Sunday 4th February
ERWFL Premier Division
For the first time in 2024 heading out of Norfolk to watch some women’s football action. A trip into Hertfordshire today to Garden Walk to watch Royston Town Women take on newly promoted Barking FC Women in the ERWFL Premier Division.
The 12 strong league representing the 5th tier of the women’s football pyramid across the East of England growing ever stronger with the talent pool increasing within the women’s game. Remains a tough league to conquer with the title bringing with it promotion to the FAWNL. AFC Sudbury Women achieving back to back promotions to achieve that dream last season. Real Bedford Ladies looking the strong favourites to take the title this season yet to drop a point at the top of the table 11 points clear of the rest. Is a frantic tussle for 2nd spot with just 4 points between the sides in 2nd down to 6th spot.
Royston Town Women winning 3-1 away to AFC Dunstable Women last weekend to edge themselves up into 2nd as they recorded a 7th straight league win. Recovering well from a slow start that saw the club take just 4 points from their opening 6 matches. Now up to 2nd off the back of their 7 game winning streak move up into 2nd spot with an astounding 10 of their 13 league games played to date coming away from home! The last time Royston played at their Garden Walk home stadium was back at the start of November. Having nudged their way into 2nd spot have 8 of their remaining games at home and will be looking to press the advantage.
Knocking local rivals and current holders, Stevenage FC Women out of the Hertfordshire County Cup, Royston have progressed to the semi-finals of the competition where they will play at home to ERWFL Division One North title hopefuls, Harpenden Town Women. Emma Slater leading the goal scoring charts this season with 14 goals coming in 15 appearances. Jordanne Sillitoe joining Royston from Haverhill Rovers Women following a short stint at Thetford Town has scored 7 goals in her 8 appearances for the club.
Barking FC Women are newly promoted to the ERWFL Premier Division after running away with the Division One South title last season. Went the whole campaign unbeaten winning all but one of their 16 league matches. Scoring 80 goals in the process, Laura Bunton who has always been prolific in front of goal for the club as Barking and previously as Collier Row Ladies scoring 30 goals during that campaign.
Bunton once again amongst the goals as the club competes in the 5th tier for the first time scoring 23 goals in 19 appearances. Lindsay Sibbons the next closest scoring 6 from the 12 matches she has featured in. Formerly Collier Row Ladies before the move to Barking has seen the side grow rapidly now promoted to the Premier Division and setting up a new Reserves sides competing in Essex Women’s Division Two this season. Have gotten their games played well out in front in that regard 17 of their 22 league games completed sit in mid-table in 6th spot amongst the cluster of sides pushing for 2nd, could well run out of fixtures in what has been an inconsistent campaign so far losing as many games as they’ve won.
Garden Walk the venue for today’s match little used by Royston themselves so far this season will be regulars come the latter part of the season. Their first game at home since November. The Stadium very much in the heart of the community in a build up area surrounded by housing. A large sloping grass pitch with seated stands on one side of pitch and behind one goal. Small covered stands dotted around the other side by the dugouts the clubhouse and changing rooms behind the other goal leading into the ground the bar open serving hot and cold drinks with a burger van also available. A bright sunny day with a little cloud around and a stiff breeze blowing making things feel chilly. Knew things were going too well this morning 40 minutes to KO, finished my cup of tea and discovered the memory card was corrupted in my camera (has played up since the soaking it received at the Manea game before Christmas) One mad dash to the local Tesco’s later and a replacement installed got back in time to get set up before kick-off. Phew!
Royston Town Women starting XI – Elie Sarter, Emma Todd, Annie Georgiou, Tally Miles, Amy Houghton, Erin Davies, Charlotte South (C), Laura Mills, Lily Hall, Emma Slater & Poppy Smith. Subs – Katie White, Nicole Hendrick, Jordanne Sillitoe, Amy Josland & Emily Smith.
Barking FC Women starting XI – Serena Hand, Juliet Thomas, Jemma McCarty, Daisy Cook (C), Sarah Finch, Poppy Hartwell, Kiera Colthart, Maisy Wyer, Chloe Jackson, Ammarah Ali & Laura Bunton. Subs – Niamh Pridie, Emily Glensman, Brooke Reed, Grace Holt & Isabella Curran.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
It’s the hosts, Royston to kick-off the first half wearing the white coloured shirts and socks with black shorts with Barking lined up opposite in an all blue kit. The ball played back to the defence, Barking rush forwards to press the ball, Amy Houghton turning to play the ball back to her goalkeeper, Ellie Sarter to clear. Houghton then playing the clipped diagonal pass long to the right for Emma Slater to attack on the flank, checks infield to loop a cross into Laura Mills positioned outside the box right of the D, looking to get her foot over the ball to shoot, lacks power as it runs safely through to Barking goalkeeper, Serena Hand.
