Sunday 12th November
FA Women’s Cup
An exciting Sunday of women’s football with this season’s FA Women’s Cup entering the 1st Round Proper, several exciting ties across the East to p[ick from and a few sides making history reaching this stage of the competition for the first time too. A trip to Bedfordshire today for Women’s Football East with Real Bedford Ladies leading the ERWFL Premier Division taking on FAWNL Southern Premier Division side, Billericay Town Women.
The FA Women’s Cup receiving a boost in midweek with the announcement that the prize money is to increase again, however this news is tempered with this increase not being evenly distributed across the competition but for those reaching the 3rd Round Proper and beyond, this not going down well with grassroots clubs and rightly so. The extra money offered should have been better distributed.
Nevertheless today’s winning side will receive £6,000 which remains a huge financial sum to clubs playing a this level.
Real Bedford Ladies born at the end of last season with the women’s side known as Bedford Ladies previously, moving next door basically with the two clubs next to each other. The transition beginning last season with the women’s teams moving to McMullen Park, merging to become part of The Pirate’s family. A new beginning for the club retaining their ERWFL Premier Division status, have brought in ex Harlow Town Ladies and Enfield Town Ladies manager Dean Parrett to head up the new side and has been busy in the transfer market bringing in a host of new signings which has seen the club win all 9 of their opening league matches to date taking them 8 points clear of the chasing pack.
Goalkeeper, Sarah Hudson arriving from Cambridge City Women announced as the clubs first new signing was soon followed by fellow City players, defender Amy Reed and young striking talent, Sophie Billing. Midfielder, Izzy Crooks also joining along with attacker Francesca Partridge who was with Cambridge United WC Last campaign. Gemma Croucher has lots of ERWFL Premier Division experience having played for Royston Town Women. Defenders Kalyen Gerkey who was with Billericay last season and Kaydee King both added huge experience with Erin Price the latest player to join the side can perform equally well in midfield or the heart of the defence. Those additions added to a strong core of players looking to push up the ERWFL table and return to the FAWNL. Natasha Fensome a living legend for Bedford often amongst the goals and is doing so once again netting 15 already this term with Partridge and Croucher also into double figures. Strong in the ERWFL, Fensome was on target for a hat-trick in the previous round of the FA Women’s Cup as Real Bedford ran out 9-2 winners away to Hackney Women.
Billericay Town Women too also busy in the transfer market as they look to build on a strong debut season in the FAWNL Southern Premier Division which saw them finish 6th in the table in their 1st season playing in the 3rd tier. Manager James Gibson bringing in attacker Maddie Biggs from Ipswich Town Women. Also joining from Ipswich defender Oliva Smith. Midfielder and ex-England youth international, Alex Hennessey added to the squad along with ex-Crawley Wasps captain Selin Buyukgiray. Leanne Bell joins from Portsmouth FC Women. Goalkeepers Hope Smith previously with London City Lionesses and Katie O’Hanlon dual signed from West ham. Guyanese international Otesha Charles. Defender Ellie Finneran and Amber Gaylor returning to the club has lots of experience in the FA Women’s Championship having played for London Bees, Millwall Lionesses and Crystal Palace. While Amelie Johnson steps up from the Reserves squad. Biggs hitting the ground running at her new club netting 10 so far this season, Billericay currently 9th in the table a little frustrated with some of the results so far entering the FA Women’s Cup will be looking for a decent un in the competition.
McMillen Park the venue for today’s cup tie, the clubhouse and bar serving hot food and drinks leading into the stadium itself. The grass pitch with a small covered seated stand on one side opposite the dugouts with viewing all round. A damp day but still, very over cast and gloomy with the threat of a shower or two during the match.
Real Bedford Ladies starting XI – Sarah Hudson, Amy Reed, Lisa Milliken, Gemma Franklin, Amber Smith, Chloe Martin, Zara Carroll (C), Erin Price, Gemma Croucher, Francesca Partridge & Natasha Fensome. Subs – Neve Mayes, Becky Charter, Izzy Crooks, Kaylen Gerkey & Sophie Billing.
