by Stuart Barker (23/10/22)
Above: Moneyfields in possession against Exeter City earlier this season. Photo: DnP Sports Photography.
After two frustrating seasons lost to COVID, Moneyfields FC Women were able to finally secure a much-deserved promotion into the FA Women’s National League South West Division One, the fourth tier of women’s football.
They were previously denied with the whole 2020/21 season being cancelled and all results voided. The following season was also cancelled however the Football Association recognised that it was essential for the growth of women’s football that movement between divisions needed to take place.
However, after an application process, AFC Bournemouth were awarded promotion over Moneyfields due to them being able to get their hands on significantly more investment. Something which seemed unfair given Moneyfields’ superior record on the pitch. At the time the club’s boss, Karl Watson said, “‘Nobody in football could fathom out how Bournemouth could be promoted instead of us. It was the FA choosing a more marketable brand.”
Despite the setbacks, Watson and the club were able to refocus and secure the Southern Regional Women’s Football League Premier Division title with a 6-0 victory over Woodley United, meaning Moneyfields went unbeaten for the whole league campaign.
Over the summer Watson was able to retain many of the side that earned promotion but also added a number of experienced National League players, including, Sophie Phelps (Selsey FC), Lavinia Nkomo (AFC Fylde), Tamsin de Bunsen, Bekah Tonks and Jade Widdows (Portsmouth), as well as Beth Burgess (Loughborough Lightning) returning after completing her studies.
After Moneyfields’ opening game of the season against Maidenhead United was postponed they began their campaign against Exeter City at the PMC Stadium, a temporary home while their home ground undergoes redevelopment. Former Portsmouth and Chichester City forward, Jade Widdows scored the opening goal shortly after coming on as a substitute. While the visitors came back into the game thanks to a goal from new signing Rebecca Dandridge.
The fixture generator threw up another challenging match-up against pre-season promotion favourites, AFC Bournemouth. The match ended as another 1-1 draw after Katie Shorter’s late equaliser for Moneyfields in response to Lucy Cooper’s eightieth-minute opener. This result left many within the club frustrated as they felt that three points were there for the taking.
After a promising start to the season, the club were able to secure their first win in the National League 5-0 against Larkhill Athletic. Four first-half goals from Jade Widdows and a second-half goal from Kim Whitcombe helped Moneyfields cruise to a victory.
Another win on the road against Portishead Town lifted the team into fifth place in the league, two points off AFC Bournemouth who occupy top spot. The heroes on that day were two of the mainstays of the promotion season, Emma Pinner (two) and Charley Wilton-Wilson.
Last time out, Moneyfields made it five unbeaten in the league, a feat matched by only four other clubs throughout the whole National League, with a 3-1 win away at Selsey. It was a reunion of sorts for some of Moneyfields’ squad as Jade Widdows, Sophie Phelps, new signing Gemma Simmonds, and first-team coach Hannah Humphries visited their former club, although for most this was under their former identity of Chichester City.
Moneyfields got off to a wonderful start with Kayleigh Tonks opening the scoring in the first minute. The lead was doubled thanks to Roxy-Lee Stewart’s shot making its way into the back of the net through a crowded penalty box. Top scorer, Jade Widdows, found herself on the scoresheet in first-half injury time with her seventh goal of the season.
Selsey came into the game more in the second half and pulled one back through Nicky Lake in the fifty-fifth minute. While first-team manager Karl Watson might be frustrated knowing that the opening draws could have been more based on the talent available within the club, I am confident that if he was offered the chance to be unbeaten in the league in the first five fixtures he’d have taken it.
While the first team’s successful start to the season is something to be enjoyed by those within the club, Watson will be most proud of the expanded women’s and girl’s section of the club that he has overseen over the summer. Prior to this season, outside of the first team, there was only one girls’ youth team within the club but now there are seven from U9s to U18s. Not to forget a reserve team that competes in Hampshire League Division Two.
The only blots on the season so far are 1-0 defeats to Keynsham Town and Portishead Town in the FA Women’s National League Determining Round and Plate Trophy respectively. This weekend the club will be looking to reverse their cup form when they host an in-form Hastings United team to the PMC Stadium in the FA Cup.