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Cup Final Special – Cambridge United WFC U18s v Whittlesey Athletic Ladies

Thursday 9th May

Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup Final

A trip into Cambridgeshire this Thursday to catch some more cup final action, a rearranged fixture from 12 days ago, the Women’s Invitation Cup final, Cambridge United WFC U18’s taking on newly crowned Cambridgeshire Women’s Premiership Champions, Whittlesey Athletic Ladies.

Originally scheduled to be part of a cup final double bill on Sunday 28th April at Soham Town Rangers FC, heavy over night rain still coming down that morning forcing the games to be cancelled and more headaches for Cambs FA in what has been a particularly difficult season weather wise. The Invitation Cup, Cambridgeshire’s senior County Cup competition, has been dominated by the two Cambridge clubs City and United in recent season’s with the pair the strongest women sides in the county.

Cambridge United WFC winning it last time out beating City, neither side is fielding their senior side in the competition this season, presenting an opportunity for another club to get their name on the trophy.

This evenings prize.

That said, Cambridge United WFC, have reached the final, this time their new U18s side. United having a clean sweep of the county cups last season with Cambridge United’s, Development side winning the Junior Invitation Cup too. That side since disbanded as the club looking to improve the pathway from youth to 1st team introduced a new U18s side having become an Emerging Talent Centre (ETC) in 2022. Playing in the JPL Warriors League against similar set-ups at clubs such as Derby County and Nottingham Forest have ad a strong debut season finishing 2nd in the table, with U18s players, making appearances for the senior side playing in the FAWNL during the season.

Whittlesey Athletic Ladies reformed at the start of this season having had a brief tenure in the ERWFL in their previous guise a couple of season’s ago. The Peterborough area with a strong pool of footballing talent, have recruited a experienced squad, with many players having experience playing in the ERWFL. Strong on paper, have proved so in the league, going straight into the Premiership in Cambridgeshire, recording several large wins at the start of the season. Clear of the rest since the beginning with a 100% record with two games left to play have become champions in their debut season and in the hunt for a possible treble.

Along with their league success and reaching this evening’s Invitation Cup final, have also reached to final of the League Cup where they will face 2nd placed Fulbourn Institute Bluebirds a week on Friday, at Newmarket Town FC. Amongst their signings is the goal machine that is Emma Pollard, prolific in recent season’s no sign of that diminishing this campaign having found the back of the net for 52 goals in just 15 games. Tara Parker has 15 goals for Whittlesey from her 11 games with Taylor Dean also into double figures.

Road to the Final

  Cambridge United WFC U18s racking up a large score-line as they entered the Invitation Cup in the 1st Round away to Division Two side, Burwell Ladies. Cruising into double figures 16-0 the final score. Whittlesey Athletic Ladies with a bye in the 1st Round.

  Into the 2nd Round and Whittlesey again progressed without kicking a ball as they were awarded the away win against Division Three side, Willingham Wolves Ladies. Cambridge drawn away to Chatteris Town Lillies Ladies newly promoted to Division Two, won the game by 3 goals to 0 to reach the last 8 of the competition

  Cambridge turning on the goals once again in the quarter finals of the Invitation Cup as they travelled to Division Three outfit, Manea Sirens LFC, another double figure score as they cruised into the semi-finals 10-0. Whittlesey in action in the competition at last drawn at home to Cambridge City Women’s U23s side. Several of their players featuring for the 1st team in the FAWNL this season it was goalless at the break with Whittlesey firing in twice in the 2nd half to win the game 2-0 Emma Pollard and Hannah Murphy with the goals.

  A strong semi-final line-up with Cambridge drawn away to ERWFL Division One North side, Histon Ladies. Scored twice to take the result 2-0 and reach the cup final. Whittlesey also away to ERWFL Division One North opposition, Newmarket Town Ladies, who had reached the final of the competition two season’s ago. Newmarket holding the advantage at the break leading 1-0. Holly Dryland scoring for the hosts would add 2nd goal to her name, but Whittlesey came back with Pollard on target for a brace and a goal from Katie Barber 10 minutes from time saw Whittlesey win 3-2 to reach the cup final.

