Match Report – Luton Town Ladies v Cambridge United WFC

 Latest match report on the Supporting Women’s Football Blog, from Sun 3rd April

Match Report – Luton Town Ladies v Cambridge United WFC

   Sunday’s women’s football action comes from the Stockwood Park Athletics Stadium a match in the FAWPL South East Division One with Luton Town Ladies hosting Cambridge United WFC.

  A clash between 4th and 5th in the FAWPL South East Division One table, both clubs enjoying a good league campaign. Luton Town Ladies got off to a flyer unbeaten in their opening 6 league fixtures and were in amongst the top 3 for a good part of the season have fallen out of the race for the title in recent weeks losing crucial games against the sides battling for promotion. Finished 4th last season on 27 points, have gathered 31 points so far this season and with 4 games left will want to push on. Made probably the best signing in the league at the start of the season bringing in Natasha Fensome from local rivals Bedford Ladies. Was one of the best players in the league during the 2014/15 season, a talent that wouldn’t look out of place in the FAWSL, a goal scoring midfielder/attacker has scored 22 goals in all competitions for Luton Town Ladies so far this season.

  Totally the opposite start to the season for Cambridge United WFC, got off to a poor start failing to win any of their opening 8 league matches, the turn around came in October holding league leaders Crystal Palace Ladies to a draw the club then went on a unbeaten 8 match run that included 6 wins to propel them up the league table, smashing their previous seasons 20 point tally along the way, up to 3rd at one point had played more than others around them that has seen them drop to 5th place as games are caught up. On 29 points with 4 games to go will be looking to finish in 4th place too.

  Both Luton Town Ladies and Cambridge United WFC have reached the finals of their respective County Cup competitions.

  The venue for today’s match the Stockwood Park Athletics Stadium situated on the Stoockwood County Park in Luton a multi-purpose facility a large open green space very busy on what was a bright and sunny start to April, 3rd time lucky at reaching the venue bad weather saw the fixture postponed earlier in the year and last season traffic stopped me on the A1 and had to divert but still managed to watch Sandy Ladies in action instead. Here at last the football pitch as you can imagine is in the centre of a running track, seating over looking one side the clubhouse in the corner, under the flight path of Luton Airport planes coming and going overhead. 

  Luton Town Ladies starting XI – Hollie Staples, Rachel Carter, Jessica McKay, Rachel Kosky, Michelle Byrne, Shannon Pratt, Nicola Henman, Zara Carroll, Shanice Jiminez (C), Natasha Fensome & Joanne Rutherford.
  subs – Erica Byron, Kezia Hassell, Samiara Khan, Tamera Bayne & Abbie Luby.

  Cambridge United WFC starting XI – Tafadzwa Mhunduru, Emma Jenkins, Lucy Du Plooy, Laura Bright (C), Kayleigh Anne Burt, Tahnee Perfect, Hannah Goodchild, Laura Mills, Becky Taylor, Laura Baker & Paige Logie.
  subs – Carrie Bennett, Faith Hewitt & Isabella Simmons.

   It’s Luton to get the 1st half under way wearing orange shirts and socks with navy shorts. Cambridge lined up opposite wearing amber and black vertical striped shirts, black shorts and amber socks. 1st team goalkeeper Verity Crook was unavailable which gave Cambridge’s Reserve side goalkeeper, Tafadzwa Mhunduru a chance to start between the sticks.

  The ball goes out for a Cambridge throw early on, taken on their right the ball is played into Hannah Goodchild in the centre then sent on to Laura Baker, she looks to play the ball into the Luton area with Laura Mills making the run on the right wing, the pass a little heavy gives Luton goalkeeper, Hollie Staples an early touch of the ball.Cambridge come again as Tahnee Perfect tackles to win the ball back in the centre of midfield sends the ball out to Mills on the right, takes the ball on into the corner looking for room to cross, doesn’t get it as Luton left back Jessica McKay stays on her challenges and puts the ball out for a throw.

Coming down the other end Luton win themselves an free kick out on the right 22 yards out, have their captain Shanice Jiminez over the ball, sweeps it in along the face of the area, Rachel Kosky up from the back can’t quite get control of the ball to turn it back into the box, is knocked on for Natasha Fensome on the far side of the area, takes the ball into the area looking for a way round Cambridge right back Emma Jenkins, can’t find room the ball running out for a goal kick.

  Luton get the ball back in midfield play the pass out to Fensome on halfway looks to take on Jenkins, Laura Bright, Cambridge’s captain comes across to help the ball is put out for a corner kick. Played in from the left is a high delivery in swinging towards the far post, Cambridge goalkeeper, Mhunduru goes up for it doesn’t make contact drops down far post the pace takes it out far side before anyone can connect to turn in. McKay wins the ball back from Mills an sets up a rapid counter attack for Luton putting Fensome in down the left, travelling with the ball goes for the early strike long way out sending the ball across goal, Mhunduru dives however the shot is off target going out the far side. A few over zealous tackles are coming in the referee content for now to have a word.

