Tuesday 25th April
Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup Final
sponsored by the Alan Boswell Group
A trip into Cambridgeshire this Tuesday evening to watch the final of the Women’s Invitation Cup being played at Cambridge United FC’s Abbey Stadium. Once again an all Cambridge affair with Cambridge United WFC back in the competition playing Cambridge City Ladies the current cup holders.
The FAWNL South East Division One sides the highest league based sides in the county have dominated the Invitation Cup in recent season’s enjoying a healthy rivalry with Cambridge City making a rapid rise through the women’s football pyramid to join United in the 4th tier of the women’s game.
Cambridge United WFC re-joining the Invitation Cup competition after a season away competing in the inaugural Hunts FA Women’s Senior Cup. Playing their home games at St Neots Town FC, Laura Mitchell scoring a late winner to see them beat St Ives Town Ladies to lift the cup. Mitchell one of several players to move on over the close season with the club seeing alot a changes to the squad as they began a new and stronger relation with Cambridge United FC, the League One club setting up a women’s board with closer ties men’s club which has included a number of games being played at The Abbey Stadium this season with their final league game against Actonians Ladies being held their this coming Sunday.
With several new faces coming in and injury set backs to others Cambridge United WFC haven’t found the consistency they would have liked and after a promising start have struggled to get points on the board on a regular basis. Down in 8th place never in danger of being pulled into the drop zone (no non- existent with the sad withdrawal of two sides) A late late winner from Sarah Wiltshire, away to Chesham United Ladies in their penultimate league fixture seeing United set up what could be a positive end to the campaign with a cup final this evening and league finale at The Abbey Stadium. Sarah Wiltshire the clubs marque signing over the close season, with a wealth of experience playing at this level is well clear in the goal scoring charts netting 16 from 20 appearances. Aiming to make it a double in the county cup competitions with their Development side winning the Junior Invitation Cup 10 days ago.
Cambridge City Ladies too enduring a tough season currently bottom of FAWNL South East Division One although with two sides gone no threat of relegation. Just the one league win all season that coming all the way back on the opening day. A further point gained ironically at The Abbey Stadium in their league fixture with United earlier in the year. Still have a chance of getting off the bottom of the table with their final league game away to Chesham United Ladies who themselves have struggled for points just 2 above. Beating, Newmarket Town Women 5-1 in last season’s final to win the Invitation Cup.
Alot of changes at the club under a new management team has seen alot of player departures the side vastly changed from that which secured victory on the opening day. The club has always had a strong youth policy and set-up with young talent always coming through the 1st team well backed up by an U23s side and Development team. Several young players have found themselves promoted to the first team and have risen to the challenge. One of those attacker Sophie Billing who has scored 32 goals in 11 appearances for Cambridge City’s U18s side currently top of the U18 league in Cambridgeshire with a 10% record. Becca Stephenson top scoring for the first team with 6 goals. Have had terrible luck with injuries too most recently losing experienced defender Bronwyn Mulheron who dislocated her knee playing against league champions Hashtag United Women. Like United a good opportunity to end a difficult season on a positive note.
Road to the Final
Both sides entering the competition at the 2nd Round stage, Cambridge United progressing without kicking a ball awarded the A-w win over Park Ladies who would go on to reach the Junior Invitation Cup Final eventually beaten by United’s Development side. Cambridge City away to Cambridgeshire Division Two side March Town United Ladies. A grace Stanley hat-trick, along with a brace for Shannon Shaw with a goal each for Karly Tolentino, Lauren Tomlinson and Becca Stephenson securing a 9-0 win.
Into the quarter finals, United away to Cambridgeshire Division One side Leverington Sports Ladies. City at home were also taking on Cambridgeshire Division One opposition in Cambridge Rangers WFC. Emphatic score lines for both with United scoring 7 without reply. City going one better netting 8 without conceding.
Into the semi-finals United and City kept apart in the draw, United hosting last season’s finalists Newmarket Town Women, a first half brace for both Francesca Partridge and Sarah Wiltshire seeing United leading 4-0 at the break before going on to win 6-0 with Wiltshire getting her hat-trick. City away to Division one side Fulbourn Institute Bluebirds, a brace each for Ellie Cullum and Becca Stephenson with a goal too for Rose Sparrow seeing City into the final courtesy of a 5-1 victory.
