Sunday 25th September
Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup
A double dose of football this weekend from Cambridgeshire as Women’s Football East takes a look a four new sides for the 1st time beginning with an early kick-off between Willingham Wolves FC Women and Manea Sirens LFC as they meet in the 1st Round of this season’s Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup.
The Cambridgeshire Women’s football league seeing an influx of new sides over the past couple of seasons with both of this morning’s opponents making their debut last season in Cambridgeshire Women’s Division Three. Meeting today in the 1st Round of the county cup competition off the back of a positive start to the season winning their opening league fixtures last weekend.
Willingham Wolves FC having a wide ranging youth section with the women’s side backed up by a number of youth teams from U14 down. The club introducing a women’s side last season, found life tough in the 1st half of the season with 7 losses from 9 in 2021, remained positive throughout digging deep and thing’s began to turn around in 2022 with 4 wins and 3 draws seeing the club finish 8th in the Division Three table having found their feet. Kelly Docwra top scorer last season with 11 goals, with Ebony Swann netting 9. Both were on target with a goal each on the opening day of this season in Division Three at home to Chatteris Town Lillies Ladies as Willingham won 6-2. Honor Freeman, Holly Etteridge, Harriet Morse and Harmony Payne the other goals scorers.
It was an even tougher debut season for Manea Sirens LFC as they made their bow to in Cambridgeshire Women’s Division Three last season ultimately ending bottom picking up just one point along the way several heavy losses too early on sapping the confidence of the squad. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought the club might fold losing their manager a new coach brought in saw the team begin to restore some of their confidence towards the end of the season improved performances eventually bringing a point in their penultimate game. Begin anew this season with a positive outlook new players brought in and a win on the opening day at home against a new side this season, Haverhill Town Women. Kyra Portugal one of the new additions netting a hat-trick with Christine Heslop on target too with her 1st goal for the club in a 4-1 win. Have been working had through close season in preparation for the season ahead.
3rd and 4th in the fledgling Division Three table respectfully the pair meeting in the 1st Round of the county cup and good opportunity to see both in action buoyed by opening day successes, Willingham having the upper hand in the league meetings last season are facing a different Manea this time around. The venue for today’s match Willingham Recreation Ground in the middle of the village the clubhouse overlooking to grass patches beyond. Housing the changing facilities and the kitchen hatch serving hot and cold drinks. The main grass pitch offering plenty of width, uneven in places particularly in one corner sloping up sharply in great condition otherwise with plenty of grass cover. Large willow trees overlooking one side of the pitch a warm and pleasant morning a few cloud but sunny.
Willingham Wolves FC Women starting XI – Abi Newton, Lauren Goodhew, Harri Morse, Honor Freeman (C), Ibble Meadows, Katlyn Petch, Becky Bowen, Harmony Payne, Ebony Swann, Kelly Docwra & Holly Etteridge. Subs – Chloe Smith, Lily Hunnisett, Lydia Carr, Emily Randall-Bowen & Gracie Webster-Spriggs.
Manea Sirens LFC starting XI – Tiff Miller, Chloe Cook, Beth Hodgson, Raechel Luty, Lauren Jordan, Chloe Brown, Beth Skeggs, Christine Heslop (C), Katie Reid, Charlotte Day & Kyra Portugal. Subs – Stacey Graham, Immi Harris & Lauren Barnes.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
It’s the visitors to get the cup tie underway, Manea wearing mint green coloured shirts with navy sleeves and white trim with navy shorts and socks. Willingham wearing yellow coloured shirts with black shorts and socks. The ball put out to the right at the start into Charlotte Day, Harri Morse closing her down to defend seeing the ball out of play for a throw in. Willingham quick to get the ball moving Harmony Payne helping in on for Morse racing on to the left corner sending a cross into the top of the Manea area, cleared by Beth Skeggs.
GOAL! A fast start to the game from the hosts with Willingham pressing the ball out on the left Morse getting in behind chasing down to the by-line squaring a cross into the six yard box, goalkeeper, Tiff Miller missing it, as it races past her presenting Holly Etteridge closing in centrally with the simplest of tap ins to score 1-0. Inside the opening 2 minutes.
