Sunday 3rd December
FAWNL South East Division One
Two weeks later than originally advertised heading west into Cambridgeshire to St Neots to watch my final game of 2023, between Cambridge United WFC and Worthing FC Women in FAWNL South East Division One.
A clash between 4th and 5th in the league with Worthing FC Women moving above Cambridge United WFC winning 4-0 at home to Cambridge City Women last weekend. The two clubs enjoying a great first half to the season amongst the chasing pack looking to apply pressure to the leading pair of AFC Wimbledon Women and Norwich City Women going into the new year.
Cambridge United WFC without last season’s top scorer Sarah Wiltshire as she announced she was pregnant with her 3rd child, at the beginning of the campaign, signing off by scoring all 4 goals in Cambridge’s 1st league win of the season. That seeing the management team having to device a new strategy for the season, and so far has paid off playing midfielder Alysha Stojko-Down as a false number 9, scoring 9 goals to date to push Cambridge United WFC into a strong position in the top half of the FAWNL South East Division One table.
Ruth Fox netting 7 goals and Bella Simmons on 6, a run of 3 wins and a draw coming to an end last time out with a narrow 3-2 loss to QPR FC Women. Building a competitive squad the club backed well by Cambridge United FC itself with a number of games to take place at the Abbey Stadium itself. St Neots Town FC’s Premier Plus stadium remains the clubs main home, situated in an ever growing residential area on the outskirts of the town. Winger Charlotte Gillies to most recent player to join their squad often a thorn in United’s side when playing for rival Cambridge City her pace and skill will add to the sides attacking flare.
Worthing FC Women newly promoted to the FAWNL after winning the London & South East Premier Division last season losing just one match along the way. Managed by ex-Lewes FC Women’s manager, John Donohue assisted by Kelly Newton, who is Lewes FC Women’s record appearance holder. The South Coast side the latest addition to a number of clubs sharing rapid growth in the area. Donohue recruiting a strong squad of players from, Lewes itself with FAWNL and Championship experience, such as goalkeeper Lauren Dolbear and captain Rachel Palmer along with some ex-Portsmouth FC Women players, such as Danielle Rowe, Tierney Scott and Samantha Quayle amongst others.
That has seen them hit the ground running as Worthing plays in the 4th tier for the 1st time, winning 5 of their 6 opening league games to put themselves right in contention with the leaders. A slight dip in results seeing them fall back down to 6th before a 4-0 home win over Cambridge City Women saw them leap frog Cambridge United back into 4th. Becki Bath leading the goal scoring charts so far this season netting 13 goals in 12 appearances while Samantha Quayle has 9 goals from 11 games.
St Neots Town FC’s Premier Plus Stadium the venue for today’s match, the way into the stadium seeing an ever growing residential development. The ground very much in the heart of the community the main grass pitch in good condition with plenty of green offering good width. A seated stand on one side housing the changing rooms beneath and clubhouse beside the bar open serving hot and cold drinks. A cup of tea definitely needed a bitter bite to the wind blowing, but a vast improvement on last weeks WET and miserable weather. One more game for 2023, lets go…
Cambridge United WFC starting XI – Lauren Webb, Rachel Kosky, Brooklyn Cheal-Ferris, Lauren Rouse, Abbie Jackson, Gisela Otten (C), Sammy Edgar, Zoe Wood, Ella Marden, Ruth Fox & Alysha Stojko-Down. Subs – Mayzee Seymour, Natasha Collins, Niamh Day, Serena Cobb & Bella Simmons.
Worthing FC Women starting XI – Lauren Dolbear, Katie Young, Rachel Palmer (C), Emma Blakely, Chloe Winchester, Danielle Rowe, Tierney Scott, Chloe Humphrey, Shannon Albuery, Samantha Quayle & Becki Bath. Subs – Rebecca Bell, Niamh Anderson, Izzy Glass-Oliver, Gemma Worsfold & Katie Cooper.
