Sunday 23rd May
ERWFL Challenge Cup Final
A trip down to Haverhill in Suffolk this Sunday the venue The New Croft for the ERWFL Challenge Cup Final, between Cambridge City Ladies Development and Royston Town Women.
Couldn’t do my usual prep for this one however as the two finalists wouldn’t be known until the respective semi-finals were played in the morning. Today the ERWFL Challenge Cup Finals Day. With four sides competing, in two, hour long matches. The semi-finals then a final/3rd place match in the afternoon.
Along with Cambridge City Ladies Development and Royston Town Women were, Bedford Ladies and Wymondham Town Ladies. All group winners in the Challenge Cup, a temporary competition put in place by the Eastern Region Women’s Football League after the regular playing season was curtailed due to the ongoing Covid pandemic. 19 clubs from the ERWFL entering the Challenge Cup.
Road to the Final
The 19 sides competing drawn into 4 groups each side playing the other once with 3 points awarded for a win, a point for a draw and for this competition, an extra point for a penalty shootout win after the sides have finished all square during the match.
Cambridge City Ladies Development have done well since joining the ERWFL going strong at the top of Division One North in both the pervious seasons before their early finish were drawn in Group A with 3 Premier Division sides, started well with an away win against Wroxham Women. Took on Haringey Borough Women at home next the sides fighting out a 4-4 draw Cambridge going on to win the penalty shootout to claim a bonus point. Last up another home game against AFC Dunstable Women was a winner takes all match to see who would top the group Cambridge coming away 2-1 victors to progress to finals day
4 wins out of 4 saw Bedford Ladies win Group B to progress to the Finals Day, starting with a narrow 3-2 win away to Division One North side King’s Lynn Town Ladies. Won 6-0 and 6-1 respectfully against two more Division One sides, Wodson Park Ladies and East Bergholt United Ladies. It was a good 3-1 win at home against Premier Division title chasers Harlow Town Ladies that ensured Bedford’s progress.
Royston Town Women were drawn in Group C along side fellow Premier Division side Bowers & Pitsea Ladies along with 3 Division One sides, Stevenage Women Development, Leigh Ramblers and Haverhill Rovers Ladies. Collected a point from their first match after a 4-4 draw with Haverhill Rovers who went on to win the shootout 10-9! Went on to take maximum points at home to Stevenage 2-1 and 4-2 away to Bowers & Pitsea, the final group match at home to Leigh Ramblers the Essex side doing well in the group vying for top spot. Royston thanks to a brace from Sammy Tinsley and goal each for Tally Miles and Charlotte South winning the game 4-1 to finish top.
Wymondham Town Ladies leading the Premier Division before the league campaign ended were drawn in Group D, something of a group of death as they were paired with high flying St Ives Town Ladies and Luton Town Ladies along with another Premier Division side Colney Heath Ladies and Needham Market Women from Division One North. Started well with a 4-0 win at home to Colney Heath. Drew 3-3 with St Ives missing out on the bonus point. A tough match at home to Luton saw Wymondham come out on top 2-1 a 3-1 away win assuring the Norfolk side made it through to finals day.
The final 4 all strong on their day anyone of them capable of going all the way as they arrived at The New Croft for Finals Day.
The Finals day seeing the sides meet in two hour long semi-finals the winners going on to the final itself with a 3rd placed match for those missing out. The draw made the morning before the game saw Royston Town Women taking on Bedford Ladies with Cambridge City Ladies Development up against Wymondham Town Ladies. Couldn’t make it in time for the start of the semi-finals due to work commitments. The New Croft at Haverhill featuring a stadium wit a grass pitch with a 3G pitch behind, the semi-finals going off at the same time. On the 3G pitch Royston made a strong start to their match Emma Slater scoring twice to see them leading 2-0 at half-time. Bedford pulling it back to 2-1 in the 2nd half, the Hertfordshire side though were to hold on to book their place in the final.
Cambridge and Wymondham playing their semi-final on the grass pitch, Shannon Shaw opened the scoring to see Cambridge 1-0 to the good at half-time. Wymondham frustrated never really getting going Shaw was to make it a brace on the 2nd half to see Cambridge through to the final 2-0.
The venue for today’s ERWFL Challenge Cup Finals Day, The New Croft, home of Haverhill Rovers. Have been here before to watch Haverhill Rovers Ladies play over on the 3G pitch situated behind the main building a new facility. There a practise pitches beyond that and to the opposite the main stadium, a grass pitch with a small seated stand, a modern clubhouse with bar, and kitchen serving hot food and drinks. The weather pleasant in the morning the semi-finals played in the dry, dark clouds looming a heavy downpour between matches would see the pitch slicken up before kick-off with the threat of more showers hanging about.