A strong start from Willingham on the left in attack, Becky Bowen in midfield winning the ball on for Payne, her cross closed down the ball deflected behind of Payne for a goalkick. Ebony Swann getting Willingham a throw high on the right, pulling inside onto the delivered ball into the area lifting it over the advancing keeper her lobbed effort coming down off the crossbar.
GOAL! All Willingham in the opening exchanges pressing the ball in the final 3rd players getting on from midfield, the ball flung into the top of the D from the right, Etteridge knocking it down into the path of Kelly Docwra her touch taking her to the right of the D before she sends her shot back across the keeper to make it 2-0.
Willingham strong going forwards have Manea penned in the final 3rd, Payne on the left with Swann wide right looking to take the ball on. Payne crossing from the left, Miller getting it away for Manea before conceding a corner on the left. Bowen found in space outside the area to the left, lines up a shot her strike charged down. Bowen bringing the ball down in the middle flighting a pass out to Swann bursting clear on the right to the by-line her cross in low evading Miller with the same result Etteridge finding the back of the net however this time the goal doesn’t count the flag up.
Manea struggling to contain Willingham as they are rushed into releasing the ball in most cases presenting it straight to their opponents rattled by the early goal. A chance to relieve some pressure as Manea get a free-kick high on the right a opportunity to get players forwards, a good ball put into the box near side attacked no one can get a touch however as it races wide for a goal kick. Swann spinning off her marker well on the right to get in behind of a fantastic crossfield pass taking the ball down the line her cross sent in high it claimed well by Miller in her six yard box.
Lauren Jordan with a good challenge for Manea to stop Bowen taking the ball on in the left channel. Willingham first to the ball getting the better of Manea as they press inside their opponents half. Payne with support from Morse on the left wing her cross in cleared by Raechel Luty, The ball coming straight back Manea struggling to get it up to their attackers. Miller saving at her near post beating the ball down as Payne on the run with the ball cutting inside 25 yards out lets fly. A poor kick at the back presents Kyra Portugal with a chance to press the Willingham defence, Lauren Goodhew getting back at her to defend for Willingham her clearance up the line putting Swann away in behind on the wing turning into the area shoots low on an acute angle, Miller down quickly to get behind the ball.
Willingham with a change bringing on Lily Hunnisett. Manea getting the ball out to the left winning a free-kick inside the Willingham half. Luty over it plays an inviting ball into the area across goal 3 Manea players pulling off the defence after it, goalkeeper, Abi Newton though has it covered. Willingham stretching Manea out on the flanks Hunnisett over on that side now whipping a pacy ball into the six yard box, missed by Etteridge, Payne running onto the ball pulling her strike wide back to the right side Hunnisett stretching for the ball with similar results as her effort is sent wide back across goal.
A 2nd change for Willingham with Gracie Webster-Spriggs entering the action. Day battling for the ball on the right wing getting Manea a throw in the corner that brings the visitors a corner kick. Lofted in near side Luty jumping for it her glancing header dropping the ball down in front of Skeggs inside the six yard box, looking to turn and strike has 3 Willingham defenders on her before she came get the ball away the hosts scrambling it clear. Willingham bringing the ball on through the middle Docwra out to the right the cross fizzed back into Etteridge inside the box letting the ball run across her striking the shot up, Miller with an instinctive save getting something on the ball knocking it up onto her crossbar.
A corner for Willingham delivered into the area cleared by Luty for Manea. Payne blasting an effort wide across goal from the left taking a nick on the way past the far post a corner awarded. Willingham seeing more of the ball, captain Honor Freeman intercepting a past from Manea captain Christine Heslop looking for Portugal in the middle.
GOAL! Willingham further extend their lead as they play the ball form back to front through the middle cutting Manea wide open Docwra running clear to attack the box, Miller starts to come, Docwra coolly picking her spot placing her shot past her to find the ack of the net 3-0.
Less than 10 minutes of the 1st half left a dominant game so far from Willingham leading by 3 goals with the woodwork struck twice. Skeggs tracking back after Etteridge as she battles her way forwards towards the area riding the challenge to stay on her feet burst on into the box her shot saved a close range by Miller, play however brought back for the free-kick outside the box. Goodhew over the ball right of the D, into the mix blocked then turned over. Stacey Graham on for Manea.
