Cup Final Report – Hertfordshire Women’s Challenge Cup

Hertfordshire Women’s Challenge Cup Final

Sunday 11th March

Stevenage Ladies v Hoddesdon Town Owls Ladies

The first County Cup Final of the season today a 3:00pm kick-off at The County Ground, Letchworth, with Stevenage Ladies looking to successfully retain the trophy for the 1st time take on county cup final debutants, Hoddesdon Town Owls Ladies.

 A contest that pits FAWPL against ERWFL, two leagues between the sides a stern test for Hoddesdon Town Owls Ladies playing in ERWFL Division One South up against a Stevenage Ladies side that is as strong as it has ever been. 

  Reece Buck the man in charge of Stevenage Ladies 1st team these days into his 2nd season in the job, was previously in charge of Hoddesdon Town Owls taking several of their experienced players with him to join Stevenage. Promoted to the FAWPL they retained their league status in their first season at that level aswell as winning the Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup for the ??? Bringing in several experienced players over the close season have gotten stronger currently in 7th place in the table well away from danger nudging towards a top half finish. Their 4th successive County Cup Final winning the competition in the 2014/15 & 2016/17 seasons Stevenage Ladies are looking to successfully defend the trophy for the 1st time.

 Hoddesdon Town Owls Ladies reached the Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup Final for the 1st time this season, a great achievement for a side that has been through a difficult spell of late. Following the departure of Reece Buck and several players, Matthew Hudson took over the 1st team having to field an inexperienced side last season, a difficult campaign struggling for points things starting to improve towards the end of the season. Some of their experienced players returning to the club, Leah Dunnage, Kristina O’Connell and Rosy Wodhams were in the starting line-up for Stevenage in the County Cup Final last season Wodhams scoring two goals. Thing’s are improving as Hoddesdon look to reestablish themselves in the ERWFL.

Road to the Final

 A big win away from home for Stevenage Ladies in the 1st Round of the competition as they began the defence of their trophy, taking in Beds & Herts Division One side Garston Ladies. Hat-tricks for both Leah Littlechild and Nicole Emmings in a 14-0 win. More of the same in the 2nd Round away to Bed & Herts Division Two side Evergreen Eagles 14-0 again the winning score, captain Donna McGuigan the pick of the goalscorers with 5 goals to her name.

   Onto the quarter finals and another away trip this time to play Hemel Hempstead Town Ladies whom they beat to win the County Cup in the 2014/15 season. The result 3-0 then it was 3-0 again as Stevenage booked their place in the semi-finals with goals from McGuigan, Ellie Searle and Amy Makewell. A repeat of last seasons final in the semi-finals only Stevenage were at home for the 1st time in the competition as they took on Royston Town Ladies goals from Littlechild, Ashleigh Deacon and Chloe Gunn seeing them into the final courtesy of a 3-0 win.

 Hoddesdon Town Owls Ladies started their campaign in the County Cup at home to Beds & Herts Division Three newcomers Welwyn Pegasus Azures. Kristina O’Connell scoring a hat-trick in a comfortable win for the higher league side. At home again in the 2nd Round a much sterner test followed as they faced fellow league side and unbeaten leaders, Stevenage Ladies Reserves. A great result for Hoddesdon as they battled to a 3-3 draw after 90 minutes taking the tie into extra-time going on to win 5-3. Hannah Kelly scoring a hat-rick with O’Connell also getting a brace.

 Higher league opponents in the quarter finals of the competition Hoddesdon were draw at home again to take on Colney Heath Ladies. Another battling display seeing the sides drawing 2-2. Rosy Wodhams and Charley Handley scoring for Hoddesdon the tie going all the way to penalties. Goalkeeper Casey Herrick with some great saves as Hoddesdon went on to win the shoot-out 3-1 to reach the semi-finals. At home once again were the narrow favourites as they took on Beds & Herts Division One leaders, St Albans Ladies. Captain, Natasha Crick scoring twice with a goal each for O’Connell, Handley and Wodhams in a 5-2 victory to reach the County Cup Final for the very first time.

  The County Ground, Letchworth once again the venue for today’s final. The Hertfordshire FA getting their county cup competition wrapped up in most cases a month before the surrounding counties. A nice wide playing surface a little sticky underfoot with the amount of moisture that has fallen recently. Overlooked by a large mainstand on one side the bar at one end the changing rooms beyond. At the other the Pukka Tukka refreshments trailer serving hot food and drinks. A good crowd building for the final. An overcast sky not too chilly little or no rai forecast during the match.   

