Sunday 19th November
Hertfordshire FA Women’s Senior Challenge Cup
Travelling down to Letchworth this Sunday to take in some action from the quarter finals of the new look Hertfordshire FC Women’s Senior Challenge Cup competition with a repeat of last season’s final taking place in the last 8 with five times winners, Stevenage FC Women taking on Royston Town Women.
Hertfordshire FA introducing a secondary women’s county cup competition this season, the Women’s Trophy, that sees the clubs competing within the county split according to league status into the two competitions with the Challenge Cup now the Senior competition featuring the sides playing in tiers 4, 5 & 6. The Trophy competition with the exception of Stevenage FC Women Development featuring the sides playing at county (tier 7) level. Personally I like the format, should in theory see a lot less eye-watering score-lines in the early rounds, and weekends lost due to sides pulling out of the competition through a mis-matched draw while giving those sides competing lower down silverware to contest. Makes the Senior competition highly competitive with a strong quarter final line-up. Stevenage v Royston a repeat of last season’s final with Stevenage edging it 5-4 in a penalty shootout to win the competition for a 5th time!.
Stevenage FC Women have dominated the Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup in recent season’s featuring in every final since Women’s Football East started covering it, over a decade now, one of the leading sides in the county and will be determined to keep that run going. Have seen several comings and goings over the close season however losing a number of key players to rival clubs. With a strong squad of players last season have retained a good level of talent while recruiting some useful talent. Defender, Rebecca Edge and Ellie Stammers coming in from Cheshunt FC Women. Midfielder, Sarah Payne playing for 4th tier Cambridge City Women last season. Libby Stubbs has experience in tier 4 with London Seaward. Remi Martin joining from Northampton. Chloe Gunn returning to the club after a spell away with QPR. While Lilia Dempsey makes the step up into the 1st team squad. Mathilda Fidler recently re joining the club after a short stint away with Cambridge City Women. Vice-Captain, Amy Makewell currently top scorer, netting 7 goals so far this campaign while Dempsey has scored 6.
Royston Town Women bitterly disappointed to miss out in last season’s final have battled back to level the scores late in the game. Like Stevenage, Royston have see a few players depart over the summer, but have also recruited to build a competitive squad to play in what is once again a strong ERWFL Premier Division. Signing, Erin Davies from Cambridge City Women. Sunny McGregor has valuable experience with Cambridge United WFC. Stacey Roper joining the squad having previously been with Haverhill Rovers Women. Royston delighted to welcome back defender, Tally Miles after a spell playing in tier 3 with MK Dons Women. Jordanne Sillitoe also with Haverhill Rovers Women last season the striker joining Royston after starting the season with ERWFL newcomers, Thetford Town Ladies. Also back running again is midfielder Riana Badel working her way back to fitness after suffering the dreaded ACL injury. Emma Slater currently top scorers netting 9 goals in 11 games, hot on her heels though is Sillitoe hitting the back of the net for 6 goals so far in 4 appearances.
The quarter final tie being played at the County Ground in Letchworth home of Hertfordshire FA and home too in recent season’s for Stevenage FC Women. One large seat stand on one side of the ground with covered viewing areas all around. An over cast and miserable day with a keen wind blowing across the pitch, the odd shower around, hot food and drink being served in the cafeteria behind the main stand.
Stevenage FC Women starting XI – Celine Rey, Grace Brooks, Rebecca Edge, Chloe Gunn, Lilia Dempsey, Anna Baker Re, Hannah Bodily, Emily Schofield, Amy Gooderham, Mathilda Fidler & Amy Makewell (C). Subs – Kelsey Millen, Katie White, Hannah Nebbitt, Kristal Clarke & Matilda Thomas O’Keefe.
Royston Town Women starting XI – Elle Sarter, Amy Houghton, Emma Todd, Tally Miles, Stacey Roper, Charlotte South (C), Erin Davies, Amy Josland, Emma Slater, Laura Mills & Jordanne Sillitoe. Subs – Nicole Hendrick, Emily Smith, Poppy Smith & Chloe Holt.