The Abbey Stadium once again hosting the Women’s Invitation Cup, the League One ground the grass pitch immaculate, the sun bright with a little heat left in it setting over the terraced stand opposite the main stand. Filling up nicely for the final. Hot and cold food and drink available. Was in a bit of a rush and wanting a cup of tea, decided to try one of the gourmet burgers, can highly recommend was very nice.
Cambridge United WFC starting XI – Lauren Webb, Abi Davies, Carrie Bennett, Lauren Rouse, Abbie Jackson, Gisela Otten (C), Sammy Edgar, Harley-Jean Simpson, Ruth Fox, Francesca Partridge & Sarah Wiltshire. Subs – Jorja Badcock, Serena Cobb, Natasha Collins, Libby Fraser & Niamh Day.
Cambridge City Ladies starting XI – Sarah Hudson (C), Lexi Pryke, Jess Fitzpatrick, Amy Reed, Millie Struthers, Rosie Mead, Ellen Marson, Rose Sparrow, Jess Wood, Becca Stephenson & Haile Richards. Subs – Olivia White, Sophie Billing, Sarah Payne, Jennifer Moore & Olivia Briffa.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Several players missing through injury and unavailability for both sides with 6 1st team regulars out for United, defender Rachel Kosky turning her ankle at the weekend the latest casualty. That sees United calling on their Junior Invitation Cup winning side with, Niamh Day, Libby Fraser, Serena Cobb and Jorja Badcock named on the bench along with Natasha Collins returning from injury. City likewise losing players to injury with several of their experienced players side lined, a young squad named with most U20. It’s United to get the 202223 Invitation Cup final underway kicking off the 1st half wearing amber coloured shirts with black shorts and socks with City lined up opposite wearing white coloured shirts with black shorts and black and white hooped socks. The ball played back to Sammy Edgar in midfield out to Carrie Bennett at left back City rushing on to press the ball forcing united to play the ball all the way back to goalkeeper Lauren Webb to clear.
United attack down the right flank the ball fed on for Ruth Fox down in the corner turns to dig a cross out into the area dropping for Francesca Partridge in the clear top of the six yard box sees the ball down and shapes to shoot, City goalkeeper and captain Sarah Hudson coming in to make the blocking save at close range getting something on the ball is deflected off her behind rolling for the bottom corner, Millie Struthers getting back clearing the ball off the line. United coming close in the opening couple of minutes.
Abi Davies with the ball on to Fox right side played the ball inside finding Harley-Jean Simpson central 20 yard out lifts the ball into the box for Sarah Wiltshire whose first time shot is straight at Hudson. United making a positive start getting the ball into the City half Wiltshire sending the ball out to Partridge wide left she attempts the return pass finding Wiltshire breaking into the box however the offside flag curtails a goal scoring opportunity. Pressing the ball in midfield, Sammy Edgar lifts a pass out to Partridge pulling wide left, Jess Fitzpatrick getting back at her tackling for City.
Wiltshire running away with the ball at her feet on the left cutting inside her marker to get into the area right corner, Hudson racing out to clear the ball, cleared as she and Wiltshire collide, some think it’s a penalty, but the free-kick goes the other way with Wiltshire the one who catches Hudson on her follow through trying to get the ball. Hudson down for a moment but is okay to play on.
Rose Sparrow taking the ball on through the middle for City lifting it into Haile Richards in attack back to goal 25 yards out holding it up well before rolling it back to the advancing Sparrow to strike goalwards from distance, United goalkeeper, Lauren Webb catching confidently. The ball with Edgar in midfield United’s attackers race forwards, Edgar attempting the placed pass in behind, a vital interception by Fitzpatrick. City win a free-kick on halfway to the left the ball send long up into the United area cleared out to the left, Lexi Pryke getting hold of it 25 yards out struck wide across goal.
Fitzpatrick getting back at Wiltshire on United’s left to challenge and clear the ball as she looks to drive into the area. United seeing more of the ball playing the ball across the pitch. United winning a free-kick deep inside the City half to the left, Wiltshire launching the ball in towards the top of the area headed out to the right, Fox after it with a turn and hit from 20 yards out pulled wide of the right post. United’s attackers lively Wiltshire moving across the line finding Fox on the right her cross lifted into the six yard box, Hudson up to claim with Partridge closing in.