Cambridge City Ladies Development starting XI – Kayleigh Blanchard, Emily Trezise, Lauren Tomlinson, Kayla Krett (C), Ceri Flye, Rachel Pearce, Freya Goddard, Bella Simmons, Ellie Cullum, Lauren Sanders & Grace Stanley. Subs – Amy Reed, Emma Littlewood, Elizabeth O’Callaghan, Amie Fullwood & Shannon Shaw.
Royston Town Women starting XI – Mia O’Brien, Fran Gough, Hattie Bourne, Leah Dunnage, Amy Cooper (C), Paris Coldicott-Stevens, Georgia Miller, Tally Miles, Charlotte South, Sammy Tinsley & Emma Slater. Subs – Samantha Edgar, Grace Georgiou, Beki Roach, Sydney Graham & Gemma Croucher.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
An hour long match should the scores be level a the final whistle the game going straight to penalties. The heavy shower easing up prior to kick-off, both side usually playing in black and white, it’s Royston with the change of shirts getting the 1st half underway, purple their away colours with black shorts and white socks. Cambridge opposite wearing white shirts with black shorts and black and white hooped socks. The ball closed down in the middle straight away by Cambridge the pass send crossfield to the right channel for Bella Simmons to attack, travels before being closed down by Royston’s Leah Dunnage the ball out for a throw.
Rachel Pearce plays the ball on through the middle for Cambridge for Lauren Sanders attacking the right channel pushes the ball on for Simmons racing intothe area ahead of her, Royston captain, Amy Cooper in tight to the Cambridge attack to take the ball loose on the right Sanders goes after it but can’t fashion a crossing opportunity as Hattie Bourne gets tight to her. Royston make ground on the left winning the first corner of the game, the delivery long goes out of play beyond the far post.
Cambridge clear the ball upfield, Grace Stanley on the left looking to get forwards, Fran Gough slicing her clearance sees the ball drop into space beyond her, Stanley reacts a burst of pace getting her onto the ball, Gough getting back on her forcing her down to the by-line, Stanley gets a cross into the near post, Royston keeper, Mia O’Brien has it covered catching the ball low. A good start from Cambridge getting players forwards with pace running at the Royston defence, using the width well Sanders furthest forwards looks to take the ball into her stride as Simmons lays it on from the right, Cooper getting there to intercept off Sanders was through to attack the box.
O’Brien with a great save called into action diving to her right as Cambridge power on down the right the ball 20 out inside for Sanders sees Stanley free to the left of the D sends the ball on, Stanley meeting it first time striking it low, O’Brien diving full stretch to her right to push the ball behind for a corner kick.
Simmons out on the right causing Royston problems holding the flank well, her teammates picking her out, Sanders and Stanley making central runs, Sanders this time bursting in behind off her through ball, Dunnage doing well to catch up and slide in to make the challenge. Simmons getting hold of the ball on the right coming inside towards the top of the area, 4 Royston players converge on her inside the D, Georgia Miller slowing her down, no shot on as Tally Miles clears the ball upfield.
Tomlinson clear on the left down the line gets her cross into the box long to the far stick, congested, Simmons and Sanders looking to keep it alive, Royston managing to scramble it away. Royston haven’t settled in the early exchanges, Cambridge on top. Tinsley left side playing the ball diagonally into the area with play draw across the pitch, Miles central looking to attack it on the penalty spot, Lauren Tomlinson doing well up against her for Cambridge.
Tomlinson bringing the ball away at her feet on the left for Cambridge races over halfway before firing it in central for Simmons racing through the middle, O’Brien quickly out of her six yard box up to the top of her area to get her gloves firmly around the ball with Simmons bearing down. Royston look to get thing’s going through the middle, Paris Coldicott-Stevens getting hold on the ball putting it on for Miles she goes on with Charlotte South the pair exchanging passes looking for a pass into Slater, Pearce and Freya Goddard getting in between to win it back for Cambridge.
Cambridge make a change bringing Shannon Shaw on for Cullum. Cambridge win a corner on the left played short into Stanley left side looks to go inside, Miles does well defending close on her for Royston. Can’t make it stick up top Cambridge get right back on the attack, Tomlinson racing forwards taking the ball to the by-line flashing a ball into the near post O’Brien with an instinctive jab with her toes deflecting the ball behind for the corner.
