Cup Final Special – Cambridge United WFC v Derby County Women

Sunday 21st April

FAWNL League Plate Final

A road trip up to Manchester this Sunday for Women’s Football East to watch the Final of the FAWNL Plate with both opponents reaching their first national final, Cambridge United WFC  from South East Division One taking on Northern Premier Division side, Derby County Women.

The FAWNL representing tiers 3 an 4 of the women’s football pyramid, with an ever growing pool of talented players an clubs wit high ambitions of reaching the Championship an WSL.  above. The league having two senior cup competition the League Cup and Plate, a determining round played at the start of the season seeing the sides from all 6 Divisions drawn against one another to ‘determine’ which competition each club will go on to compete in the winners the Cup the losing sides the Plate.

Today’s prize

Some mixed feelings about the Determining Round but on the whole positive, no one is dumped out at this stage a no loss game in some ways gives managers a great opportunity to look at their sides early on in a competitive match and make any tweaks for the forth coming campaign.

Cambridge United WFC losing 5-0 at home to Norwich in the Determining Round bounced back superbly with a 4-0 opening day league result against Haywards Heath, the clubs top scorer from the previous season netting all 4 goals! That though was to be Wiltshire’s last game for the campaign as she was pregnant with her 3rd child. A blow losing your top scorer so early in the season however Cambridge found a solution that worked superbly playing midfielder Alysha Stojko-Down in a false 9 position. Scoring crucial goals that pushed Cambridge up into the top 4 early in the season is leading scorer with 13 to her name. Chasing her down though are attackers Bella Simmons with 12 an Ruth Fox on 10 to date, all three scoring vital goals to propel Cambridge into their 1st national final.

The loss of Wiltshire not the only hurdle the club have had to deal with injuries to other keys players including new signing Fran Steele the midfielder joining from rivals Cambridge City at the start of the season. The squad responding each time whilst others have started to return from long term injuries, Harley Jean Simpson back on the score sheet against City last time out with the club in 7th looking for a top half finish with 2 league games to play. Two cup finals for the club in consecutive weekends with their new U18s side reaching the final of the Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup.

Has been quite a while since I last saw Derby County Women in action, back in the Supporting Women’s Football blog days. The East Midlands club are a long established club in the FAWNL North Premier Division. Like Cambridge reaching their first ever national final with a strong run to the final all of those matches away from home too. A good run too in the FA Women’s Cup getting through to the 4th Round Proper before eventually being knocked out by WSL side Leicester City Women. In between their cup exploits has been a mixed set of results in the league unable to put a run of results together however comfortable in 8th position in the league.

Capable of scoring goals, captain, Amy Sims is top scorer for the club this season and 2nd top scorer in the league itself netting 18 goals in 28 appearances. With Eleanor Ashton firing home 11 goals in her 26 matches. Rebecca May and Yasmin Mosby both on 7 a piece.

 Road to the Final

  Both sides away from home in the 1st Round of the League Plate, Cambridge taking on fellow South East Division One side, Actonians Ladies. Goals from defender Rachel Kosky and Alysha Stojko-own securing a 2-1 win. Derby up against Northern Division One side Doncaster Rovers Belles, a strong first half performance from the Ewes seeing them leading 4-0 thanks to goals from, Rebecca May and Maria Timms plus a brace for Marli Rhodes-Andrews. Sarah Jackson with a further goal in the 2nd half to seal a 5-0 victory.

Cambridge hosting South West Division One side, Keynsham Town Ladies in the 2nd Round, Ruth Fox scoring on the hour the sides drawing 1-1 after 90 minutes heading into extra-time. The dreaded penalty shootout looming Bella Simmons popping up to find the back of the net in the closing minutes of the extra period to send Cambridge onto the quarter finals. Derby travelling to play Midlands Division One side Northampton Town Women in the 2nd Round. Kira Rai firing in an 8th minute goal a further goal on45 minutes from Amy Sims saw Derby leading 2-1 at the break. Yasmin Mosby extending Derby’s lead early in the 2n half, Megan Tinsley and Ashton both on target in the 2nd half powering Derby to a 5-2 win.