Simpson up with Partridge on the left wins a corner as her cross is deflected behind of a City defender. Taken by Wiltshire on the left, swung in near post cleared back out to her by Fitzpatrick, moving up the line for a better angle hits a curling shot wide past the far post. Richards coming into midfield getting the ball off Jess Wood advancing right, holding off Carri Bennett sends the pass wide for Wood racing down the right, Lauren Rouse getting across to win the ball clear it for a throw.
Richards strong holding up the ball turns and drives forwards for City central before being brought down 35 yards out winning the set-piece. The ball floated into the area attacked far post nodded down towards goal, Webb down to her left sharply the ball turned behind for the corner. Swept in long across the face of goal beat away at the far post, United look to get on the counter Wiltshire carrying the ball away left side, Simpson up with her the pass into her Struthers cutting out the return pass intended for Wiltshire.
City settling down now after United’s strong start getting in to win the ball, players spread out at times, picking the final pass tricky. United captain, Gisela Otten playing the ball on for United’s attackers, Wiltshire sending out out to Partridge left of the D 20 yards out, has more time that she realises, taking the shot her effort pulled wide of the near post. Wood taking the ball on down City’s right, Rouse going with her sliding in to win the ball back for United.
Simpson bringing the ball on for United running into the left channel pushed out to Partridge wide, looking to open up her body thread the low diagonal ball into Wiltshire’s path outside the D, Struthers in the way intercepting to play it back into her keeper to clear. United attacking on the left Bennett advanced up with Partridge winning a throw high, dropped into Wiltshire’s feet coming back off the by-line to wrap her foot around the cross fired into the six yard box, Pryke clearing for City.
Wiltshire with alot of running with the ball taking it on for Edgar in midfield racing forwards tackled by City’s Rosie Mead. Davies on the right coming on with the ball for United playing a diagonal ball across to Partridge out left side dragging it down ahead of her sweeps a long pass out to Fox looking to get into the box from the right, Pryke cutting the ball out for City.
Ellen Marson linking up with Mead in the middle the ball clipped out out Becca Stephenson out on the left flank, taking the ball on down the line, Davies getting back at her to tackle for United. Partridge picked out on the left by the diagonal pass bringing the ball down sends a cross into the six yard box from 25 yards out Wiltshire surging in throwing up a boot getting to the ball before the keeper prods the ball wide of the left post.
Davies combining with Fox on the right lifting a cross into the City area, headed clear by Amy Reed. United continue to knock on the door with 35 minutes played Wiltshire with a shot on goal from 25 yards out left of the D, held by Hudson. Rouse bringing the ball up from the back for United into the City half right channel out to Wiltshire near the top right corner, the ball at her feet turns inside to shoot, her attempt straight forwards for the keeper, Hudson taking it high.
Edgar showing great passing ability as she tries again to clip a long ball into Partridge pulling away left, Fitzpatrick stabbing a foot out to take the ball away from her. United regain possession quickly inside the City half Simpson lively after the ball.
GOAL! Players getting up the pitch Bennett fed the ball on the left taking it to the by-line checking back to burst into the area before smashing a cross into the six yard box, Wiltshire pouncing to send the ball past the keeper central to opening the scoring in the 40th minute 1-0.
Edgar playing the pass forwards into Wiltshire left of the D 25 yards out, Bennett rushing on up the line in support, City racing back to defend, Sparrow getting there to regain possession before Bennett can get in behind. United lively at the end of the half coming on at will right side the ball lifted into the area Reed’s clearance dropping for Simpson 25 yards out central shifts the ball between her feet before placing her shot straight at the keeper.
Wiltshire flagged offside as she breaks in between the City centre backs looking to get onto the end of another Edgar pass. City making a change bring Sophie Billing on for Wood. Wiltshire is brought down on the right outside the box as she looks to take the ball on from Fox. The set-piece sent over. Wiltshire taking the ball on left played on by Partridge, held up by Fitzpatrick sends it back to Simpson 30 yards out drags the ball inside before shooting, no power on the strike caught by Hudson. A double change coming for City late in the first half with Sarah Payne and Jennifer Moore coming on for Marson and Sparrow. Time for one last United attack from the right the ball landing in the side netting.