Several changes of personnel featuring in both of today’s playing squad compared to those that featured in the County Cup final back in March. It’s the hosts Stevenage to get the quarter final underway kicking off 1st half wearing red and white coloured shirts, with red shorts and white socks with red trim. Royston wearing their away colours and all aqua strip. The ball played back to Rebecca edge in defence sends it out to the right for Amy Gooderham who firs it long up to the attackers, Stacey Roper up to head the ball away for Royston, out to the right with Gooderham snatching hold of it driving to the by-line turning into the area before running the ball out of play before crossing.
Royston closing Stevenage down inside their half feeding the diagonal ball out to Emma Slater racing away on the right wing, sends a low cross into the box, cut out by Chloe Gunn at the back for Stevenage. The visitors making a strong start to the match getting after Stevenage pushing forwards, captain Charlotte South battling for possession in the middle the ball finding Slater on the right drives on before firing her cross behind.
Gooderham looking to provide an outlet for Stevenage on the right, the pass picking her out takes on Emma Todd at left back for Royston charging towards the area firing in a cross towards the near post, Mathilda Fidler seeing it into her feet turning to fire the ball across the six yard box, intercepted by Tally Miles at the far post and cleared.
Royston getting forwards with purpose winning a throw high on the right dropped into South puts it back up the line for Slater to whip a dangerous ball into the area, met by Laura Mills running in central, shoot low, Stevenage goalkeeper, Celine Rey saving well diving down to her left to push the ball past the past for a corner kick. Miles swinging the ball in across the top of the six yard box, Edge up well the head clear for Stevenage.
Royston winning the ball back inside the Stevenage half Erin Davies getting it out to the right for Slater level with the top of the area fires it in towards South right of the D, can’t quite dig the ball out from under her feet to get any power behind her strike before being closed down, the shoot tame through to Rey to claim as she goes to ground.
Is competitive, a little testy between the sides a local derby after all. Edge fouling Jordanne Sillitoe as she looks to spin off her to the left of the centre circle. Miles taking it early played on down the left for Sillitoe checks inside to pass to South 20 yards out left of the goal, attempts the threaded ball for Mills and Slater tracking in behind, Anna Baker Re cutting the ball out slicing the ball away.
Slater causing Stevenage problems early on driving forwards with the ball on the right turning infield her cross blocked by Grace Brooks. Slater then up ended as she looks to sprint away with the ball on the right. Miles to sweep her free-kick in towards the near post, Baker Re there to clear for Stevenage, then is there to block as Todd on out on the left looks to send the cleared ball back into the mix. Amy Josland firing a strike from 25 yards out for Royston as the ball coms into her from a throw in on the left.
Royston on top at the start of the match, South bustling about in the final 3rd looking to win the ball. With Sillitoe out on the left the cross swept into toward the penalty spot with Mills racing in the target a vital interception by Gunn. Davies getting the ball under control for Royston attempting to thread a through ball in behind for Sillitoe on the left channel, Rey out of her blocks quickly to race out and claim the ball first.
Stevenage struggling to get the ball into their attackers as Davies closes Fidler down gets the ball forwards into Mills up top. lays it back to South as she spins in behind, South looking for Slater to the right, the flag going up against her. Mills making a move out to the right with the ball at her feet for Royston, squaring it back inside to South at the near post, the midfielder laying it back to the top of the area with Josland running onto the pass 20 yards out striking the shot over the bar.
Slater surging on right side stinging the keepers gloves with a vicious shot angled in at the near post. Stevenage regaining possession in the middle Hannah Bodily on for Emily Schofield sends it through for captain, Amy Makewell in behind into the box right of the D takes it wide before sending a shot in low back across the keeper, Elle Sarter, down smartly to save.
