Sunday 9th September
Norfolk Women’s Division Two
On the same day as the new fully professional FA Women’s Super League begins so to does the county league season get into full swing across the country. Beginning the season in Norfolk a game from Division Two with Fakenham Town Ladies hosting Tavern Ladies.
Two divisions in Norfolk once again this season, that decided late on however with a host of new sides wishing to join the league, teams thus didn’t know where they would be placed, as it was a few never got going and a possible North/South split to a Division One never happened, 8 sides will contest the top division with 12 sides making up the 2018/19 roster in Division Two including 5 new sides. 3 stepping up from youth football.
Fakenham Town Ladies drop down to Division Two, not necessarily a bad thing after struggling for results for the previous two seasons, an opportunity to rebuild, strengthen and regain morale. Starting the season with a smaller squad than they would have liked but one that is very much an integral part of the larger Fakenham Town football club. Very much a community club have teams playing at youth level from U6 to U17, an U18 means sides, Reserves, Ladies, Veterans and of course the 1st team playing in the Thurlow Nunn League.
Tavern Ladies, are a Dereham based side have been together for the past 2 season’s having previously been Dereham Ladies. Sponsored by The Railway Tavern in Dereham a pub I myself have frequented a few times in my younger days being a Dereham boy myself. Results improving with the name Tavern finished runners-up two seasons back and 3rd last season, will be amongst the sides threatening at the top once again in what is a much larger Division Two.
Clipbush Park the venue for today’s game plenty of activity at the ground already with several youth sides having been in action over on the pitch behind the ground itself. The Ladies game advertised on the entrance to the ground situated in a busy roundabout leading into Fakenham itself. Playing on the main pitch fitness will be a key factor as it is one of the largest and widest in the league. Looking good at the start of the season a small seated stand along the far side of the pitch people more likely to converge on the clubhouse beside the pitch on the near side leading into the ground offering hot drinks and a bar. Cloudy overheard with a cool and brisk breeze blowing across the ground from one goalmouth to the other. Nothing over concerning but it would play a factor in the game especially first half.
Fakenham Town Ladies starting XI – Chloe Easter, Ellie Websdale, Jemma Riches, Maddie Smith, Laura Merin, Sian Sands (C), Tara Betts, Fanny Dankskanen, Kayleigh Robb, Jemma Riches, Jennifer Codman & Sam King. Subs – Anna Palomino & Sophie Anderson.
Tavern Ladies starting XI – Zoe Gibbons, Roxanne Bailey, Rachel Casey, Charlotte Allum, Sophie Fuller (C), Emily Bell, Jordie Head, Lanta Griffiths, Lucy Lincoln, Lucy Kean & Katie Hart-Copsey. Subs – Dani Lee, Meganne Carmicheal & Lesha Bagura.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
It’s Fakenham wearing yellow shirts with black across the left shoulder, black shorts and socks to get the game underway with Tavern lined up opposite in an all blue kit. Tavern press the ball early keep Fakenham pinned back inside their own half winning a series of throw-ins on the left wing without finding the final ball into the box, Fakenham regain possession the ball put long up the right wing Sam King peeling away into space takes the ball on to the corner before whipping in a cross into the area the ball headed clear by Tavern’s Charlotte Allum.
King pressing with the ball on the right again closing in on the box looks to drop her shoulder push the ball inside cut out by Lucy Lincoln the corner conceded. The ball angled in towards the near post from the right by Sian Sands, Fakenham’s captain, is headed behind for a 2nd corner kick, this one put in longer Zoe Gibbons playing in goal for Tavern comes well through bodies to punch the ball away. Tavern look to break, Tara Betts nips in to win the ball back for Fakenham on the left side before being upended the foul given by referee Andy Waite. Betts to take it herself 25 yards from goal hit along the ground races wide and out of play at the near post.
Fakenham are testing the Tavern defence, King with good movement up front making herself available for the ball. Jordie Head intercepting a forward pass turns and puts the ball out to the right for Lanta Griffiths to chase, the Fakenham defence converging on the attacker outnumbered the ball is lost the home side bring it forwards, Sands, King and Ellie Websdale building an attack in front of the Tavern area, Sands set up for a shot left of the D is closed down by Roxanne Bailey.