Free kick for Cambridge on halfway, Bright over the ball, Lucy Du Plooy, Cambridge’s left back makes a run up the left side as Bright plays it long to Becky Taylor attacking from that side wins the header, knocks it down for Du Plooy then peels off the Luton defence to get in behind, gets the ball back and flashes a cross along the Luton six yard box, spinning out of play before anyone can arrive to send it in.

  Luton are putting pressure on the Cambridge back line whenever they have the ball their forwards, Fensome left, Jiminez right and Joanne Rutherford through the centre closing the ball down and forcing the error to regain possession, but as yet neither goalkeeper has been forced into making a save. Jiminez slices a shot well wide as she latches onto a header from Kayleigh Anne Burt at the back. Throw for Cambridge on half way the ball put into Perfect onto Taylor left plays it central into Baker up to Paige Logie who holds the ball up long enough for Taylor to make a run to get into the area, tries to play her in, Staples has sharp to it and 1st to the ball. 

Luton’s Zara Carroll with Cambridge’s Tahnee Perfect

Another rapid counter attack Luton work the ball down the other end of the pitch with speed, Zara Carroll onto Jiminez on the right, plays in the early cross sending the ball long to the far post with Fensome having covered alot of ground to get there turns the ball on target dropping inside the post, Mhunduru dives to her right and turns the ball around for a corner kick. Cambridge deal with the initial corner send the ball up to halfway.

   GOAL! No sooner have Cambridge got the ball away from their box from the corner Luton get hold of the ball and sending it back out to the left win themselves another corner. A great delivery swept in across the face of the goal is turned goalwards at the far post headed back in at close range the Cambridge defender covering the post blocks the effort but falling as they do so can’t stop the rebound as it is ends up in the back of the net, Nicola Henman with the headed ball at the far post claims the goal as Luton take the lead 1-0.

  Chance for Cambridge to get straight back on level terms, Perfect playing a great crossfield pass out to Mills on the right gives her a chance to get behind McKay who has offered her little opportunity so far in the match, a good cross fired along the six yard line Logie is there well placed in the centre of goal looks to get her head on the ball turn it wide of Staples, sends it wide at the far post too. Players square up to each other on the far side of the pitch as another strong challenge goes unpunished.

Pressing with the ball in the Luton half, Mills lays the ball into Baker on the right side of the area, she is closed down by  Rachel Carter, the central defender bringing the ball out and setting up a counter attack passing to Shannon Pratt, she has Fensome ahead of her coming inside, given the ball she is allowed to travel along way with the ball, has the option to shoot, instead looks for Rutherford peeling away on the left side of the area tries to pick her out, has strayed half a yard offside.

   GOAL! Another free kick is given away in the middle as Henman fouls Perfect on halfway. Bright delivers the ball long up the right channel looking for Taylor who is peeling round the defence the ball squeezes through players to get to her in behind tries to cross the ball is deflected behind for a corner kick. Mills to take from the left is a fantastic delivery in swinging towards the middle of goal high, Staples goes up for it gets a finger tips to it, not enough as it drops down at the far post where Bright is arriving to bundle the ball over the line get Cambridge back on level terms 1-1.

Michelle Byrne on the ball for Luton Town Ladies

 Michelle Byrne hasn’t had too many opportunities to break from right back for Luton in the game, bringing the ball on over halfway delivers a high ball into the box with both Rutherford and Fensome charging forwards to get into the area, going long Fensome goes up with Bright as both look to get there head on the ball hits one or the others shoulder drops down inside the six yard box, Rutherford gets a foot to the ball trying to get around Burt, can’t get a meaningful touch the ball is gathered by Mhunduru. 

Half-time Luton Town Ladies 1-1 Cambridge United WFC

    Been a lively 1st half, play disrupted by a number of free kick, some robust challenges from Luton in particular but as yet the referee has been happy to keep his cards in his pocket. Luton have pressed the ball well and defending deep, Cambridge have found little opportunity to get in round the back. The full backs on both side having a busy game but for the large part winning the battle.
  Cambridge to kick off the 2nd half. Look for Mills wide right straight from kick off the ball runs long out for a goal kick. Luton play the ball out from the back, McKay sends the ball up the left for Fensome ahead of her, squares the ball early across the face of the area, catches Rutherford by surprise, improvises trying to side foot the ball on into the area, runs out of play on the right for a goal kick. Attacking down the right, Jiminez wins Luton a corner kick. The ball is delivered towards the near post area, Henman goes up for it getting her head on the ball lifts the shot over the crossbar. Fensome has taken up a higher attacking position joining Rutherford up top early in the 2nd half.
Luton Town Ladies, Jessica McKay
  Byrne on the right comes again for Luton up the pitch comes inside plays the ball on to Henman in the centre of the Cambridge half, looks to play the pass into Rutherford ahead of her back to goal, outside the area the striker is looking to hook the ball on into the area send it to her left, Bright is positioned well behind her to intercept the ball play it out into Goodchild to send long for Taylor on the left. Puts the cross into the area near side for Logie, good turn from the striker to deceive her marker, looks to play in Baker free on the edge of the area, the pass is short gives Carter a chance to get her foot on the ball 1st. 