The game rearranged from a fortnight ago, Cambridge ending the year nursing a few knocks with a few missing including midfielder, Fran Steele who has been a strong addition to the side since joining from Cambridge City this season. Gisela Otten captaining Cambridge, Rachel Palmer, Worthing joining the match officials in the middle to decide kick-off. Cambridge to get the 1st half underway wearing amber coloured shirts with black shorts and socks. Worthing in their all blue away strip lined up opposite. The ball rolled back for the midfield to play a ball out to the left with the advancing Ruth Fox the target, Katie Young instead intercepting at the back for Worthing knocked on into the middle for Danielle Rowe lays the diagonal pass out to the right for Chloe Humphrey pushing on, Lauren Rouse across to close her down the ball out for the throw in.
The throw dropped short laid back up the line for Rachel Palmer to send a deep cross in towards the top of the area, Sammy Edgar under it to head clear for Cambridge. The hosts looking to break on the left the ball played on for Fox to attack, Young though is quickly across o kick clear for Worthing.
GOAL! Cambridge win the ball on the right Rachel Kosky getting on up the wing to support Ella Marden the ball crossed into the six yard box, Young getting head head on it to intercept for Worthing, knocks it back out to the right of goal, falls straight to Alysha Stojko-Down and she lashes the ball back in across the face of goal to open the scoring inside the opening two minutes 1-0.
Worthing push players on from the restart looking to recover quickly from their early set back Tierney Scott linking up with Rowe the ball on for Shannon Albuery making a run into the box right side, Rouse getting in the challenge to take the ball away to the touchline. Zoe Wood with quick footwork taking the ball on left for Cambridge knocking it on for Fox chasing in behind taking the ball on to the by-line her cross low to the near post, adjudged to have gone behind before goalkeeper, Lauren Dolbear gets down to it.
Cambridge with a bright start to the game lively on the flanks lose the ball on the left Worthing finding Quayle out on the wing knocks it into Albuery running into the area on the left, evading a couple of defensive challenges before squeezing a shot away on the angle, lacks the power to trouble Cambridge goalkeeper Lauren Webb as she has her angles covered getting down to claim the ball.
Wood causing Worthing a few issues early on is brought down by Quayle the hosts awarded a free-kick. Moments later Scott fouls Cheal-Ferris as the pair tussle for possession. Proving to be a competitive tie between two sides closely placed in the top half of the table. Wood skipping free on the left with a diagonal ball long into the area looking for Stojko-Down, Dolbear can safely come out to lay claim to it. Kosky powering forwards on the right for Cambridge, Emma Blakely coming across to tackle for Worthing halting her run in the corner.
Abbie Jackson with the tackle for Cambridge inside the D, as Albuery seeing the ball into her feet looks to turn into the box. Young on the ball at the back for Worthing time to look up pick her pass sends a dangerous diagonal ball forwards with Humphrey making a run into the area, Kosky tracking back with her the pair tangling, going down, the referee pointing to the spot Penalty! The Cambridge bench furious with the decision. An opportunity for Worthing to level things up from the spot. Bath to take the spot kick, strikes the ball to the left of goal, Webb diving the right way to make a fantastic save her right arm outstretched to push the ball wide of goal behind for a corner kick.
Lifted in high from the left a Cambridge head gets a touch near side but can only help it on into the middle, falls for Blakely, stabs the ball goal wards is trapped between her feet by Jackson in the six yard box before scrambling the ball clear of danger.
Worthing look to build through the middle Rowe on for Albuery, Humphrey entering the area likely to be flagged offside if the ball found it’s way through to her but the Cambridge centre backs close the door on Albuery the ball cleared. Rouse coming across on two occasions to stop Worthing on the left as they threaten to get in behind. Scott lining up a strike from distance, the Worthing midfielders shot not troubling Webb.
Lively in the middle, both sides working hard to close down the ball, Worthing pressing forwards as Cambridge drop off at time to defend their area. Albuery linking up with Zoe Winchester going left, Rouse tackling, Cambridge countering right side Kosky them Marden inside for Stojko-Down 25 yards out looks to play the ball across the top of the D for Fox, can’t quite turn into the shot but keeps the attack alive pushing for the area, Blakely closing her down for Worthing.
Cambridge not happy with the earlier penalty decision only further aggravated as they question other decisions. Wood winning a corner for the hosts on the right Worthing clearing their lines attack through the middle, the ball fired forwards into the area, Rouse not getting hold of it evades her as Bath steals in beyond her, striking the ball, Webb moving forwards to close the angle making the blocking save at close range.