  The rearranged Invitation Cup Final being held at Ely City FC’s Demcom Stadium. No stranger to the women’s game in Cambridge having hosted a number of finals as well as home to both Cambridge United and City for spells. Their own women’s team having a strong season competing in Cambridgeshire Women’s Division three too. The large grass pitch with standing viewing all round with a seated stand set back above the changing rooms with the clubhouse bar and function room beside. The kitchen open too serving hot food and drinks. No sign of rain around this time still warm after a pleasant sunny day with the sun setting behind the trees behind one goal.

Cambridge United WFC U18s starting XI – Lily-Grace Cooke, Mistie Fox-Baker, Eleanor Townsend, Katie Walter, Beatrice Rogers (C), Lily Horsler, Natasha Coe, Gwendolyn Davis-Jones, Isabelle Gjergji, Millie Docking & Emelia Reinhardt. Subs – Serena Cobb, Holly Plummer, Daisy Hay, Florence Hjaltun-Rayner & Charlotte Crisp.

Cambridge United WFC U18s

  Whittlesey Athletic Ladies starting XI – Zoe Shepherd, Maisie Homden, Megan Strickland, Leah Barnes (C), Alice MacNicol, Jenna Nairn, Mia Wilson, Katie Barber, Taylor Dean, Tara Parker & Emma Pollard. Subs – Olivia Smith & Grace Spencer.

Whittlesey Athletic Ladies

(roll on roll off substitutes)

Captains. Leah Barnes and Beatrice Rogers with this evening’s match officials

  Cambridge with a full squad with 5 named on the bench, a late call off due to illness seeing Whittlesey naming just the two substitutes, roll on roll off substitutes being used. A change of ends before kick-off Whittlesey to attack the goal with the sun setting behind now down below the tree line so unlikely to cause an issue. Whittlesey to get the game underway, kicking -off the first half wearing an all blue kit with Cambridge lined up wearing amber coloured shirts with black shorts and socks. The ball played back to their captain, Leah Barnes in the heart of the defence, out to Megan Strickland on the right, Cambridge push forward to press the ball, force a throw-in, looking to work it to the by-line Whittlesey defend for the goal-kick.


Whittlesey look to get the ball moving up the left, Mistie Fox-Baker winning the ball back for Cambridge, getting fouled as she attempts to bring it forwards. Emma Pollard up top for Whittlesey looking to get the ball down into her feet and turn and attack the Cambridge defence, their captain, Beatrice Rogers lunging in with her leg to take the ball away from the attacker.

The ball in the middle rolled out to Emelia Reinhardt peeling right for Cambridge gets on the move the striker pushing down the line coming inside 20 yards out playing the ball inside for Millie Docking, looking for the return ball as she races into the box, Whittlesey step up well to catch her offside. A probing opening to the game both sides looking to get the ball forwards shift out to the flanks and run at the defence. Pollard playing the ball out to Katie barber on the right the Whittlesey player driving forwards, Eleanor Townsend putting in the challenge for Cambridge preventing the cross.

Isabelle Gjergji bringing the ball on centrally for Cambridge attempts to play a threaded pass to Reinhardt looking to run in behind the Whittlesey defence, Barnes holding her position, intercepting the pass. Jenna Nairn sending the ball forwards into Tara Parker, knocks it down to the right with Barber on the move a strong run into the corner, Townsend under pressure holding her up, conceding the throw. Whittlesey pushing players up send a cross in towards goal, Lily-Grace Cooke claiming the ball high back on her goal line.

Cambridge goalkeeper, Lily-Grace Cooke

The game being played at a fast tempo, the ball being moved quickly, both sides looking to use the width of the pitch, Nairn passing the ball forwards into Pollard right channel, drops her shoulder, to charge forwards before laying the ball inside for Parker top of the D, to turn and send a strike up over the crossbar.

Whittlesey’s Tara Parker

GOAL! Pollard nips in on the ball top of the area as Cambridge get caught in possession, right of goal she foots her foot through the ball, her shot rising smashing down off the cross ball falling central, Pollard is straight on it, no one close enough to challenge she keep the ball low, slotting her follow-up between defenders into the back of the net 0-1. Whittlesey taking the lead inside the opening 10 minutes.

Emma Pollard celebrating after firing Whittlesey into the lead.