Into the quarter finals Cambridge had to wait a bi before eventually travelling down to play Maidenhead United Ladies in their quarter final tie. A single goal enough to beat the South West Division One side, score by Stojko-Down to send them into the last 4. Derby taking on another Midlands Division One side in their quarter final tie travelling to play Sutton Coldfield Town Women. A 1st half half-trick from Amy Sims securing a 3-0 lead at half-time. Rebecca May adding a 4th in the 80th minute with Kira Ria securing a 5-0 win in stoppage time to send the club into the last 4.

Cambridge with a tough test at home in their semi-final contest taking on Division One North title hopefuls, Barnsley WFC. A good start for Cambridge as Rachel Kosky headed them into an early lead. Alayna Millard getting Barnsley back on level terms 1-1 at half-time the visitors came out strong at the start of the 2nd half looking to find a goal, Cambridge held firm breaking to retake the lead themselves through Bella Simmons. Ruth Fox coming off the bench to make it 3-1 with 15 minutes left. Jodie Michalska getting one more back for Barnsley but Cambridge held on to reach their first national final. A tough test for Derby too as they travelled to the South West coast to take on Exeter City WFC pushing for the South West Division one title. The hosts taking the lead on the half hour, Derby responded well firing in twice late in the half through, Eleanor Ashton and Charlotte Steggles to lead 2-1 at the beak. An own goal extending Derby’s lead early in the 2nd half Exeter pulled it back to 3-2 before Camilla Jenkins scored with 10 minutes to go to send Derby into their first national final with a 4-2 win.

Broadhurst Park the venue for todays final home of FC United of Manchester, their women’s team competing in the FAWNL. Hosting both the Reserve League Cup and Plate finals the day before. Both games ended 4-3! Oxford United WFC Development beating AFC Bournemouth Development to lift the Reserve Cup. Liverpool Feds Reserves beating Peterborough United Women U23s to win the Reserve Plate. A few fans expressing their dismay at the final venue with Manchester announced a good trek for 5 out of the 6 weekend finalists. Was booked before the announcement however just unfortunate it be announced after the finalists were confirmed. Think the sooner a venue can be announced for a final the better people know the score then and will accept it better. The FAWNL itself having a transitional period this season itself with the previous committee volunteers stepping down and the FA taking on the leagues. That all said, Broadhurst Park is an impressive looking stadium One large seated stand on entry housing all the facilities the press area outside the large hospitality area. The grass pitch with standing viewing on the opposite side and behind one goal with a terraced stand behind the other.

 I like the Cambridge United WFC squad opting to travel up to Manchester on the Saturday stay overnight. Derby a little closer travelling up on the day of the final itself. The weather absolutely perfect for a cup final, an we haven’t been able to say that much recently. Warm in the sun, no wind or rain in the forecast. A little cool in the shade fancied a spot in the sun on the opposite side of the main stand to take my notes as the teams headed out onto the pitch t begin the game.

Cambridge United WFC

Cambridge United WFC starting XI – Lauren Webb, Lauren Rouse Abbie Jackson (C), Brooklyn Cheal-Ferris. Rachel Kosky, Ella Marden, Sammy Edgar, Serena Cobb, Ruth Fox, Bella Simmons & Alysha Stojko-Down. Subs – Sophie Marjoram, Gisella Otten, Harley-Jean Simpson & Charlotte Gillies.

Derby County Women

 Derby County Women starting XI – Sarah Morgan, Camille Jenkins, Sarah Jackson, Charlotte Steggles, Emily Joyce, Emelia Wilson, Amy Sims (C), Hannah Ward, Kira Rai, Rebecca May & Eleanor Ashton. Subs – Anna Draper, Marli Rhodes-Andrews, Helena Meadow, Isabel Sheridan & Eve Shepherd.

Captains. Amy Sims and Abbie Jackson with todays Plate final officials

The pre-match formalities complete the captains meeting today’s officials to decide kick-off. Cambridge’s poor luck with injuries continuing into the final, with Zoe Wood not available, a new signing at the start of the season has been highly influential in games. Regular captain Gisela Otten on the bench, Abbie Jackson donning the armband for today’s Plate final as Cambridge prepare to kick off the 1st half, wearing amber coloured shirts with black shorts and socks. Derby lined up opposite wearing white coloured shirts and socks with black shorts. The ball rolled back to Sammy Edgar in midfield her pass clipped out to the right channel with Ruth Fox and Rachel Kosky bombing forwards, Camille Jenkins dealing with the ball for Derby cleared into midfield helped on out to the right Hannah Ward playing it forwards, Lauren Webb in goal for Cambridge gathering up the ball.