Half-time Cambridge United WFC 1-0 Cambridge City Ladies
United with a strong 1st half performance seeing more of the ball getting forwards well with numbers putting the City back line under pressure, an early effort cleared off the line. Opportunities created the dead lock finally broken in the 40th minute. Sarah Wiltshire’s goal the difference between the sides at the break. City have worked hard to fight for the ball having little opportunity to test the defence at the other end one chance turned wide by the keeper off a set-piece. At one nil however remain very much in the final and one chance could put them back on level terms, question is can they keep United out at the other end.
City making another change at the start of the 2nd half bringing on Olivia White for Struthers. United unchanged with City having the kick-off 2nd half the ball played back into the middle before being put out to White on the left, Davies getting back at her to challenge for the ball. City looking to make a fast start 2nd half pressing United on the ball a shot from distance dragged wide from the right. Payne winning the ball forwards into Richards, closely marked by Jackson.
Payne with the ball turning central to send the pass out to Stephenson on the right threads it through to Richards breaking into the area from the right, tracked all the way to the by-line running out of room back heels the ball back into the area, no one arriving to attack it. An open start to the 2nd half City making a few tactical switches United needing time to adjust too. Stephenson taking the ball on over halfway right laying the pass forwards for Richards bursting clear right channel, Webb racing out of her area to clear just about getting there first. United regroup the ball won by Edgar in midfield on to Wiltshire her diagonal ball looking for Partridge pulling into the area left, Fitzpatrick winning it for City
GOAL! United regaining momentum push players forwards keeping possession out on the left the ball put inside to Edgar outside the box, puts her foot through the ball, powering a wonderful strike into the top corner across the keeper to double the lead 2-0.
United 2-0 inside the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half a blow for City as they look to start the half on the front foot. Edgar carded moments after scoring with an over zealous tackle on City’s Reed as she brings the ball out from the back. Simpson playing the ball out to Bennett running on down the left flank, tackled by Fitzpatrick. Stephenson attacking out on the right for City her cross squared into the D, looking for Richards, Davies nipping in to clear for United.
Fox on the right seeing the ball down well flicking in on cleverly behind the defence after it heading it on, not quite under control as Reed stretches a leg to clear. Wiltshire taking the ball on across the top of the City area tripped winning a free-kick in a dangerous position right of the D. Over the free-kick smashes a low strike past the wall looking for the inside if the left post, Hudson with a fantastic save getting down to push the ball away behind for the corner to the left.
City certainly competing better 2nd half the ball being closed down in the middle a few tackles coming in free-kicks given away. Stephenson getting hold of a long pass floated into the D back to goal turns to her left taking the ball inside, Jackson close in staying on her to put in a well timed tackle to win the ball back for United. Reed defending at the other end inside her box heading the ball clear with Wiltshire closing in following Otten’s hooked clearance upfield.
GOAL! City win a corner out of nothing on the right as the ball runs behind following a challenge up field, an opportunity to get players into the box. A high ball looped down into the six yard box, Pryke running in jumping well to power her header in of a United defender over the keeper pulling a goal back on the hour. 2-1.
Game on United look for a quick response Simpson’s diagonal ball out to the left Partridge caught offside. Fox shoved in the back United winning a free-kick out on the right the ball in from Davies long to the far post a looping attempt put long past the far post retrieved on the right wide on the angle a high ball back in threatening to drop under Hudson’s crossbar the goalkeeper claiming it above her head.
Simpson getting hold of the ball left brought down outside the box presenting United with another set-piece. Wiltshire firing the ball in towards the near post on the angle, Hudson coming claiming well. United making their first switch bringing off Fox in attack sending on Niamh Day. City winning a throw high on the left, the ball played into Billing the attacker turning knocking the ball into the box, slightly over hit, Webb rushing out to close her down dive at her feet, Billing jumping in rashly catching Webb. A free-kick for United Webb needing a few moments to recover is okay to play on.
Wiltshire putting the City defence under pressure capitalising on a mis-cue to latch onto the ball and take it on into the area right of goal, never quite having it under control, screws her shot wide at the near post as Reed gets back to challenge. The competitiveness gone up a notch City with their tails up having pulled a goal back a few nerves showing from United. City winning a free-kick on half way the ball lifted up to the top of the area initially headed clear by Jackson, the shot struck from distance wide of the left post.
City push on left side with Billing finding Stephenson out wide, checking back inside 25 out, rolls the ball inside for Moore who in turn puts it into Mead’s path hitting the shot from all of 30 yard out the effort blasted wide. City making a switch bringing Billing off with Wood returning to the field. Payne playing the ball forwards into Richards inside the D, Jackson in to block her attempt at goal the ball rebounding away. Rouse feeling her knee goes down requiring treatment both sides going to their benches to take on fluids and instructions with a little over 15 minutes left to play.
