Sunday 15th October
FAWNL South East Division One
Derby match action this weekend on Women’s Football East a trip to Haverhill to watch the Cambridge showdown between Cambridge City Women and Cambridge United Women in FAWNL South East Division One.
Originally set to be the season opener, the game postponed due to the not so small matter of the Lionesses reaching the World Cup final. A historic day for women’s football in the country and testament to how much the game has grown in recent times. The FAWNL representing tiers 3 and 4 of the women’s football pyramid the talent playing with in it getting stronger season upon season. Along with it the challenges clubs face to remain competitive and succeed.
Cambridge City Ladies promoted to the FAWNL back in 2019 after enjoying a rapid rise through the leagues to join their fellow Cambridge side in the 4th tier. The clubs sharing a turbulent history having once been one before Cambridge Women as they were back then broke away eventually merging with Cambridge United FC. Cambridge City are now Cambridge City Women. Have always been a club that has put youth at the forefront of their pathway to the first team and have produced many talented sides over the years. Have seen many changes over the past few season’s from the very top with a new chairman to a total overhaul of the senior team losing a lot of experienced players as they have moved on to other clubs. Management changes too that have seen the club struggling for points at the bottom end of the league.
More changes over the summer with more player departures, a new manager brought in Fadi Mazloum the ex-Stevenage FC Women’s head coach to lead the 1st team, overseeing a virtual rebuild of the squad. A number of new signings joining the young retained players. Eva Hubbard dual signed with Needham Market last season joining on a permanent basis. Rosy Wodhams joining from Stevenage FC Women. Sophie Mulvihill signing on with the club having experience with both Nottingham Forest and Leicester. Tilly Fidler another bringing valuable experience to the side. Striker, Libby Fraser joining from Cambridge United along with defender Abi Davies. Goalkeeper Nina Meollo comes in on loan from Ipswich Town Women. Jade Barrett back in the game after a spell out with injury. Jade McGibbon, Patience Ndlovu, Belle Shannon, Sakina Dhirani & Leila Awan also joining the club. A lot of new faces to bring in and form into a team over the summer and despite a opening day win in the Determining Round of the FAWNL Cup have struggled in the league losing their opening 6 matches to sit bottom of the table. Fadi Mazloum since setting down from his role sees the club on the look out for a new 1st team manager. Got a much needed boost with their 1st point secured at home against newly promoted AFC Sudbury Women in midweek.
Cambridge United WFC amongst the longest established sides playing in the 4th tier, but would love to shake of that accolade and strive for promotion. Since taking on the United mantle in their name have enjoyed closer ties with Cambridge United FC, forming a women’s board within the club last season and playing a number of matches at The Abbey Stadium. Setting up a better player pathway in the process with the aim of producing talent to compete for places in the senior team. Bringing in new players to bolster an experienced squad, Fran Steele joining from Cambridge City a driving force in midfield. Zoe Wood returning to football is an ex-England youth international. Brooklyn Cheal-Ferris also joining with Wymondham Town Ladies amongst her previous clubs. Mistie Fox-Barker another addition joining from Royston Town Women. Annie Posnett top scorer in ERWFL Division One North last season also aiming to make an impact. Serena Cobb, Eleanor Townsend and Niamh Day stepping up from the old Development squad.
Shaking off a lethargic loss in the opening days Determining Round match. Came back to record a 4-0 win in their opening league fixture against Haywards Heath Town Women with last season’s top scorer Sarah Wilshire netting all 4 goals. Was to be Wiltshire’s last appearance for Cambridge for now as she announced she is pregnant with her 3rd child. A big gap to fill in the attack would be interesting to see how the squad responded… and they have responded excellently, playing Alysha Stojko-Down in a false number 9 position has found the back of the net for 5 goals with Bella Simmons hitting 4. Followed that win with back to back and a win, suffering their 1st loss against Wimbledon bouncing back well with 3 successive wins on the road in league and cup the latest in midweek with Bella Simmons spectacular bicycle kick clinching a 1-0 at London Seaward FC. Sees them in 4th place just 3 points behind leaders Norwich City Women.