  Cambridge pushing on looking to press the Derby defence on the ball, regaining possession Derby put the ball long for captain, Amy Sims bursting on through the middle, Cambridge’s captain, Abbie Jackson intercepting the ball at the back seeing it back for her keeper to clear. Eleanor Ashton plays the ball across the pitch picking out Kira Rai out on the left combining with Rebecca Day taking the ball all the way to the by-line fires the cross low into the six yard box, cut out by Abbie Jackson and cleared. 

Cambridge captain, Abbie Jackson

  Derby given time on the ball at the back, Sarah Jackson n the right of defence with time to pick a pass looks to send the ball up into the left channel, Lauren Rouse heading it away for Cambridge. The game settling down Cambridge looking to drop back as a unit defend their area, inviting Derby on, look for the opening to counter. Emelia Wilson sending the ball out to Ward on Derby’s right flank plays it down the line for Sims breaking forwards, her attempted cross, blocked by Cambridge’s Brooklyn Cheal-Ferris out for a Derby throw in.

Derby’s Emilia Wilson

  Ward strong to win the ball for Derby on the right, has Ashton across with her the ball down the line crossed into the packed area cleared by Abbie Jackson, back to the right, Derby keeping the pressure on Ashton putting it back into the mix, Kosky throwing herself into the challenge for Cambridge, the ball loose in the area Derby seeing two shots blocked at close range before being turned wide for a goal kick. Serena Cobb winning the challenge for Cambridge looks to release Stojko-Down, Derby quick to get players around her crowd her off the ball.

  Derby’s midfielders taking the ball on with so forceful runs adding to the team pressure, Emily Joyce, coming right onto Ward, Alysha Stojko-Down tracking back to tackle for Cambridge. Sims with the ball at her feet pushing on central looks to lift it on for Ashton up top, Abbie Jackson close on her 20 yards out getting their first to clear for Cambridge. 

Eleanor Ashton

  Derby with time on the ball at the back the defence looking for options and have plenty of movement up top, Ward and Rai keeping wide, runners through the middle, Sarah Jackson clipping the diagonal ball in towards the top of the D with Sims making the run, lets the ball drop over her shoulder getting hold of it as it lands to chip, her snap shot racing wide of the left post.

  Winning the ball at the back Abbie Jackson for Cambridge releases Ella Marden into space on the left wing, taking the ball on Derby a coming to close her early cross cut out deflected back to goalkeeper Sarah Morgan. Cambridge are working hard to keep in compact inviting Derby on at times. Sarah Jackson taking the ball on down the right flashing a cross into the near post, Sims arriving to meet it driving her header wide. 

Amy Sims tackled by Cambridge’s Brooklyn Cheal-Ferris, Serena Cobb getting round to clear the ball

 15 minutes played Derby piling on the pressure, Abbie Jackson in to win another ball lifted forwards into the box, Cambridge can’t get hold of it, Derby straight back on the attack, Sims through the middle playing the pass out to the left for Rai to attack the by-line her cross cut back to the top of the area, Wilson looking to hit her shot 1st time can’t keep her effort down sends it over the bar.

Kira Rai on the attack for Derby

  Sims fouled by Edgar on the right Derby with a free-kick 30 yards out, Day effort hitting the Cambridge wall. Webb sending the ball on won well by Stojko-Down central puts Marden away on the left a rare attack for Cambridge, brings them a corner as Marden’s cross is deflected off Ward. The delivery played long through the area to the far post attacked by Abbie Jackson her attempt glanced wide. 

  Rouse winning the ball as she goes in to close Rai down inside the left channel as Sarah Jackson puts her diagonal ball into her. Derby pushing on Cambridge dropping off it is limited the latter’s chances to get the ball into their attackers, Bella Simmons and Stojko-Down having a lot of work to do as they try and get hold of the ball quickly closed down by Derby’s defenders, Charlotte Steggles reading the game at the back cutting those chances further.