Stevenage having rode out the early pressure from Royston working the ball well through the middle a fluid move with Schofield linking up with Makewell who in turn picks out Fidler pulling to the right firing a shot in low towards the near post, Sarter across down low to save has it covered. Baker Re sneaking in behind the Royston defence to take the ball wide right of the box sweeping a ball back in across the penalty spot, Makewell meeting it with a first time hit her shot angling up towards the top left corner, Sarter throwing herself across her goal can’t get there the ball though narrowly wide!
Three god chances in quick succession for Stevenage after a spell of Royston dominance. Royston with another free-kick inside the Stevenage half, Miles to send it high into the area, headed clear by Bodily for Stevenage. Davies getting back to tackle Gooderham well timed on the right as the Stevenage winger powers her way forwards.
GOAL! Royston sending the ball on for Sillitoe pulling clear wide on the left clips the ball in high towards goal, her cross over Rey crashing down off the bar bouncing out to the right, Slater looking to keep it in on the by-line coming together with the defender, the decision initially going against the attacker, but after consulting with her linesman, referee Emma Chamberlain reverses the decision pointing to the spot. Penalty! South placing the ball on the spot taking it for Royston struck low, plenty of pace on it, Rey guessing right diving to her left gets her gloves to the ball, but not enough to deflect the ball pass her post as it instead crosses the line to give Royston the lead 0-1.
Stevenage unhappy with the decision to award the penalty questioning the referee, the goal stands however, the game restarting Baker Re looking to get the ball out to Lilia Dempsey on the left, Amy Houghton getting a foot onto the ball to intercept the pass for Royston. Testy at times, is an intriguing game. Baker Re shown the yellow card.
GOAL! Stevenage looking for a response after conceding push players up into the final 3rd build up on the left the ball rolled on for Makewell who gets her head down driving into the area towards goal, is unceremoniously hauled to the ground, the referee pointing to the spot. Penalty! Stevenage with a chance to level straight away. Gooderham placing the ball on the spot, hit low and hard to the left sending the keeper the wrong way 1-1.
An entertaining contest the sides back level Royston threaten to break on the left, Todd looking to take the ball on, Gunn sliding in with a strong challenge to send the ball out of play. Davies peeling away to the left taking the ball on for Royston whipping a looping cross into the area, Rey up to pluck the ball down and claim confidently with both Mills and Slater closing her down.
Gooderham spinning off her marker well on the right to take the ball forwards laying it on for Fidler breaking into the area right of goal, Miles across to tackle the ball out for a corner on the right. Stevenage sending players up from the back, the ball put long towards the far post Edge rising to meet it with her head sending the attempt over the bar.
Royston get straight down the other end to win a corner of their own on the right as Slater drives down the line. Miles taking the corner curled in across goal, Roper appears to be bundled over as Slater meets it with her head inside the six yard box sends the ball up over the bar.
Stevenage unsuccessfully appealing for another penalty as they build on the left, an attacker claiming a shove in the back as the ball comes into her. The game end to end Sillitoe charging the ball down as Rey races out of her area to clear. Roper intercepting a the back as Dempsey floats in an inviting diagonal ball from deep on the left. Stevenage winning a free-kick out on the left the ball fired into Fidler outside the area, left, back to goal, controls on the turn to strike on the volley, straight at Sarter the keep holding onto the ball. Stevenage play the ball into Gooderham off a throw on the right in the closing seconds of the first half the winger crossing on the turn, Miles clearing inside the area for Royston.
Half-time Stevenage FC Women 1-1 Royston Town Women
That was an entertaining and lively first half. A competitive contest between local rivals. Royston with a strong start to the match taking the game to Stevenage creating several opportunities. Took the hosts a little while to find their feet in the game but responded well with a succession of good chances before the penalty spot got involved. Royston taking the lead after Slater was fouled inside the box. Stevenage not happy with the decision, nevertheless responding well to falling behind, Makewell’s purposeful un into the area seeing her brought down and awarded the penalty. Gooderham burying it to level the scores. All set up for an intriguing 2nd half.