Tavern look a threat on the break Griffiths with good pace right bringing the ball inside has Katie Hart-Copsey free on the left gives her the ball, taking it on early Hart-Copsey sends the diagonal ball looping up towards the far post the ball running wide of goal. Tavern regain the ball in the middle of the park Emily Bell on for Griffiths, has Lucy Kean with her making a run central the ball into her rolled wide left for Hart-Copsey closer in this time she hooks the ball in towards goal on the angle, on target is safely caught by Fakenham goalkeeper Chloe Easter back on her line.
The early stages of the game fairly even, Tavern getting more players into advanced roles when they are attacking. Laura Merin making a couple of vital interceptions at centre back for the hosts, with Hart-Copsey wanting the ball played into her. Up the other end King is the threat for Fakenham looking for space, hustling the Tavern defence shows good strength to win a bouncing ball laid forwards, getting a shot away from 25 yards out, hitting it as it skips up off the surface the strike sails over the bar.
Tavern captain, Sophie Fuller getting control of the ball in the middle combines well with Hart-Copsey to the left as they bring the ball into the Fakenham half Hart-Copsey with a good ball inside to Griffiths making a run right side her 1st time strike is blocked by Merin. The wind is blowing fairly briskly across the ground is holding the ball up a little favouring Fakenham, Sands coming forwards with Jennifer Codman in close support through the middle the pass forwards dropping into the path of King breaking towards the edge of the area Gibbons comes out quickly sliding in to smother the ball at the attackers feet.
Tavern counter attack with urgency the ball carried out of defence the pass put long into the path of Griffiths cutting inside from the right, controls the ball well before digging a shot out of feet before she is charged down, her 30 yard effort a foot over the Fakenham crossbar. Tavern are awarded a free-kick in a dangerous area after Merin handles the ball trying to bring in clear for Fakenham. 20 yards out left of the D, Fuller takes position over the ball puts a good ball in towards the far post area the ball standing up in the breeze is headed goalwards by Griffiths blocked at close range the ball drops to the floor inside the six yard box Rachel Casey with a snap shot again blocked.
Tavern are enjoying a good spell of possession inside the Fakenham half Hart-Copsey winning a corner, delivered into the near post the ball is headed up onto the roof of the net a 2nd corner kick given, a longer effort this time, Maddie Smith getting it away for Fakenham. Tavern are ready to spring an attack whenever they regain the ball in the middle, Fuller has a good range of passing ability, plays the ball on for Kean central she tries to release Hart-Copsey early on the left side, Merin covering the ground well to get across and put in the tackle.
Websdale committing a foul wide left another chance for Tavern to play the ball into their area from a set-piece Fuller sending the ball high into the box, Merin gets her head on it to clear for Fakenham. Fakenham make a switch midway through the 1st half Smith coming off, replaced by Anna Palomino. Merin is busy in defence for Fakenham closing down to regain possession.
The goalkeepers for both sides have had relatively little to do so far in the match, Easter called into action pulls off a superb double save to deny Tavern the opening goal of the game. Tavern build well players coming forwards through the middle with Hart-Copsey on the ball down the left squares the ball inside towards Kean 25 yards out from goal she helps it on to Fuller coming in central she sets herself for the shot making good contact the ball racing in towards goal, Easter is right behind it but needs to get down sharply to block, stopping Fuller’s strike the ball is loose and Kean racing in on the follow-up is first to it tries to open her body up to place the ball wide of the keeper, but can’t Easter with the double block.
Smith returns to the field for Fakenham with Betts coming off. Fakenham push forwards Riches with Sands right side the ball into the area headed away for a throw on the right. Bailey defends well for Tavern up against King as she looks to power her way into the area. Tavern get Fuller onto the ball she spins putting the ball out to Hart-Copsey, her early cross laid in towards the top of the Fakenham area cut out by Merin.
