Sunday 5th March
FAWNL South East Division One
Into March and the business end of the season, a game from FAWNL South East Division One this Sunday featuring on Women’s Football East with Actonians Ladies travelling up the A10 to Ely to play Cambridge City Ladies.
Best laid plans and all that the planned game falling by the wayside there’s always several decent alternatives to chose from and a slice of action from the 4th tier is always a good bet. FAWNL South east Division One now sadly down to 10 sides following the sad news that Hounslow Women have been forced to withdraw. Struggling for numbers and the fulfil fixtures the cub had battled so hard to try and build a club at this level but ultimately the difficult decision has had to be made. That following the withdrawal of Wymondham Town Ladies earlier in the season a huge reminder of just how fragile the game still remains and the work clubs have to do just to survive let alone thrive.
That of course means no relegation from the league this season, a relief for Cambridge City Ladies who now sit bottom having been above Hounslow. That said no team wants to win the wooden spoon either and whilst sides above them are within catching distance there remains alot to play for in the league, plus the defence of the Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup the final to be held against Cambridge rivals United. Has no doubt been a difficult season on the pitch, along with something of a transitional period off it with a new management team. Have seen quite a few experienced and established players depart over the past few months meaning the club has brought in several young players to bolster the squad. With an U23s and Development side.
Cambridge City of course club that very much has it’s foundations in youth with a strong set up and history of bringing players on through the age groups. The balance right now probably tilted more towards youth than experience but City are fighting hard to try and get the right results on the pitch. Alright the table doesn’t lie one win all season and that coming on the opening day, Aren’t getting turned over week in week out but frustratingly when the points don’t come the confidence can wear down. The recent 1-1 with their rivals United at The Abbey Stadium showing that City are fighting to hold their own in the league and this year will give their younger players in valuable experience. Plus they have the move to Cambridge City FC’s new home in Sawston to look forwards too.
Actonians Ladies are another side that knows all too well of the hard work needed both on and off the pitch to play at this level. Promoted to the FAWNL back in 2015 have gone on to become an established side competing in the top half of the table with 2 4th and 5th placed finish either side of the Covid hit campaigns. In sixth spot now are well positioned to challenge for the top 4 once again. Like City have a strong youth system with teams from U9s up to U17s plus two more women’s sides.
Despite having a poor start to the season picking up just 1 point in their opening 3 league matches, a run of wins in the various cup competitions kick started Actonians league campaign as the West London went of a 5 game winning streak to move up the table putting pressure on the top two briefly. Successive losses at home to AFC Wimbledon and away to QPR pegging them back a little currently 6th in the table. Natsumi Kanno and Rochelle Shakes joint top scorers on 7 each. Alessandra Barreca so often amongst the goals for Actonians in the past few seasons recently celebrating scoring her 100th goal for the club.
Ely City FC’s, Demcom Stadium the venue for todays match. The grass pitch seeing alot of action being rolled before the game. Is a large pitch offering plenty of width. The kitchen hatch and bar open serving hot and cold drinks plus hotdogs and chips. The colder weather due to arrive not quite here yet although it was a chilly afternoon, gloomy and overcast no wind or rain about though.
Cambridge City Ladies starting XI – Sarah Hudson (C), Jessie Fitzpatrick, Amy Reed, Bronwyn Mulheron, Fran Steele, Emily Struthers, Paige Gardiner, Erin Davies, Sarah Payne, Becca Stephenson & Haile Richards. Subs – Ellen Marson, Sophie Billing, Ella Marks-McDonald, Georgia Clarke.
Actonians Ladies starting XI – Amy Butler, Jessica Drage, Dominika Netschova, Sarah Coomson, Sophie Baigent, Meila D’Santos (C), Alessandra Berraca, Sophia Sharos, Natsumi Kanno, Jasmine Williamson & Rochelle Shakes. Subs – Naomi Graham, Rhiannon Ismael, Maria Ledezma-Viso, Samiara Khan, Chihiro Ebine.
Cambridge’s first game back since their spirited 1-1 with Cambridge United at The Abbey 10 days ago bring recent signing Sarah Payne back into the starting line up with 4 on the bench. Actonians with two ex-Cambridge United layers in their squad today with Amy Butler keeping goal and striker Samiara Khan on the bench. Cambridge to get the 1st half underway wearing white shirts with black sleeves, black shorts and black and white hooped socks. Actonians lined up opposite wearing blue and white vertical striped shirts with blue shorts and socks. The ball played back then fed to the right fired up the line for Paige Gardiner to attack, Dominika Netschova winning it for Actonians.