Light fading and the wind getting noticeably chillier as the sides come out for the 2nd half the floodlights coming on. Royston making a change bringing off Sillitoe, with Emily Smith. Royston to get the 2nd 45 underway, the ball played back to Miles in defence sweeps it forwards looking for Slater on the right, Brooks defending for Stevenage seeing the ball back to her keeper for Rey to clear.
Stevenage pressing the ball on the right at the start of the 2nd half, Baker Re forwards well the ball crossed onto the roof of the net. Gooderham with the ball at her feet, head down driving forwards, Todd lunging in to tackle getting the ball away for the throw, Gooderham going down the Stevenage bench erupting in fury.
Mills getting hold of the ball breaking away through the middle for Royston in a race with Gunn as she powers her way forwards, laying it out to the right for Slater who has just strayed offside. Gunn down in the box needing treatment, but the defender is okay to play on. Houghton bringing the ball on right for Royston over halfway checks inside before shooting from all of 30 yards out her effort put wide of the near post. Several interesting individual battles taking place out there on the pitch, Baker Re looking to make things happen for Stevenage taking the ball away to the right, Davies tracking with her gets a foot onto the ball to prevent the cross divert it out for a throw.
Lively taken quickly into Fidler’s feet inside the box right of goal, turns well hitting the strike on the half volley her attempt smashing down off the crossbar! Baker Re taking a blow for Stevenage down a concern as the trainer runs onto the pitch to administer treatment. Allowed back on isn’t running freely as play resumes Stevenage with another strong appeal as Houghton and Dempsey come together top of the Royston area. Baker Re can’t continue Stevenage making a change 10 minutes into the 2nd half bringing on Kelsey Millen.
GOAL! The game fluid both sides looking to get the ball forwards carve an opening, Royston come forwards with Houghton central feeds the pass on for South 25 yards out she sends the diagonal pass forwards for Mills pulling clear right of the D into the area, turns, Rey racing out attempting to close her down, Mills with a composed touch to place the ball wide of the onrushing keeper, sending the ball into the bottom corner to score 1-2.
Royston back in front regain possession on the left Todd on for Smith who fires he ball into the box for Mills back to goal, lays it back into the path of Slater inside the D, moving inside she curls a shot wide of the left post. Stevenage make a 2nd change bringing off Schofield, sending on Hannah Nebbitt. Fidler with a purposeful run on the ball through the middle for Stevenage, Houghton coming in to charge her down the ball rebounding out to Dempsey on the left plays her shot low into the keeper.
Royston quick to get on the counter Davies out to Slater breaking away on the right, skips inside her marker to get into the box and blasts a strike wide at the near post. Stevenage winning a free-kick on halfway, Gunn to play it long into the area, Josland defending for Royston, up towards Mills up top looking to break, Gunn doing well defending getting the ball back to Rey to clear. The referee stopping play to turn and book Brooks for something said.
Is tense out there a few decisions angering both sides the ball squirming through the back line into Slater to shoot from outside the box the ball plucked down well by Rey. Moments later Slater is fouled top of the D, Royston winning the free-kick, the offender, Brooks in trouble, just shown a yellow card, is shown her second in quick succession and is sent off! Slater needing treatment but okay to continue. An inviting angle for the shot, Miles goes for it her set-piece clipping the top of the crossbar on it’s way over.
Smith with the shot for Royston, 25 yards out as she brings the ball down centrally to strike, angling in low towards the right corner, Rey saves well getting down at full stretch to push the ball past the post for the corner kick. The corner defended near side cleared back to taker, Miles for a 2nd attempt to cross, the ball coming back to Davies free top of the area her shot in low, Rey again down low to her left saving brilliantly putting the ball behind for another corner.