Billericay Town Women starting XI – Hope Smith, Scarlett Williams, Lucy Jones (C), Olivia Smith, Karesha Iton, Che Thomas, Leanne Bell, Amber Gaylor, Soraya Walsh, Ruby Sealey & Maddie Biggs. Subs – Alex baker, Karissa Doo, Otesha Charles, Charlotte O’Shea, Janaye Beaufort, Elise Jennings & Amelie Johnson.
A moment of silence held before the game on this Remembrance Sunday to reflect on those who gave their lives during the World Wars and other conflicts around the world, Lest We Forget.
It’s Billericay to get this Women’s FA Cup tie underway kicking off the 1st half wearing blue coloured shirts and socks with navy coloured shorts, Bedford lined up opposite wearing orange shirts with black shoulder, black shorts and black socks. The ball rolled back to Olivia Smith in defence puts it out to the right side for Scarlett Williams to launch up the wing, the ball defended knocked back into the middle…
GOAL! Billericay quick close the ball down regain possession clipped up into the right channel for Maddie Biggs bursting in behind the defence, goalkeeper, Sarah Hudson rushing out to close the angle down block Biggs as she attempts to put the ball past her, the attacker getting beyond the keeper to snap at the loose ball fire it in towards goal, met by Ruby Sealey at the near post who turns it home to see the visitors take the lead inside the opening minute. 0-1.
Far from the start Bedford wanted playing against a side 2 league higher, the hosts looking to get forwards straight from the restart out to Chloe Martin on the left sends in forwards down the line for Natasha Fensome to attack, Hope Smith though out quickly to the top of her area to slide in claim the ball. Bedford’s Erin Price and Billericay’s Amber Gaylor enjoying a good tussle in midfield, the Bedford player coming out on top to send a great ball out into the right wing for Amber Smith to chase down into the corner, whipping a dangerous ball across the top of the six yard box, Olivia Smith hacking it clear for Billericay.
Biggs is send tumbling as she takes control of the ball in the left channel turning to attack, the free-kick 25 yards out to the left of the D, Che Thomas over the set-piece, gets it round the wall on target but not troubling Hudson as she makes a comfortable catch.
Releasing the ball quickly Bedford get on the attack the ball lifted on for Fensome inside the D rising to nod the ball down for Gemma Croucher inside the area right of the D, closed down quickly as she looks to get a shot away, Billericay captain, Lucy Jones stabbing the ball away to safety. Amber Smith running away with the ball into space on Bedford’s right into the corner before laying her cross back across the top of the area, the ball struck goal wards, Olivia Smith in the way to make the block deflected beyond her with the pace taken out of it for Hope Smith to claim even as Bedford appeal for handball, nothing doing.
Billericay getting the ball across the pitch well, lively in attack, Williams driving on the left winning a throw high the ball controlled played into the middle for Leanne Bell who switches play to the right with Karesha Iton hugging the touchline whips a high cross in towards goal, Hudson up high at her near post to claim it. A lively opening to the game Billericay looking to get after the Bedford defence find gaps in behind, the hosts countering well the tempo high.
GOAL! Billericay capitalising on their positive start as they race into a 2 goal lead, attacking on the right, Lisa Milliken tackling to halt Iton’s progress, the ball coming back to Gaylor free 25 yards out she plays a fantastic diagonal ball into Sealey left of the D, her touch bringing her inside one on one with the keeper and composed sends the ball wide of Hudson into the bottom corner for her 2nd of the game 0-2.
Billericay 2 goals to the good inside the opening 10 minutes, Bedford on the back foot needing a response, pushing up onto the Billericay defence, Francesca Partridge stealing the ball at the back attempts to lay it into the path of Fensome ahead of her, a timely foot sending the ball clear for a throw on the left. Bedford pressing high the ball crossed into the area from the left into Partridge is quickly closed down the ball ball cleared out of the area straight to Amber Smith 25 yards out central strikes the ball her shot angling wide of the right post.
