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City Looking To Kickstart Season At Chelsea

Impetus’ Jonathan Stack was in Manchester City head coach Gareth Taylor‘s media conference for us yesterdayand there was certainly no panic after his team’s tough summer and start to the season (24/9/22).

Above: Gareth Taylor speaks to the media ahead of tomorrow’s huge game at Chelsea. Photo: Manchester City FC.

Manchester City are looking to get their season up and running this weekend with head coach Gareth Taylor looking for a much-improved performance in the big WSL clash at Kingsmeadow against Chelsea tomorrow.

In what was already a difficult summer with big players leaving to pastures new and players hanging up their boots, trying to fill in the gaps proved to be quite the task. City are already facing an uphill battle after losing to Aston Villa 4-3 at Villa Park last Sunday. Things don’t get any easier with a trip to the Champions of England who themselves suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to newly promoted Liverpool at Prenton Park last week.

These two teams who finished first and third last season, as well as contesting a superb high-quality FA Cup Final, would not have been expecting to start the season on the back foot, but with both teams suffering opening day defeats, this match now proves to be massive.

Above: After a difficult few months, Manchester City players need to re-set ahead of tomorrow’s test at Chelsea. Photo: Manchester City FC.

City manager Taylor gave his thoughts on both team’s opening day reverses saying: “I wasn’t surprised that Liverpool got something out of the game (against Chelsea). We played them in pre-season and they’re a tough outfit. Same with Aston Villa, a completely different team from last season, lots of changes, and when those players play well, anyone can beat anyone.

“There’s no change in that respect. For us, we know it’s going to be a really tough game, it’s their first home game but we’re looking forward to the challenge. We’ll hopefully show a better version of ourselves without the ball this time. Regardless of the team we pick, we’re expecting a good level and will try to make it difficult for Chelsea on their own patch but also show our best version with the ball.”

Australian international Alanna Kennedy could be in contention to feature this weekend after picking up a thigh injury on international duty against Canada earlier this month. Taylor provided an update on the defender saying: “There’s a couple of players who are being monitored closely, but nothing too different to what we had last week. Alanna should be in a better place, she wasn’t able to make the bench last week, so we think she’ll be back in contention, hopefully after another training session.

“But there has been no real change from last weekend (in terms of availability), so pretty good. We’ve got good options. When you have them, it gives you a bit of a selection headache, the players are probably aware that, although we didn’t get off on the right foot last week, there were some elements of our play that were quite good.”

Chelsea v Manchester City, at Kingsmeadow tomorrow, 4pm kick-off local time.

This article is one of three this weekend previewing tomorrow’s big game at Kingsmeadow. The first was Kieran Yap‘s reflections from Chelsea boss Emma Hayes‘ media conference yesterday: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/09/23/emma-hayes-previews-chelseas-huge-clash-with-city/

Second was Jonathan Tay‘s profile and analysis of City’s new teenage superstar signing Mary Fowlerhttps://impetusfootball.org/2022/09/24/matildas-in-the-wsl-harder-better-fowler-stronger/

Powell Positive Ahead Of Reading Encounter

Impetus’ Ellie Ramsauer was in Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Hope Powell‘s media conference and heard her positivity and pride in her squad going into tomorrow’s important game with Reading (24/9/22).

Above: Hope Powell talking to the media. Photo: Brighton & Hove Albion Women.

It was a tough start to the season for Brighton and Hove Albion as they lost 4-0 to a strong Arsenal team at Meadow Park. Their challenge was made harder as Emma Kullberg was sent off for Brighton after a trip on Stina Blackstenius outside the box.

However, Hope Powell, Brighton’s head coach, was keen to look at the positives of that game as she recognised the effort put in by the team despite the disadvantage, stating she was “proud of the players, the way they continued (and) ran”, and she appreciated that they “put a shift in”.

Another positive Powell took from the match was that they made it through the 90 minutes with no fresh injury concerns “which was the main thing.” Despite no new injuries, they remain without Rebekah Stott, who is still recovering after her ankle surgery several weeks ago, with Megan Connelly (broken ribs), Danielle Carter (illness), and Masie Symonds who is still recovering from glandular fever remaining on the sidelines.

The Seagulls’ head coach reflected on the impact of these injuries, particularly on the senior players who are key influencers in the squad and therefore a big miss during the time they are out. However, Powell remains positive after her side’s defeat to Arsenal and is happy with the spirit the squad showed despite going down to 10 players.     