Whittlesey building a head of steam getting the ball forwards driving at the Cambridge defence, Taylor Dean on the left, on the turn attempting to pick out Pollard in the middle, Rogers getting to foot in to deflect the ball away to the right. Breaking up a Cambridge attack, Nairn clips a good diagonal ball out to Pollard pulling left in behind the full-back, Rogers going with her forcing her wide, her defensive partner, Katie Walter coming across in support clearing the ball.

Reinhardt snaps in to win the ball in attack for Cambridge, takes it forwards looking to get into the box, Barnes coming back at her to tackle, clear the ball for Whittlesey. Barnes has her heels clipped as she attempts to carry the ball out of the back after tacking Docking inside the D. Whittlesey with the free-kick, come left lifted on for Dean to surge up the wing 20 yards out playing the ball across the top of the area, Barber looking to get it under control and turn, closely marked by Townsend the defender winning the ball back.

Parker seeing the ball down central, puts Pollard away on the left, powering towards the by-line twists and turns on the ball getting past her marker coming back to create an angle to shoot, sends her strike crashing against the Cambridge crossbar, rebounding out to the right Whittlesey using their experience to force a corner on that side.

GOAL! The corner lifted into the near side, Pollard jumping unmarked getting her head on the ball, looping down towards goal, Alice MacNicol up form the back, getting her head on the ball to ensure it goes in, doubles Whittlesey’s lead as her teammates rush in to mob he in celebration 0-2. 

Emma Pollard heading the ball in towards goal. Alice MacNicol in position to score Whittlesey’s 2nd goal

MacNicol mobbed by her joyous teammates

2 goals down inside 20 minutes Cambridge respond with a triple change bringing on Serena Cobb, Holly Plummer and Florence Hjaltun-Rayner replacing, Horsler, Docking and Gjergji. Whittlesey imposing themselves on the game getting into a 2 goal lead, MacNicol winning the ball at the back lifting it forwards up to Pollard who lays the ball out to Barber coming on right side looks to put the ball back inside for Parker outside the box, Rogers cutting the pass out for Cambridge.

Cobb seeing the ball onto her feet for Cambridge, tracks forwards through the middle, Reinhardt peeling off the defence, Cobb looks to put her in on goal, Barnes intercepting for Whittlesey at the back. Cambridge looking for a response hustling the ball inside the Whittlesey half, Cobb linking up with Plummer can’t pick out Natasha Coe attacking on the left, Strickland defending.

 GOAL! Cambridge moving the ball sharper, Plummer central pushing on has Reinhardt ahead of her left of the D, looks for the return pass as she plays the ball into her and continues her run in behind the defence, gets it taking the ball away to the right inside the area before cutting her shot back across the advancing keeper to place in the bottom corner and score 1-2.

Holly Plummer pulling it back to 2-1 for Cambridge

A good reply from Cambridge after falling 2 goals behind, Whittlesey look to get the ball cleared up to Pollard up top, 20 yards out seeing the ball over her shoulder looks to strike on the volley, Rogers in the way to block the shot. Cambridge looking to be sharper in the final third putting the Whittlesey back line under a little pressure forcing errors, Cobb looking to get hold of the ball, create opportunities. Coming on into the left channel, Coe plays the ball into her path, hitting it on the move sends her shot wide past the right post.

Cambridge’s, Serena Cobb

Cambridge showing good character fighting back after conceding, Cobb adding impetus to their attack. Reinhardt taking the ball right into the corner her cross blocked turned behind for a corner by Wilson. The delivery into the near post, put behind for a 2nd corner, the next ball going long beyond the far post, Cambridge looking to get it down unleash a shot, Whittlesey moving in to block the ball scrambled clear.

Plummer linking up with Davis-Jones exchanging passes as she bursts away to the left channel, Barnes getting back at her her to tackle send the ball behind for a throw in the corner. Cambridge looking to work the ball into the box, the flag going up against them however, showing more energy looking to get after Whittlesey who give the ball away in the middle, latched onto by Cobb drives on before blasting over form 30 yards out.

Both sides competitive in the middle looking to win the ball, giving away a few free-kicks. Hjaltun-Rayner wins Cambridge a corner on the right, Coe across to take, goes long beyond the far post, retrieved inside the ball, Barber gets the blocking tackle in for Whittlesey to see the ball clear. Rogers winning the ball at the back for Cambridge brings it out from the ball looks for Reinhardt up top breaking in behind however the attack is brought to an end by a raised flag.