Derby defender Charlotte Steggles

  Day on for Rai out on the left to the by-line her crossed whipped into the area, intercepted by Cheal-Ferris, before a 30 yard shot is charged down. The midway of the first half fast approaching Derby come forwards Sims playing a neat triangle with Ward and Ashton the ball crossed into the Cambridge box, Webb getting her gloves wrapped around the ball. Cambridge continue to work hard at the back, succeeding in slowing Derby’s tempo down.

  Stojko-Down getting the ball down for Cambridge inside the Derby half finds Simmons, she is closed down by Steggles, Cambridge have got players up to support as Kosky is played on down the right flank charging forwards her cross turned behind for a corner kick. An in swinging delivery from the right, Morgan is called into action getting up with her fist to turn the ball away from under her crossbar to drop beyond the far post Cambridge with a 2nd corner. 

 Derby with possession at the back Sarah Jackson on the left looking up playing the diagonal ball into the area looking t pick out Wilson getting forwards, Rouse looking to challenge in a packed box, the two come together Rouse knocked to the ground laying prone on the floor as the shot is stabbed forwards, strikes the defenders arm, the referee immediately pointing to the spot Penalty! Looked a harsh call little the defender could down about it her arm outstretched from the fall but the call has been made, an opportunity for Derby to take the lead from the spot.

 GOAL! Ashton placing the ball on the spot to take the penalty for Derby cool as you like, as she sends Webb the wrong way and smashes the rising back onto the left side of the goal to give her side the lead on the half hour 0-1.

Eleanor Ashton fires home the penalty

   The Derby pressure paying off a set back for Cambridge, battling for the ball can’t make it stick up top. Sarah Jackson up on the right the ball on for Sims pulling wide , Abbie Jackson intercepting well for Cambridge. Fox getting the ball on for Kosky bursting down the right for Cambridge, Jenkins defending for Derby. Cambridge with a throw in the right played inside to Cobb turning to attack the area left of the D, her shot charged down, the loose ball coming to Ward on the right gets Derby on the move with a rapid counter forwards for Ashton to flash a cross into the Cambridge six yard box, Joyce looking to meet it just evades her head as races wide to be cleared by Rouse on the far side.

Emily Joyce

  Sims lively with the ball at her feet in the heart of the action for Derby seeing the ball into her 20 yards out looks to roll her marker track inside to shoot, Cheal-Ferris staying on her well to win the tackle for Cambridge. Rai picking up the first yellow card of the game as she brings down Rouse. Abbie Jackson on the free-kick played up the right drops for Fox to strike on the angle a vicious effort that races past the far post. 

  Ashton driving on through the middle with the ball, is stopped by Abbie Jackson. A change for Derby, Day having received treatment coming off in the 44th minute to be replaced by Marli Rhodes-Andrews. 

 GOAL! Derby looking to finish the first half strong attacking down the right another neat triangle between Sims, Ward and Ashton the latter pushing down the wing firing a low driven cross into the six yard box, goalkeeper Webb down sharply looking to stop it, but can’t get hold of it palming it out beyond her to the left, it’s Sims racing into the area who is first to it turning the ball into the back of the net to double Derby’s lead 0-2.

Captain, Amy Sims firing Derby into a 2-0 lead

  Into first half stoppage tie Edgar finds Stojko-Down who sends the pass on for Simmons pushing into the right channel, the Derby defence back en masse to force her off the ball. Launch a counter attack the ball played out to Ward on the right her ball into the area defended by Abbie Jackson under pressure from Ashton, gets it back to her keeper to clear.

  Half-time Cambridge United Women 0-2 Derby County Women

  A blow for Cambridge conceding a 2nd goal so late in the first half, no more than Derby deserve however for all their attacking play. Creating numerous chances putting the Cambridge back line under pressure. Still having worked so hard at the back Cambridge will fell hard down by conceding a harsh penalty, Derby getting a 2 goal cushion will need to come out more in the 2nd half if they want to get back into the game, that will open up further gaps for Derby to exploit. 

