Sunday 27th August
FAWNL Cup Determining Round
Sadly it wasn’t to be for our Lionesses, losing 1-0 to Spain in last Sunday’s Women’s World Cup Final. Nevertheless they have inspired the nation and the future most definitely looks bright for the game across the nation.
Back on my travels this weekend to take in a game from the now traditional Determining Round of the FAWNL Cup, the sides representing tiers 3 and 4 of the women’s football pyramid drawn together with the winning sides going on to contest the League Cup itself with the losing teams going into the League Plate competition. Cambridge United WFC getting their season underway at home taking on fellow Division One South side, Norwich City Women.
The FAWNL gets stronger season upon season as the talent base grows and the clubs competing in it are needing to grow too. Cambridge United WFC and Norwich City Women both long established at this level are now enjoying closer ties with their respective men’s clubs to enable players to enjoy better facilities and support along with enhancing the player development pathways and ultimately challenge for the league title itself.
Cambridge United WFC establishing a women’s board within Cambridge United FC itself, benefitting from playing a number of games at the League One sides Abbey Stadium. Regaining the Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup as well as the Development side winning last season’s Junior Invitation Cup the club has been busy recruiting new faces over the close season adding depth to squad. Midfielder, Fran Steele joins having been with local rivals Cambridge City Ladies previously vastly experienced a strong presence in the middle of the park. Also joining from City is defender Bronwyn Mulheron recovered now after suffering a dislocated knee last season.
Zoe Wood (formerly Cross) an ex-England youth international comes back into football with Cambridge after most recently featuring for Lewes in the Championship. Another defender joining with plenty of experience is Jess Morley who has spent the last couple of seasons with Wroxham FC Women in the ERWFL Premier Division. Mistie Fox-Barker is another defensive option joining the squad having been with Royston Town Women in the ERWFL Premier Division. Brooke Cheal-Ferris again adds good playing experience to the squad with Wymondham Town Ladies amongst her previous clubs. While in attack striker Annie Posnett will be looking to make an impact having finished joint top scorer with St Ives Town Ladies in ERWFL Division One North last season. Sophie Marjoram comes in to provide cover and competition for goalkeeper Lauren Webb. With three players stepping up into the 1st team squad from the Development side, Serena Cobb, Beatrice Rogers and Eleanor Townsend.
Norwich City Women now fully integrated with Norwich City FC itself with ex-Bristol City WFC player Flo Allen joining as General Manager. The women’s side at long last getting the opportunity to play at Carrow Road in front of a record breaking crowd with more matches planned there for next season including their league match against Cambridge United WFC in a fortnights time. Also won the Norfolk Women’s County Cup in front of a record crowd for that competition at Carrow Road last season. That game manager, Shaun Howes last in charge for the club. Martin Herdman form the North East gaining plenty of experience in England and abroad chosen to take on the role as Norwich look to push on from a resurgent campaign last time out that saw the squad pressing the top two for much of the season.
Having retained a strong core with a good blend of youth and experience Norwich have like Cambridge been busy during the close season bringing in new faces, most notably goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill who played an important role in East Anglian rivals Ipswich Town Women’s title challenging campaigns in tier 3 most recently with lots of experience playing at a higher level having been with Norwich several season’s back. Another coming in from Ipswich is U21s player Lauren Hailes. Winger Rachel Lawrence who was at Leicester City for 8 seasons joins from Peterborough United Women. Hope Strauss is another strong addition to the squad the defender most recently with Loughborough Lightning. Striker Shannon Shaw joins Norwich having played for Cambridge City Ladies along with full back Lauren Tomlinson who is now doubt fed up with me mentioning she has one of the longest throws in the women’s game. Norwich opening their season with a late goal in a 2-1 win away to Division One South East newcomers AFC Sudbury Women.
St Neots Town FC’s, Premier Plus Stadium serving as Cambridge United WFC’s regular home for the past couple of season’s, the main grass pitched stadium along side a artificial playing surface beyond. Situated within an ever growing residential development on the outskirts of St Neots with huge potential to grow the fanbase of both Cambridge United’s women’s sides and St Neots Town FC itself. The grass pitch looking perfect at the start of the new season lush and green the main covered stand running along one side of the ground with the changing rooms and clubhouse and bar beneath. Covered terracing behind both goals too. Another overcast but warm afternoon with the threat of an odd down pour forecast during the match.