Maisie Homden getting to the ball for Whittlesey before Cambridge’s Isabelle Gjergji

Whittlesey soaking up some pressure from Cambridge in the latter part of the first half look for the counter attack the ball from Nairn on for Barber to chase right side, Cooke needing to race out of her area to clear the ball. Cambridge bringing the ball on through the middle, Cobb to Davis-Jones pushing on has Reinhardt offering herself as she pulls free into the left channel the attempted through ball cut out by Barnes. The game stretched Whittlesey coming down the right, Barber strong running into the corner on the by-line sends her cross in near post, a vital stop to turn the ball behind by Mistie-Baker, with Parker steaming in on goal behind her.

Mistie Fox-Baker with Whittlesey’s Taylor Dean

The corner curled in from the right, over everyone including the keeper at the near post, lands in the six yard box, hooked clear by Coe. Back out to the right, Townsend rushing out to block the ball away for a Whittlesey throw. Work the ball down the line for another corner. Put into the near post area again Cooke coming for it jumping well to get her fist the ball send it away before Pollard can connect with her head, a foul is spotted by the referee relieving the pressure.

Cambridge break forwards Plummer over on the right down the wing firing a cross into the six yard box, just beyond Reinhardt running in to attack, runs on for Coe moving it up the line to strike on the angle, a powerful strike angling into the bottom corner, Shepherd diving to her left makes a superb save turned the ball wide for the corner kick.

Whittlesey goalkeeper with a superb save in the closing stages of the 1st half to keep her side in front

Half-time Cambridge United WFC U18s 1-2 Whittlesey Athletic Ladies


Whittlesey leading 2-1 at the break starting the game well taking the game to Cambridge attacking down the flanks getting the ball into Pollard up top opening the scoring inside 10 minutes before going on to take a 2 goal lead midway through the have. Cambridge responded by making three changes and proved a turning point as their young side showed great character to get themselves back into the game getting hold of the ball and pulling a goal back, as well as forcing Whittlesey’s keeper into a superb save. Having found the resolve to take the game to Whittlesey a game that looked in danger of getting beyond them is now one still very much for the taking.

  Whittlesey out early ready to get going again making a double switch sending on Grace Spencer and Olivia Smith in place of Wilson and Barber. The floodlights starting to come on as Cambridge return to the field to kick-off the 2nd half. Put back to Cobb central lifts the ball out to the right with Hjaltun-Rayner on the move looking to attack, Homden defending for Whittlesey. Cambridge up aiming to press the ball, Townsend on the left plays it forwards for Coe on the wing, Barnes coming across to get in the tackle regain possession for Whittlesey.

Cambridge’s Florence Hjaltun-Raynor

  Cambridge making a lively start to the 2nd half looking to close down the ball, Hjaltun-Rayner holding the ball up on the right 20 out lifting a high ball into the box, Barnes under it to head clear for Whittlesey. Nairn plays the ball on for Pollard left channel has Smith to her left down the wing the ball angled forwards to the area for Spencer attacking near post, Rogers back to win the challenge for Cambridge.  

Whittlesey’s Grace Spencer

  Townsend at the back fighting to get the ball back into Cambridge possession on the left, starts to bring it out before she and Parker comes together in a hefty 50/50 tackles as both go to kick the ball. Parker stays down coming off the worse, needing treatment a lengthy pause before she declares she is okay to play on. Parker back on the pitch showing no sign of an injury as she lunges in to win the ball back as Cambridge’s Plummer, Davis-Jones and Hjaltun-Rayner play a neat triangle through the middle.

   Nairn taking control of the ball centrally for Whittlesey passing in forwards into Dean, Walter closing her down winning the challenge for Cambridge. Whittlesey pushing Cambridge back, Parker tackling Plummer is fouled as she looks to bring the ball away. Cobb forwards on the left for Cambridge coming inside as Coe plays the ball into her feet, travelling across the top of the area, looing for a opening cuts her shot back in towards goal lacks the power to trouble Shepherd.

