Sunday 5th November
FAWNL South East Division One
A trip into Suffolk this bonfire Sunday to the MEL Group Stadium to watch some match action from FAWNL South East Division One, with newly promoted AFC Sudbury Women taking on Queens Park Rangers Women.
The 4th tier of the women’s football pyramid getting stronger and more competitive season upon season and promotion into is not an easy challenge. AFC Sudbury Women though reaching this level for the 1st time in their history off back to back league title in the ERWFL.
Playing in the 6th tier just two season’s ago the club has undergone a lot of changes in it’s recent history integrated into the club with AFC Sudbury setting up an academy for the girls side of the game as well as the boys, that has seen a crop of very talented young players come through to feature for the club, coming out of a highly competitive ERWFL Division One South with a host of clubs involved all the way to the finish to clinch the title and promotion to the ERWFL Premier Division.
Sudbury’s model very much based on bringing their young academy players through their young side hit the ground running in the ERWFL Premier Division, pushing the title contenders all the way to emerge on top of the pack to claim back to back promotions, top scorers in the league too with Holly Kennard, who has recently joined Norwich City Women netting 25 goals in 25 appearances and Jess Allen returning from a spell in the US notching up 17 from the 16 games she featured in. Back to back promotions to reach the FAWNL for the 1st time in the clubs history a huge step up and a bi test for their young squad, have stuck to their guns however giving them their chance to shine, a steep learning curve taking just a single point from their opening 4 matches before notching up their 1st win at home to Haywards heath Town Ladies. A further 2 draws sandwiched between another loss are starting to find their feet and know what the league is all about.
Queens Park Rangers Women gaining promotion back to the FAWNL in 2021 after having to regroup with their former Development side in regional football following the 1st team’s playing in the FAWNL Southern Premier Division split that saw the formation of a totally new club. Much of the 1st team staying under the QPR badge to fight their way back into the FAWNL, strong on their return finishing 4th in the table. A mid-table finish last time out winning as many as they lost, that inconsistency has been the feature of this campaign to having played 8, have won 4 and lost 4 with their last 4 league matches all ending in 2-1 scores, winning 2 and losing 2, get a run of wins going and the West London club are well placed in the table to threaten the top 4. Signing Grace Stanley from Cambridge City Women during the last campaign the striker is top scorer so far this season with 9 goals from 9 appearances.
Storm Ciaran bringing yet another wave of heavy rain across the country in the week leading into Saturday the flood plains leading into Sudbury full the river level high, a possible threat to the match, otherwise played on an artificial surface, the rain easing off water encroaching into the stadium behind the terraced stand opposite the clubhouse and onto the walk way and partially the home dug out the pitch raised however so no problem and whereas I usually migrate around that side of the ground to watch the match thankfully headed in the opposite direction so I didn’t have to paddle through the water. The women’s matches popular at Sudbury, the bar open with a special on today, curry and a pint for £10. Still settled for a cup of tea and a cheeseburger with the kitchen hatch open too. The sun doing it’s best to poke through the clouds bright at times, chilly when obscured.
AFC Sudbury Women starting XI – Amelia Carter, Amber Proven, Kayleigh Dodd, Ronni Harrison (C), Aliyat Lambe, Leonnie Bezant, Maisie Goodwin, Phoebe Guiver, Sophie Jeffery, Jess Allen & Kate Edwards. Subs – Jodie Donley, Learna Daniels, Chloe Brame, Evie Creaton & Kiera Harms.
QPR FC Women starting XI – Nicole Melling, Alice Curr, Renai McCrea, Joanna Blodgett, Georgie Lewin, Emily Hill. Katie Akerman, Kasha Petit (C), Izzy Owen, Ellie Searle & Grace Stanley. Subs – Ailish Carolan, Emilia Parsons Frankie Webster, Zoe Cohen & Grace Shephard.