The post struck again by Willingham as Etteridge getting the ball from a throw in turns to strike it on the angle. The hosts with a corner on the right, headed out of the area by Manea’s Heslop. Willingham bringing of Etteridge and Bowen, Swann back on along with Emily Randall-Bowen. Heslop lifting the ball over the top for Portugal to attack through the middle, Ibble Meadows with her doing well to shield the ball back to Newton. Up the other end Miller out well to get her gloves around the ball at the feet of Swann as she looks to break into the box.
GOAL! Out of nothing in the final minute of regular play in the first half Manea conjure up a goal, having made a few adjustments to try an get players up with Portugal in Graham who steals into space in on the left channel as the ball is played through a defence splitting ball the attacker knocking it past the advancing keeper going left to send the ball into the empty net beyond 3-1.
Willingham getting straight on the counter from the restart the ball missed at the back Payne shooting on the angle in low. A nick off Miller as she goes down for it the ball wide out right for corner. The ball sent in central under Miller’s cross bar the keeper knocking the ball up into the air able to claim it on the bounce as it lands at her feet.
Half-time Willingham Wolves FC Women 3-1 Manea Sirens LFC
A fast start to the game from Willingham had them straight on the front foot scoring 2 early goals, and coming close on several occasions. Rattling their opponents early on Manea on the back foot pushed back finding it difficult to get any meaningful possession on the all, their attackers having little to feed on. Willingham pressing high using the wide players well finding a 3rd goal. But a life line for Manea late in the first half seeing them pull it back to 3-1. Still a tall order to come back into the tie in the 2nd half need to see more of the ball.
Changes made by Manea at half-time, Immi Harris and Lauren Barnes on, Skeggs dropping back into defence. Willingham having regularly made changes 1st half appear to be the same side that ended the 1st 45 as the hosts get the 2nd half underway Goodhew playing the ball out to the right, the shot put in on the angle claimed comfortably by Miller. Manea moving in to close the ball down faster at the start of the half Barnes into Harris she attempts to play the through ball for Portugal up top, the pass cut out by Goodhew.
Morse taking the ball on from the overlap on the left her cross into the box won by Skeggs clearing for Manea. A more open start to the 2nd half Manea better closing down Willingham who remain very much a threat on the counter with Docwra sending a header over as the ball is crossed into her from the left. Miller spilling a cross at the near post presenting Willingham with a corner kick. making amends with a great blocking save on the line as the ball drops down near post barely a yard out.
Manea’s changes seeing them more competitive as they look to get hold of the ball in midfield, Heslop finding more space with Day, Graham and Harris all providing good passing options ahead of her. Willingham keeping players up around the area the ball bouncing back and forth. Attacking right, Manea’s defence, Skeggs and Cook blocking shots fired in from outside their box. A strong appeal from Willingham for a handball but nothing doing.
Miller out bravely to the top of the area to get down to claim at the feet of Payne breaking clear after the ball, getting a painful knock on her hand for her efforts but okay to continue. The game a little feisty at times but thing’s quickly settled down. A harsh decision going against Manea inside their box as Miller is adjudged to have handled the ball from a back pass on her penalty spot as Etteridge and Skeggs battling to win possession go shoulder to shoulder Skeggs’ tackle seeing the ball knocked on Miller penalised for picking it up. An indirect free kick to Willingham. Everyone back on the line for Manea Docwra with Freeman over it, Freeman’s touch, Docwra hitting it Manea rushing out the ball charged down.
Etteridge with an ambitious attempt on the angle from distance as shoots wide from the right as Docwra plays the ball into her feet. Portugal getting free of her marker as she sees the ball into her body from a throw in on the right, charging for the area, Goodhew getting back at her to tackle for Willingham. Meadows intercepting the ball central at the back as Harris looks to put Portugal in behind. Barnes across to defend on Swann playing the ball back to Miller to clear as Willingham look to get the ball moving quicker.