Fox high on the left breaking the ball down well off her chest knocking the ball into the area, Blakely in to block as she shapes to shoot the ball deflected clear. Emotions rising the referee stopping play to have a word with Cambridge manager Darren Marjoram, settling things down… for now. Wood and Fox liking up well on the left the former lifting a long diagonal ball forwards for Marden to attack on the right, Dolbear alert to the danger out to the edge of her area to drop onto the ball.
Worthing have the ball in the back of the net in the 26th minute as Scott free at the back post taps in Quayle’s pass to her from the left as Winchester and Albuery combine top of the area, however it won’t count as the Worthing attack breaking forwards with pace is flagged offside. Cambridge putting themselves under pressure dropping off allowing Worthing to come at them.
Scott shifting the ball well between her feet sending the ball on into the left channel for Quayle, looking to get into the area, Kosky tracking back to tackle the ball deflected back across the D, Albuery rushing in looking to latch onto it, Otten diving in for Cambridge, just about getting to take the ball out of her path.
No advantage, play brought back as Wood is pulled back for Cambridge out on the left inside the Worthing half, players forwards as Cheal-Ferris sends the set-piece angling into the far post attacked, Worthing defending the ball cleared, won back 30 yards out the shot taken struck wide, over the bar (and by bar I mean the stand behind the goal). A pause in play with Dolbear down in the Worthing goal, a chance for the coaches to get instructions to their players.
Scott evading a tackle on the right getting forwards opening up her body attempting to thread a pass into the area for bath to run onto, too close to Webb however the keeper getting her gloves wrapped around the ball. Albuery turning on the ball in the middle sending a clipped pass out to Humphrey wide on the left, Marden tracking back for Cambridge putting in the tackle to clear the threat. Worthing though pushing players on force Cambridge back, Palmer sweeping a deep cross into the area, Fox heading clear for Cambridge.
Worthing winning a free-kick central 25 yards out, Young running in to strike the ball smashes it into Cambridge’s wall. Cambridge attacking on the left Wood laying the ball back for Cheal-Ferris to hit long up towards Fox moving into the area, Blakely instead under it to hook clear for Worthing.
Dolbear miscuing her goal kick putting the ball straight at Fox inside the box to the left of goal looking to control with her head get the ball down to strike, is closed down quickly by the Worthing defence. Moving into the final 5 minutes of the 1st half, pressing Cambridge back Edgar sends the ball back into her keeper coming at Webb with pace the keeper looking to try and adjusted her feet screws her clearances straight into the path of Bath charging in through the middle, the shot though fired straight back into the keeper, Webb falling back grateful to get the ball into her body.
Cambridge’s turn to appeal for a penalty as the ball is rolled in towards Fox inside the box from the right, a heavy challenge but well timed I think the appeals waved away. Cambridge getting a free-kick inside the Worthing half out to the left Cheal-Ferris over it again flighting a ball into the area headed clear, Edgar tackling stopping the visitors from breaking away keeping the pressure on around the area Kosky pushing on to the by-line on the right is closed down by Blakely preventing her from getting a cross into the box.
Winchester out to Albuery moving to left her strike on the angle to the near post saved well by Webb with Quayle bursting forwards looking to attack. Worthing to the attack Rowe to Quayle on for Humphrey left side keeping the ball in play on the by-line laid back to Bath left of the D, her low strike in towards goal blocked by Jackson for Cambridge.
Into stoppage time, Cheal-Ferris and Scott continue to enjoy a lively contest as they look to win the ball the former fouled, the free-kick taken quickly Worthing quick to win it back forwards for Scott on the right lifts a diagonal ball towards the area looking to cut a hole in the Cambridge defence, Jackson coming across, throwing up a leg catching the ball with her heel a vital touch as she deflects the ball away from the advancing Bath into the arms of her keeper.
Stojko-Down bundled over as she looks to bring the ball on through the middle for Cambridge halfway inside the Worthing half. Jackson over it, sends a teasing strike in towards goal bouncing narrowly wide of Dolbear’s right post. Young forwards for Worthing on the right inside for Bath central lays it into Quayle right of the D, Cheal-Ferris close in, Quayle goes down, Cambridge not pleased with the decision a free-kick to Worthing 25 yards out in a dangerous position, Palmer across to take it curls her attempt straight against the wall. Wood looking to break clear on the left for Cambridge, Blakely out well to close her down for Worthing.