The New Croft in Haverhill the venue for today’s match, Cambridge City Women’s new home while they await the completion of Cambridge City FC’s new stadium in Sawston. Boasting a top class 3G facility as well as the main grass pitch with the clubhouse, bar and kitchen hatch in between. A small seat stand on one side. Quite open to the elements is a somewhat chillier day to those we’ve been used to, but they had to arrive sounder or later. Still bright the sun moving around one end of the pitch would cause issues but otherwise dry.
Cambridge City Women starting XI – Nina Meollo, Jess Fitzpatrick, Eva Hubbard (C), Sophie Mulvihill, Abi Davies, Paige Gardiner, Rosy Wodhams, Libby Fraser, Jess Wood, Jade Barrett & Becca Stephenson. Subs – Georgia Anderson, Hannah Simpson, Milly Struthers & Theresa Kooh.
Cambridge United WFC starting XI – Lauren Webb, Ella Marden, Tash Collins, Lauren Rouse, Brooklyn Cheal-Ferris, Gisela Otten (C), Fran Steele, Ruth Fox, Bella Simmons & Alysha Stojko-Down. Subs – Sammy Edgar, Abbie Jackson, Annie Posnett, Serena Cobb & Mistie Fox-Barker.
You know the drill from here on in it’s City and United when these two meet (I write enough as it is without adding 300 references to Cambridge) It’s United to get the derby match underway wearing amber coloured shirts with black shorts and white socks. With City opposite wearing white shirts with black shorts and black and white hooped socks. The ball rolled back to Fran Steele in midfield clips a long pass out to the left, Ruth Fox harrying the City defence bringing the visitors an early corner.
Played into the near post area City half clearing out to United captain Gisela Otten positioned central strikes the ball from distance taking a deflection of a City defender to take the power out of it easily gathered by goalkeeper Nina Meollo. City look to drive through the middle, Paige Gardiner picking up a head of steam laying the ball on for Becca Stephenson pulling into the right channel the pass intercepted by Brooklyn Cheal-Ferris at the back for United.
Competitive in the middle from the start with United looking to get the ball out to the flanks Fox left and Bella Simmons right willing runners. United winning a free-kick inside the centre circle Cheal-Ferris sending a diagonal ball out to Simmons on the right 25 out her feet slide out from under her as she goes to strike the ball the shot running harmlessly through to the keeper.
Libby Fraser getting hold of the ball on the right for City looking to drive at the defence cutting inside losses possession as she runs into traffic. Another quick United free-kick sees Simmons skip in behind the defence on the right. Sophie Mulvihill coming across to put in the challenge for City clearing the danger away for a corner on the right. Swept in long across the six yard box Fox rising at the far post heading the ball down into the ground scrambled clear comes out to the left Ella Marden sending a strike from distance wide of the right post.
United pressing into the City half the defence up on half way at times looking to be aggressive get after the ball turn play around. The ball won centrally United’s Simmons finds half a yard on the right wing to take the ball on down the line whipping a cross in central Fox closing meeting it with her head turns the ball wide of the right post.
Lauren Rouse at the back for United putting in a strong tackle to win the ball against Rosy Wodhams as she looks to travel forwards. Playing a high line City find the pass to release Stephenson in behind right side racing after the ball, United goalkeeper, Lauren Webb closing in the opposite direction sliding in to lay claim to the ball.
Another free-kick goes to United as Simmons is brought down outside the area 25 yards from goal. The ball curled into the box, Meollo punching it clear, City look to break with Jess Wood getting on down the wing before Collins closes her down challenging to put the ball out for a throw. City push players on for the throw in played inside to Stephenson left corner of the area tackled by United’s Steele. City with a good spell regaining possession centrally the pass forwards setting Stephenson away right side powers into the box before hitting the ball across the top of the six yard box, Fraser getting hold of it stealing past a couple of United defenders before rifling a shot wide past the right post
Wodhams dumped to the ground as she takes the ball forwards, City awarded the free-kick centrally, Fraser on the ball as players line up for a right sided delivery, instead Fraser whips the ball into the near post looking to wrong foot the keeper, Webb getting across her goal can see it safely wide. Remains a competitive tussle in the middle both sides battling for the ball. Rouse strong at the back for United winning her tackles.