Cook cuts the ball out as Swann crosses from the left, both sides seeing an urgency to their play now. Freeman getting on with the ball for Willingham going left lifting her cross into the area claimed by Miller. Meadows to Freeman on through the middle up to Etteridge lays it off for Swann 20 yards out digs a shot out of her feet rising not troubling Miller. Midway through the 2nd half an interesting game unfolding, Willingham have been on top, Manea much improved 2nd half the next goal could be crucial, Manea pull it back to 3-2 an it’s suddenly game on, game over you would think if Willingham score again.
Payne latching on to a poor kick out from the back lays it into Etteridge top of the area central, Cook doing fantastically to defend for Manea getting across the attack to regain the ball. Manea better have yet to carve out a meaningful opportunity in front of goal the game stretched at times, Meadows and Goodhew alert to any threat at the back for Willingham. Harris forwards on the left with Graham in support the latter looking to get into the box tackle by Webster-Spriggs. Willingham ringing the changes in attack. Day hurt as she goes after the ball in the middle for Manea but is okay to play on.
Willingham on the attack Bowen back on played through the middle for Hunnisett, moves right on for Payne up the line her cross flashed into the near post turned behind by Miller for a corner.
GOAL! The game stretched late on the ball won at the back by Meadows out to Bowen finding space on the left plays a great ball forwards into Hunnisett forwards left of the D, not giving Miller a chance to set her self strikes the ball from the edge of the area to arrow low past her into the back of the net 4-1.
A 4-1 lead for Willingham late in the game sees them have control of the game. Swann is down in midfield having taken a knock and needs to come off, Chloe Smith coming on. The hosts with the resulting free-kick clipped into the area Miller calls for it even as Skeggs gets her head on it the keeper able to adjust her arms to claim the headed ball. Jordan for Manea on the right up into Heslop bringing the ball down to shift inside almost working in opening for a shot, Freeman lunging in to take the ball away from her.
The clock ticking down Willingham with a corner on the right played in deep crossed back in from the left Skeggs intercepting getting the ball out of the box, Willingham latching onto the strike races wide of the right post. Jordan rolling her ankle over the ball as she attempts to keep it in play off the pitch the game goes on Smith off the resulting throw looks to force her way into the box left side, Cook and Skeggs closing the door getting the ball back to Miller. Jordan taken off Reid back on for Manea. Graham with a chance for Manea inside the box drags her strike wide across goal as the ball in lifted into her from the left.
Manea attacking late into stoppage time Harris pressuring the keeper as she gets forwards with Reid, the ball coming back to Reid top of the D digging the ball out of her feet to plant wide of the goal.
Full time Willingham Wolves FC Women 4-1 Manea Sirens LFC
Willingham celebrating at the final whistle as they win the game 4-1 to advance to the 2nd round of the Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup. A 2nd bite of the cherry for Manea as they go on to compete in the Junior Invitation Cup. A dominant display from Willingham especially in the 1st half two early goals seeing them race into a 2 goal lead. Creating further chances the woodwork struck on 3 more occasions. Getting players forwards looked to have goals in them putting Manea on the back foot adding a 3rd goal before half-time. Stacey Graham pulling it back to 3-1 at the break giving Manea a life line. Rang the changes at half-time the positional adjustments seeing an improved 2nd half performance more competitve, Willingham however continued to look dangerous scoring a 4th late on to secure the win.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Time to pick the Women’s Football East – Player of the Match as is often the case not an easy decision. A few performances to mention first. For Manea Chloe Cook grew into the game at the back making some vital tackles especially in the 2nd half. Christine Heslop too finding more room in the 2nd half doing her best to find her attacking players. Willingham with a good all round team performance to take control of the game early on, players getting forwards well. Ibble Meadows and Lauren Goodhew keeping it tight at the back. Becky Bowen in the middle with some clever passes. Out wide Ebony Swann made some great runs on the right as did Kelly Docwra through the middle. Edging it for me though is Harmony Payne. Her attacking play from the start setting the tempo for Willingham getting hold of the ball and making some strong runs forwards.
Always nice to see two new sides for the first time for Women’s Football East. The only thing is whenever I do I want to see them in action again and that list is ever growing. Great to get over to Willingham and see both them and Manea play. An enjoyable first game of the day a swift departure though with the 2nd game kicking off in less than an hour. My thanks to both teams for their help with the teams today much appreciated.
by Darren Gilham