  A presentation at half-time for Derby County Women’s Reserves side winning the FAWNL Reserve Midland Division. going the entire season unbeaten in the league a tremendous achievement, well done to all. 

  Derby to get the 2nd half under way, no changes for either side, Rhodes-Andrews a late substitute for Derby in the first half. Cambridge looking to press the defence Derby break forwards Sims playing the ball on for Sarah Jackson to bomb forwards her cross, intercepted by Edgar for Cambridge. 

Fox up on the right with Kosky gets the ball out to her, looking to receive the return ball in behind, Steggles defends for Derby. Cambridge showing more attacking intent at the start of the 2nd period, Rouse winning the ball high on for Kosky with Simmons puling wide looking to attack the corner, Jenkins tackling for Derby conceding the throw in. 

Camille Jenkins

 A more open feel to the 2nd half Cambridge getting on down their left the early cross, cut out by Jenkins in the Derby defence. Rai taking the ball inside with a forceful run before getting up ended taking a knock in the process. Ashton picked out on Derby’s right taking the ball on cutting the cross back to Wilson positioned top of the area right of the D, opens up her body leaning into the shot, fires her effort wide of the left upright.

  Sims threatening to catch, Webb in possession in the box charging her kick down, the ball looping up into the air though favours the goalkeeper as Webb can turn see it safely down into her gloves. 

Cambridge’s Ruth Fox

  Fox getting hold of the ball for Cambridge pushing on before being fouled on the left 30 yards out. Curled into the box across the penalty area, both Simmons and Abbie Jackson making a move for it, a raised flag from the official halting the attack. Cambridge seeing more of the ball now, that though has opened things up Derby looking for the right opportunity to counter. 

 Fox into Kosky as Cambridge get on down the right, Simmons making a run for Kosky, Jenkins cutting the pass out at the back for Derby. Rhodes-Andrews playing the ball on for Rai her cross intercepted by Edgar for Cambridge. Fox and Kosky linking up well for Cambridge, keeping Jenkins busy for Derby as she cuts out another pass intended for Simmons. 

Cambridge’s Sammy Edgar

  Cobb goes into the book after an over zealous challenge on Rai. Cambridge making a change in the 50th minute, bringing off Simmons, send on Harley-Jean Simpson. Rai taking the ball inside her pass over hit. Sims sends it out to Sarah Jackson free out right, laying the ball on down the line for Sims to attack, races after it but can only succeed in keeping it in play, the Cambridge defence clearing.

Sarah Jackson

  Marden getting onto the ball up the left for Cambridge attempting to thread the pass into the box for Simpson to attack, Morgan saving getting down to grab the ball before Simpson can pounce.

  Sims on the ball running infield for Derby playing a one two with Ward looking for the return ball inside the box, Webb down to claim it at her feet for Cambridge. Cobb with Edgar the ball played up to Stojko-Down inside the box, can’t quite feet as she is closed down, Morgan rushing onto the loose ball before Simpson can get there. 

 Derby making their 2nd change bringing on Helena Meadows to replace Rai. Rhodes-Andrews taking the ball on moving central left to right before unleashing a shot from 25 yards out her attempt fired wide of the left post. Derby winning a free-kick out wide right the delivery from Sarah Jackson fired into the near post, attacked well by Sims, heading her effort into the ground it bounces wide of the mark. 

Derby’s Marli Rhodes-Andrews

 20 minutes left to play the game remains at 2-0, derby looking to finish Cambridge off, Cambridge in turn looking for a goal to get themselves back into the match. Sims lining up a strike from all of 30 yards, put straight at Webb. Edgar winning the ball for Cambridge sending Fox on down the left, knocking the ball on her touch a little heavy giving Sarah Jackson the time needed to stretch and put the ball out for a throw.

Cambridge’s Rachel Kosky

  Cambridge from the throw working a cross into the six yard box, intercepted by Jenkins a vital touch with Simpson lurking ready to attack it. Kosky playing the ball on for Cobb coming to support on the right forwards for Simpson in attack, Jenkins cutting the pass out for Derby. looks to carry the ball out from the back forwards up to Ward, up the left, Rouse in to defend for Cambridge the ball out for a throw.