Cambridge United WFC starting XI – Lauren Webb, Natasha Collins, Rachel Kosky, Abbie Jackson, Beatrice Rodgers, Gisella Otten (C), Fran Steele, Alysha Stojko-Down, Zoe Wood, Ruth Fox & Sarah Wiltshire. Subs – Mayzee Seymour, Jess Morley, Harley Jean-Simpson, Sydnie Naylor & Brooklyn Cheal-Ferris.
Norwich City Women starting XI – Bryony Williams, Alice Parker, Lauren Tomlinson, Ceri Flye, Anna Larkins (C), Katie Knights, Eloise Morran, Megan Todd, Freya Symonds, Olivia Cook & Shannon Shaw. Subs – Millie Daviss, Jodie Drake, Natasha Snelling Hope Strauss & Rachel Lawrence.
Norwich to kick off this afternoon’s cup action wearing the clubs all purple third kit with Cambridge lined up opposite wearing amber coloured shirts with black shorts and socks. The ball played back into Ceri Flye in defence puts the pass out to the right to be launched up the wing, Natasha Collins getting her head on the ball to clear for Cambridge.
Norwich rush in to close the ball down in the middle of the park as Alysha Stojko-Down squeezes a ball out to Zoe Wood on the left wing, looking to take it on, Megan Todd tracking back for Norwich to dispossess her. The visitors getting into Cambridge early looking to win the ball high, the ball lifted over the top into the right channel with Freya Symonds chasing the ball down before putting a low ball in across goal, Cambridge goalkeeper down quickly to get hold of the ball with Shannon Shaw chasing in far post.
The ball hotly contested in midfield Fran Steele coming up to Alysha Stojko-Down as she battles for possession, fouled Cambridge take the free-kick quickly played out to Wood on the left turns inside before sending an ambitious pass out to the right looking for the run of Ruth Fox, Norwich win it back Alice parker sending it on up the left for Lauren Tomlinson to take on down the line sending a cross in central the ball cleared by Cambridge defender, Abbie Jackson.
Katie Knights and Eloise Morran pressing the ball inside the Cambridge half a good contest developing between Knights and Steele a free-kick given away out deep on the right players up to the top of the area as Parker floats the ball high into the box, appeals as a Norwich player goes down, but waved away. Norwich spreading the ball about the pitch going left to right looking to stretch Cambridge inside their own half. Olivia Cook racing into the left channel with the ball is tracked well by Cambridge’s Beatrice Rodgers the defender getting a toe on the ball to take it out for a throw in the corner.
GOAL! The opening goal comes as Norwich exploit the space left on their right as Rachel Kosky looks to get on in support of Wood up the left the ball taken on into the gap open on the right by Todd. crossed into the box, not dealt with Larkins sending it back in for Shaw who turns to slot it past the keeper at close range to score her first Norwich goal 0-1.
Cambridge falling behind inside the opening 10 minutes looking for a response press the ball Stojko-Down into Wood, closed down by Larkins. Getting hold of the ball on halfway Todd with a powerful run driving into the middle, on towards the box eventually challenged by Rodgers, the hosts attempt to counter the ball played out to Kosky advancing on the left forwards for Sarah Wiltshire coming out to the left, Flye racing across to lunge in take the ball off her for the throw in.
Tomlinson getting on well for Norwich on the left dinking a deft ball over the top for Olivia Cook in attack for Norwich coming central, Jackson does well to get back on her to get a foot in take the ball away from her before she can attempt a strike. Cambridge captain, Gisela Otten with a good turn on the ball sending a great pass forwards into Wiltshire 25 yards out from goal, bringing the ball down she turns and shoots the strike held comfortably by Bryony Williams in the Norwich goal.
The heavens open up for a brief but steady shower as Norwich continues to get after the ball put Cambridge under pressure the hosts guilty of giving the ball away a little disjointed at the back Norwich prepared to bring players on, Wood and Kosky looking to combine on the left wing for Cambridge the ball sent on for Wiltshire pulling out wide but as before Flye goes out with her to snuff out the ball.