Jones bringing the ball out from the back on the left for Billericay plays the pass long for Biggs spinning in behind heading for the box, Hudson racing out to close her down sliding in at her feet, Biggs putting the ball under her but behind for a goal kick. Price has her hands full in midfield with Gaylor and Bell getting after the ball taking it forwards for Billericay. Threaded on for Sealey to take on to the by-line right side of the area hooks a cross in looping across the face of goal, just over Soraya Walsh rising at the far post before Bedford clear.
Bedford up on the right with Amber Smith linking up with Croucher winning the throw, Croucher with a superb take down from the throw sending a looping ball inside to Partridge inside the area left of goal, lets out a frustrated cry as she drags her shot wide across goal, Hope Smith dropping onto it.
Bedford winning a free-kick inside the Billericay half 35 yards out, captain Zara Carroll strong on her set-piece deliveries over it curling an inviting ball in to be attacked, defended drops to Croucher top of the D to strike on the half volley connects well but can only place it straight into the goalkeeper’s mid-riff, Hope Smith holding onto the ball.
Bedford looking to get after Billericay press the ball, Croucher in particular snapping after the ball looking to get it on for Fensome to attack the area. Amber Smith having space to run into at times on the right for Bedford whipping a cross in near side, Jones under it heading the ball up beyond her across her six yard box, won’t quite fall for Martin at the far post before Olivia Smith can get it clear.
A free-kick won for Billericay right side 35 yards out, Gaylor running in to strike the ball hit well angling in threatening to drop under the crossbar, Hudson with a brilliant save getting her glove on the ball to tip it over for a corner kick. The resulting corner flashed in across the face of goal, missing everybody. Iton taking the ball on right wing powering forwards striking it as she cuts infield, taking a nick off a defender seeing it race behind for a corner kick. Swung in from the left Hudson getting a glove on it to turn the ball away to the right, Billericay looking to keep the pressure on knocked inside, Price putting in the tackle to she the threat cleared for Bedford.
Croucher taking the ball on from Martin on the left 30 yards out slipping as she goes to strike the ball, making it an easy save for Hope Smith in the Billericay goal. Amber Smith up field pressing Jones at the back the left back forced into playing a rushed back pass to her keeper, Hope Smith in trouble as Fensome rushes in to close the ball down, trying to dig it out from under her feet, Fensome charging her down the ball landing in the side netting.
Committing players forwards, Bedford hit Billericay on the counter with Gemma Franklin getting the ball on for Price who sends it forwards into Partridge in attack, Olivia Smith with a vital interception for the visitors. A pause in play with Walsh down needing treatment for Billericay, can’t continue, the visitors making their first change of the match bringing on Charlotte O’Shea.
Biggs spinning on the ball 25 yards out releasing Sealey into the area, her first touch a little heavy allows Hudson to dive forwards to get hold of it. Bedford counter quickly the ball into Fensome pulling right hooks the ball in central dropping inside the D for Croucher to latch onto her snap shot fired in low, Hope Smith saving getting down low to her left. Billericay remain sharp showing good movement across the pitch Gaylor strong making several positive runs. Williams tackling Fensome to win the ball inside the area as Partridge looks to play her in.
Jones allowed to travel with the ball into midfield sends the pass on for Biggs to take down and turn right of the area driving forwards, Milliken lunging in to knock the ball out of her path can only play it straight to Sealey who checks inside before curling a shot straight into Hudson back on her line. Bedford pressing late in the first half winning a throw high on the left, Fensome taking it on into the area flashing a cross into the six yard box, Billericay clearing the danger.
Half-time Real Bedford Ladies 0-2 Billericay Town Women
The perfect start for Billericay racing into the lead inside the opening minute of the game. Far from the start Bedford would have wanted against higher league opposition. Building on a positive start moving the ball well the visitors soon adding to their lead and have continued to look a threat going forwards since. Bedford looking for a response getting forwards well enough but not quite finding the cutting edge to break open the Billericay defence, still at 2-0 the tie remains in the balance, the old clique the next goal counts you think it has to go to Bedford or it’s game over.