A lively start Barking setting out their stall to get after the ball inside the Royston half, a little over zealous give away a free-kick, knocked forwards into the feet of captain, Charlotte South drives forwards looks to plough her way towards the box, Maisy Wyer and Kiera Colthart convert to crowd her off the ball for Barking. A little scrappy with players being closed down rushed into realising the ball, failing to find its mark.
Barking’s Laura Bunton pulled over to the left of the pitch seeing the pass from Ammarah Ali into her feet, spins cleverly to take the ball in behind the defence looks to get after it as it runs into the area, Tally Miles racing across on the cover from centre back to clear the ball away for a throw. Royston bring the ball out from the back, Erin Davies with the cross-field ball finding Lily Hall out wide left taking the ball on sends an early cross in towards the top of the area looking for Slater coming off the right flank, Juliet Thomas going with her for Barking the full back winning the ball.
Slater getting on well up the right for Royston, coming inside has South up with her waiting to receive the ball top of the area, looking to turn and strike is quickly closed down by three Barking players the ball cleared. Davis seeing the ball down into her feet off a throw on the left for Royston hooks it forwards into the channel her target Poppy Smith in attack, Daisy Cook captaining Barking, intercepting the ball.
Bunton getting about the Royston back line looking for the ball, Ali left and Chloe Jackson right looking to get close to support take the ball in behind, Houghton cutting a pass out well for Royston. Annie Georgiou at left back, challenging Jackson as she attempts to drive on down the right.
Miles getting hold of the ball at the back for Royston decides to burst forwards over half way before threading the ball on for Mills pulling into the left channel the ball knocked on ahead of her as she drives for the box left of goal, the angle closing fast stabs the ball goal wards with the outside of her boot, Hand across to defend her near post seeing the ball up into her gloves.
Bunton never needs an invite to shoot and seeing the ball into her feet out on the left 25 yards out shifts it onto her right foot before unleashing a strike angles in low across the keeper, Sarter diving to her left getting behind the ball to make the save.
South combining with Smith through the middle playing the one two South sending it on for Smith to attack the area, Sarah Finch getting in to close her down, defending well as she backtracks towards her box the ball cleared to the left. Royston attack with Hall on the ball left the cross swept into the area, the flag going up for offside against Slater even as Hand comes sliding in to save at her feet.
Barking continue to press the ball unsettling Royston pinging back and forth in the middle the ball races back towards Sarter’s area comes out to her left to clear the ball, outside the area unable to pick it up with Jackson pushing forwards to close her down she strikes the attacker with her attempted clearance the ball rebounding off Jackson, safe behind for a goal kick.
Colthart getting across the pitch steaming in to win the ball for Barking on the right sends Jackson away down the flank, Hall tracking back to defend bringing the Barking winger down right on the edge of the area a free-kick outside the box to the right of goal, Ali over it clips the ball into the six yard box, Sarter back on her line down to claim seeing it all the way.
Barking working hard across the pitch to frustrate Royston’s build up, Poppy Hartwell getting her tackles in to win the ball. Mills up top for Royston getting into some useful positions as she looks to find an opening set up her teammates. Smith finding Hall with the pass out on the left fires a cross in central towards South, is quickly closed down by Hartwell before she can craft an opportunity to strike the ball.
Davies and Colthart enjoying a good battle in the middle of the park, Davies getting away from Colthart this time to play the ball forwards into Smith back to goal looks to drop her shoulder spin off Cook behind her, the defender reading it however, sticking a foot out to intercept the ball. A lively opening 20 minutes. Royston finding Hall out on the left looking to get into the area, Hand comes rushing out to save at her feet batting the ball away, out of position as Smith latches onto the ball wide but her defence has gotten back to cover the goal as the ball is swept back into the six yard box and hooked clear.
Bunton out on the left with another ambitious effort from range all of 35 yards out on target, Sarter covering her near post right behind it to make the catch. Barking look to break in behind, Bunton over on the right sending it on for Jackson in the clear can’t quite take the ball in her feet catching in the turf, Bunton right up with her snatching the ball to knock it on into the area, looking to bear down on goal from the right, Miles recovering her ground superbly getting across her run to block the shot she the ball spin away behind for a corner kick.