A change of ends before kick-off with Sudbury putting the low sun at their backs the cloud cover disperses. QPR to have the kick-off first half wearing their away colours red and black striped shirts with black shorts and socks with Sudbury opposite in their usual colours, yellow shirts with blue shorts and yellow socks. The ball laid back into midfield, the clipped past long to the left sees Ellie Searle charging on to attack it, Kayleigh Dodd doing the defending for Sudbury seeing the ball out for a throw. The visitors looking to get on the front foot right from the start harrying the ball in the middle out to Renai McCrea on the left links up with Searle and Grace Stanley in attack the cross charged down spins away for another throw.
McCrea getting after the ball central as she tracks inside form the left laid forwards into Izzy Owen plays the ball into the right wing for captain Kasha Petit, Sudbury’s captain Ronni Harrison coming out to close her down defending for the hosts. QPR winning a free-kick on the halfway line, Georgie Lewin to flight a ball long into the area, Harrison putting her foot through it to clear for Sudbury. A lively tempo to the game both sides snapping at the ball Sudbury with Leonnie Bezant playing the pass forwards into Kate Edwards in attack looks for Jess Allen coming inside from the left, Joanna Blodgett getting a foot in to win the ball back the visitor look to counter rapidly with the past long for Searle in the clear on the left, her progress though halted by the raised flag of the linesman.
Sudbury release Sophie Jeffery on their right to take the ball on into the corner, doing a step over to shift inside her marker, Lewin gets the challenge in the knock the ball out of her path, Bezant up with play snatching the ball back pushed into Jeffery wide, swings a cross into the QPR six yard box, Blodgett up to head clear. This is a lively game all action both side getting the ball on quickly can’t take your eyes off it for a second. Petit looking to get away on the right but Harrison is across to cut her off again clear the ball for a throw in.
Phoebe Guiver win the ball in the middle for Sudbury, rides the lunging tackle for Emily Hill before being chopped down by Katie Akerman the QPR midfield shown a early yellow card. The free-kick in half-way. The ball lifted forwards seen out safely by QPR, but put under pressure from the goal-kick give away a throw high up the pitch. Sudbury competing well looking to put the QPR defence under pressure as they are drawn out, Edwards and Allen pressuring the ball at the back, Edwards releases Allen the take the ball in behind strikes from distance her shot not troubling QPR goalkeeper, Nicole Melling.
Maisie Goodwin, with Guiver getting the ball on through the middle for Sudbury getting players up around the QPR box rolled into Bezant inside the D, her shot is charged down, the rebound coming to Allen to the left of the box, again her 1st time hit is blocked. Petit down with a knock for QPR a pause in play while she receives treatment. The wind having some bite to it now as the sun disappears behind the clouds. Play resuming with a drop ball, put out to Jeffery on the right, she hooks a looping all into the area, Blodgett getting a slight touch to deflect the ball away from the on coming attack, Melling’s claim it high behind her.
Alice Curr advancing on the right for QPR on for Petit, Amber Proven challenging the ball out for a thro high up the pitch the visitors get it down well to cross into the near post, Dodd getting their to clear for Sudbury. A chance for QPR to open the scoring as Sudbury are guilty of giving the ball away in the final 3rd central the through ball putting Searle into the box left of the D, taking it on towards the six yard box the angle closing she pulls her strike wide across the face of goal.
Harrison coming across to close Petit down as she gets clear on the right, the ball going behind Harrison and the Sudbury bench incredulous as a corner is given against them. A looping in swinger put in at the near post Sudbury goalkeeper, Amelia Carter jumping to punch the ball away back out to the right the corner taker rolling it back for Curr 25 yards out on the angle strikes the ball, blocked inside the area.
Getting a little testy out there a few clumsy tackles, McCrea getting the advantage as she is clipped going forwards looking for Searle left, Aliyat Lambe coming out to close her down for Sudbury. Lewin with a vital interception for QPR at the back and Sudbury build quickly through the middle. The QPR centre backs again under pressure as Sudbury turn play around playing it through the middle for Edwards racing forwards, Lewin and Blodgett racing back too, one getting the touch to push it on for Melling to launch clear.