Steele and Stojko-Down exchanging passes as they bring United on through the middle the ball clipped out to Simmons attacking right is sent tumbling, referee Lorraine Catchpole playing the advantage as Zoe Wood up with Simmons takes the ball forwards squaring a cross into the six yard box cut out by Mulvihill.
Cheal-Ferris booked as she comes to close the ball down out on City’s right, the set-piece floated into the box from deep taken by Webb at her near post. City look to counter on the right, Collins with a great interception to hook the ball back into the middle for Stojko-Down back to goal turns well to lay the ball into the path of Fox coming on from the left striking the ball on the run Meollo diving across her goal with the merest of touches the ball behind for the corner. The ball swung in towards goal headed over.
Stephenson running the ball down for City into the left corner, holds it up as Fraser gets forwards to support played back to her up the line stabs it forwards looking to attack the area, Rouse in her path winning the tackle. Both sides looking to up the tempo get after the other into each other Jade Barrett coming into the middle to win possession for City, Otten snapping back at her to play the ball into Stojko-Down who in turn sets Wood away on the right her cross swung in from deep blocked by Fitzpatrick corner given. City defending their lines look to break the advantage played as a player is fouled in the middle the ball running on for Stephenson to knock forwards, can’t get to it before Webb as it runs on into her box.
City gaining a little confidence having been defending deep earlier on are themselves pushing up as a unit into the middle, play there very congested with the ball pinging around. Wodhams bringing the pass from Gardiner under control on the left plays it forwards into Stephenson, Rouse in to close her down the ball gone for a throw in. Level with the top of the area the ball dropped into Barrett looks to turn corner of the area blocked at close quarters the rebound coming to Wodhams behind her 25 yards out curls her shot wide of the top corner.
Gardiner battling for the ball in the middle for City getting a favourable break surging forwards attempts to thread the ball in behind for Stephenson, Webb rushing forwards to gather it first. United come left Marden on for Fox wide outside the box jinks left then right before angling a shot straight at the keeper. United holding their line catching Stephenson offside on a couple of occasions.
Cheal-Ferris with a long clearance out to the right finding Simmons holding the ball up top corner of the area before laying it out wide to Wood who sweeps a cross in towards the far post Stojko-Down up to meet it wide her head nods the ball wide. Simmons taking the ball wide right side sending a cross looping into the box caught by Meollo. Otten picking up a yellow card for United as the midfield battle continues.
Wood winning City their first corner of the game on the left played in near post beat back out to the corner taker the 2nd attempt to play the ball into the box cleared by Rouse. City looking to build some momentum with Barrett and Wodhams linking up in the centre the ball out to the right intercepted well by Cheal-Ferris. Wood out on the right swinging a cross into the box caught high by Webb, United with a player down Fox hurt in the City build up down the right is okay after receiving treatment.
Gardiner on the move with the ball through the middle played on for Stephenson in attack, Rouse getting a foot in to cut it out for United. Fitzpatrick on the stretch with a vital interception at the back for City as the diagonal ball threatens to see Simmons race in clear to attack the box on the right.
Moments later the ball put into the box from the United right rebounds straight to Simmons top of the D, her snap shot taking a deflection behind for a corner on the right. Played long across the six yard box is headed back across wide of the post for a 2nd corner. This delivery to the top of the area, Simmons hauled down right of the D, Fraser receiving a yellow card. Wood and Cheal-Ferris over the ball, Wood with the dummy as Cheal-Ferris curls a strike in towards goal, Meollo behind it making the save as it dips late palming the ball over the bar with both hands.