The former Lionesses coach did, however, concede that it was “not an easy reset” for the team as they lose a player through suspension for the red card. This, on top of injuries, mean that the squad has had “quite a lot of work to do” and there is a need to “change things around” to accommodate this change. Despite this Powell maintains that the “players are very positive” and are “looking forward to the challenge on Sunday”.

Above: Brighton and Hove Albion players return to the Amex Stadium tomorrow – over 5,000 tickets have already been sold. Photo: Brighton & Hove Albion Women.

Brighton are looking ahead to Sunday’s fixture against Reading which will be the first women’s game played at the Amex Stadium since the Euros. Last summer’s international tournament, which brought in an influx of new fans to the women’s game, is likely to lead to an upsurge in the numbers attending, which will amplify the atmosphere and, in turn, give the team a boost. Powell reflects on this as she encourages fans to “come along and judge for themselves”, particularly those who may not have been fans of the women’s game before the Euros.

In terms of the opposition, Brighton’s head coach concedes that Reading “will be a tough game” despite their opening game of the season 4-0 defeat at Manchester United. Powell says she sees “the game as an opportunity”, but acknowledges that Kelly Chambers’ side will see it the same way. This is expected as both sides will be hungry to put points on the board after a disappointing opening day of the season.

Reading made a number of signings in the summer, which the Seagulls chief is wary of, believing it will make this a “close contest.” However, Brighton have also made a number of signings this summer who have impressed Powell since being introduced to the squad.

In particular, Elisabeth Terland has imposed herself since arriving from Norway as Powell shared that Terland was actually ‘disappointed she didn’t score’ against Arsenal. Brighton’s head coach also spoke of Terland’s “really good strike” of the ball and her ambition “to be a top striker for club and country”.

Brighton and Hove Albion host Reading at the Amex Stadium in the Barclays Women’s Super League at 2:00pm tomorrow local time.

Matildas In The WSL: Harder, Better, Fowler, Stronger

Ahead of tomorrow’s big WSL clash between Chelsea and Manchester City at Kingsmeadow, Impetus’ Jonathan Tay profiles the talented teenager Mary Fowler (24/9/22).

Above: Cairns-born Mary Fowler has been a teenage star for the Matildas for some time. The WSL is about to find out why. Image: Football Australia.

“Mary Fowler, for me, is the next big thing.”

Matildas captain Sam Kerr does not mince words when discussing her teenage teammate, Mary Fowler. A team mate she will come up against as an opponent at Kingsmeadow at 4pm local time tomorrow afternoon.

Since breaking out at the 2021 Olympics as a viable option for the Australian squad, Fowler has been on a meteoric rise. She’s excited players and fans alike; her magnetic ball control and lock-picking passing paired with a calm and composed demeanour.

Kerr, a golden boot winner in 3 different countries, labelled the 19-year-old already the “best finisher in the team…on both feet”.

“She’s been in the team for maybe three or four years now, but in the last year and a half she’s completely changed and found herself,” Kerr observed. “Maybe Europe has helped that, but she’s honestly a key player for us now.”

As impressive as Fowler’s growth has been thus far, this next calendar year could be a platform for the Cairns native to become even more of a household name.

She’ll not only be relied upon to be an important creative outlet for the Matildas at a World Cup on home soil next July but for English giants Manchester City this domestic season as well.

Having joined on a four-year contract, Fowler will ply her trade in the Women’s Super League, one of the most high-profile competitions in the world, up against the likes of Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord’s Arsenal, and Kerr’s Chelsea.

In 2021/2022, for all of Fowler’s notable showings for Australia, she managed just 674 minutes for her former club team Montpelier, operating predominantly as a forward or left winger.

But even with limited offerings, some of that potential was on display: five goals from six starts, whilst also ranking highly in per-90 statistics across the D1 Féminine for expected goals, dribbles, shooting efficiency, and chance-creating passes.

Statistic (per 90 min played)M. FowlerRank
Expected Goals0.420th
Shots3.349th
Shooting Accuracy56%10th
Dribbles6.419th
Through Passes1.69th
Smart Passes1.211th

Above: Fowler’s statistics vs all D1 Féminine players (minimum 450 min played). Source: Wyscout.

