Wednesday 30th March
FAWNL South East Division One
A midweek trip to St Neots Town FC for a game under the lights from FAWNL South East Division One with Cambridge United WFC taking on Stevenage FC Women.
A big game for both with Stevenage FC Women in the relegation zone giving themselves a fighting chance picking up vital points at the close end of the season away to 7th place Cambridge United WFC who have lost there last 3 in the league to keep them a little too close to the scrap at the bottom for comfort.
Cambridge though know that a win changes everything, sees them comfortable in mid-table clear of what is likely a scrap at the bottom that will go all the way to the wire. Consistency has been a problem for Cambridge all season have assembled a decent squad who are more than capable on their day. Have had a few off days however that is proving a quandary, a run of 3 straight defeats taking the gloss off their season, looking well clear of the danger zone the points tally drying up whilst those below have picked up some vital wins against each other has seen the gap close to just 5 points. Have a number of players out through illness and injury including captain, Laura Baker and full back Carrie Bennett with a further 4 first team players missing. That though a great opportunity for those amongst the squad to put on a performance.
Stevenage FC Women were looking dead and buried adrift 2nd bottom on the FAWNL South East Division One table just over 5 weeks ago 3 wins against their relegation rivals with 9 points collected from 12 has seen them push themselves back up amongst the competition moving onto 18 points taking them to within 3 points of possible safety. 3 games left to play Stevenage’s end of season for could yet pull them to safety. That good form also seeing Stevenage regain the Hertfordshire County Cup 10 days ago.
Both Cambridge and Stevenage suffering 4-0 home losses at the weekend against the Essex sides vying for the title, Billericay Town Women and Hashtag United Women.
St Neots Town FC’s Premier Plus Stadium the venue for this evenings game. The rain forecast coming later in the day and not as much as predicted meaning the game wasn’t in danger of getting called off as was the case after heavy rain a 3 weeks ago for Cambridge derby. Light rain falling as I arrived at the ground but that would clear. The temperature dropping sharply however with a return to wintery conditions after what has been a relative heat wave at the start of the week. The grass pitch offering plenty off width.
Cambridge United WFC starting XI – Lauren Webb, Anna Re, Abbi Griffin, Rachel Kosky, Lauren Rouse, Faith Hewitt, Gisella Otten (C), Emma Jenkins, Abi Davies, Laura Mitchell & Ruth Fox. Subs – Kira Markwell, Kayleigh-Anne Burt, Ella Marden, Charlotte Crisp & Nicole Emmings.
Stevenage FC Women starting XI – Tea Oldroyd, Lucy Webster (C), Hannah Nebbitt, Vicky Neal, Chloe Gunn, Shianne Swarres, Holly Greenwood, Jodie Bellinger, Kate French, Emily Schofield & Amy Makewell. Subs – Shakeela Hussain, Jodie Southby, Dionne Manning, Poppy Bennett & Louise Godden
It’s Stevenage to get this evening encounter underway kicking off the 1st half, wearing white shirts with red sleeves, red shorts and socks with Cambridge opposite line up wearing amber coloured shirts with black shorts an socks. The ball played back to the defence sent long out to the right wing, players racing forward, Emma Jenkins getting hold of it for Cambridge, moves forwards, Amy Makewell closing down tackling to win the ball back for Stevenage lays it out wide right for Jodie Bellinger on the flank, turns inside reaching the area before putting her foot through the ball, her attempt blocked by Cambridge’s Abbi Griffin going out for a throw.
Stevenage pushing forwards at the start of the game looking to take the game to Cambridge, keeping the hosts pinned back in their own half. Laura Mitchell taking the ball on for Cambridge powering forwards on the left moves inside getting all the way top the top of the box before Chloe Gunn gets across her well to defend able to shield the ball as goalkeeper, Tea Oldroyd comes to claim dropping to smother the ball. Both full backs for Stevenage looking to get on in support on the wings, captain Lucy Webster on the right, Hannah Nebbitt on the left a throw won high on the left the ball lifted on into the box, Emily Schofield up at the near post with a glancing header aiming to send it on, Rachel Kosky cutting it out at the back for Cambridge, a recent addition to the squad clearing the ball into midfield.