The resulting United corner played into the near post low, Meollo stabbing a foot out to block sending it behind for another corner. Put in towards the top of the area a strike towards goal wide of right post from 25 yards. Steele carrying the ball into the right channel has Wood with her on the overlap sending the ball into her feet the cross is whipped in central, Meollo with a confident claim taking the ball low into her midriff as Stojko-Down closes her down.
City with a free-kick on the left late in the first half Hubbard over the ball put in to the top of the are knocked down into the path of Barrett top of the D, blasts a shot in towards goal, blocked by Marden inside the six yard box, Rouse clears for a corner on the right. The delivery goes long missing everyone in the six yard box, Barrett after the ball to regain on the left firing it back into the mix, the ball hotly contested before United scramble it away to safety.
Half-time Cambridge City Women 0-0 Cambridge United WFC
A goalless first half in the finish of what has been a competitive Cambridge derby so far with the game highly competitive in the middle of the park. United getting off to a positive start looknig to get at the City defence spread play out to the wide attacking players. Creating a number of opportunities. The City defence busy pushed back, United up on halfway play gradually swinging as City gained confidence to push their own defence up gaining momentum towards the end of the half to create a few chances themselves. The game lacking that one quality pass that could see someone through on goal.
No changes from either side at the break, as City get the 2nd period underway the ball put back into defence as United race forwards to hustle the ball won on the right the visitors send it cross field out to the left Fox looking to get forwards, Meollo out to clear the ball. United looking to get on the front foot early in the 2nd half the ball rolled into Wood right of the D her shot low straight into the keeper. Fox cutting out a City pass on the left knocks it forwards into Stojko-Down coming inside from the left curls a shot from outside the box onto the roof of the net.
United looking to be aggressive get after the ball. Barrett looking to bring the ball down for City as she moves to the right, Marden in to win the tackle for United. The sun low behind one goal now City with it at their backs, Webb donning a cap. United get on well down the left Marden on for Fox wide of the area shifts left then right before whipping a ball into the six yard box, won by Mulvihill for City.
A free-kick won by City central, Hubbard over it launching the ball into the area, Webb up well to claim it. Barrett getting about the pitch for City looking to disrupt United regain possession for City. Stojko-Down coming left fouled by Mulvihill giving United a free-kick. Cheal-Ferris having Wood up with her plays it short as Wood breaks down the left to sing the cross into the area, blocked by Davies for City.
Wood fouled on the left for City, Hubbard drops the ball into the mix from deep, chaos ensues for a moment as both side scramble for the ball, United eventually sending it clear. Marden getting forwards well on the left as she and Fox combine on the left her cross headed out for a throw by Mulvihill. United making a change on the hour with Sammy Edgar coming on for Otten in the centre of the park. The game settling down a little scrappy at time as neither prepared to give any quarter in the midfield.
Davies defending at the back for City against Fox the ball cleared up to Wood attacking on the right flashes a shot wide across the six yard box, retrieved on the left by Fraser strikes her shot from distance over. City working hard to stretch United winning a free-kick on the right the ball swung in under the bar Webb getting her gloves up to turn the ball wide for a corner on the left. Fired in low to the near post Collins launching it clear for United.
United on the drive through the middle Steele advancing plays in through for Edgar to take on and put Simmons away to attack on the right striking the shot from 25 yards, the ball smashing against the bar and over.
United pressing right side winning a throw, Simmons attempting to put the ball into the box cut out comes back to Wood strikes wide of the left post from range. United knocking on the door with a little over 15 minutes left to play. City fighting for the ball looking to get it into Stephenson in attack the striker twisting and turning 25 yards out squeezing a shot away, Webb down low to gather.
Wood adjudged to be offside as she breaks in behind the City defence as Meollo rushes out to clear off a Stojko-Down pass. City winning a free-kick central inside the United half 30 plus yards out the sun at her back Hubbard lines up a strike at goal, hit well, Webb throwing herself to the right making a fantastic one handed save pushing the ball behind for a corner on the left.