Thus far, though a small sample size, City head coach Gareth Taylor has more utilised Fowler through the central midfield area in the two games played during their ultimately unsuccessful Champions League qualification campaign.

The idea is to make greater use of the youngster’s talent on the ball, facilitating in the build up phase of her team’s play, and presenting more occasions to find teammates further up-field in scoring positions.

It should also assist in furthering Fowler’s development, as she gains more consistent reps in a similar role to the one she plays for Australia.

Above: The similarity in Fowler’s heat maps for the Canada-friendly series (left) vs for first two appearances for Manchester City (right). Source: Wyscout.

She’ll have a golden opportunity to grab a starting place right from the off, with Manchester City astoundedly losing their entire first-choice midfield of Georgia Stanway, Keira Walsh, and Caroline Weir from last season.

The Australian didn’t make the XI for the Sky Blues’ opening match of the WSL, but she didn’t have to wait long, coming on after the interval for the unconvincing Filippa Angeldahl.

Granted, there are still areas of Fowler’s game where she can continue to make improvements. Her passing at times loses its sharpness or direction, and she can drift in and out of games for stretches of play.

Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson noted after the first match of the recent Canada friendly series, “Mary (Fowler) struggled a bit in defending, her intensity in pressing, so we got a bit stretched. Her attacking was phenomenal, she can spin on a dime and shoot from distance…[but] we were not intense enough in the first half.”

More than anyone else though, Fowler herself understands the importance of staying grounded and absorbing as much as she can, particularly at this nascent age. Speaking during her first interview for her new club, she affirmed, “I’m still young, and I’ve still got a lot to learn.

“Being at a club like Man City, I’m not only surrounded by amazing staff and coaches, but I get the chance to be playing alongside and playing against some of the best players in the world. I have everything I need to fulfil my potential as a footballer.”

City head coach Gareth Taylor added, “Mary is, without doubt, one of the most exciting young talents in the game right now. She has a maturity beyond her years but for her, she’s excited to come to England to learn and grow as a player.”

We may not see Fowler at her peak of ability for another one, or even two, World Cup cycles. Particularly with Manchester City also facing somewhat of a squad rebuild, there will be an adjustment period as she acclimatises to the speed of an unfamiliar environment and in the face of unerring opposition.

But if the teenager’s development to this point is anything to go by, by this time next year there may well be a much greater crowd of local and international fans agreeing with Kerr about who the “next big thing” is.

McCabe & Eidevall Ahead Of “Physical” North London Derby

Impetus’ Kris Goman caught up with both Arsenal‘s Katie McCabe and Jonas Eidevall prior to the potentially record-breaking North London derby to be played at The Emirates this afternoon (24/9/22).

Above: Katie McCabe – proud of the way Arsenal have built on Euros success to sell over 50,000 tickets for today’s game. Photo: Arsenal Women.

A North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur is always a tasty affair, and both Katie McCabe and Gunners head coach Jonas Eidevall are expecting a physical game from their rivals.

McCabe outlined: “That’s what a derby game is all about but it’s up to us to control our minds and control that mentality. We’ll be ready for any physicality thrown at us tomorrow.” 

When quizzed about her role on the team and sharing positions she said, “When you’re playing at a club like Arsenal, there’s always going to be quality in every position. Sometimes even two players in a position that you’re going to have to fight for. I’m quite versatile in that sense.

“I think I play maybe, I think it was four different positions last year. It’s up to me to train 100%, train hard. Push. If it is obviously Steph (Catley) or Caitlin (Foord) on that left side, it gives Jonas a difficult decision when he selects his team. I want us to win every week whether I’m playing my part on the pitch or playing my part on the bench, I want to be there 100% for the girls. It’s one of those things when you’re playing for a big club, there’s always going to be competition and you have to fight for your place.” 

Looking back at the Euros, McCabe revealed how much she enjoyed going to the games in person and seeing it all from a fan’s perspective, and then emphasised the foundations that are being built upon since July. “Arsenal have done a terrific job of tapping into that momentum from the Euros and really pushing this game, the North London derby at the Emirates with 51,000 tickets sold, I think. It’s unbelievable.” 

McCabe highlighted how the Euros got people in to support the Republic of Ireland national team too and their match against Finland had a record crowd for a home game. “You feel that momentum now. The support from the fans, the atmosphere.” 