Actonians quick to get on the front foot surge forwards taking the game on into the Cambridge half a throw won high on the left, Rochelle Shakes looking to get the ball down drives into the box to the by-line the cross cut out deflected away for another throw. The cross launched into the six yard box, Sarah Hudson, Cambridge’s goalkeeper and captain with the call coming out of her goal to leap and lay claim to the ball. Actonians pressing on Cambridge looking a little nervous Jasmine Williamson running into the right channel winning the visitors a throw a spot of head tennis as the ball is nodded on across the top of the area dropping for Barreca 20 yards out right of the D, bringing it down on the spin, shoots the ball lopping in towards goal, straight into Hudson’s gloves.
Haile Richards seeing the ball into her feet up top for Cambridge turning a powerful drive forwards, Actonians centre back Sophie Baigent getting across her to see the ball back to her keeper for Butler to clear. Baigent’s ball launched up top from the back seeing Williamson attacking outside the D and awkward bounce takes it forwards, Amy Reed racing across to throw a foot out to block then again on Barreca as she comes in behind on the follow up. Netschova and Natsumi Kanno combining out on the left in attack for Actonians, Kanno rolling it back to Netschova her cross into the box from deep claimed cleanly by Hudson.
GOAL! Actonians marauding forwards at the start of the match putting pressure on the Cambridge defence top of the area Jessica Drage forwards on the right the ball lifted infield across the top of the area Cambridge lunging in to try and clear, the ball knocked on across the box falls to Williamson left of the D inside the box, gets her foot under the ball to strike it high into the top corner 0-1. Williamson making it a 3 way tie for top scorer wit her 7th of the season.
Actonians taking the lead in the 7th minute capitalising on a strong start. Cambridge come on from the restart Sarah Payne out to Becca Stephenson on the left sends the pass inside for Erin Davies coming on through the middle, attempts to pick out Gardiner on the right with a high diagonal ball, Netschova under it to put out for a throw. Barreca bringing the ball on for Actonians right playing it forwards for Williamson getting clear to attack the box to the right of goal, Bronwyn Mulheron getting back in the nick of time to put in the block as she pulls the trigger deflecting the ball away for a corner.
The corner from Kanno long past the far post attacked by Shakes, goes behind a Cambridge touch spotted a corner awarded on the left. Fired in near post the hosts clear. Drage getting forwards well on the right from the back for Actonians picked out by Baignet running on into the corner, Reed recovering for Cambridge to get back at her challenge for the ball the cross put behind for a goal kick. Actonians captain Meila D’Santos playing the ball central for Williamson, Mulheron in close spins off the defender to the right to strike a vicious shot low towards goal, Hudson with a great save instinctive with her feet to deny her the ball spinning away to her left.
Cambridge need to settle it’s all a little rushed, Richards moving well looking to be the outlet up top but support can’t get to her quick enough allowing Baigent and fellow centre back Sarah Coomson time to the ball and pick their passes forwards. Stephenson with the ball at her feet for Cambridge on the move left side inside for Richards sends the ball in across the top of the D, Gardiner closing in sees the ball nicked off her foot by Baigent before she can think about pulling the trigger. Actonians quickly on the counter the ball on for Kanno moving inside dribbling the ball forwards is brought down winning the free-kick. Midway inside the Cambridge half D’Santos on it sends it goalwards, Hudson sees it all the way.
Stephenson tracking back to win the ball back for Cambridge sends the pass long up to Richards bursts forwards attempting to find Gardiner on the move right side, Actonians have got back well to form a solid wall in front of her. Cambridge finding a little bit of joy upping the tempo the risk is that plays into Actonians hands. Shakes with the diagonal pass picking out Drage away out on the right plays the pass into the box for Williamson surging on right of the D, Mulheron again throwing herself in to block the ball rebounding away for the corner. Kanno whipping a great ball into the six yard box Barreca under it heads the ball up to drop down onto the roof of the net.
Actonians power forwards on the left Kanno up with Shakes the striker taking the ball to the by-line her cross blocked, the ball loose top of the area left side players from both sides battling for it Actonians seeing one of their players pulled over the referee pointing to the penalty spot. Barreca placing the ball on the spot. A chance to put the visitors 2 nil up shoots going to the left of goal, pulls it wide of the post.
Cambridge riding their luck, fighting hard but desperately need some relief forced back is difficult to get numbers out to attack, Actonians using the pitch well Drage and Kanno good outlets wide. Gardiner with a heavy tackle on Kanno the referee having a word. Actonians with loose play at the back sees Gardiner steal in onto the ball touching it in field the visitors move to close her down, 25 yards out doesn’t get a clean strike away the ball running safely through to Butler to pick up.
Is a little physical at times both sides battling for the ball. Cambridge winning a free-kick wide on the left deep, Fran Steele to play the ball forwards up towards the top of the area, the Actonians defence heading clear for a throw out left.