Stanley racing on with the ball left side for Cambridge attempts to put it on into Shaw ahead of her, Cooper getting across for Royston putting in a timely tackle. From the resulting throw in Royston break Miles taking the ball on up the right flank sends it inside for Slater her touch 20 out seeing her turn into the area ready to attack the goal, Cambridge captain Kayla Krett recovers superbly throwing herself into the tackle taking the ball off Slater’s feet sending it behind for the corner. A dangerous delivery fired in across the face of goal barely half a metre off the floor, inviting but no one from Royston is near it.
Simmons continues to carry a threat on the right winning a corner. Into the mix at the near post the ball half cleared looping up towards the top of the area Simmons is there to strike it as it lands angles across the area towards the opposite corner on target, Gough covering the post clearing the ball off the line. Tomlinson bringing the ball on left side passes it to Sanders 20 out she clips it in to Simmons central, brings it down well on her chest to strike on the turn, the shot however straight at the keeper, held by O’Brien.
GOAL! The first half drawing to a close, Cambridge have a corner on the right, players up from the back, the ball fired into the congested near post area headed up into the air by Cooper drops down inside the D, struck by Krett on the half volley her strike blocked by a charging defender, the deflection though seeing it land in behind to Shaw unmarked six yards out to the left, strikes it low under the diving keeper into the back of the net 1-0.
Half-time Cambridge City Ladies Development 1-0 Royston Town Women
Cambridge with the narrow advantage at the break, having started the brighter have been on the front foot throughout, creating chances, deservedly in the lead, just by a single goal however. Royston in contrast got off to a sluggish start and have been frustrated in the first half, few opportunities in the final third, the defence making several crucial tackles, O’Brien too in goal with a crucial save. Know they will need to improve in the 2nd period if they want to get back into the game.
Changes for both sides at the start of the 2nd half, Emma Littlewood, Amy Reed and Amie Fullwood on for Cambridge. Samantha Edgar and Beki Roach on for Royston. Cambridge to get the 2nd period underway. Straight away Royston find joy on the left Tinsley playing a great ball in diagonally to the top of the area for Slater to attack in behind, Kayleigh Blanchard though with a good starting position in goal for Cambridge out to the top of her box to nullify the threat. Cambridge break down the left an early cross fired into the box, Simmons the target, the number 9 can’t quite reach it.
Miles from 30 yards out on the right gets plenty of power behind the ball as she shoots on the angle her strike bouncing off the advertising boards behind the goal. The game open at the start of the 2nd period, end to end, Royston looking to get Tinsley and Miles further up on the wide positions to support Slater. Miles advancing on the right fires a diagonal cross into the area, players running in central, Blanchard gets her fingertips on the bouncing ball as it runs out of play on the opposite side, after appeals Royston are awarded the corner kick.
GOAL! The perfect start to the 2nd half for Royston as they get themselves back on level terms the ball driven in to the six yard box, met at the near post knocked on into the path of Slater at the far post who powers the ball in under the crossbar to score 1-1.
South brings down Cambridge’s Flye as the defender carries the ball on over the half way line seeing a free-kick awarded 30 yards out to the right of the box, Goddard over to take it, flights a ball in towards the top of the area, headed up but not clear by the Royston defence a shot is allowed to come in from 25 yards out goes over. An improved 2nd half performance from Royston the game more even, Slater looking more of a threat having players up with her.
Appeals for a penalty by Royston as Slater and Flye tangle at the far post close in as a cross from the right in flashed across the six yard box, a good challenge by Flye however, Royston get the corner. the delivery into the area falls down to Edgar right of the D, strikes it hard and low back across goal, isn’t far wide of the far post. Tomlinson has a long throw on her carries a threat, but everyone in the league knows it, Royston are staying alert knowing the danger it poses. Changes for both sides Gemma Croucher on for South for Royston, Elizabeth O’Callaghan on for Cambridge at the back.
Cooper in to close down Shaw inside the box right side as Simmons lays the ball into her feet from the right, Cambridge keeping the ball in the corner, can’t fashion a cross as Dunnage sends the ball up into midfield. A marauding run central between Edgar and Croucher for Royston, O’Callaghan stepping up well to put in the challenge break up the attack outside her area. Less than 10 minutes left for either side to find a winner. A sloppy passage of play from both sides passes missing there mark, another sliced clearance leading to a Cambridge corner. The ball in near side met well by Dunnage. Coldicott-Stevens comes off for Royston, Miller returning to the action.
Slater getting more of the ball in the 2nd half, picking it up 30 or so yards out driving at the defence has made several threatening runs, O’Callaghan and Krett both tackling to regain possession. The attacker has the ball at her feet again central pushes forwards, has Miles coming in from the right ahead of her, doesn’t release the ball early enough as O’Callaghan comes to close the angle, the goes in on Slater to deny her a shot. Stanley comes back on for Cambridge replacing Sanders.