Reflecting on the change in the team over her time at the club, “It’s amazing. The progression, the investment the club have put in over the last seven years of being here, it’s unbelievable and it’s very easy to stand still and think, oh, we’re Arsenal and we’ve won all these trophies but the real progression and drive from the club from the top down and all around the training ground as well, there’s a real sense of one team, of one club.

Above: Katie McCabe is aiming for more celebrations against Tottenham today in front of a huge crowd. Photo: PA.

“You can feel that even when we went to the first team game. We were invited and brought down onto the pitch. It’s such a special place to be part of. Having everyone feeling part of it is massive. We were over there having lunch and we’ve got David Seaman wishing us luck for tomorrow. It just shows how far we’ve come as a club.” 

Focusing specifically on this afternoon’s big game, the Ireland international said: “It’s important to get three points tomorrow. We know obviously what a derby means as an Arsenal player and as a fan and we want to beat them and it’s on our home turf as well. We’ve got 50 odd thousand fans cheering us on as well so it’s important to obviously stay within our game plan and stay in control and make sure we get the three points.” 

Today’s game could see one the biggest women’s club match attendances in over a century and McCabe was asked if that made her feel proud or a little bit frustrated because women’s football has been held back for so long and could be in a totally different place.

“There’s an obvious frustration there that we have been held back for so long but we can’t dwell too much on the past and we need to obviously just charge forward with that. We’re playing at the Emirates tomorrow and Liverpool and Everton are playing at Anfield as well on Sunday. I think the drive from all the clubs in the WSL is to take the momentum from the Euros and keep building and not let this just be a once off and we need to keep going with it and keep driving.”

I then asked Katie if she prefers to play at home at Meadow Park with a sold-out crowd of bolted-on fans or at Emirates Stadium with over 50,000 attendance, many of whom may have just jumped on the bandwagon of the Euros that may not be so familiar with the game and certainly with the players.

“For me, since I’ve come here, Meadow Park has always been our home and we’ve got a really good connection with Boreham Wood. Those kind of one-off games at Emirates are becoming a lot more frequent now which is fantastic and Emirates is starting to feel like our home as well having played there so much last season and hopefully, we’ll be looking to build on that again this season.

“It’s neither here nor there with me. I love both playing fields. I think maybe you’ve got that extra touch at Meadow Park where the fans are a little bit more close and you can interact a little bit more. But you can’t say no to 50,000 fans at the Emirates either.” 

Above: Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall emphasised his expectations of a physical approach from Tottenham Hotspur. Photo: Guardian.

Jonas Eidevall was visibly excited to be playing three games in a week after four months of no action. “It feels so alive. Your brain switches on in a totally different way. It’s very nice to be back and playing.” 

He was at pains to point out that the tickets for the derby were 50,000 sold tickets. “They weren’t giveaways or at a discounted price, it’s sold tickets. And that’s really, really special because doing this, the way the club has done it, it’s a statement. It shows the press here; it is for real.

“The investment that we as a team, the club has done, but also, all the past generations, the past teams before us, have done and have built us up to this stage here. That’s phenomenal. We feel that and we want to make the most of it so it can happen again and more frequently. Let’s be honest, football clubs need revenues, and ticket sales are important to revenues.” 

Eidevall highlighted how well preparations had been going. The only player who wasn’t available for the Champions League game against Ajax in midweek was Mana who was ill but she should be able to return to the squad for today’s game so Arsenal should have full availability. 

The Gunners head coach emphasised the importance of Beth Mead, for him, one of the best players in the world. “For her to play her best game, that will involve a lot of actions. That means you can’t be having positive actions all the time. The thing is, as a forward, you will always fail more than you are successful. But for Beth, it’s about having that self-confidence. That can be pressing, that can be challenging, it can be one-v-one for example but that’s where she needs to go to every game and when she does, then I think that she’s one of the best players in the world.” 

Above: Jonas Eidevall pointed to the fact that his team are no longer reliant on Vivianne Miedema for goals. Photo: Arsenal WFC.

In recent years, a regular criticism on the Gunners was their reliance on the goals of Viviane Miedema. That’s not the case anymore. “Any team needs a number of ways that you can score goals,” Eidevall explained, “And hopefully, you have a number of players that can score goals for you. Any team that can only do it with only one player or only one way, will always become predictable for an opponent. 