Barking sending players up for the corner looped into the six yard box headed clear falls to Thomas 30 yards out to the right lays it back out to the corner taker to launch the cross back into the mix, South doing the defending for Royston. The throw in high on the right dropped into Colthart inside the area holds off her marker to turn and send the low ball in towards goal, Sarter on her line right behind the shot to save.
Bunton is all action up top for Barking a great outlet looking to pull off the defence, hold the ball up. Royston seeing an opportunity to press themselves from Barking’s goal kicks are prepared to push players up around the area, Finch and Jemma McCarty both making blocking tackles on South as she pushes up to receive the ball. Bunton linking up with Jackson through the middle in attack, Jackson racing with Miles on her shoulder towards the box, Sarter rushing out to slide in and claim the ball at their feet.
All action as Georgiou intercepts at the back for Royston sends it long up the left for Hall in an advanced position, appears to be fouled by Cook as she manages to squeeze the ball into the D for Smith who is challenged by McCarty the ball running back to Hall who stabs her shot wide of the left post from 20 yards.
Frantic at times with players getting at one another, a little heated at times a few challenges causing concern for the Royston bench. Georgiou with the diagonal ball out to Slater on the right getting it down onto her feet travels inside and finds her path blocked by the Barking defence.
GOAL! End to end at times Barking break quickly Colthart out to Jackson on the right, the midfielder continuing her run into the box as Barking carve open the Royston defence, Jackson right of the area firing in the ball towards Colthart central, Todd lunging in to block her strike for Royston the ball deflected out to the left Ali and Bunton forwards to get hold of the ball, Bunton shifting it onto her right foot to strike the ball hard across the keeper into the bottom corner 0-1.
The goal coming with 10 minutes left on the clock in the first half. Barking getting on well to pressure Royston at the back get in behind to score. Miles carrying the ball on through the middle for Royston sees an opening to push on all the way, McCarthy needing to get across to halt her run.
Colthart working hard to get after the ball for Barking spins off her marker making a strong run towards the area, forwards into Bunton, Houghton getting a leg out to nick the ball off her conceding the corner on the right. Swung in towards the six yard box headed clear out of the area to the right the ball won back by the visitors hooked back in long to the far post players queuing up to attack it Colthart not getting a firm header the ball knocked into the ground Sarter pouncing onto it for the hosts.
Royston remain unsettled haven’t really found their flow, Barking doing well in that aspect, Colthart out to Ali breaking on the left swinging a looping cross into the area, claimed at the far post by Sarter. Smith turning on the ball 25 yards out for Royston sees her shot charged down by McCarty.
Late into the first half Royston continue to be frustrated push players on Davies up to Smith central top of the D her attempt charged down the ball spinning away to the right, Mills stretching latching onto the ball for the hosts sending it on towards goal Hand can’t get down in time, the ball rebounding back off the post falls to South in on the follow up, sees her first time effort deflected wide past the left post for a corner kick.
The corner swung in towards the far post, Hand up well to glove the ball away to the right. Smith back for Miles pushing up for Royston threaded forwards into South outside the box drives on, Finch closing her down with the blocking tackle for Barking.
Half-time Royston Town Women 0-1 Barking FC Women
A frustrating first half for Royston as they go into the changing rooms trailing at the break. Barking working hard to close the ball down get after their opponents. Bunton a lively outlet up to ready to receive the ball pulling into the channels always looking for the shot or to set up a teammate, shooting from inside the box to open the scoring. Royston getting forwards well enough creating opportunities but haven’t been able to impose themselves on the game. A single goal in it remains all to play for.
No changes for either side at the break in terms of personal, Slater and Hall switching flanks at the start of the 2nd period for Royston as Barking get the 2nd half underway, played back to Thomas sends the ball up the left for Ali racing forwards, Davies across to cut the ball out for the hosts, Royston showing their intent straight away at the start of the 2nd half with South pushing on to support the attacking players, South seeing the ball into her feet outside the area laid back to Todd to clip a high ball into the area over the defence bounces up and claimed high by Hand in the Barking goal.
Houghton’s clearance launched forwards threatens to release Slater attacking on the left, Cook alert moving forwards into her path to intercept the ball 25 yards out. Royston pressing the Barking defence in the final 3rd. Slater charging down the keeper as Hand comes rushing out of the box left side the ball rebounding behind for the goal kick. Barking making a change early in the 2nd half bringing off Finch at the back, Niamh Pridie coming on.