Knights with Morran in the middle for Norwich playing the ball on for Shaw and Cook up top moving to the right corner of the area exchange passes before sending a dangerous cross racing across the top of the six yard box, Symonds racing in far post not quite able to reach it to deflect it home. Wood taking the ball inside lifts the pass out t Fox on the right gets her head on the ball to push it up for Wiltshire closing down the right channel looking to get the ball under control take it on into the area, Flye gets across her to win the ball back for Norwich.
No advantage play brought back for the free-kick on half way after Todd pulls Wood’s shirt, Jackson to send the ball forwards Norwich win the header, the game competitive with Norwich getting numbers forwards better pressuring Cambridge into some rushed passes presenting the ball back to their opponents. Knights with the pass to release Tomlinson on the left delivers a high cross into the near post, plucked down well by Webb.
Cambridge trying to get the ball into their attacking players a pass fed on for Wiltshire in attack right side looks to flick it over her shoulder spin in behind her marker, Flye though reads it giving herself room to stretch a leg out knock the ball out of Wiltshire’s path. Morran winning the ball from Wood in the middle lifts it forwards into Shaw, looking to chase it down Rodgers going with her the defender getting a toe on the ball to take it out for a throw in the corner. Cambridge struggle to get the ball out of their area as Norwich push numbers on flashed in from the left, Cook throws a leg out inside the six yard box, can’t quite connect.
Norwich winning the ball inside the Cambridge half Symonds central releasing Todd on the right taking the ball on Symonds making a run inside the box to the near post Todd cross just behind her still manages to play it back for Knights positioned top of the area to the right of the D stabs her effort wide. Fox has had to be patient on the right old position ready to receive the ball, fed on well by Collins the attacker drives on for the by-line looking to cross Parker getting back on her defending the ball coming off Fox for the goal kick.
Jackson with a strong tackle at the back for Cambridge to beat Shaw to the ball after Cambridge lose the ball in the middle, the game scrappy and feisty at times Norwich frustrating Cambridge with some good duels all over the park. Wood latching onto a clearance from Williams shifting inside from 30 yards out to shoot can only pick out the goalkeeper with her effort.
Cambridge getting players forwards better pushing on the right Fox winning her side a corner players coming forwards the delivery over Jackson at the near post cleared back out of the area to the right, Steele latching onto the shot hit hard, Shaw in the way more than anything else making the block, will feel that one.
Cambridge caught out in possession high up the pitch Norwich quick to turn play around the ball fired forwards into Shaw looking to run in behind the defence, Jackson just getting there ahead of her to toe the ball back into the box for Webb to clear. Flye is reading the game excellently at the back for Norwich getting into some great positions to win the ball strong as she gets ahead of Wiltshire to win the ball as Wood and Kosky look to link on the left.
GOAL! And from that attack Flye leads the charge to set Norwich on their way to double the lead taking the ball on all the way to halfway the centre back sends the ball through for Cook racing into the gap open on the right and swings a low and fast cross into the six yard box for Shaw to drive onto and send home for her 2nd of the match 0-2.
Norwich doubling their lead late in the first half exploiting the space left at the back by Cambridge. The hosts battling for the ball in the middle Steele on for Stojko-Down plays the pass out to the right for Fox looking to combine with Wiltshire, Parker does well at the back to knock the ball out of play for a throw.
Norwich comfortable at the back the ball out to Larkins on the right brings it on lifting the ball on for Cook central looking to charge forwards to attack, Rodgers has half a yard on the attacker vital as she stretches for the ball getting it back to her keeper. Otten winning the ball for Cambridge played on for Stojko-Down out to Fox wide right up the line sends it inside for Wilshire to strike on the angle in low saved by Williams.
Cambridge applying a little pressure back on Fox combining with Wiltshire as they look to chase down the keeper as Williams looks to clear a back pass cleared straight to Collins the full back looks to shoot from distance as defenders rush back into the area, the shot though put straight into Williams who has quick recovered her positioning.
Steele threading the ball through the middle into Stojko-Down outside the area is tackled by Morran before she can adjust to shoot. Cambridge pressing late in the half getting players on Norwich ready to spring the counter.
Half-time Cambridge United WFC 0-2 Norwich City Women
Norwich leading 2 nil at the break, and good value for it too getting on the front foot committing players forwards have pressed Cambridge high leading to some unforced errors and have exploited the space left exposed at the back to full advantage scoring both goals spreading play while not allowing themselves to be exposed at the other end. The visitors with a competitive 90 minutes under their belts looking to have settled quickly under their new manager. Cambridge with several new signings looking a little disjointed in the first half have work to do if they are to turn the game around second half.