Looking back to Arsenal’s midweek Champions League Qualifying Round 1st Leg defeat to Ajax, it was suggested to Eidevall that facing Brighton and Hove Albion in his team’s only competitive encounter this term wasn’t a great preparation as the Seagulls went down to ten players so early. A battle with Tottenham should set the North Londoners up perfectly for the second leg in Amsterdam due to the physicality likely to be present this afternoon.

“Ajax are a very physical team and we know Tottenham is as well. That’s the team that fouls the most in the WSL. They have been doing it so consistently under Rehanne Skinner that it’s very much a strategy that they have – to foul a lot. They try to be very physical, so of course, we are prepared for that. And we could see that Ajax was doing the same.” He spoke at length about how opposition teams changed their tactics just for Arsenal and played differently from their last five games when they play his team. This just meant Arsenal had to be adaptable and able to change to suit the new formation or tactics.  

When it comes to selection, Eidevall placed emphasis on what specific threats the opposition are likely to pose. He gave the example of left-back. “We have two very good left backs in Steph Catley and Katie McCabe. They are not exactly the same type of players but they also have different qualities. Sometimes that quality as a player will fit really well against an opponent. It’s also a competition but I believe a competition also brings out the best of people, long term. Very few people without that competition can derive that standard every day. We’ll see who gets to play tomorrow.” 

Above: The versatility offered by Steph Catley is something Jonas Eidevall is a huge fan of. Photo: Martin Rose.

I asked about the role of Steph Catley who was pressing forward taking direct shots on goal against Ajax – something which is not a regular part of her game. Eidevall recalled she scored in the final game of the season against West Ham United and suggested she might have felt a little bit encouraged from that one.

“But to be honest, with our full-backs in more attacking positions, I think that comes as a natural thing that she gets a bit more into those positions and I really like when I have Steph Catley as an attacking full-back because her timing of doing runs is exceptional. So when you do that right, she will get into more positions for both the finishing and the final pass.”

Eidevall emphasised once more that Tottenham are the team that fouls the most in the league and that it’s a strategy. He wanted the officials to be aware and take a more proactive approach and caution earlier to protect the players and make the game flow a little better. “But that’s the referee’s calls, not mine. We just need to be prepared for it and not let it get into our head and focus on the way we play.”

Emma Hayes Previews Chelsea’s Huge Clash With City

Impetus’ Kieran Yap was in Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes‘ media conference today looking ahead to Sunday’s big game against Manchester City at Kingsmeadow (23/9/22).

Above: Emma Hayes – the Chelsea head coach is confident her team can bounce back from an unexpected opening day reverse at Liverpool. Photo: The Times.

Following a surprise opening day loss against newly promoted Liverpool, Chelsea are looking to bounce back against rivals Manchester City on Sunday.

The clash at Kingsmeadow is the first meeting between the first and third place sides of last season, and a rematch of the epic FA Cup Final which Chelsea won.

Speaking to the media before the weekend, Chelsea coach Emma Hayes is confident that her team will respond from the 2-1 last weekend.

“I never worry about that with my group,” said Hayes. “I always think, there’s so many leaders in the dressing room, they’re so accountable, and they’re so mature.

Above: Pernille Harder – the Dane will potentially miss Sunday’s big game. Photo: UEFA Women’s Champions League.

“That’s one thing I’ve seen as an improvement in the team is their response to things collectively, not going inward. I think everybody is going to give the best they can this week.”

Chelsea may be without Pernille Harder. The Danish attacker is still in doubt due to a hamstring concern, but otherwise, Hayes has a full-strength side to choose from.

Manchester City’s loss came in dramatic fashion. They conceded four times against Aston Villa, but looked dangerous in attack, and scored three times in rapid succession to open the second half.

Hayes is eager to avoid a shootout with Gareth Taylor’s squad, even though it might please neutrals and the media.

“We know there’s two top teams on show, and I’m sure we want the advert of a nine-goal thriller. I hope we don’t satisfy you and it’s a little duller than that. But it’s a sell-out crowd and I’m sure both teams will create great entertainment.”

Kingsmeadow is expected to be near capacity for the encounter. It is one of many games in the round where large crowds are expected. Arsenal and Tottenham are set to play in front of up to 50,000 fans in the North London Derby.

Above: Emma Hayes pointed to the fact that occasional big crowds are a positive, but attendances need to be consistently high across the season. Photo: The Guardian.

Hayes is delighted at the public interest but has always been consistent that long-term planning is the key to growing women’s football sustainably.