   GOAL! Busy in the midfield, Henman gets hold of the ball bringing in on plays the pass out wide right to Jiminez, she looks to play the early cross in towards the face of the Cambridge area Rutherford and Fensome are inside the D, Rutherford plays a good dummy ducking under the ball letting it fall to Fensome beyond, the no 10 takes the ball on into the area, Jenkins is with her does her best to force her wide of goal as she takes the ball out to the right the angle against her Fensome still manages to get the shot away cutting the ball back across goal, going down Mhunduru gets a glove to the ball but isn’t enough to stop it rolling over the line2-1 Luton retake the lead.

Natasha Fensome with the goal
to put Luton 2-1 up

Free kick for Cambridge wide right, Baker to take 20 yards out, sends it into the area with good height and pace, it’s Carter who rises highest to head the ball clear for Luton. Cambridge make a change bringing off Perfect, sending on Isabella Simmons to join the attack.

   Mass brawl! It had been bubbling up the tackles hadn’t been stamped on by the referee players have been snapping at each other it boils over in the middle, Baker and Pratt go for each other pushing, then everyone else rushes in, ugly scenes totally unnecessary don’t want to see it. Goodchild joins in is shoved to the ground by Carroll, Bright ends up on the ground too, everyone’s there takes the referee a minute to sort it out, going to be repercussions as he talks to his officials, case of what stood out in the melee. Carroll and Goodchild are called over the latter receiving a yellow card, Carroll is shown a straight red as Luton are reduced to 10. Tensions are high all over the park.

  Back to the football. Jiminez goes down in the middle looked innocuous but she appears to be in some discomfort and needs to come off. Luton make the change sending on Erica Byron. Shouts for a penalty from Cambridge as Mills plays a long pass down the centre of the pitch for Logie whose touch places the ball out wide right for Simmons to attack entering the area Carter lunges for the ball, Simmons goes over the ball travels out to Byrne further right, Carter having gotten to it 1st. Byrne clears the ball up the line, Cambridge win it back send it long again Carter needs to keep watch for Simmons closing in Staples as she sets herself to claim the falling ball inside her box. Cambridge bring on Faith Hewitt for Goodchild the move seeing Logie drop into a deeper role.

   Jenkins looks to play the ball across the park pick out Taylor on the far side the ball is intercepted by Luton but knocked down into the path of Baker 25 yards out, looks to lob the ball high into the area, ends up lobbing it over. Cambridge build another attack down the right side Jenkins bringing it on passes into Simmons on the centre sends the ball out to Mills on the wing and turns to head in towards the area. Mills holding the ball up on the wing has Jenkins up with her 20 yards out gets the ball back turns and rolls it into Simmons ahead of her, takes on the shot inside the D with the outside of her boot sending it in on target, Staples is well placed to make the save.

Cambridge United WFC right back, Emma Jenkins

Less than 10 minutes left Cambridge are pushing forwards a free kick on the right put into the area by Baker, once again it’s one of the 2 Luton centre backs who get’s their head to the ball Kosky this time the ball put out of play for a corner. Mills plays the ball long towards the far post, Burt sees her shot blocked at close range. Still the risk of a Luton counter with Rutherford staying up top as Cambridge pile players forwards the home side defend well bodies behind the ball no space available behind. Send the ball long Burt can only get a glancing header on the ball carries through to Rutherford edge of the area, Jenkins gets across in front of her to win the ball prevent the shot.

   Cambridge can’t find a way back into the match late on as the referee blows the final whistle and Luton win2-1 to take all 3 points to open up a 5 point gap over Cambridge to consolidate 4th spot in the table with 3 league games left to play. A scrappy game, competitive shame tempers boiled over but with passionate and committed players on both sides always likely. Two sides that will feel they have the platform to kick on and aim higher. 
Speaking to Luton manager Nikki Baker after the match she certainly feels Luton have had opportunities this season to improve on last seasons 4th placed finish push for the top of the table.

   Good to have finally gotten this match in, thanks to both sides for their help with the teams as always.