Fired into the box from the left, Steele up to defend for United heading the ball over for a 2nd corner. Another vicious in swinger, Webb up to punch the ball away to the left back to the taker fired back into the box too many bodies to evade the strike is blocked and cleared. The United bench infuriated as Fox is judged to have handled the ball as she looks to break away down the left. Fox’s last action of the game as she is replaced by Abbie Jackson the defender joining the back line with Cheal-Ferris going to full back and Marden pushed forwards.
Edgar battling for the ball for United the visitors looking for a strong finish, City working hard at the back to keep them out with the clock ticking down. Wood with the diagonal ball from the right looking for Marden breaking left, frustrated as the flag halts her run. Davies in to defend on Wood as she looks to bring the ball down of her chest and turn to strike the ball goes behind for a corner. Fired in from the left into the six yard box knocked down for Simmons sees her shot blocked turned away from another corner on the left. Taken quickly the cross into the box into Jackson back to goal looks to shield the ball looking for someone to lay it off to, but City close the ball down get it away from danger.
Into the last five minutes of regular play United pushing on looking for a goal, Marden off a throw on the left firing a cross into the box, but no one there to attack it. Edgar bursting forwards for United looked to already have slipped as Barrett clatters into her the free-kick awarded to United central 25 out. Stojko-Down over it goes for goal strikes her shot over the crossbar.
United pour forwards Cheal-Ferris left with the cutting pass inside into Stojko-Down outside the D looks to bring the ball down hit on the turn catching the ball with the outside of her boot, not troubling Meollo. City hanging on towards the end players back to defend. A corner won in the dying minutes on the right to United.
Played high into the box, Wood knocking the ball down towards the far post, Meollo able to grab as Mulvihill and Steele come together in front of her, the game ending in controversy as the grounded defender kicks out towards Steele catching her in the chin, Steele retaliating with a shove, the referee blowing up immediately, calling both players up to her as the United bench scream for a penalty. One thing at a time as a red card is shown to both players, both stunned, Steele sporting a cut on her face. Now the referee goes over to consult with her lineswoman before pointing to the spot Penalty! City’s turn to surround the referee but it does them no good the decision is made. Stojko-Down with a chance to win the game for United with what would surely be the last kick of the game with all the commotion needs to settle down. Strikes the penalty over, missing as the final whistle blows, City joyous, Stojko-Down distraught on her knees.
Full time Cambridge City Women 0-0 Cambridge United WFC
On the final whistle the game is drawn but for both sides very different emotions, for United it almost feels like a loss, for City it feels like a win! The Cambridge derby ending goalless United by far the stronger in the 2nd half creating numerous chances started well looking to get after their opponents coming close to scoring but City’s defence battling hard. Webb needing to save at the other end to ensure the visitors weren’t caught out. A busy 7 days for both sides and they can both have reason to be positive, 7 points for United who remain 4th. 2 successive draws for City gives the squad some much needed confidence and something they can use to build on as they continue their search for a new manager.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. A derby match very competitive there are a few contenders and narrowing it down to one wasn’t easy. Performances of note from both sides. For City, Paige Gardiner had a strong game in the middle of the park getting hold of the ball and driving forwards. Jade Barrett putting herself about, strong coming back to win the ball get City going in attack. Becca Stephenson lively in attack making some good runs. For United Ruth Fox and Bella Simmons were great outlets in attack wide and into the channels. Alysha Stojko-Down holding the ball up well getting into some fantastic positions to set up others. Fran Steele powerful in midfield closing the ball down, putting in the tackles. Came down to the numbers 5’s however and a close run contest too. Sophie Mulvihill with a strong defensive performance for City at the back, with some great tackling and interception play. The award though goes to United’s Lauren Rouse read the game well especially when United were holding a high line dropping off well and timing her tackles throughout.
Might have ended goalless and I don’t cover many of those but this was as exciting a game as any I’ve watched this season, both sides working hard competitive in the middle of the park. My thanks to both sides for their help with the team details. On to the next one time to get the coat out I think.
by Darren Gilham