“I’m just so happy to hear about the increases in attendance across the board because the league has to be strong for everyone. I think we just need to keep thinking about the support we give every club to make sure they can keep fulfilling their own objectives so that we can grow to the next base.

“You’ve got to keep building one block at a time, you’ve got to keep doing that instead of looking for something like ‘why don’t we have 41,000 every week’, I don’t think we’re at that stage yet.

“The question is how we turn that 51,000 at the North London Derby into more consistent fans that will sell out every game every week?”

Large one-off crowds have occurred in the past, but things are starting to feel different following the Euros as if this is the beginning of a new normal. That the Tottenham versus Arsenal game has been the result of paid tickets is significant.

Hayes has always maintained that women’s football is often too cheap. The product is worth paying for and should not be undervalued. The key she says is to capitalise on every opportunity such as the men’s international breaks which would make ideal times for big women’s club games.

Above: Emma Hayes reflected on the contrasting tests her side and City faced in pre-season. Photo: Sky Sports.

Gradual expansion of the FAWSL is also important to Hayes. She does not want it to remain “stuck” on 12 teams.

“For me it’s critical that the next level is sponsorship coming directly into the women’s team and if not, overt transparency that when a commercial sponsor contributes that a portion of what is going into the women’s section so that we can have some tangible numbers beyond the metrics and the demographics.”

City and Chelsea have had very different pre-seasons. While Chelsea was on a tour of the USA, and playing friendly matches against the likes of Portland Thorns, Manchester City was competing in Champions League qualifiers and trying to replace the likes of Caroline Weir, Georgia Stanway and Kiera Walsh who all departed.

Both teams are in a state of transition, but Chelsea added to their squad and have begun integrating Lauren James into the starting line-up. Hayes urges patience for her new signings.

“It’s tricky. I think it does take time for the new players to settle in,” she said. “I actually don’t mind being in that position and our new players understand that they have to adapt and learn, play their roles until they understand the philosophy, the methodology, and everything within the playing principles.

“Sometimes that’s really difficult when you’ve got a short pre-season. Some only had a week or two weeks, it takes a little bit of time for that to happen. I’m someone who constantly prepares for the future too. Sometimes it takes six months to settle and you see the benefit of Lauren James from last year to now.

Above: Lauren James is benefitting from a full and testing pre-season. Photo: Eurosport.

“I don’t think that the fans and the press are always kind about what it takes to produce and perform at this level. There’s just this automatic assumption that there’s this great player who’s great for her club or country elsewhere. How can she not be performing at that level at this place?

“The intensity of our game is so quick. The intensity of our training is so quick. There’s a process of adaptation across the board not just our club.”

Although Chelsea have beaten Manchester City in each of their last two encounters and City appear vulnerable, Hayes is taking nothing for granted.

“I think the minute you run into that place where you say ‘this will be easy’ it’s such a dangerous statement to make. You have to treat every opponent with respect because they have quality throughout.

“I think they were improving their performances with every game they played against us last year and I think that will give them confidence. For us, we’re at home and as cliched as it sounds if you spend so much time thinking or worrying about the others, not only do you put that worry and anxiety into your own players but there aren’t enough hours.

“You’ve got literally four sessions a week to nail all the details you need before a game. My philosophy is just focus on us, just get us right. Get our game plan right and if we execute that then you have a good chance of competing.”

Chelsea face Manchester City at 4pm local time on Sunday

Carla Ward: Leicester Game Offers A “Different Type Of Pressure”

Impetus’s Nathan Edwards was in Aston Villa head coach Carla Ward‘s media conference today ahead of her side’s trip to the King Power Stadium on Sunday (23/9/22).

Above: Aston Villa boss Carla Ward knows that despite beating Manchester City last week, nothing can be taken for granted when they face Leicester City on Sunday. Photo: Aston Villa Women.

Carla Ward expects a “tougher game” against Leicester City, compared to Aston Villa’s 4-3 victory against Manchester City last weekend.

The Villans head to the King Power Stadium off the back of a historic seven-goal thriller against Gareth Taylor’s outfit. But opening the campaign with a 4-3 win over last season’s third-place finishers, Ward believes her side needs to adapt to a new challenge.

“It is going to be a tougher game for me than City because it is a completely different element. I watched the Leicester versus Tottenham game and it was very transitional. We must ensure we don’t fall into that and control large parts of it.