GOAL! 35 minutes played and the deadlock is broken Fakenham taking the lead the goal coming from a set-piece given away as Kayleigh Robb is brought down as she carries the ball forwards on the left. Smith to take, 30 yards out to the left of the Tavern goal she strikes it well sending the ball high into the area a little wind assist no doubt helping as the ball drops over the keeper to land inside the side netting 1-0.
Fakenham regain possession from the restart the ball played up the line right side by Websdale on for King who carries the ball on to the byline before cutting a cross back into the Tavern area running long for Robb coming in from the left she doesn’t get the ball under control to strike it 1st time allows the Tavern defence to get away for a throw on the left Fakenham press late on the ball put into towards the near post with King lurking, a touch taking it wide of goal the corner given again swung in near post Gibbons takes command of the situation coming to claim the ball.
Easter with another important save right at the end of the first half comes out bravely to the edge of her box to slide in and claim the ball at Kean’s feet as she looks to get onto Hart-Copsey’s cross put in from the left.
Half-time Fakenham Town Ladies 1-0 Tavern Ladies
An intriguing first half which sees Fakenham take a narrow lead into the dressing room. Could very easily have been the other way around. Clear cut chances at a premium, defences working hard. King causing all sorts of problems for the Tavern back line not playing off any single defender. Tavern attacking with purpose and pace whenever they can. Easter denying them the lead themselves all poised for the 2nd period.
Tavern to get the ball rolling for the 2nd half. The sun has broken up the clouds warmer now and with it the breeze that was prevalent first half has disappeared. It’s Gibbons called into action with a spectacular save in the opening minutes as her side lose the ball is fed into King breaking clear left of the box she aims to shot across the Tavern keeper, Gibbons throwing herself down to the left to push the ball away from goal.
Hart-Copsey operating on the right wing for Tavern now likes to get the ball at her feet and take on players a strong run on the wing she vents her frustration as her final ball from the corner of the area is sliced behind the goal. A busy start to the 2nd half Easter has to come and claim the ball low as it is pinged forwards for Kean to chase, never really gets control of the bouncing ball which enables the keeper to save.
Tavern build through the middle Bell onto Griffiths her past long finds Hart-Copsey wide right a terrific cross fired in across the face of the Fakenham goal, excellent defending from Merin at the far post to get the ball away from danger.
GOAL! End to end action at the start of the 2nd half Tavern are hit on the counter attack as Fakenham double their lead the ball deflected forwards in the middle sees Codman running free in behind the visitors defence, seeing it down over her shoulder, 25 yards from goal the advancing goalkeeper in her sights she sends the lob over her and runs away in celebration as the ball bounces into the back of the net 2-0. 53 minutes played.
Fakenham have their tails up bringing the ball forwards King is played in left of the D she moves across looking for an opening to shoot, taking to long Allum steps in to make the tackle out to Lincoln who sends the ball on for Fuller, Danskanen in to win the ball back for Fakenham. Lesha Bagura enters the game for Tavern moving into a forward position Head coming off. Gibbons catching the ball as Websdale shoots from all of 30 yards out the ball played into her by Riches.
GOAL! Fakenham capitalise to get themselves a bigger lead another goal coming about from a counter attack, Tavern having won a corner Fakenham win the ball come forwards with Dankskanen she times her through ball from the right side perfectly for King in the centre running clear Gibbons comes racing out to the edge of her area sliding in as King pulls the trigger the ball past her as striker and goalkeeper collide, racing back the Tavern defence can’t reach the rolling ball in time as it crosses the line 3-0.
A delay in play as Gibbons is hurt are the coming together accidental but painful the goalkeeper sadly can’t continue has a nasty black eye for her efforts, walking off the pitch however, Head is the player volunteering to done the goalkeepers gloves for the remainder of the game. Sands comes across to make the tackle on Griffiths as Hart-Copsey attempts to slide a pass into her from the right as she makes a central run.
Tavern get the ball forwards on the right Hart-Copsey linking up with Bagura wins a corner on the right played long into the area Lincoln up from the back the target, Smith getting close and heading the ball away for Fakenham. Sophie Anderson is on for Websdale for Fakenham the ball with her on the right moving deep she wins a throw-in. Play stretched now Tavern losing their shape a little Fakenham full of confidence press forwards. Dankskanen winning the ball right slid forwards for King her snapshot from 25 yards out charged down by Lincoln. King nips in ahead of the Tavern defence stabbing a shot over the bar as she is alert to Robb’s ball in from the right as she brings it forwards down the left.
