts to fall again 20 minutes left to play.
GOAL! Cambridge regain possession in the middle Hewitt on for Blanchflower left channel sends it on for Jenkins racing away down the wing she fires in a fierce ball into the far post Brooks down to save gloves it away loose out to the top of the box, Blanchflower racing in first to it strikes it hard arrowing into the goal beyond 2-1.
Stevenage make a 2nd change straight away Erin Pope comes on for Biggadike. Cambridge on the attack good work from Otten winning it central puts it to Blanchflower moving left down the line her ball into the box finds its way through to Howlett, doesn’t get a clean strike of the ball, sliced wide. Cambridge make their first change with Katie White coming on for Jenkins. Pope with a snapshot 20 yards out as the ball is deflected into her path sends it wide of goal. Stevenage pushing players on risk leaving gaps at the back Blanchflower ready to exploit the ball over the top seeing her clear through the middle, Brooks comes out of her area attempting to win the race not quick enough Blanchflower attempts to put it past her fortune favours the keeper as it strikes her legs.
Crisp taking a quick free-kick up to Blanchflower inside the box Godbeer on her shoulder let of goal manages to get a shot away deflected across the face of goal Howlett retrieving right side puts back in Webster intercepting for Stevenage. Cantwell winning a corner for Cambridge on the right puts in another good delivery Hewitt further out winning the header on target down, cleared on the line by Sibanda. Stevenage with a free-kick on halfway the ball finding Pope top of the D gets a snapshot away blasts it wide of the right post. A third change for Stevenage as Godbeer comes off on comes Charlotte McLucas to make her first team debut.
Hodgson closing down Emmings to concede a throw as the Stevenage attacker looks to get on right side into the box. A few strong challenges coming in late on both sides giving as good as they get Stevenage keen to get on with the clock running down, Cambridge battling to hold onto their lead. The game heading into stoppage time play frantic, Sibanda tackling Howlett puts it inside to Makewell can’t shake off Otten.
Cambridge trying to get it down into the corners, easier said than done, Hewitt into Blanchflower, Sibanda closing her down to regain possession doesn’t stick up top, Cantwell cleans out Sibanda as she looks to carry it out on the left, earning her the first yellow card of the game. Into the final minute Crisp bringing the ball on rolled into Blanchflower held up in the Stevenage final 3rd no time to mount one last attack as the final whistle blows and Cambridge win another valuable 3 points.
Full time Cambridge United WFC 2-1 Stevenage FC Women
Cambridge with back to back wins 6 points seeing them pull further clear of the battle at the bottom, Stevenage now very much in it losing today and seeing Cambridge City Ladies win at home to Norwich the 2nd bottom side closing the gap to just a point. Several crucial games to come. A good first half from Stevenage starting well and stayed on the front foot through out the first 45 minutes taking the lead and creating several good opportunities. Cambridge not out of it by any means with chances of their own. The 2nd half very much Cambridge’s started well he pressure paying off equalising from a corner then going onto take the lead with 20 minutes left. Stevenage make then work hard for the 3 points an intriguing contest, Stevenage had chances to level.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this Sunday’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match, a few performances of note and a tough one to decide who gets the award. For Stevenage, Ashleigh Deacon was a threat going forwards on the right and Nicole Emmings showed great movement and presence in attack. Tamsyn Sibanda with some fantastic challenges especially 2nd half. For Cambridge Jemma Moore with some timely tackles at the back. Amber Cantwell with good movement and passing spot on from her corners. Kelley Blanchflower in attack always available making good runs creating goal scoring opportunities. Now it gets tough really the final two are neck and neck for me but have to pick one, Faith Hewitt was fantastic in the middle for Cambridge great tackling and good runs forwards supporting the attack, the award though goes to Charlotte Crisp not usually at right back but had an excellent game made several important tackles and blocks.
An enjoyable trip to the Premier Plus Stadium this Sunday, my thanks to both sides for the team details. Will be seeing Stevenage again next Sunday in the Hertfordshire Women’s Challenge Cup Final.