 Stevenage Ladies starting XI – Shayla Burgess, Paige Logie, Tanya Blacksley, Dominique Godbeer, Cara Breckenridge, Chloe Gunn, Ellie Searle, Leah Littlechild, Donna McGuigan (C) & Nicole Emmings. Subs – Danielle Maloney, Amy Josland, Kristi Burling, Ashleigh Deacon & Rebecca Scola.

 Hoddesdon Town Owls Ladies starting XI – Casey Herrick, Katie Kendle, Charley Handley, Faye Holder, Hannah Kelly, Leah Dunnage, Sian Owens, Chloe Makepeace, Kristina O’Connell, Natasha Crick (C) & Rosy Woodhams. Stephanie Iaonnou, Megan Davies, Shannon Daly, Robyn Jones & Courtney Smart. 

(roll on roll off substitutes)

  7 players that started last season’s County Cup Final are in the starting line-ups this afternoon 4 for Stevenage whilst, Leah Dunnage, Kristina O’Connell and Rosy Wodhams represent Hoddesdon this time around. It’s Stevenage to kick off the game 1st half wearing white shirts with pale red vertical stripes, red shorts and socks. Hoddesdon lined up opposite wearing navy and red vertical striped shirts, navy shorts and socks. Midfielder Chloe Gunn sends the ball long from kick-off out into the left channel for Ellie Searle to try and chase down can’t reach it an early goalkick for Casey Herrick for Hoddesdon.

 A bright start from Stevenage trying to get players forwards Hoddesdon with a free-kick on half way as Paige Logie commits the foul for Stevenage the ball played high up towards the top of the area, Dominique Godbeer the middle of Stevenage’s three centre backs getting her head on the ball to clear. Sian Owens on the right side for Hoddesdon looks to make progress down the wing her pass inside to Rosy Wodhams she tries to pick her out with the return pass, Tanya Blacksley coming in tackling the ball out for a throw. Hoddesdon sending captain Natasha Crick away down into the right corner she squares the cross inside the box into Wodhams looking to strike it on the angle first time, Godbeer going to ground slides in to take the ball away from the striker. 

Stevenage Ladies, Dominique Godbeer

 Stevenage launch a rapid counter attack, Gunn bringing the ball on through the middle. Nicole Emmings peeling away into space on the right ahead of her Gunn picks her out with the pass her cross into the Hoddesdon area cut out by Faye Holder. Stevenage rebuild in attack coming forwards the pass out to Leah Littlechild on the right her cross whipped in dipping near post captain Donna McGuigan with the run stoops to get her head onto the ball turns her effort wide of the post inside the six yard box. A fast tempo from Stevenage at the start of the game coming forwards with purpose. 

Chloe Makepeace winning the tackle for Hoddesdon Town Owls

  A free-kick for Stevenage wide right level with the top of the area, Gunn their set-piece specialist over the ball goes for goal her strike flashing wide across the face of goal. Searle with the ball on the left rolls it on for Emmings, getting inside the full back puts the ball into the path of Gunn her long range strike controlled by Herrick back on her goal line. As Stevenage come again the Hoddesdon defence gets a little ragged as they attempt to clear the ball falling pushed out wide McGuigan latching onto the ball stumbles slightly before regaining control and firing in a vicious strike towards goal her attempt smashing against the cross bar before running out wide to the left.

 Hoddesdon have defended hard for the opening 15 minutes getting forwards pressing the ball high catch Stevenage in possession Hannah Kelly winning the ball brings it on, Cara Breckenridge getting back on her to win the ball back for Stevenage. The ball played into Gunn she picks out Searle going clear into space on the left her cross fired into the near post intercepted by the Hoddesdon defence. 

GOAL! Stevenage open the scoring in the 16th minute have a free-kick inside their own half the ball played up towards the top of the area, Gunn under it the ball knocked into McGuigan she passes back to Gunn who lays the ball back for Amy Makewell to hit 1st time 25 yards out her low driven shot racing past the diving keeper into the bottom corner 1-0.

  Stevenage looking strong press forwards Emmings with support from Littlechild on the right the ball turned into the area, Holder comes charging forwards to win the tackle for Hoddesdon. Herrick produces an excellent one handed save as Stevenage get in behind her defence Makewell moving to the left cutting the ball across the area for Emmings to strike from 8 yards out Herrick flinging a hand out parrying the ball away from her goal.  

GOAL! On 20 minutes Stevenage’s lead is doubled, Makewell scoring again from outside the box a virtual copy of her first goal, Bodies forwards around the top of the area as the ball comes in Emmings getting the ball into the number 9 she sends another low drive into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.