  Derby making another change bringing off Ashton, sending on Isabel Sheridan as the game moves into the last 15 minutes. Meadows attacking on the right with the ball for Derby her cross defended turned behind for a corner.  A dangerous delivery curled in on goal Webb saving well getting a glove on the ball to turn it onto the roof of her net for a 2nd corner. Again played in from the right, Webb up well with a confident claim.

Lauren Webb up to make the save for Cambridge

  Fox taking the ball on for Cambridge looking for Stojko-Down with the pass into the channel, Joyce intercepts for Derby. Simpson takes a blow as she and Sims come together in the middle. Needing lengthy treatment she is unable to continue, Cambridge bringing on Gisela Otten, with a little over 5 minutes plus stoppages left to play. Play resuming Rouse on the left forwards for Fox, Jenkins in to win the ball back for Derby. Ward on the left pulling wide for Derby delivering a cross into the box, cleared by Abbie Jackson.

  GOAL! And what a goal too! Derby on the attack the ball on the right coming into Joyce all of 30 yards out to the right of the area, hits an absolute thunderbolt rifling her shot past the diving Webb into the top corner, a beauty of a strike and doesn’t Joyce know it as she screams in celebration her goal sealing the win for Derby 0-3! Joyce’s first goal of the season too!

Derby celebrate as Emily Joyce makes it 3-0 with a beautiful strike

 Cambridge respond with a change bringing on Charlotte Gillies to replace Marden. Otten sends the ball forwards up to Stojko-Down puling to the right strikes it on the half volley the ball taking a nick off a defenders boot landing on the roof of the net a corner awarded. Curled in from the right under the bar, Morgan gets a glove up to punch in away to the left inadvertently catching her own player in the face in the process, play stopped but everything’s OK.

 Into added time Derby with a free-kick forwards to Ward on the left drives on before blasting her angled shot into the side netting. Derby bringing on Eve Shepperd late on to replace Sarah Jackson. Winning a free-kick 30 yards out. Rhodes-Andrews has to crack on goal her shot curled wide.

derby keeping the ball well in the latter stages Ward sending Jenkins on on the overlap down the left the cross, cleared by Edgar for Cambridge. The final whistle blows and it’s Derby celebrating winning their first national trophy.

Full time Cambridge United Women 0-3 Derby County Women 

  A strong performance from Derby to see them win the FAWNL Plate beating Cambridge 3-0 in the finish a thunderbolt from Emily Joyce sealing the victory after a powerful first half attack saw them leading 2-0 at the break. Cambridge working hard all through the first half to keep Derby at bay needed to come out and attack more 2nd half, the game opened up and chances fell to both sides. Cambridge couldn’t find the goal to haul themselves back into it, but can nevertheless be proud of their performance and having reached their first national final themselves should make them hungry for more. 

Women’s Football East – Player of the Match

  Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. As is more often the case than not is a tough call and I am going to disagree with the PoM on the day. But that is the advantage of writing copious notes. Of course a few performances to mention first. For Cambridge, Abbie Jackson was the standout player wearing the captains armband rose to the challenge making several vital tackles and interceptions at the back. Rachel Kosky looked to get on down the right create opportunities. Ruth Fox with some useful attacking runs came close to finding a goal. The team as a whole battled hard throughout. Derby came on at will at times, but had to remain cautious in defence, Camille Jenkins won a fair share of her challenges and proved difficult to get through. Kira Rai was a threat down the left getting in some dangerous crosses. Emelia Wilson with some excellent midfield runs get into some great positions. Sarah Jackson used the ball well playing some useful balls into the box. Emily Joyce with a strong performance in the middle, scored a wonderful goal. The award though goes to Derby’s captain. Amy Sims drove her team forwards on a number of occasions, bringing the ball on through the middle or linking up out wide to set up opportunities for herself and others inside the box.

 Congratulations to Derby County Women on winning this season’s FAWNL Plate.


2023/24 FAWNL Plate winners Derby County Women

  An enjoyable trip to Manchester, an entertaining final. My thanks to the FAWNL staff and staff at FC United of Manchester for all there hospitality and assistance this afternoon. Much appreciated as always. The finals come thick and fast now off to Suffolk on Friday evening before a cup double from Cambridgeshire next weekend, best time of the season though.

by Darren Gilham