A tussle in the middle of the park, saw Shianne Swarres tackling and breaking up play at the Hertfordshire County Cup final, is playing in the same vein this evening and with Cambridge’s Gisella Otten captaining the side this evening in the middle too it will be an interesting contest to watch. The ball fed to Abi Davies right side she plays it inside for attacker Ruth Fox her foot up attempting to bring the ball down as a Stevenage player stoops into the header caught the decision going Stevenage’s way a free-kick on half way. Webster putting the ball in towards the top of the box, won and cleared by Otten.
Both sides not settled yet play bitty at times as passes are rushed, the opposition closing each other down the ball toing and froing between defences. Swarres digging the ball out from under her feet on halfway clipping a great ball forwards for Bellinger to attacker running clear. Lauren Webb with a good starting position quickly out to the top of her area to scoop the ball up into her gloves. Otten in midfield out to Davies right played up into Fox she turns looking to take on the defence, Vicky Neal close at hand to get her foot on the ball take it away from her.
A positive break for Cambridge on the left Jenkins winning it short to Fox with Laura Mitchell to her right taking it on up the wing, riding a Swarres tackle continues her run, Amy Makewell tracking back well for Stevenage catching Mitchell, tackling to halt the attack. Kosky dealing with the threat at the back as Holly Greenwood lifts a ball onto Schofield up top coming through the centre. Nebbitt up with Kate French on the left a free-kick won deep as good as a corner, plenty packed into the area in front of goal the ball floated into the mix the referee spotting an infringement however Cambridge have the free-kick.
A strong run on the ball from Schofield for Stevenage through the middle lifting it on into the box with the outside of her boot, won back by Kosky. Good pressure applied by Stevenage going forwards finding their rhythm quicker than Cambridge. Griffin able to get on with the ball on the left for Cambridge with Jenkins crossed in the clearance won back in the middle, clipped back up to the top of the area Neal heading it away, Cambridge snapping at the ball getting it back on over the top but play halted by a raised flag.
Nebbitt attacking on the left delivering a high cross in towards the near post, watched well by Webb at her near post, taking the catch. Webster up on the right with Bellinger off a throw the a great cross flashed through the six yard box players attacking far post, none getting a telling touch. Stevenage strong on the left getting on well, Anna Re stepping in with the tackle getting hold of the ball for Cambridge on for Davies puts it long looking for Fox, too much though as Oldroyd can come out and claim the ball. Davies finding some space on the right flank a good touch seeing her take the ball on up the line before delivering a great cross in towards the neat post Mitchell sliding into the six posting connecting putting the ball wide of the post.
Midway through the 2nd half and it remains a cagey affair with neither side finding a break through, Greenwood with Swarres on up to Schofield up to looking to bring the ball down and turn at attack, Kosky marking backing off giving herself the opportunity to clear the dropping ball. Swarres tackling in the middle threading it through the middle, Kosky composed seeing it back to her keeper as both Schofield and Makewell give chase. Davies carrying a threat on the right for Cambridge with a driving run on the ball before firing an angled strike wide across goal.
Swarres tackling winning possession shifts the ball between her feet letting fly from 20 plus yard out, Lauren Rouse stepping forwards to put in the block for Cambridge. The hosts awarded a free kick 30 yards out to the right of the Stevenage area the delivery long to the far post Jenkins getting her head to the ball. falls straight to the keeper. Cambridge winning the ball high on the left attack the ball squared across the top of the D, Davies, right side a shot driven in along the ground the ball skipping up in front of Oldroyd she gathers cleanly with Fox closing in.
Kosky winning the ball at the back for Cambridge cleared out to the right Davies forwards with support from Fox who takes the ball on fire in ear post Mitchell arriving the ball turned wide of the goal. Greenwood on for Makewell through the centre attempting the through ball for Schofield, Kosky stabbing out a boot to push the ball away from the attacker. Stevenage come on Makewell out for French on the right running down the line wrapping her foot around the ball to cross in looping up swerves over the crossbar. The game livening up towards the end of the 1st half Stevenage getting players up, Fox attacking tries to find Jenkins to her left, Webster in to tackle for Stevenage.