Half-time Cambridge United WFC 1-0 Worthing FC Women
Cambridge with the early goal go into the break leading 1-0 at half-time have worked hard for their lead. Defending at the back, dropping off at times inviting pressure. Worthing have gotten forwards well moving the ball across the pitch winning a penalty, seeing the chance to level the scores saved whilst the offside flag has denied them another opportunity. The interval a chance to put a few thing’s right a competitive tie between the sides placed 4th and 5th in the league, set up nicely for the first half.
No changes for either side at the break, the light beginning to fade the floodlights coming on. Worthing to get the 2nd half underway. The ball put out wide, Wood moves in quickly to close it down for Cambridge, the visitors move in to regain possession get on the attack pressing up the left winning a throw high, knocked onto into the Cambridge area, cleared by Rouse. Worthing showing attacking intent at the start of the 2nd period winning a corner on the left, swept in low to the near post defended knocked on across the six yard box cleared by Kosky at the far post.
Worthing looking to impose themselves on the ball, Albuery getting about the park to win the ball. Another corner won on the left, rolled in shot played back to the taker the ball crossed in towards the far post Kosky defending for Cambridge before the shot is struck over on the angle to the right of the box.
Worthing on the charge through the middle Rowe on for Humphrey inside the area, Quayle ahead of her looking to tee her up, Jackson comes in to close her down in the nick of time to clear the ball away from a throw on the left. Worthing making a strong start to the 2nd half keeping Cambridge penned inside their final 3rd winning another corner on the left whipped in across goal the ball cannoning down into the six yard box off the far post before Cambridge’s defence scrambles it away.
Under the cosh in the opening exchanges little opportunity to break for Cambridge, Wood though with a fantastic flick on from a throw on the right sending Marden on give chase to the ball, ahead of Blakely, can’t quite get there before Dolbear comes rushing towards her to clear the ball.
Cambridge under pressure needing to dig deep. Humphrey attempting to get onto the end of a cross field pass from the right as she attacks on the left, Rouse needing to come out to challenge conceding a corner. Kosky adjudged to have fouled Humphrey on the wing, looked more like a tangle of legs as the pair crossed paths, nevertheless the decision goes Worthing’s way.
Cambridge feeling aggrieved with the decisions, as Worthing continue to press the ball, Winchester latching onto Rouse’s clearance 30 yards out, her 1st time strike angling wide past the left post. Fox clattered into out on the left the free-kick swept into the area cleared by Worthing’s Young. Another decision causing consternation amongst the Cambridge ranks as Wood is penalised for a foul on Humphrey. That leads to the ball being played up the line passed inside to Albuery pushing inside appears to be sent tumbling, the set-piece awarded again Cambridge livid at the decision…
GOAL! The free-kick outside the area to the left of the box everyone back for Cambridge to defend, Worthing lining up at the far post ready to attack the ball is put right on the money players running in met by a blue shirt headed home across goal to put Worthing back on level terms, Albuery the player on the mark 1-1.
Cambridge incensed by the decision to award the free-kick in the first place are further penalised, Edgar furious talking herself into trouble shown the yellow card by the referee and sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes. Cambridge down to 10 just as they look to make a change bringing on Simmons to replace Marden. Worthing though on a high looking to push home the advantage as Cambridge look to adjust personal to cover their missing players.
GOAL! And take advantage they do closing the ball down in the middle, the through ball cutting open the defence to see Quayle break in behind to the left of goal closing down the six yard box, strikes her shot across the keeper and into the bottom corner to fire Worthing into the lead 1-2!
A big spell for Cambridge the game going against them need to rally unhappy with the referee as another foul is given against them as Quayle is fouled. Worthing on top pushing on Rowe out to the right the cross lifted in near posted defended by Kosky, drops to Quayle on the angle sends her attempt at goal over. Bath running onto the ball in the middle with a wild strike on the ball, in towards goal easy for Webb.
Scott 25 yards out to the right corner of the Cambridge box hesitates as she brings the ball down expecting like Cambridge to be pulled up for a hand ball, when the decision doesn’t come however she turns to take a shot sending her effort up over the crossbar. Worthing with a strong performance in the 2nd half, Cambridge having to battle hard at the back to keep them at bay struggling to make anything stick up top. Wood looking to get hold of the ball make things happen for the hosts but is quickly closed down.