If anything Sudbury are getting a little too excited as they reach the final 3rd, the final pass not quite on it’s mark giving QPR the chance to claim and get going in the opposite direction. Little time dwelled on the ball. 20 minutes gone a competitive match lively QPR with the ball on the left rolled back to McCrea with Dodd coming to close her down on the touchline the full back tangling as McCrea looks to dart past Dodd both holding onto each other shirt, Dodd thrown onto her back as the momentum is with McCrea. Dodd having the wind knocked out of her opposite the QPR dugout the Sudbury bench not happy as no action is taken against McCrea, the physio treating Dodd, they both had hold of one another, had the momentum been with Dodd then it’d be McCrea on her arse right now. As it is another long pause in play with Owen also needing treatment for QPR, Sudbury questioning the referee about the incident. Play resuming with a throw to QPR.
GOAL! Whether the incident unsettled Sudbury can be argued, but straight away they concede the ball not dealt with as it it threaded down the left wing for Searle to take in behind turning into the area along the by-line plays it into the six yard box with Stanley waltzing in central to tap home her 10th goal of the season to give the visitors the lead. 0-1.
Proven feeding the ball on for Allen on the left closing in n the corner tracking inside towards the box, can’t capitalise with the cross as it is cut out by Blodgett. QPR push bodies forwards as they build through the middle Petit putting it right for Curr to lay inside for Stanley taking it on into the box right of the D, angles the ball back in across the penalty spot, played behind Akerman as she surges forwards, Dodd clearing for Sudbury.
Sudbury getting caught in possession putting them under pressure at the back, Akerman sending the pass forwards for Searle advancing on the left squared into Stanley top left corner of the box, Bezant tracking back from midfield to challenge for Sudbury, possession though quickly lost the ball back with Searle on the right flashed into the box, Harrison scrambling it clear for the hosts. McCrea coming inside from the left on half-way playing a great threaded ball into Pettit in the right channel that sees her sneak in behind the Sudbury defence, Carter off her line rapidly to slide in and clear at the attackers feet.
Again the Sudbury bench are livid as McCrea clatters into Guiver, with on action taken. Petit finding Stanley with the past up top the striker shooting over from outside the box to the right of goal. Lambe and Dodd both making good challenges at the back as QPR press up on the left with McCrea getting on well to support the attack.
Guiver carrying the ball on through the middle for Sudbury passes into Edwards ahead of her she in turn lays the ball into Allen racing in behind the defence on the right channel bearing down on the area, Melling racing out to close her down, going to ground, Allen shoots, the QPR keeping saving with her trailing foot, scrambling back up to her feet as Edwards races onto the loose ball 20 yards out trying to put it into the exposed goal, Blodgett back-peddling into her own six yard box able to intercept. A golden chance for Sudbury to equalise.
McCrea fouling Allen giving the hosts a free-kick wide on the right, Dodd to play the ball into the area dropping central Melling leaping doesn’t get much on it the ball out to the top of the area knocked back in Curr with the block for QPR the ball deflected behind, Sudbury furious when they don’t get the corner.
Blodgett is fouled by Allen as she looks to shield the ball out of play from a Bezant pass from the middle. Lewin bringing the ball on from the back for the visitors plays the pass to Searle breaking away wide left her cross whipped into the area defended by Harrison put behind for a corner kick. Sudbury defend the corner and look to break Edwards trying to play Allen in behind, Lewin stretching a leg to intercept the ball.
The Sudbury bench incensed once more as Bezant sends a great ball on for Allen long on the right the attacker getting back to it on the by-line to wrap her foot around the ball to lift in a cross, McCrea tracking back trying to block looks to have struck her arm as it knocked behind for the corner. The corner dropped into the mix drilled wide of the right post. The first half moving into stoppage time QPR on the attack, Hill forwards into Petit plays the ball into the area for Stanley right of goal cuts it back to the top of the area to be hit by the advancing Akerman her strike racing wide of the far post.