Neither side making a change at the break, just the 3 subs allowed in the FA Cup with a 4th permitted if the tie goes to extra-time. Billericay bringing on O’Shea for the injured Walsh in the first period with Bedford out early to get the 2nd half underway. A few spots of rain in the air, the umbrella needed, thankfully no wind so I can tuck it inside my coat keeping the hands free for the notepad and camera. Billericay after the ball forcing Bedford to go all the way back to their keeper. Won back in the middle Thomas on for Biggs out to O’Shea on the right her cross lifted into the six yard box cleared by Reed.
Croucher pulled down as she drives on with the ball for Bedford winning the free-kick, players forwards into the area as Carroll lifts it in towards the far post, Fensome leaping but can’t get any control on her header the ball dropping wide of the post. Reed cutting the ball out a Jones looks to pick out Sealey from range.
Billericay push up on the Bedford area Thomas with Bell outside the D inside for Biggs, Martin defending for the hosts. Billericay strong at the start of the 2nd half looking for the 3rd goal to make the game more comfortable, Franklin out to tackle Sealey left side of the area as the attacker gathers the ball on the left powers her way forwards the ball behind for a corner kick. Swung in deep from the left defended knocked out to Iton outside the area, hook her shot wide of the mark.
Jones having to come across make the tackle to deny Croucher a run into the visitors area as she skips in behind central the ball out for a corner on the left. A dangerous in swinging delivery through the six yard box a collision beyond the far post seeing Iton down in need of treatment, another pause in play but is up and able to continue.
Bell breaking in the middle for Billericay sending the ball on for Thomas racing clear on the right whips a cross low into the six yard box Milliken racing back turning it behind for the corner kick. Billericay looking a threat on set-pieces the delivery in towards the penalty spot, Carroll up well for Bedford to head clear, drops straight to Gaylor outside the area right corner, has a strike on goal flashes her shot over the bar.
Croucher picking up a knock for Bedford. Williams doing the defending for Billericay inside the D as Partridge seeing the ball into her feet attempts to turn into the area. O’Shea wins Billericay a corner on the left as she runs on down the line with Reed knocking the ball off the defender. Lifted in central, Bell rising to meet it knocking the ball down back towards the left post, Hudson diving down to grab hold of the ball.
A double switch for Bedford with Partridge and Carroll coming off, new signing Becky Charter and Kaylen Gerkey coming on, the defender wearing a protective mask. Croucher knocking the ball down into Fensome’s path left of the area snatches at the shot pulling the ball horribly wide. Billericay breaking on the left Gaylor up with Sealey the ball crossed into the area behind both Biggs and Thomas knocked back out to Bell, 25 yards out smashes her shot in racing wide of the left post.
Thomas with a shot on the charge as she attacks on the right 25 yards out takes a deflection of Gerkey to see the visitors win another corner, pressure building from the set-pieces fired out to the top of the area falls for Gaylor, can’t dig the ball out from under her feet to shoot before being closed down, the ball with Olivia Smith though on the left she does well to win her side another corner. Hudson out to get something on it the ball flashed out to the right Iton looking to keep it in play winning Billericay another corner.
GOAL! The threat has been building rom Billericay on their corners and the delivery is perfect from Jones fired into the six yard box, Gaylor up to meet it at the far post nodding the ball down past the keeper into the back of the net 0-3.
Billericay now firmly in control of the game capitalising on a strong 2nd half to extend their lead in the 70th minute. Quickly regain possession from the restart Bell out to Sealey on the left powers her way down the wing cutting into the box closed down by Franklin, the clearance straight into Gaylor left corner of the area on the angle strikes the ball wide across goal. Another switch for Billericay sees Otesha Charles coming no to replace Iton.