Cambridge in the corner on the left Mitchell back to Jenkins lays the ball in central with Griffin up in an advanced position 20 yards out clips a shot up over the bar. Stevenage come left winning a free-kick 35 yards out. A teasing ball fired into the area sees Webb scrambling across her goal, the ball bouncing wide, a corner awarded much to Cambridge’s consternation. Nebbitt with an inswinging delivery from the right her effort coming back down off the crossbar, Makewell’s snap shot blocked the ball cleared Cambridge break a foul given as play is brought back following no advantage, Stevenage’s turn to be aggravated by a decision. The ball floated up to the top of the area well defended comes out to Schofield on halfway is one on one with only Griffin behind the ball, the full back needing to time her tackle well and does to prevent Schofield getting past to take a run at goal.
Davies taking the ball on well up the right flank whipping a cross into the box Oldroyd up making a spectacular grab to pluck the ball out of the air. Stevenage get on well down the left Nebbitt getting up the pitch to send in a great ball to the near post, Schofield up well twisting her body as she heads the ball, sending her attempt wide across the Cambridge goal.
Half-time Cambridge United WFC 0-0 Stevenage FC Women
The sides head into the changing rooms goalless at the break. An unsettled start from both sides, highly competitive in the middle. Stevenage the quicker to settle having the better of it getting players on down the flanks but haven’t tested Webb as yet Nebbitt’s inswinging corner hitting the bar there closest chance. Cambridge have competed well enough with Davies making some great runs on the right putting in some dangerous ball. Oldroyd like Webb at the other end relatively untroubled however.
Is getting colder by the minute as the sides emerge for the 2nd half a big 45 to come with both wanting the points. No changes as yet Cambridge to get the 2nd period underway the ball lifted long to the left Webster seeing it out for a throw. Kosky at the back on for Mitchell central plays it back to Re on the left forwards down the line for Davies, Nebbitt defending the ball going for a throw. A tentative start to the 2nd half players quick to close the ball down rushing forwards passes.
Mitchell central the hosts breaking with players running on Gunn moving out to deal with the threat on the left as Jenkins looks to take the ball on out for a throw. Mitchell getting hold of the ball running on central Fox ahead of her into the left channel, Mitchell running beyond her making for the box as Fox finds Jenkins on the left to lift a ball into the box, Nebbitt defending on the penalty spot to ensure Mitchell can’t get a touch to turn it goalwards. Neal on Fox left side to see the ball out for a throw in the corner. Cambridge showing more intent in the 2nd half.
Stevenage come away with the ball moving right the crossfield pass well placed picking out French on the move on the left side, Re closing in defending at the top of the area for Cambridge. The sides less cagey no the tempo risen wanting the ball played on quicker my well invite a mistake. A crossfield ball played left to right knocked down well by Davies moving wide her cross deflecting behind off a defender for a corner kick. The ball played in to the top of the area put back to Jenkins out wide, Neal moving out to press Jenkins turning for the by-line digs a cross out the ball cut out at the near post.
Kosky getting across Schofield shields the ball back to Webb as it it put on from midfield. Mitchel attacking on the left tackled by Gunn the ball played up to French advancing on the left driving on into the area, Kosky with a great challenge to deny the shot. An hour played Stevenage make a double change with Jodie Southby and Louise Godden on for Nebbitt and Makewell respectfully. Hewitt in the middle playing the pass on for Davies right down the line checking inside heading for the box lays it back to Hewitt 25 yards out sends a high ball up into the area, Oldroyd up to claim holds onto the ball despite being taken out Gunn marking Fox.
Godden getting back pressing the ball into Swarres moving left on the left up for French wins her side a corner. Everyone lined up beyond the far post the delivery sent into the mix is cleared by Cambridge, play stopped due to a head injury for a Cambridge player. Swarres moving out right slowing down Re as she looks to break with Davies on the wing. Mitchell working form midfield seeing more of the ball for Cambridge almost threads a pass through to Jenkin’s up top, Neal in well to get a foot on the ball. Cambridge with a free-kick out wide left dropping top of the D to Otten on the turn does quite catch the whole of the ball seeing it lack the pace needed to beat Oldroyd as it skips through to goal.
Schofield central playing the pass out to French on the left into the corner works a cross into the area the ball cleared out to the right, Bellinger racing onto it 25 yards out Hewitt there to block as she smashes the ball. Cambridge make their first change with Rouse coming off at the back to be replaced by Kayleigh-Anne Burt returning to the 1st team after a lengthy layoff through injury. Stevenage too making another change Schofield coming off for Dionne Manning. Mitchell travelling with the ball out for Davies to her right looking to go on Southby into her to tackle the ball out for a throw.