Neither side making a change at the break as Cambridge get the 2nd period underway the ball played back into the defence Norwich rush forwards to put the ball under pressure straight away leading to the ball being given away, Shaw puling out wide right whipping a cross into the near post, Otten back to head clear for Cambridge.
The visitors with a high tempo start to the 2nd half won by Knights inside the Cambridge half on for Symonds taking it on into the left channel plays it forwards into Shaw pulling left of goal smashes in an angled drive low to the near post, Webb down smartly to make the save turn the ball behind for the corner kick. Whipped in high from the left, Webb does well to get a glancing fist on the ball take it away to the left, the ball is returned with interest smashing down off the ball before being scrabbled out of the box, Morran onto it left of the D 20 yards does get a clean connection the ball angling wide of the right post caught by Webb.
Kosky advancing with the ball down the left for Cambridge playing it inside for Wiltshire outside the D, turns but Parker is there to stretch a leg out take the ball from her. Parker’s turn to bring the ball out of defence for Norwich finding Symonds well as she makes a run into the right channel, Jackson defending well up against her for Cambridge. Tomlinson races on down Norwich’s left after winning the ball high her cross snuffed out by Rodgers.
Cambridge looking to get forwards risk the counter as Parker gets hold of the ball for Norwich finds Symonds on the move wide left whips a cross out to Cook on the right puts in infield for Todd who in turn finds Knights inside the D, Rodgers quickly in to close her down prevent the shot for Cambridge. Stojko-Down sending the ball through to Wiltshire and Fox up top looking to link up get in behind Flye gets in to tackle wins the ball back well for Norwich.
Both sides making their first change with 10 minutes of the 2nd half played, Cambridge bringing on new sighing Jess Morley for her debut after Rodgers picks up a knock at the back. Norwich bringing on Natasha Snelling to replace Cook in attack. Norwich pushing up getting a throw high on the left cleared by the Cambridge defence, the visitors quickly have it back with Symonds strong on the left driving into the corner sending a low ball into the box Webb down to claim it.
GOAL! Snelling making an instant impact from the bench as she scores Norwich’s 3rd. The visitors on the attack on the left with Tomlinson powering on with the ball sending a cross into the six yard box Shaw going for it close on the keeper not quite getting there instead deflecting the ball wide into Snelling’s path to smash home at the far post 0-3.
Norwich making a change straight after the third goal bringing off Tomlinson and sending on another of their new signings, Hope Strauss. A hammer blow for Cambridge as they look to get themselves back into the match now with a mountain to climb pressing on a caught on the counter with Parker sending the ball long on the left for Shaw to attack, Morley needing to get across to slide in take the ball out for the throw.
The cross claimed by Webb off the throw, Norwich make another change bringing off Shaw in attack as they bring on another of their new signings Rachel Lawrence. Norwich on top pressing on in attack the ball whipped into the box from the left, Webb going to claim it getting the decision as she is caught by Todd sticking a leg out trying to reach the ball. Cambridge making another change as they bring off Otten to be replaced by Mayzee Seymour.
Symonds getting forwards well from the middle for Norwich bursting into the left channel flashing a cross in near post Kosky racing across to head the ball away to safety. Stojko-Down staggered as she is shown a yellow card having been on the receiving end of a number of strong challenges throughout the game. Parker follows close behind as she goes into the referees book. Norwich make a change bringing off 16-year-old Morran to be replaced by Millie Daviss.
Cambridge winning a free-kick deep on the right, Jackson to send it in Stojko-Down with the lay back into Wood to dink over the top into the area for Wilshire to attack, Williams though out well to gab hold of the ball first. Norwich finding pockets of space out wide Lawrence attacking left sending a ball into the box met near side by Knights her shot saved well by Webb getting down to the floor quickly to smother.
Norwich looking sharp as the game moves into the final 15 minutes, Cambridge making a change bringing on another of their new signings Brooklyn Cheal-Ferris for Collins. Daviss blasts wide after winning a tackle on Stojko-Down. The visitors making another change bringing in bringing on Jodie Drake to replace Symonds. Wiltshire has been closely marked up top throughout for Cambridge always looking for an opportunity however pulls away to the left breaking into the channel with the ball at her feet is frustrated as she is adjudged to have fouled Flye as she closes her down to try and regain possession.