Half-time AFC Sudbury Women 0-1 QPR FC Women
That was a fast paced and competitive first half some good chances created, QPR getting off to a positive start, getting the ball wide pressing players on taking the lead midway through the half, Sudbury missing a great chance to level. Both sides guilty of having sloppy periods in possession, the game often rushed, Sudbury in particular not quite finding the mark with the final pass, nevertheless competitive has been an exciting first 45 and with a single goal in it all to play for.
Chilly now with the sun low and the floodlights on as the teams emerge for the 2nd half, no changes with Sudbury getting the game restarted the ball rolled back into the middle, the diagonal ball forwards to the right the QPR defence seeing it out. Bezant latching onto the ball driving on through the middle for Sudbury, Akerman tackling, McCrea launching it up to Stanley up top on her own gets up well to head the ball down into the D, but lacking a runner to take it on, Lambe is untroubled as she clears the ball. The visitors snapping at the ball inside the Sudbury half, Hill with Petit out to Searle high on the left her low cross claimed by Carter.
GOAL! QPR with the ball inside the Sudbury half Petit plays it into Akerman who opens up her body to slot an inch perfect pass into the feet of Searle as she steals inside her marker to race into the area left of goal and send it under the advancing keeper as she rushes out to close her down to score, 0-2.
The perfect start to the 2nd half for QPR as they double the lead, while delivering a huge blow to Sudbury at the same time. The ball given away inside their own half, Sudbury are on the back foot straight away as Owen drive through the centre towards the D for QPR, Dodd getting the tackle in to take the ball out of her feet send it behind for a corner kick on the right. The corner taken short before the cross is delivered, the ball knocked down towards goal Carter dropping out her left to save it doesn’t know the flag has been raised for an offside.
Allen bursting on right side after the ball striking it on the half volley her angled effort straight into Melling’s midriff. Dodd getting back at Searle on the left to tackle as the winger threatens to run in behind to cross, the visitors snapping back to regain possession, Akerman trying her luck from distance sending the shot over the bar. Sudbury make the first change of the game bring off Guiver, on comes Evie Creaton. The substitute involved straight away in a triangle on the right with Edwards and Bezant, the attempted ball into the area intercepted by Lewin for QPR.
Allen looking to make something happen for Sudbury driving on with the ball on the right before being tackled winning her side a corner kick. Lopped in to the near post, Lewin is up with a firm header to knock it back out towards the taker, then races out to press the ball well. Goodwin linking up with Bezant in the middle rolled on for Edwards who clips it to the right of the D for Creaton, she flicks it into the box turning to chase it wide to the right of goal, Melling sprinting over to throw herself on the ball.
Lewin busy for QPR at the back getting out to close down Allen as she comes left to attack the ball. Another stoppage in play with Creaton going down needing treatment. QPR have won a corner on the right as play resumes played deep towards the far post 10 yards out knocked down towards goal, Carter diving left to get down to save push the ball out past her left post then makes another blocking save on her knees as Owen tries to turn the ball in at the near post.
Sudbury get up the other end with pace as Allen wins her side a corner kick, Creaton allowed back on. QPR defending clearing the ball out of their box, Akerman taking it forwards playing it on into Petit who smashes a shot over from range. Sudbury make a change bringing Edwards off, Chloe Brame coming on. Stanley with the ball right corner of the area sends in central to Hill inside the D, shifts to go left before pulling the trigger, Goodwin blocking for Sudbury the ball deflected behind her, Harrison clearing to concede the corner kick. Played in from the left Bezant clearing near side.
66 minutes played Sudbury making a double substitution taking off Dodd and Lambe at the back Learna Daniels ad Jodie Donley coming on. Harrison defends as Hill bringing the ball on into the left channel looks to play Searle in to cross. Petit fouls Jeffery inside the QPR half the free-kick top of the centre circle the ball defended headed out to the right with Searle then holding of Brame as she looks to gather and drive towards the area.