United on the ball a great diagonal pass picking out Partridge bursting into the box from the left, Hudson rushing out to close her down, Partridge getting her foot up to lob the ball over the keeper, Reed racing back towards goal clearing the ball off the line. City making a double change bringing on Olivia Briffa and Sparrow for Reed and White. United also making a substitution, Partridge coming off, Fox returning to the field to the left of attack.
City winning a free-kick wide left push players up into the box the ball fed into the six yard box, Webb up to punch the ball clear, falls to Stephenson right of the D, her strike charged down, Payne onto the ball to strike from distance Webb behind it plucking the ball down comfortably. United giving free-kicks away late in the game encouraging City to push players up, Pryke to play the ball forwards form the top of the centre circle knocked back out of the area straight to Stephenson, Simpson racing out to close her down for United. The 90 minutes almost up 4 minute of added time to be played.
City getting another free-kick inside the United half 30 yards out Pryke again over the ball central, takes on the shot curling the ball towards the right post, Webb diving to save send the ball behind for a corner kick. Swung into the mix inside the six yard box, Edgar getting behind the ball to scramble it clear, City pressing the ball eventually out for a goal kick.
United get the ball away into the City half on the left a corner won, taken short they look to keep it there run down the clock. City sending the ball away up the right winning a throw high, played across to Sparrow out on the left her cross flung into the box, cleared by Fox.
GOAL! United break the ball sent forwards into Day’s path as she races forwards on the right wing taking the ball on towards the box produces a wonderful strike to send the ball looping across the keeper to land in side the goal at the far post! Day wheeling away with her arms wide in celebration in front of the fans the 3rd goal surely winning the game for United 3-1.
Little time left United making a change bringing on Natasha Collins for Davies to see out the closing seconds, no time for City to get another attack in as the final whistle blows.
Full time Cambridge United WFC 3-1 Cambridge City Ladies
Cambridge United WFC winning the Invitation Cup final 3-1. With the bulk of the chances making a positive start to the game, goal line clearances and goalkeeping saves keeping United out 1st half until Carrie Bennett cut into the area from the left to send the ball across goal for Sarah Wiltshire to score. 1-0 at the break City making changes starting the 2nd half well before conceding a 2nd goal. Kept plugging away getting a goal back on the hour as Lexi Pryke headed the ball home, very much game on then as City grew in confidence and United became a little nervous giving away free-kicks, had more chances however to score riding out some late City pressure to break away and score a 3rd clinching goal in the dying moments of the match. A valiant effort from Cambridge City’s youngsters may well have been thrown in at the deep end, but will have gained valuable experience and have performed well, certainly in the games I’ve seen they never give up and wins have to be earned one last effort needed away to Chesham on Sunday to see if they can get the win needed to get themselves off the bottom of the table. Cambridge United with one last game at The Abbey Stadium to come this Sunday taking on 4th placed Actonians Ladies, winning the cup will be up for the match.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this evening’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. The Cambridge derby in whatever format always a committed affair with both sides giving it there all. Several players out for both. Cambridge City’s young side battled throughout giving United something to think about 2nd half. Sarah Hudson in goal with some vital saves. Jess Fitzpatrick with a good performance at right back, with some well timed tackling and interceptions. Harley-Jean Simpson with some great ball control and runs in the final third. Francesca Partridge and Ruth Fox providing great outlets on the flanks in attack linking up with Sarah Wiltshire who herself made some excellent runs and created goal scoring chances opening the scoring. The award goes to midfielder Sammy Edgar was strong on the ball showing a great range of passing and getting stuck in to win the ball back, a fantastic strike for United’s 2nd goal. First saw her playing for Watton Ladies in Beds & Herts Division Two has risen up through the pyramid into regional football, this season her first at tier 4 wanting to test herself at a higher level has been a consistent performer for United, rising to the occasion.
Congratulations to Cambridge United WFC on winning the 2022/23 Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup
An enjoyable evening at The Abbey Stadium with the crowd seeing another entertaining and commit encounter between City and United. My thanks to both sides for the team details and to the staff at the ground and Cambs FA for their help and to Ben Phillips for the additional pictures used in the report.
by Darren Gilham