Hand racing out to the top of her area to lay claim to the ball as Davies hooks it forwards for Smith to attack from the flick on. South laying the ball out to the left for Georgiou to take on as she breaks forwards squaring a low cross into the box his just behind Slater attacking the near post six yards out runs on for Smith central, can’t dig the shot out from under her feet the ball trickling to the left post Hand down to claim it caught accidentally by Slater as she makes a stab for it.
Hand okay to continue, Barking sitting back waiting for the opportunity to launch a counter attack, Ali through the middle has Colthart moving out to her left, turning infield swings the pass into Bunton, central sweeps it on for the far post with Jackson stretching her legs trying to get there, Georgiou going with her, cutting the ball out to clear the threat for Royston.
Royston competing in the middle for the ball Davies into South played on for Smith outside the D, looks to turn is closing watched by McCarty the defender winning her tackle. Royston on top in the 2nd half looking to take the game to Barking, the visitors setting out their stall to defend launch the counter with Bunton the willing outlet up top. South inside the box left of goal seeing the pass into her from Slater lays it back out to the top of the area for Todd, her shot charged down by Hartwell.
Mills breaking into the box as the ball is fired into the near post, can’t quite latch onto it before Hand can snatch the ball into her gloves. Royston pushing on looking for the equaliser South central chipping the ball forwards Mills with the flick off her head to lay the ball into Hall’s path as she bursts into the area, on the angle strikes the shot, Hand with a brilliant save sharp diving down to her left to push the ball behind for the corner kick.
Miles on the corner a great ball swung in under the bar, central Hand is equal to it reaching up above her head to pull the ball down into her body.
Barking inviting pressure as they pull back to defend, Royston able to commit players on knowing Bunton has a lot to do up top should the ball break to her. The ball launched into the box from deep on the right, Cook up to head the ball down far post falls straight to Smith who attempts to lift the ball over the defence sees her effort come down off the crossbar before being cleared long.
Barking dangerous on the counter Bunton seeing the ball down sweeping the pass out to Jackson bursting clear wide right, plays the ball inside for Colthart breaking central, Miles closing her down, getting back to cut out the pass. Georgiou fouled Royston with a free-kick 40 yards out, Miles smashing her strike into the barking wall the ball spinning away to the right Miles chasing it down with Bunton, a strong shoulder charge to stop Miles getting the ball, the hosts appealing but not getting the decision, goal kick.
Royston forced a corner on right. Make a change before it’s taken bringing off Houghton, sending on Amy Josland. The corner fizzed in low through the six yard box comes to the substitute who sends the ball over the crossbar with her first touch.
Ali takes the ball on for Barking on the left linking up with Colthart as the visitors gain ground the cross fired in towards Jackson racing in right of the D, Miles intercepting the ball for Royston. Mills chasing after a lost cause on the right as Royston put the ball forwards an excellent turn of pace seeing Mills get to the ball on the by-line then back heels cleverly against the onrushing defender to send it out for a corner kick.
The corner count mounting for Royston, Miles with some dangerous deliveries, Barking needing to stay sharp at the back. The hosts pressing, not getting the rub of the final all, Barking a threat on the counter Ali pushing up with Bunton through the middle, Todd defending well at the back for Royston.
Ali screws a shot wide from all of 30 yards in the left channel as Thomas getting up on the wing plays the pass into her feet. Slater getting onto the ball, puts it on for Mills pushing inside, McCarty challenging to halt her run for Barking. Josland drops a shot wide from 30 yards out as the ball is deflected back to her.
Bunton still full of running for Barking having to push on by herself at times taking the ball out to the right held up by Georgiou before sending a cross into the box, Miles allowed to bring it away unchallenged. Miles spinning on the ball central attempting to play it into Slater’s path top of the area, Cook stepping in to win the challenge for Barking.
Barking making a 2nd change bring on Brooke Reed to replace Wyer with 28 minutes played in the 2nd half. Hall fouled for Royston deep on the left as she tries to take the ball forwards. Players lining up top of the area as Miles launches it forwards across the goal, Hand needing to get down to her left to push the ball out for the corner kick. Royston making a double switch before the corner bringing of Poppy Smith and Hall, sending on Katie White and Emily Smith.