Norwich’s turn to get a little sloppy in possession late in the game Cambridge pressing looking to get something from the game Wood winning a free kick high on the left inside her opponents half more or less a corner players up the ball instead played short to Wood outside the box to the left blasted a shot in towards goal stings the goalkeepers hands Williams reacting sharply gloving the ball up into the air, Todd beside her with a strong headed clearance.
Cambridge attacking right Wiltshire on with the ball into Seymour played back into the middle for Wood, Knights sliding in to tackle win the ball back.
GOAL! With Cambridge committing players forwards they are caught on the counter the ball given away played through the middle on for Lawrence breaking through the middle to attack the box the defence back peddling puts the ball out to Drake bursting on right of the area to hit a low drive across the keeper and into the bottom corner 0-4.
7 minutes of regular time left Norwich in control of the tie Cambridge hurting looking for a reply Fox strong to get the ball down on the right sending a cross into the area cleared by Flye for Norwich.
GOAL! 4 quickly becomes 5, Drake getting onto the ball in the middle for Norwich sending a fantastic ball on to pick out Lawrence breaking clear wide on the left bursting forwards fires a vicious cross into the six yard box giving Webb no chance as Snelling comes sliding in turn the ball over the line for her 2nd of the game 0-5.
Norwich break to send the back home for what they think is a 6th goal with Snelling playing the ball out to Todd right before she breaks into the box Todd sends the cross in to the near post Snelling throwing herself at it to volley the ball high into the net but she’s denied a hat-trick by a raised offside flag. Cambridge get onto the ball central played on for Seymour up top to attack the area in a race with Flye as Williams comes rushing out the keeper colliding with the pair nevertheless laying claim the the ball.
Cambridge fighting to the end Stojko-Down on for Wiltshire tries to knock it down for Fox rushing on behind her central but the move doesn’t quite come off. Wood advancing on the left whipping a high ball into the area Williams confidently claiming it. Norwich ready to pounce in attack as Cambridge lose the ball lifted on for Snelling outside the area left of the D drags her shot wide of the near post. The visitors determined to keep a clean sheet as the game moves into the dying seconds Williams rushing out of her area to clear a hopeful ball over the top.
Full time Cambridge United WFC 0-5 Norwich City Women
Norwich through to the League Cup proper with a convincing 5-0 win over Cambridge who now go into the League Plate competition. A strong performance from Norwich, coach Martin Herdman must be pleased with his sides performance, asked for attacking flowing football and they certainly delivered today getting after the ball committing players forwards and in turn forcing errors from their opponents while remaining solid at the back. A few thing’s to work on so he can keep the squad on the ground but a pleasing start. Cambridge with plenty to work on when they return to the training pitch, a disappointing loss but overall not the end of the world several new faces to bed it and manager Darren Marjoram hasn’t had a full squad to work with during pre-season will take a little time for everyone to gel, but will be looking for a response heading into their league campaign.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto today’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match and unlike last time out this one is a tough one with several contenders. A few performances to mention. A difficult day for Cambridge however under pressure at times defenders Beatrice Rodgers and Abbie Jackson put in a number of vital tackles. Zoe Wood looked to make thing’s happen with the ball at her feet, with Alysha Stojko-Down playing some good balls on into the attackers. Norwich were strong all over the park, Freya Symonds got about the pitch well getting into some great positions to receive and take the ball on. Likewise Katie Knights and Eloise Morran were strong in the middle. Natasha Snelling with an instant impact from the bench coming on to score a brace. Alice Parker and Ceri Flye strong in defence. The line led well by Olivia Cook and Shannon Shaw who narrowly clinches it for me from the off getting after the Cambridge defence opening her Norwich account with a 1st half brace that set Norwich on the path to victory, provided great runs throughout.
An exciting encounter form the Determining Round of the FAWNL Cup, provides plenty of drama without ultimately giving much away to the outcome of either competition now it begins in earnest and both sides will want to do well. A good day out at St Neots getting used to the new car and it will be clocking up plenty of miles. Thanks to both teams for their help today and good luck with the competition going forwards.
by Darren Gilham