The visitors coming on through the middle, Bell for Sealey into Biggs right of the D lays it across to Gaylor on the left taking it inside the area hits the low shot, Hudson with the save diving to her left to push the ball away. Billericay looking strong as the game moves into the final 15 minutes, Bedford tiring, appeals for handball as Bell drives into the box shoulder to shoulder with Gerkey the ball off the defender, cleared.
Price into Fensome left 20 of the D, 20 yards out turns twisting left and right looking to squeeze into the box, Olivia Smith lunging in to make the tackle. Croucher spinning in the right channel to pick out Charter wide on the wing her cross lifted into the top of the area cleared by Jones. Gerkey at the back lines up the long pass looking for Fensome making a run across the D up top, Olivia Smith getting there to head clear for Billericay.
Both sides making a change with Janaye Beaufort coming on for Billericay replacing Sealey. Neve Mayes coming on for Bedford in place of Croucher. Franklin across to cut out the pass as Thomas looks to pick out O’Shea out on the right channel. Price up with Fensome outside the area on the left the ball struck wide past the far post.
Martin getting on with the ball on the left for Bedford her cross flashed across the six yard box gathered by Charter on the right, drives inside, winning a corner off, Charles. Put in high to the near pot Billericay up to defend the ball. Bedford trying to get a goal pressing on the right Charter lifting in into the near pot, Fensome trying to adjust can’ quite get her head on it.
GOAL! Billericay push forwards getting players up and around the area into the final minute of regular play Thomas laying it inside for Biggs outside the D, puts her foot through the ball rifling the shot past Hudson to score 0-4.
A 4th goal conceded as the game moves into stoppage time Bedford tired but still pushing on looking to get a reply the risk they get picked off at the other end, Gerkey with a vital interception lunging a leg out to stop the ball a Gaylor on the drive attempts to play Bell in on the right. Bell on the move with the ball right on for O’Shea looking to power her way on into the box Franklin giving chase diving in from behind in the box, risky but does well to get the ball take it away from the attacker.
GOAL! The game stretched in the closing stages Bedford willing to push on looking to take something from the game are hit on the turn around the ball up into the box cleared back out into the path of Gaylor to meet it sweetly from all of 30 yards out to bury it into the back of the net to score her 2nd and Billericay’s 5th of the game 0-5.
Full time Real Bedford Ladies 0-5 Billericay Town Women
Two late goals perhaps harsh on Bedford but seal the dominance Billericay had, during the game, in control of proceedings pretty much from the off scoring inside the opening minute adding a 2nd 9 minutes later. Giving their lower league opponents a mountain to climb. Bedford with a strong start to their season not deterred as they looked for the reply creating half chances but not finding the clinical ball to unlock the Billericay defence. Still at 2-0 the game was still there for the taking the next goal crucial and Billericay wanted it starting the 2nd half strongly pressing on, Gaylor and Bell driving on from the midfield to support the attack, the pressure building from their corners eventually paying off in the 70th minute with Gaylor heading home the 3rd. Biggs and Gaylor with her 2nd at the death securing a comfortable win. A disappointing loss for Bedford but they can look forwards with positivity have made a fantastic start to the season nonetheless.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this Sunday’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match, often a tough one but on occasion there is a stand out performer and today is such an occasion. A few performances of note to mention first however. For Bedford, Gemma Croucher was excellent, getting about the pitch to press the ball force errors and bring her fellow attackers into play. Erin Price battled valiantly in midfield to try and get hold of the ball while Natasha Fensome tried to find the openings in the Billericay defence to get her through on goal. For Billericay, Olivia Smith was strong in the heart of the Billericay defence winning the ball and making a number of interceptions. Leanne Bell was a driving force in the middle of the park winning the ball and driving forwards to bolster the attack. The award though goes to Amber Gaylor was immense in the middle throughout getting in her tackles winning the ball and getting into some great positions to receive the ball heading home the 3rd goal and rifling home the 5th.
A great atmosphere at McMullen Park, the club certainly embracing their women’s team great to catch up with both sides, many changes for both but looking good. My thanks to everyone for their help today and looking forward to the draw for the next round.
by Darren Gilham