 Little opportunity for Hoddesdon to get the ball into their attackers, O’Connell bringing the ball on through the middle has support from Kelly she holds the ball up well tries to pick out Wodhams on the left, Logie closing her down regaining possession for Stevenage. A free-kick wide right for Stevenage, Gunn to play the ball long into the area, Charley Handley with a commanding header getting the ball away for Hoddesdon. A throw on the left the ball played inside by Stevenage is inviting Breckenridge to have a strike 30 yards out she obliges, pulling her effort wide of the left post. 

Hannah Kelly on the ball for Hoddesdon looking to get past Stevenage’s Cara Breckenridge

 Littlechild breaking away on the right side for Stevenage her diagonal ball into the box parried behind for a corner by Herrick. Taken short up the line on the right Littlechild fires a shot narrowly over the Hoddesdon crossbar. Katie Kendle tackles well to stop Searle on the left as Gunn looks to play the winger in behind. Gunn confident in possession breaks forwards through the middle with the ball O’Connell seeing the threat goes with her sliding in to take the ball from her as she closes down on the area. 

Stevenage’s Tanya Blacksley contesting the ball with Hoddesdon’s Rosy Wodhams

 Stevenage are on top, pushing on the ball played inside to McGuigan in a central position outside the box a turn and hit as the ball comes across her the attempt taking a deflection wide for a corner. Dunnage winning the ball for Hoddesdon, attempting to break themselves Stevenage are organised at the back the 3 centre backs keeping tabs on any one threatening to get in behind. 

GOAL! Half an hour played and Stevenage extend their lead with a well worked goal. Gunn beginning the move and finishing it as she carries the ball forwards laying the pass out to Searle getting in behind on the left Gunn continuing her run into the area as Searle sends the ball into her run, the midfield opening up her body to send the ball angling away from the keeper into the top corner 3-0.

Stevenage Ladies, Chloe Gunn

 Stevenage press their advantage look strong as Hoddesdon look to regroup. O’Connell back to clear the ball hasn’t had much chance to influence thing’s going forwards. Holder scrambling the ball away inside the box for Hoddesdon as the cross is flung into the area from the right, a foul spotted by the referee as Emmings latches onto the ball. A chance for Makewell for complete her hat-trick as the ball comes to her momentarily free in the area a second to composure herself looks to play the ball wide of the keeper right into the bottom corner of the net sees her shot run wide of the post. Hoddesdon make a change, Stephanie Iaonnou coming on in place of O’Connell. 

 Closing in on the final 5 minutes of the 1st half, Hoddesdon have their 1st shot of the match coming as Stevenage give away possession wide on the left Crick with the attempt from all of 30 yards out, on target, Shayla Burgess on loan from Watford Ladies having had little to do in the Stevenage goal, well place however back on her line is right behind the strike palming it down and safely claiming the ball. 

Hoddesdon Town Owls captain, Natasha Crick

GOAL! 41 minutes on the clock and Stevenage have another goal. Launching a counter attack the ball with Littlechild right side she squares the ball inside to Breckenridge coming on through the middle she is fouled in a dangerous position 25 yards from goal. Gunn to take it strikes the ball perfectly the ball lifted up towards goal flies over the keeper and into the back of the net 4-0.

  Late into the 1st half and Stevenage ring the changes, making 3 substitutions, Emmings, Littlechild and Blacksley coming off for Danielle Maloney, Ashleigh Deacon and Rebecca Scola. 

Half-time Stevenage Ladies 4-0 Hoddesdon Town Owls Ladies

  A dominant 1st half from Stevenage sees them with a comfortable 4-0 lead. A brace each from Makewell and Gunn. Have created numerous other chances. Hoddesdon have battle hard in defence have see little of the ball themselves with just the one attempt at goal. 

 More changes at half-time for Stevenage, Amy Josland and Kristi Burling replacing Breckenridge and McGuigan. Megan Davies on for Hoddesdon who get the 2nd half underway. A later 3pm kick-off sees the floodlights starting to come on as the natural light begins to fade. Wodhams with the ball at her feet 30 yards out is allowed to come on takes on the strike her effort on target Burgess back on her line right behind it once again comfortably gathering the low ball. 

Stevenage Ladies, Paige Logie

  Deacon wide on the right side for Stevenage receiving the ball off a throw sends the pass inside towards Gunn positioned outside the box connecting with the ball sens it looping high into the air, heading towards goal looks to be heading over but dips very late a real problem for Herrick as she back peddles onto her goal line sees the ball land on top of the crossbar. 

 GOAL! 5 minutes into the 2nd half Stevenage go further into the lead, the Hoddesdon defence stretched pulled over to the left as Searle races on with the ball fires in a cross along the face of goal, both Josland and Deacon are racing in far post the latter getting the touch on the ball to turn it into the back of the net to make it 5-0. 