20 minutes left to play no side on top yet, Cambridge carrying the threat 2nd half. Hewitt 25 yards out seeing a goal bound attempt blocked. Jenkins with a shot from distance on the left rolling wide. A time out both sides coming over to the benches with Godden needing treatment for Stevenage. Okay to continue Cambridge on the right Fox up with Davies the cross into the area cleared by Neal. Stevenage with a free-kick wide right, cleared for a throw in the corner put back up the line an angled ball lifted into the box, Webb down to claim low at French’s feet as she closes in. A 2nd change for Cambridge, Fox coming off for Nicole Emmings now back at Cambridge after 4 season’s with Stevenage. Shakeela Hussain also on for Stevenage in place of Bellinger.
Into the final 10 minutes, the ball cleared from the Stevenage area is loose there to be won, Jenkins sliding in getting the ball but catching the foot of the Stevenage player attempting to clear coming the other way with her trailing leg. The Cambridge bench unhappy as Jenkins goes into the book. Mitchell attacking right with Davies, Gunn closing in to tackle, Emmings getting the ball back for Cambridge from the right sends a cross along the face of goal Jenkins coming in beyond the back stick unable to get a touch, the ball cleared into the middle Hewitt latching onto it 25 yards out sending a shot back in the effort blocked. Players down for Stevenage seeing a pause in play.
Hewitt on for Otten through the middle for Cambridge onto Jenkins left channel, Swarres back to tackle for the visitors. The ball lifted forwards Godden peeling left attacking is halted by Burt. Jenkins on the ball left checking inside, closed down ends up committing a foul, called over by the referee is in trouble having only been booked minutes before as players scuffle beyond her. That broken up before the 2nd yellow card is issued and Jenkins is sent off Cambridge finishing the game with 10. No advantage for Stevenage however as they themselves are forced down to 10 with Webster needing to come off.
Stevenage send everyone up into the box as they are awarded a free-kick wide left the clock ticking down one last push to fin a winning goal. In the end the high ball in is an easy claim for Webb. Godden getting on with the ball coming inside left, is tackled by Burt before she can reach the area. The hosts looking a little nervous as they drop back in the closing stages not wanting to concede. Burt fouled this time as Stevenage get the ball into Godden. Stevenage breaking in stoppage time the ball right into Godden sending on into the area, Webb rushing out to slide in to claim the ball in the nick of time, the offside flag up in any case.
Southby out left defending against Davies as she brings the ball on for Cambridge. Stevenage want to get forwards an altercation on the left seeing a free-kick awarded, Neal going into the book for voicing her opinion about a decision. A high ball into the Cambridge box defended seen out for a throw. The final whistle blowing the honours even.
Full time Cambridge United WFC 0-0 Stevenage FC Women
The points shared in the finish and overall a fair result a late winner for either would have been welcome but looked increasingly unlikely. Cambridge with the better of the 2nd period taking the game to Stevenage who had few opportunities. Again neither keeper overly tested, promising forward play the final ball not clinical. Cambridge the happier at the end with the clean sheet ending a run of defeats, with 3 left to play and with other results this evening aren’t likely to fall in the drop zone now. As you were in the bottom 4. Kent Football United’s tenure in the FAWNL coming to an end can’t escape now with 4 left to play. Stevenage 11th on 18 points remain 3 points from safety with 2 games left. Enfield Town Ladies in 9th on 21 points drawing with QPR. Stevenage away to Kent Football United before finishing their season at home to QPR can yet get out of trouble.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this evening’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. Is another tough one a battling display from both sides. Performances of note include Shianne Swarres in the middle for Stevenage with a number of tackles to disrupt Cambridge throughout the match. Vicky Neal composed at the back with Emily Schofield carrying a threat in attack. For Cambridge Abi Davies was a constant threat on the right side making a number of daring runs putting she dangerous crosses into the box. Laura Mitchell with the ball, attacking and getting hold of it in the centre in the 2nd half. The award though goes to defender Rachel Kosky. Cambridge’s new defensive signing with and assured and composed performance in defence, reading the game and winning the ball.
A chilly night in St Neots, my own fault for leaving my hat and gloves behind in Norfolk. Successive 0-0, that is a rare occurrence to say the least but defences were on top this evening chances at a premium in a evenly fought contest. My thanks to both sides for the team details and their help, as always appreciated.
by Darren Gilham