   Baker tackling to win the ball back off Smith on the left as she and Pollard look to combine out wide. Reinhardt nipping on to win the ball high for Cambridge out on the right pushes on before letting fly on the angle her effort driven in to the near post, gathered by Shephard. 15 minutes gone in the 2nd half Cambridge with a change bringing Reinhardt off up top send Docking back on. 

Whittlesey’s Tara Parker

 Barnes with an awkward landing as she goes to clear the ball for Whittlesey, up gingerly but okay to continue. An even contest Whittlesey working hard to keep it tight defend their lead Cambridge probing. Cobb with space to drive into centrally runs on with the ball before laying it to her right for Docking 25 yards out takes on the short screwing her attempt wide of the near post. Cambridge press Cobb up top into Reinhardt looks to turn in behind, MacNicol getting a foot in to win the ball back for Whittlesey.

Alice MacNicol

  Pollard a threat every time she gets hold of the ball and turns in the final 3rd moving on sends it out for Smith on the wing, pushing down the line Baker does well tackling to play the ball off Smith for a goal kick. Cambridge turn play around, Davis-Jones lifting the pass over the top for Hjaltun-Rayner on the right, no offside as Whittlesey appeal, Hjaltun-Rayner pushing inside looking to get into the box, Homden getting back well to challenge for the ball for Whittlesey. 

  Cambridge winning the ball in the middle Plummer getting on with Docking in attack played out to Coe attacking on the left flanks the ball rebounding off a defender recovered by Coe on the by-line checks back inside before firing in a near post cross, Shepherd down low to claim it. Cambridge competing for the ball need to slow down if anything else as Plummer finds Hjaltun-Rayner on the right channel, takes on the early strike from range, not troubling the keeper.

Cambridge’s Millie Docking

 Pollard taking the ball left fires her shot wide across the face of goal. Cambridge making another change sending Horsler back on to replace Hjaltun-Rayner. Daisy Hay also introduced to the game replacing Baker. Whittlesey making a change too Barber returning to the pitch with MacNicol coming off. The clock ticking down, a lot of stoppage time to be added mind, Whittlesey looking to defend their lead get the ball up to Pollard when they can.

  Scrappy at time, free-kicks given away, Whittlesey a little frustrated as play is brought back for a free-kick with no advantage appearing. Cobb winning the ball back for Cambridge attempting to play it on for Docking, Barber stretching to intercept the pass for Whittlesey. Rogers coming off worse on halfway in a collision with her own player, stays down another long pause while she receives treatment. Whittlesey upset as play resumes with a free-kick to Cambridge, Rogers up back on her feet. 

Whittlesey’s Katie Barber

  Plummer fouled by Barber as she gets on the move with the ball through the middle, the free-kick awarded 40 yards out. Cobb looking to dink the ball over the defence into the box for runners to attack, Shepherd back on her line across to get hold of the ball as it bounces up. Homden plays the ball up the left wing for Pollard who powers her way to the by-line coming inside, twists and turns on the ball moving into the box opening the angle up to shoot, Rogers and Walter both going into the block her strike.

Cambridge’s Katie Walter

  Cambridge with a throw on the left Townsend giving it to Coe 20 yards out to play inside for Plummer carrying it across the top of the area is frustrated as she pulls her shot wide of the right post. Getting a little nervy out there Barber pushing on with the ball down Whittlesey’s right flank, Townsend getting back at her to clear the ball for a throw. Plummer coming left looking to link up with Coe, Parker in to steal the ball carries in forwards Pollard up top making the run across to the right side the ball sent on for her to attack, whips a dangerous cross along the face of the Cambridge goal, Spencer running in far post, can’t quite reach it the ball out to the left Whittlesey manage to win themselves a corner kick. Cambridge clearing at the near post.

Cambridge’s Natasha Coe

Into the final 15 minutes including stoppages, Smith left laying the ball inside for Pollard top of the Cambridge area, attacks, Rogers closing her down with the blocking tackle. Whittlesey determined to keep hold of the ball defend their slender lead looking for a moment of Pollard magic to kill off the game, Nairn sending the ball into the attacker left channel jinks right the then left as she carries the ball into the box, unleashes a shot her effort cleared off the line. 