GOAL! A 6th goal quickly follows a minute after scoring her 1st of the final Deacon with her 2nd with a great individual goal as she is set away on the right side after Stevenage break up a Hoddesdon attack. The right winger carrying the ball on into the area unopposed right of goal sends her shot wide across the keeper to score 6-0.

Two quick goals for Stevenage’s Ashleigh Deacon

  Hoddesdon make a change Makepeace coming off to be replaced by the returning O’Connell. Makewell with a strong run forwards, Holder getting in front of her to get the ball back to her keeper to clear. A free-kick won for Hoddesdon 30 yards out in a central position O’Connell over the ball goes for goal on target the shot lacks the pace to trouble Burgess. 

Makewell close again to completing her hat-trick as Gunn playing deeper 2nd half sends the ball forwards towards Scola as Stevenage come forwards a clever touch from Scola sending the ball on through splitting the Hoddesdon defence Makewell racing in free behind, Herrick starts to come, Makewell puts the ball past her spinning away her head in her hands as she sees the ball strike the base of the post. 

  Dunnage defending well against Makewell on the right giving away the corner as the attacker looks to get around her. Iaonnou comes off for Hoddesdon, Shannon Daly coming on. A free-kick wide on the left inside the Hoddesdon half for Stevenage the ball headed on into the box, Deacon is free far side the flag up for offside however before she can strike the ball. Wodhams and Davies work the ball well together on the left for Hoddesdon, Davies looking to get in behind, Logie with good defensive work for Stevenage.

Megan Davies bringing the ball forwards for Hoddesdon

GOAL! Stevenage get a 7th goal and finally it’s a hat-trick for Makewell. Times her run in behind well as Gunn plays the ball up to her from the back, with the keeper coming to close her down as she carries the ball right the striker dinks the shot over her and into the goal beyond to make it 7-0.

 Tiring Hoddesdon have let their heads drop a little 2nd half Handley winning the ball puts it forwards into midfield the ball deflected out to the right, Kelly wriggles clear to get in behind and fire a cross into the area, Godbeer coming towards her getting in the block. Searle with a burst of energy on the left for Stevenage fires a low cross into the area Josland can’t quite connect running on races onto Scola quickly no control on her attempt as the ball is deflected up over the crossbar. 

Rosy Wodhams winning the ball for Hoddesdon from a Stevenage corner

  A free-kick wide left for Stevenage Gunn to play in towards the far post the ball knocked down comes to Burling controls well hitting the shot on the turn putting the ball wide. Kendle is off for Hoddesdon as Robyn Jones comes on. Stevenage continue to dominate Makewell driving a 20 yard strike wide of the right post. Gunn getting onto the ball 30 yards out plays Josland in behind to inside the box, Herrick coming to close her down going to ground stops the shot getting past her. Emmings comes back on for Makewell for Stevenage, Handley coming off for Hoddesdon, Courtney Smart joining the game. 

Stevenage make more changes, McGuigan and Littlechild returning to the field late on. Into the last 5 minutes. Wodhams with a cross/shot from a wide position on the right sending the ball behind the Stevenage goal. 

GOAL! Another goal for Stevenage late in the match Littlechild on target to bring up their 8th. The attack on the left the ball rolled into Emmings outside the box good hold up play allowing Littlechild to get forwards running past her Emmings lays the pass into her run Littlechild striking the ball from the top of the area finds the bottom corner 8-0.

Godbeer comes off in the closing stages for Stevenage as they finish as strong as thy started the game. Scola wide on the right  flashes a cross along the top of the six yard box, McGuigan in the middle attempting an ambitious overhead kick does’t connect with the ball. 

Full time Stevenage Ladies 8-0 Hoddesdon Town Owls Ladies

  The final whistle blows and Stevenage Ladies celebrate having successfully retained the Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup for the 1st time. A dominant performance an 8-0 win. Some well taken goals amongst those. On top right from the off and never let their opponents have any time on the ball. A fantastic effort from Hoddesdon to reach their 1st ever County Cup Final couldn’t get to grips with Stevenage on the day nevertheless should be proud of their achievement.

Hertfordshire Women’s County Cup Winners – Stevenage Ladies

Women’s Football East – Player of the Match

 She’s already got one of these but an easy choice once again for today’s Women’d Football East – Player of the Match. Dominating the midfield with great vision in passing and timing of her runs, especially in the 1st half along with scoring twice is Stevenage Ladies, Chloe Gunn.

Enjoyed my 1st final of the season, plenty more to follow. My thanks to the staff at Hertfordshire FA today for their assistance, everyone was very helpful always appreciated. Lastly my congratulations to Stevenage Ladies on successfully retaining the County Cup.