GOAL! Defending a corner at one end QPR break through the middle Akerman charging on with the ball, has Petit and Stanley ahead of her racing to get clear of the Sudbury defence, the pass putting the ball on into Stanley’s path heading into the box right of the D bearing down on goal. Carter comes rushing out to try and close her down going to ground Stanley slots the ball past the keeper into the back of the net to make it 0-3.
Stretching their lead QPR making a double change as they take of Petit and Curr, send on Emily Parsons and Zoe Cohen. Sudbury conceding a 3rd goal frustrated haven’t been able to get going in the 2nd half picking up another injury as QPR prepare a triple substitution. Brame needs to come off for Sudbury too, Kiera Harms coming on. Ailish Carolan, Frankie Webster and Grace Shephard onto the pitch for QPR replacing Stanley, Akerman and McCrea. QPR winning a free-kick on the right 35 yards out.
GOAL! Blodgett over the set-piece strikes a high ball into the area, runners breaking in towards the penalty spot to meet it, one of those Parsons only on the pitch for a few minutes she gets her head onto the ball to send a bullet of a header over the keeper before she can react into the goal beyond 0-4.
QPR with a strong grip on the game with less than 15 minutes of regular play left, Harrison pushed up into the middle for Sudbury as the hosts win a free-kick 30 yards out, the captain over it herself strikes the ball in towards goal a comfortable catch for Melling. Hill sending the ball up to Parsons back to goal 25 out looks to turn it into the path of Shephard racing forwards, she can’t quite take it in her stride as she enters the box allowing Sudbury to clear.
Harrison playing the ball on for Bezant the midfield lifting a great pass forwards for Harms to bring down under control top of the area, he progress halted though by the offside flag. Webster up ended inside the Sudbury half the set-piece seeing players go forwards, Hill up to knock the ball down into the box, before being struck wide of Carter’s left post. Bezant clipping a neat pass out to the left with Allen taking it down outside the area looking to shift onto her right foot and shoot, Blodgett putting the blocking tackle in.
The game getting a little ragged as it enters stoppage time several niggly challenges QPR playing with composure, hasn’t been Sudbury’ afternoon the hosts frustrated nothing working going forwards, play quickly turned around. The hosts with one last chance to get players up into the area winning a free-kick on the right, the ball won though by Hill cleared for Owen to break forwards pulls up suffering from cramp. The job done however the final whistle blowing QPR leaving Suffolk with the 3 points in the bag.
Full time AFC Sudbury Women 0-4 QPR FC Women
The win lifting QPR up into 5th place. Coming out on top in the 2nd half after a reasonably even 1st half. Making a few tweaks to the side came out fast in the 2nd half getting at Sudbury to quickly double their lead, a blow for Sudbury who will want to put that half behind them, never got going, QPR performing well to frustrate them winning the ball and turning play around creating chances Stanley put clear to make it 3, wit substitute Parsons burying her header to make it 4-0.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Time to choose this Sunday’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match, a tight call yet again with some strong performers out there. A few performances of note to mention. For Sudbury Leonnie Bezant was strong in the middle especially 1st half winning her tackles and showing a good range of pass that on another day would threaten to unlock a defence. Captain Ronni Harrison defending well at the back getting across to defend and read the game as QPR turned play around. For QPR, Ellie Searle was a constant threat out on the left, looking to get in behind to cross the ball, played in to score their 2nd early in the 2nd half. Katie Akerman came into her own in midfield as the game wore on getting into some great positions driving forwards with fantastic assists. Today’s award though goes to defender Georgie Lewin, a powerful display at the back winning the ball and bringing it out of defence, making several interceptions which played a large part in frustrating their opponents.
Great to be back at the MEL Group Stadium to watch Sudbury play in the FAWNL as frustrating afternoon for sure, but still a long way to go and will fight all the way to ensure they retain their new found FAWNL status. My thanks to both sides for their help with the team details, the nature of the league this time of year just one more league game scheduled for QPR, Sudbury with too will both be looking to end the year on a positive note.
by Darren Gilham