Edgar back on for Cambridge as the game moves into the final 15 minutes, Worthing making a change bringing on Rebecca Bell in place of Scott. Worthing with a set-piece Rowe to curl the ball into the area, Rouse heading it clear for Cambridge. Wood strong on the ball coming right is sent tumbling the advantage played however as she finds Simmons clear to the right, Kosky breaking past her on the overlap to cross the ball into the box, Blakely getting her head on the ball to clear the threat for Worthing.
Another switch for Worthing with Gemma Worsfold coming on Quayle. Worthing on the attack on the left a low cross flashing into the six yard box, Bath attacking the ball far post crashed down off the crossbar the ball then scrambled clear by the Cambridge defence. Worthing looking to put the game to bed the ball with Bath 30 yards out has time to line up a shot strikes the ball wide of the right post as Webb throws herself across her goal.
Cambridge making a change bringing on Serena Cobb for Otten in the 85th minute, Worthing replacing Bath with Katie Cooper. Wood is brought down wide on the right inside the Worthing half. Jackson to swing the ball into the area, Worthing with a solid defensive line clearing the top of their area. Cambridge attack down the left Cheal-Ferris forwards for Wood turns into the area left corner appears to be sent tumbling but to Cambridge’s disbelief she is the player penalised Worthing awarded the free-kick… outside the area.
Worthing come strong on the right a cross whipped in near post, Webb doing well under challenge to get hold of the ball. Cambridge with a free-kick out to the right. The ball lifted into the area knocked down into the ground, Blakely getting it clear for a throw for Worthing. Into stoppage time Worthing with a change slowing Cambridge down as they try and push for a late equaliser, Humphrey coming off, Niamh Anderson coming on. Worthing getting everyone back behind the ball to see out the closing moments of the match keep Cambridge at bay and celebrate as they come back from a goal down to win 2-1 in the 2nd half and claim the 3 points seeing them end 2023 in 3rd spot.
Full time Cambridge United WFC 1-2 Worthing FC Women
A strong 2nd half performance from Worthing making adjustments at the break to come out looking to impose themselves on the game right from the start put Cambridge on the back foot. Taking the lead and then with Cambridge reeling from the first goal striking fast to add a 2nd take the lead and press for a 3rd goal. Closing the ball down in their opponents half making the counter attack hard in turn allowing players to keep high to outnumber the midfield. Cambridge will no doubt feel hard done by, by some questionable decisions that ultimately cost them, but worked hard throughout and were good value for their 1st half lead, competing with Worthing. Under the cosh at the start of the 2nd half couldn’t get the ball to stick up top inviting pressure.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football east – Player of the Match, had someone in mind leaving the stadium and although a few contenders have put themselves into contention in the notes will stick with that call. Several performances of note however in what was a highly competitive game. Firstly for Cambridge, Lauren Rouse and Abbie Jackson were strong in the middle of the Cambridge defence making a number of vital tackles and interceptions. Zoe Wood was looking to get the ball down and make thing’s happen constantly throughout the match. For Worthing, Emma Blakely had a strong game at the back getting across to close the ball down and win it inside her box. Tierney Scott was lively out on the flanks winning the ball and looking to play it forwards, Danielle Rowe with a controlled performance in the middle, good control shifting play across the pitch. Samantha Quayle bursting forwards finding some great positions to attack scoring the winner. The award though goes to Shannon Albuery, covered a huge amount of ground getting across the pitch to get hold of the ball with some fantastic link up play, a constant threat to the Cambridge defence.
My final game of 2023 complete as entertaining as any watched highly competitive between two sides enjoying a strong season in FAWNL South East Division One. My first time seeing Worthing in action (although I know of most of their players having seen several in action for their previous clubs) a strong side that will be a threat to everyone in the league in 2024. A hard one for Cambridge to take will feel hard done by by the decisions but should use it as fuel to drive them on in 2024 remain well placed to push the side above them. My thanks to both for their help with the team details as always much appreciated… time for a rest over the festive period. Merry Christmas and enjoy the celebrations with friends and family.
by Darren Gilham