On Cambridge’s right knocked inside Kanno’s clearance put across the top of the box falling straight to Davies 20 odd yards out her shot sliced on the half volley spinning wide. Coomson sending the ball forwards for Williamson racing into the right channel, Bronwyn tackling the ball deflected into the box, Hudson can’t keep it from going for a corner. Is another vicious delivery from Kanno fired into the six yard box head height, Hudson does well amongst bodies to get her fist to the ball taking it away to drop far post, Shakes’ snap shot is blocked the rebound coming to Netschova left corner of the area her shot struck wide across the goal.
Steele for Cambridge with a great tackle on Shakes outside the D doing enough to stop the ball running on for Williamson inside the box. Coomson and Baigent have the time at the back to pick their passes and willing running going forwards for Actonians, Kanno out right the target for Baignet’s diagonal ball, Reed jumping with the merest of glancing header to take it away conceding the corner. Swung in near post, Steele comes to stoop into the header and clear Netschova in midfield gathering the ball laying it back to Kanno on the right her cross caught Hudson.
Kanno in the middle tussling for possession with Payne both falling awkwardly Kanno onto Payne’s legs both up but feeling it. Actonians with the free-kick the ball fired up towards the top of the area Steele clearing comes straight back, Williamson pulling off the defence after it but Cambridge standing up well caught offside. Kanno inside for Sharos plays it into Shakes left of the D, Emily Struthers with the tackle for Cambridge. Payne brought down in the middle presenting Cambridge with a free-kick, Steele launching it up towards the top of the area volleyed clear. A handball by Coomson spotted late in the 1st half Cambridge with one more chance to get the ball forwards. Steele on it central 30 yards out goes for it on target but safely plucked down and held by Butler.
Half-time Cambridge City Ladies 0-1 Actonians Ladies
Very similar to Cambridge’s first half 10 days ago against United a backs to the wall performance with their opponents coming onto them earlier applying pressure. Actonians with a positive start pressing forwards, using the pitch well creating chances and taking an early lead. Able to get players on the defence able to mop things up had opportunities to o further into the lead but weren’t taken. Cambridge battling brief glimpses going forwards could have been 2 or 3 down but as it stands trail by a single goal, can they keep it up in the 2nd half frustrate Actonians, take their chance if it comes.
A change for Cambridge at the break, Payne picking up a knock coming off a slight change of personnel with 16-year-old Sophie Billing who only make her debut in Cambridge’s last game going on to lead the attack, Richards moving to the right. Actonians unchanged as the visitors get the 2nd 45 underway, the ball back to the defence sent long to the left for Netschova, Richards doing the defending for Cambridge.
Cambridge more aggressive at the start of the 2nd half moving in quicker to press the ball. D’Santos into Williamson central, plays the ball into Barreca before making a run across her towards the area. Barreca putting a diagonal ball into Shakes left of the D attempts to send it across into Williamson with Kanno too stealing in from the left, Struthers getting her foot through the ball first to clear for Cambridge.
Actonians winning a corner on the right swung into the near post Reed clearing for Cambridge. The game more open at the start of the 2nd half, Williamson onto the ball wide left knocking it on into the area, Davies racing back to tackle for Cambridge before Williamson can get a shot away. Stephenson taking the ball on from Reed on Cambridge’s left racing on sends it on looking for Billing up to moving left, Baigent going with the run intercepting for Actonians. Both sides into each other a few robust challenges exchanged.
Cambridge getting a corner of Williamson as the attacker tracks back well to put a foot in to take the ball off Richards as the Cambridge forward picks up a head of steam on the right. Players up from the back the corner swung into the six yard box, Mulheron attacking central can’t get her head on the ball.
On the hour Actonians with a triple change bringing off their attackers, Shakes, Barreca and Williamson on come Samiara Khan, Maria Ledezma-Viso and Chihiro Ebine. With Khan going up top, Ledezma-Viso right and Ebine into the back line with Netschova pushed on. Actonians with a throw high on the right put into the Cambridge box the clearance coming to D’Santos central sends it left into Netschova running onto it stretching to bring down sends her shot wide at the near post.
Ebine up on the left for Actonians with the throw dropped into Khan inside the box left of goal takes it to the by-line turning to put her cross/shot behind. Baigent brought down by Billing as the pair fight for possession, both sides wanting more urgency. Actonians making a 4th change with Naomi Graham onto the pitch taking the captains armband on for Sharos. The visitors winning a free-kick in a dangerous position 25 yards out right of the D, Drage on it struck towards the top corner, Hudson across her goal pulling it down safely.
There’s going to be a fair collection of bruises for both sides tomorrow morning getting at each other for possession. Actonians a little frustrated they haven’t put the game to bed, Cambridge sensing they might get something. D’Santos up the line for Khan on the left taking it to the by-line her cross into the six yard box cut out by Struthers. Ledezma-Viso taking the ball on wide right for Actonians sending a low cross into the six yard box, Netschova attacking it can’t get a telling touch before Mulheron makes her challenge.