Cambridge get the ball moving quickly from back to front, right side fired into the middle for Stanley into the right channel, has Simmons bursting into the box from the right, helps the ball into her path, Simmons shooting first time sees her effort fly over the bar from the angle.
Miles has the ball in the right for Royston lays it infield for Slater to drive at the defence, O’Callaghan stepping up to close her down, slows her down as Goddard comes in to support, Slater shoots outside the box, hits Goddard deflected through safely for the keeper. Both sides starting to think about penalties as Royston send South back on for Gough. Slater on the run is brought down seeing Royston win a free-kick 30 yards out, Miles to send in to the far stick the ball is put behind for a corner. Players up from the back the delivery drops far post, Cooper is there but gets under it, Dunnage beyond also missing out.
Pressure from Royston late on getting players on South up with Slater a corner won. Cooper up well to meet it on the penalty spot sees her attempt sail over the bar. That’s it, the game ending in a draw will be decided on penalties.
Full time Cambridge City Ladies Development 1-1 Royston Town Women
A much improved performance from Royston in the 2nd half got themselves straight back into the game from the restart and the game was a more open sided affair 2nd half, Tinsley and Miles getting further on up the flanks limiting Cambridge’s opportunities to get players forwards. On to penalties, and with dark clouds building towards the end of the game the rain has started to fall again. I might have mentioned before I hate penalties but there we go.
Cambridge up first, with captain Kayla Krett to take the first penalty, sets the ball on the spot, hits it well to O’Brien’s right, the keeper guesses right but despite getting her fingertips to the ball sees it nestle in the back of the net 1-0.
South up first for Royston cool as you like strokes it low to the keepers left to find the bottom corner 1-1.
Goddard with Cambridge’s 2nd penalty, sends it home high to the keepers right 2-1.
Tinsley up 2nd for Royston, opts for power rising to the left, Blanchard goes the right way diving gets something on the ball but can’t keep it out 2-2.
Tomlinson up next for Cambridge smashes it home to make it 3-2.
Croucher’s turn for Royston penalty number 3 buried low into the left corner 3-3 the pressure building.
Shaw up for Cambridge 3 goals already on Finals Day makes no mistake from the spot planting the ball to the keepers right 4-3.
Slater matching Shaw’s goal scoring feat on Final’s Day up next for Royston opens up her body to send the ball wide of the keeper 4-4.
The tension building Stanley steps up for Cambridge, places it sweetly into the bottom left corner 5-4.
Edgar has to score for Royston to send the shootout into sudden death, Blanchard goes the right way but Edgar has gotten enough power on her strike to evade the keeper 5-5.
I’m more tense now writing about the shootout than I was watching it, Reed comes forwards for Cambridge, hits the ball low to the keepers left angling into the bottom corner, O’Brien though goes the right way throwing herself into the dive full stretch makes the save knocking the ball away it remains 5-5.
Miles placing the ball on the spot for Royston a chance to win the Challenge Cup, strikes it well power and pace on the rising ball, despair for Blanchard who goes the right way but can’t reach it 5-6! Royston win on penalties.
Always a harsh way to lose a game, but oh so great if you win as Miles is swamped by her joyous teammates, Royston coming back from a goal down to level the game and take it to a penalty shootout with a much improved 2nd half performance. 5 perfect penalties for each side sending it to sudden death a superb save from Mia O’Brien before Tally Miles scored the winning penalty. Didn’t think there would be much between the 4 sides today, Royston clinching the silverware.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. A few contenders once again. Bella Simmons with a fantastic game in attack for Cambridge really put the Royston defence through it especially first half and was unlucky not to be on the score sheet. Amy Cooper with some good tackles in defence for Royston who found themselves on the backfoot in the 1st half. A couple of quality saves from Mia O’Brien in goal. Tally Miles too getting forwards well to support the attack in the 2nd period. Edging it however with some great positional play up top and movement off the ball and the growing threat she posed through the final scoring the all important equaliser today’s award goes to Emma Slater.
Credit to Cambridge however took the final all the way and on penalties it literally is a lottery. In the other match the 3rd place game Wymondham Town Ladies emerged comfortable winners, a more relaxed performance seeing them take control of the game leading 3-0 t half-time before going on to win 5-0 against Bedford.
The ERWFL laying on an excellent Finals Day in what has been another turbulent season, let’s hope for better thing’s into the new campaign. The Regional leagues playing a vital role in the women’s football pyramid, plenty of entertainment a good standard that is only going to improve in the future as the game grows as a whole. Great to see spectators enjoying a game once again too. My thanks to both sides for the team details always appreciated.
by Darren Gilham