Davies sending a long range pass out to the right for Slater to chase, Rey coming out wide to deal with it needing a composed touch to drag the ball into her area before she is able to drop down to smother the ball. The wind picking up as Stevenage win a free-kick on half-way launched up towards the area dealt with by Roper, before Smith clumsily brings down Fidler presenting Stevenage with a free-kick 20 yards out. To the right of goal, Makewell over the ball hits a thunderous strike in towards goal the ball beating Sarter cannoning down off the crossbar, down into the mix, Fidler snatching at it lifting a rising ball towards the top corner, Sarter throwing her arms up saving to turn the ball over for a corner kick.
Smith heading the ball from the right out of the box to the left for Royston, Gunn after it shooting low on the angle, well held by Sarter. Royston making a change breaking on Nicole Hendrick for Josland as Stevenage win a free-kick on half way the ball long up into the box headed down to the top of the area, Makewell meeting it on the volley her effort screwed wide past the right post.
Fidler determined going forwards central the ball knocked on Stevenage winning a free-kick right of the D. Makewell over it goes for goal on target but Sarter is right behind the ball to make the save look comfortable. Stevenage making a triple switch with just a few minutes of regular time left, Bodily, Gunn and Dempsey coming off with Katie White, Kristal Clarke and Matilda Thomas O’Keefe coming on. Roper injured for Royston down receiving treatment needs to come off, Poppy Smith coming on with Slater dropping in to the left of defence.
The Smith’s linking up for Royston in attack straight away as the ball from South in put into Emily’s feet left channel lays it into Poppy’s feet as she attacks central in behind, the ball there to be hit as she enters the box takes another touch though a little heavy giving Rey the opportunity to get towards her to dive in make the blocking save.
Fidler playing the ball on for Millen and Clarke up top for Stevenage central, Millen into Clarke bursting on into the area left of goal Houghton with her, Clarke going down, didn’t look like any contact from my angle, the referee waving play on as the visitors clear the ball. Stoppage time being played Stevenage pushing on looking for a goal, Royston defending as the hosts get a free-kick inside the circle Nebbitt to take, hit long Sarter back on her line getting her gloves behind it and not letting it drop loose inside her six yard box.
Mills off late on for Royston as the clock ticks down, Chloe Holt coming on, Stevenage throwing the ball forwards Millen bringing it down into her feet 25 yards out, Miles on her plays it out to the right but no one is there to run it down. Royston celebrating a memorable win in the cup ending Stevenage’s long run of successive finals in the process.
Full time Stevenage FC Women 1-2 Royston Town Women
A hugely thrilling cup tie played between two local rivals, hotly contested a little testy at times but never overboiling, a penalty each in the 1st half seeing it all square at the end of the 1st half. Stevenage looking for a bright start to the 2nd half, falling behind to the Laura Mills strike then reduced to 10 players. Fought well to get themselves back into the game both goalkeepers pulling off great saves the woodwork struck too. Royston with the clinical finish to win the game and reach the last 4 of this season’s Hertfordshire Women’s Senior Challenge Cup where they will now be at home to face in form Harpenden Town Women from the league below in the semi-finals on Sunday 18th February.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this Sunday’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. Several top performances although I did have a clear favourite leaving the ground and my notes have only confirmed that. A few to mention first though, for Stevenage, goalkeeper, Celine Rey pulled off a number of tremendous saves to keep her team in the tie right to the very end. Anna Baker Re looked to make things happen in the middle get Stevenage going forwards. Mathilda Fidler showed excellent awareness up top getting into some great positions to create opportunities. For Royston it was an excellent goalkeeping performance from Elle Sarter. Tally Miles strong in the back line defending and from set-piece deliveries. Erin Davies getting about the pitch to win the ball and bring it on. Captain Charlotte South leading the way getting after the ball linking up well with the attackers. Today’s award though goes to Emma Slater a constant threat on the right driving on with the ball, taking players on and creating chances to score.
Well worth the trip down from Norfolk, an hugely enjoyable cup tie, full of action and drama between two close rivals. My thanks to both clubs for their assistance today. Yet to meet in the league this season, promises to be two exciting matches.
by Darren Gilham