GOAL! Fakenham go further in front as King nips in to score her 2nd of the game, the build up on the right, Dankskanen isn’t closed down as she picks her past slipping the ball in behind the Tavern back line as King supplies the run coming towards her spins into the path of the ball and right of the target sends her shot across goal into the far corner 2-0.
Tavern frustrated nevertheless press on Hart-Copsey with a good run on the right wins her side a corner in towards the near post, Fakenham have it covered concede a 2nd corner this one goes longer, Smith clearing back to the corner taker, Hart-Copsey lines up a ball into the box, it’s Merin who clears with the header for the home side this time.
King with a chance for an opening day hat-trick almost a carbon copy of the previous goal Dankskanen playing her in on the right inside the box she takes on the shot drags this one wide across the face of goal. Tavern win themselves a corner on the right the ball played back out to Hart-Copsey sends a driven cross back into the congested area cleared falls straight to Bell 20 yards out right of the D doesn’t get a clean connect sends her attempt wide of the target.
A snap shot struck on the half-volley by Kean from the edge of the Fakenham box as the visitors push forwards on the left the diagonal ball is fired in low towards the area Palomino first to it sends her clearance straight at the on rushing Tavern attacker a good improvised effort loops over the crossbar. The game open now Fakenham break Robb putting a pass out to King drifting free on the right, swings a cross into the area, Anderson near post, Sands central the ball falls between them Allum able to get her head on it to clear for Tavern.
Codman picks up a knock for Fakenham comes off the field with Websdale heading back on. Fuller with a quality strike from the top left corner off the area comes within a lick of paint of pulling a goal back for Tavern the ball cut back across the area towards her from the byline her strike racing across the diving Easter comes back off the base of the far post. Fakenham with a free-kick wide left players go forwards into the area Sands over the ball the delivery long towards the far post a header comes in the ball though driven behind off target.
Robb with a powerful run on the ball down the left, can’t shake off Bailey as she tries to get inside her the defender lunging in to win the ball. Betts comes back on to replace Robb the game entering the final minutes. Fuller with a terrific ball forwards for Hart-Copsey on the right wing clear she sweeps in a cross looking for Kean closing in far post, Merin up against her with another top draw defensive tackle to prevent a shot coming in.
Even as I’m writing that attacking move down Fakenham are on the counter attack the ball out right fired in across the face of the Tavern goal Anderson closing in on the far post 2 yards out is tackled Bailey I think the ball behind for a corner. Tavern defend the set-piece. All Fakenham in the closing moments Bailey with a last ditch tackle inside the box denies Anderson a shot on goal as she makes a run to the right. The corner conceded playing in from the right isn’t cleared inside the area Fakenham can’t get a shot away Tavern scramble the ball away.
Full time Fakenham Town Ladies 4-0 Tavern Ladies
The final whistle blows and Fakenham Town Ladies celebrate with an opening day victory. 4-0 the final score finishing the game stronger capitalising with an early goal 2nd half to double their lead quickly became 3-0 and from their looked to have the 3 points in the bag. Tavern had their chances however and the first half might well have been the side leading themselves. Fakenham were the stronger side in the 2nd period took their goals well. Tavern had chances and on another day they would have capitalised themselves, a disappointing defeat nonetheless to begin their season need to and can bounce back, certainly have the ability. After a couple of difficult season’s this is a very welcome result for Fakenham and one that will do wonders for team spirit.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Time to pick this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. Sometimes they are difficult sometimes they are easy, today’s is the latter. The notes will usually reveal a contender or two but sometimes a stand out performer will present themselves long before that and right from her first interception Fakenham Town Ladies centreback Laura Merin put herself forwards. On numerous occasions she was the defender making that interception, winning the header or last ditch tackle.
A good contest to begin the county league season, another example of why I’ve fallen in love with the grassroots game, just makes choosing which one to go to next all the harder. My thanks as always to both sides for their help with the team details.