It’s an intriguing watch you feel Actonians should be well in control but Cambridge are fighting for their lives it has the potential to go either way with less than 20 minutes to go. Actonians coming right winning the corner Kanno’s ball into the six yard box attacked by D’Santos central knocked down to the fart post attacked by Baigent shoots Hudson grabbing it into her body saving for Cambridge.
Coomson tackling Stephenson on the by-line as the Cambridge winger races on with the ball. Billing pressuring at the back winning Cambridge a corner on the left. Players up the ball flung in central headed out to the top of the area, both Stephenson and Reed go to attack get in each others way giving Actonians the chance to clear. Ledezma-Viso out on the right of the area firing a shot wide across the goal for Actonians. Cambridge making a change Gardiner having been in the wars coming off replaced by Ellen Marson who goes into a right attacking position, Richards shifting to the left with Billing up top.
Netschova bringing the ball on left side fed on for Khan, strength from the attacker to hold off her marker shifting the ball inside outside the box looking to get it onto her right foot and turn into the shot, drags her effort wide of the near post. Davies comes forwards though the middle for Cambridge out to Stephenson on her left forwards into Richards, held up by Coomson plays it back to Stephenson, picks out Davies 25 out calls for her to shoot caught on two minds does neither the ball knocked on into the box gathered by Butler.
Cambridge send the ball up top into Billing won knocked out to Stephenson coming on left side on into Richards 25 yards out left channel fires her strike straight at the keeper. Khan strong getting free on the by-line left of goal to cross, cut out by Mulheron then cleared by Steele for Cambridge. Kanno gives the ball to Graham central plays it forwards into D’Santos strikes from distance her attempt dropping wide. 7 minutes left to play the result by no means certain. Richards clattering into Coomson but no foul given Cambridge have the throw put on the cross launched into the box headed clear by Baigent.
Davies driving on central with the ball Actonians crowd into her the ball loose for a moment Richards looking to carry it forwards with the same results. Cambridge making a 3rd change bringing off Richards, on comes Georgia Clarke. Kanno fouled as she drives on through the middle the advantage played as the ball comes on to Khan right in the box her cross blocked come back to Kanno to strike cleared by Mulheron. Actonians putting some urgency into their play in the closing stages Graham hooking it forwards for Khan, Struthers defending for Cambridge.
Baigent sent sprawling to the ground on half way for Actonians giving the visitors a free-kick. Flighted into the box towards the right post Mulheron up to head it behind for a corner on the right.
GOAL! Kanno’s corner deliveries have been a threat all game and one bears fruit at last as the inswinging ball is knocked on across goal at the near post dropping down into Ebine’s feet, digging it out for the shot to send home as Cambridge throw bodies in to try and block 0-2.
Actonians clinching the win at the death doubling their lead killing off any chance of Cambridge getting something out of the game. Little time left after the restart to get the ball forwards put out to the right the final whistle blows Actonians back to winning ways taking the points home with them moving up to 5th in the table.
Full time Cambridge City Ladies 0-2 Actonians Ladies
Actonians made to work for the 3 points was an intriguing watch Cambridge fighting for their lives. Actonians looked dominant at times and could well have been 2 or 3 goals to the good at half-time and perhaps if they had been would have deflated Cambridge’s spirit but at 1-0 the hosts were always in the game but unlike the game 10 days ago couldn’t find that one moment of quality to get themselves back on level terms. Fought all the way can take plenty of heart from the performance but again it’s hard to take when you get nothing from it. Actonians on top moving the ball well eventually sealing a deserved win at the death. 6 games to go for Actonians and some big ones too in terms of final position. Cambridge with 4 left one more at home against Norwich then 3 away including a final day trip to Chesham could yet be a huge game.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this Sunday’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match was a tough one once again left the ground not entirely sure who I was going to give it too, but I do write alot of notes as you know and they gave me what I needed. Several performance of note both sides put in a shift no doubt a spirited display. For Cambridge, Sarah Hudson with an assured performance in goal leading from the back with some great saves. Amy Reed and Bronwyn Mulheron with some good tackling at the back and Haile Richards fighting for the ball up top. For Actonians, Alessandra Barreca was influential on the ball getting it forwards, Meila D’Santos strong in midfield, while Sophie Baigent had a strong game at the back winning the ball and playing it forwards well. The winner of today’s award though is Natsumi Kanno her corners were a threat all game as was her running with the ball and link up play.
A intriguing game (for the neutral I suppose) enjoyed my trip to the Demcom Stadium. Good to catch up with Actonians as I haven’t seen them in a while plus my thanks Cambridge City for their help with the team details much appreciated.
by Darren Gilham