Whittlesey’s Jenna Nairn

  Coe strong on the left for Cambridge taking the ball inside puts her angled shot straight into the keeper. Coe coming off then with Reinhardt sent back into the action up top for the closing stages of the game. Barber and Townsend battling for the ball as Whittlesey attack right, both coming back to tackle the other before Barber lifts a ball into the box, headed clear by Rogers. Davis-Jones hooking the ball on for Reinhardt to break in behind but she can’t reach it before Shepherd coming to the top of the area and see it safely into her gloves.

Emilia Reinhardt

  Docking back to goal sees the ball into her feet right channel for Cambridge lays it out wide for Horsler to take on, Homden stepping in to tackle for Whittlesey Barber giving away a free-kick to Cambridge in a dangerous position 30 yards out central, Horsler over it, goes for goal curled over the wall, sees it fly narrowly over the crossbar. Rogers getting hold of the ball at the back for Cambridge carries it forwards with purpose before attempting to slide Docking in up top, Barnes there to win the challenge for Whittlesey top of the D.

Lily Horsler

 Barnes in position to defend again as Plummer attacks left her cross into the top of the area snubbed out by Whittlesey’s captain. Wilson returning to the action late in the game as Whittlesey look to see out the game replacing Spencer. Cambridge winning a free-kick wide on the right the ball floated into a packed area knocked down across the six yard box at the near post, scrambled clear to the top of the area, Walter snatching hold up it clipping a ball up attempting to play it under the crossbar sees her attempt drop over the crossbar instead.

Whittlesey captain, Leah Barnes

  Whittlesey break forwards Wilson on the drive with the ball as Cambridge commit players forward, the bench screaming for the ball to be run into the corner, Wilson instead sees an opportunity to shoot doesn’t get hold of the ball the effort taken by Cooke moving across her six yard box. Into the closing moments of the match Cambridge trying to find a way through but Whittlesey set to keep it tight at the back working hard to keep the door shut, over 10 minutes of stoppage time played with all the pauses for treatment, the final whistle comes at last and Whittlesey celebrate winning the county cup to make it a league and cup double in their debut season. 

Full time Cambridge United WFC U18s 1-2 Whittlesey Athletic Ladies

  No more goals in the 2nd half, Whittlesey knew they had to work hard to limit Cambridge’s opportunities in and around the box and the defence was solid. Few clear cut chances created, while looking for the chance up top to break away and extend their lead. Fantastic character from Cambridge to get back into the tie after falling 2 goals down in the 2nd half. Pushed their opponents hard in the 2nd half a competitive game but Whittlesey were determined not to concede. A fine effort from both sides, Cambridge can be proud of their performance, fantastic experience going forwards in their footballing journey. Whittlesey breaking the Cambridge dominance of the Invitation Cup getting their name on the trophy with another cup final to contest in a weeks time taking on Fulbourn Bluebirds Institute in the League Cup at Newmarket Town FC.

Women’s Football East – Player of the Match

  Onto this evening’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. Several names putting themselves forwards for this one some great performances out there. Firstly for Cambridge, Holly Plummer making a huge impact coming off the bench after her side went 2 down, getting about the pitch to win and receive the ball. link up with the attackers and broke in behind to score the goal to restore her side confidence. Serena Cobb to getting hold of the ball in the middle with several good runs forward. Beatrice Rogers tackling well at the ball winning her tackles. Natasha Coe strong out on the left provided a useful outlet throughout. Whittlesey knew they were in a contest and needed to be strong coming out 2nd half. Their captain Leah Barnes defended well though out, reading the game making several interceptions and breaking up attacks. Jenna Nairn in midfield played several great ball forwards. Katie Barber getting forwards well on the right to support the attack. The award goes to Emma Pollard, ultimately the damage was down in the opening 20 minutes and her attacking play was a huge part of that getting hold of the ball and taking on the defence. opening the scoring and assisting for the 2nd.

Whittlesey Athletic Ladies 2023/24 Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup winners

  Congratulation to Whittlesey Athletic Ladies on winning the Cambridgeshire Women’s Invitation Cup

 An entertaining cup tie two contrasting sides was fascinated by how this one would go and wasn’t disappointed. My thanks to both sides for their help with the team details this evening. A busy couple of weekends coming up starting this Sunday and Monday with a cup final triple bill from Norfolk, busy but looking forwards to it.

by Darren Gilham