The corner fired into the six yard box from the right falls straight to Emily Smith her snap shot put back across to the right side off target before being hooked clear. Royston knocking on the door looking got an equalising goal, just isn’t happening. Mills with the ball at her feet shifting in inside to shot from outside the box left of the D, Hand down sharply to her right to save push the ball away, the corner conceded.
Miles from the left overcooking this one swept wide of the far post. Jackson firing over from range as the ball comes out to her following a break through the middle between Ali and Bunton.
Hand’s rushed clearance falling straight to White out on Royston’s left wing, comes inside to shoot, Hand getting back to cover her near post bat the ball away for a corner on the left. Flung in across the face of goal, Emily Smith attempting to go for it can’t quite get a touch as it flashes past the far post for a goal kick. Jackson picking up a yellow card as she trips Miles with the defender looking to break forwards.
Moving into the final 5 minutes of the match plus what ever stoppage time the referee applies, time running out for Royston to get something from the game. Barking soaking up a lot of pressure the threat of a break remains, Bunton out with Ali to the left the cross into the area cleared by Georgiou for Royston.
Racing to the by-line right side, Slater battles for possession against Thomas, getting inside the box to shoot can only put the low ball straight into the keeper’s gloves.
GOAL! Royston have been knocking on the door all 2nd half and at last their perseverance pays off winning the ball on half way knocked forwards Mills gets her head on it to flick in in behind right channel send Emily Smith through to attack the box, one on one with the keeper as Hand comes to close her down Smith shoots, Hand going to ground making the blocking save the ball deflected on behind her to the right of goal Smith after it into the six yard box pokes it over the line to level! 1-1.
The goal coming as the game moves into stoppage time Royston back on level terms, eager to get the game underway seek out a winning goal. Hartwell fouls Slater to pick up a yellow card. The free-kick on halfway launching into the box bounces safely through to the keeper. The ball clipped long for Slater to attack on the right flank, twist and turns to get into the box her cross put to close to the keeper, Hand down low to grab.
Todd clears the ball long out into the right corner, Mills rushing on to close it down, shifts inside plays her cross straight into Hand’s gloves. Time almost up Barking making a change bringing Ali off with Emily Glensman coming on to support Bunton up top. Looks to put herself about win the ball for her team try to get Barking one last telling attack, Miles cutting out the pass for Bunton.
Full time Royston Town Women 1-1 Barking FC Women
Full time and the points are shared, Royston pushing all 2nd half for the equaliser grabbing it late on to salvage a point from the game. A strong 2nd half performance getting after the Barking defence applying pressure through out risking the counter but Barking not able to get the numbers up to support. The visitors soaking up a lot of pressure defended their box well, a hard fought match will be disappointed they couldn’t hold on for the clean sheet and 3 points. Royston getting the goal, frustrated it didn’t come earlier may well have opened up the game led to further goals. Remains tight in the top half of the table Royston dropping to 3rd following Haringey Borough’s 2-1 win against Wroxham. Barking up into 4th spot and Stevenage FC Women up to 7th joining the party undefeated in 5.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. Boy this is a tough one let me tell you. Both sides with several strong performances really hard to single it out to just one but we’ll try and their will definitely be some differing opinions but here we go. For Barking goalkeeper Serena Hand pulled off a number of crucial saves to keep the lead intact for much of the game claimed well. Jemma McCarty with several vital tackles and blocks in defence. Poppy Hartwell working hard in the middle to disrupt Royston’s flow especially first half while Kiera Colthart got about the pitch to win the ball. Laura Bunton led the line well pulling off players coming to the ball and creating scoring opportunities. For Royston, Tally Miles was composed at the back reading the game and getting in her tackles, a danger with a set-piece too. Erin Davies won the ball well setting Royston up going forwards. Lily Hall providing a great outlet out wide with some good link up play. Emma Slater attacking down the left and right flank making several useful attacking runs. Laura Mills with a freer role getting into some good positions for herself to create chances and set up others. The award though goes to captain, Charlotte South took the game to Barking made some great runs in the first half and pushed on 2nd half kept the visitors under constant pressure.
Apart from the mad dash to the supermarket for a memory card a good afternoon at Garden Walk, is a good atmosphere and Royston have plenty of home games to come. Good to see Barking too especially as they featured in a rather heavy defeat last time out. Both strong outfits in the ERWFL Premier Division which itself is a strong league always guaranteed an entertaining match. My thanks to both for the help with the team details today.
by Darren Gilham