“People will believe we will go there and win the game which is a different pressure altogether and we have to accept that.”

It was a perfect start for the Villans, who have already scored 30% of the goals they managed last season, with new signing Rachel Daly collecting a brace on her debut. Daly scored the winner with 14 minutes remaining, and the England international has made a huge impact beyond her goal threat.

Above: Freya Gregory signing her new deal at the Midlands club this week. Photo: Aston Villa Women.

The Villa boss said, “I think Rachel and Kenza (Dali) are winners and they want to get after people and get in people’s faces. Along with Kirsty (Hanson) they have come from winning environments, which is important, and they have installed that.

“They have also brought in a belief that it doesn’t matter who you are playing against it is 11 versus 11 and it is continually important to tell the girls that. It is also about expressing yourself and making mistakes we aren’t going to get after you for making mistakes unless you make the same mistake ten times, but we want to show what we are about.”

The new faces Ward has managed to attract to the club have also been key in guiding the young players who have worked their way into the first team squad.

In addition, Freya Gregory signed a new three-year deal with the club this week, something that symbolises the long-term aims that Villa are trying to put into action.

“It shows from a club’s point of view that we have a real strategic plan in place for the next three to five years, which is vital. We know what we have and where we want to get to along with who can help us to reach that and Freya (Gregory) is a piece of that puzzle as are the other youngsters.

“We are building a plan that players like Freya can look at and say that they want to be a part of it.”

Matildas In The WSL: The Curious Case Of Caitlin Foord

Ahead of this weekend’s big North London derby in the WSL, Impetus’ Jonathan Tay profiles Arsenal’s Australian star Caitlin Foord (22/9/22).

Above: Caitlin Foord on the move against Brighton and Hove Albion last week. Photo: @ArsenalWFC.

Chest flat on the ground, Caitlin Foord looked skyward with arms outstretched, searching for the payoff which never arrived.

With a trademark feint and burst of speed during the second friendly of the recent series against Canada, Foord provoked an errant, stray leg from opposing wingback Marie Levasseur.

And though a resultant penalty was not given, the process to get into that position was certainly encouraging – the short clip below highlights this:

https://www.youtube.com/clip/UgkxJxFUN1l2hRaasHTwTm_fIBubP-2kvEiw

These moments and actions haven’t always been there for Foord; whether due to form or injury, the Arsenal winger has not been able to consistently translate her club displays to her games for her country.

Arguably, this was the 27-year-old’s most salient overall performance for Australia for some time; excluding the 18-0 Asian Cup thrashing of Indonesia, she’s been on a barren run of zero goals and zero assists in green and gold for just over a year. On this night though, we saw the same player who’s been thriving in England.

In her 66 minutes, she racked up the second-most dribbles, won the third-most duels, and completed the most progressive runs on the night for the Matildas. Post-match, Foord commented, “How it looked is how it felt for us as well. We felt like we were dominating, we felt like it felt like us again, and were a bit unlucky not to score more.”

It was business as usual in Arsenal’s opening match in the Women’s Super League, where Foord was the most dangerous outlet for the Gunners in the first half.

Admittedly, they did not meet fierce resistance, with a red card reducing Brighton to 10 players after just seven minutes. But the Australian nevertheless stuck to her brief well; maintaining her side’s width out on the left, grafting away on the last line of defence, and taking on her defenders in one-on-one duels.

It was a productive evening for Foord, continuously testing Brighton’s overmatched Jorja Fox, including a slick play to sit the right-back on the ground before laying on the assist for the first goal in a 4-0 win.

The Australian completed the second-most progressive runs for her side (behind Beth Mead on the right wing), and five of six attempted dribbles, resulting in four chance-creating carries (per Opta).

Above: Foord’s attempted dribbles, all around the 18-yard box. Source: Wyscout

It’s poised to be somewhat of a make-or-break season for Foord, where she faces competition for her starting spot from Katie McCabe, England Euros hero Mead, and new Swedish signing Lina Hurtig. Arsenal expect another title-challenging campaign, and with readily-available depth in the squad, regular provision of impact and output is a requirement.

With the World Cup just around the corner next July, Matildas fans and Foord herself will also be hoping for more of the same at the international level. Reminders won’t be needed that Australia lost both of the Canadian friendlies, continuing a worrying trend in their record against teams in the top 20 world rankings.

Elaborating further after the second of those losses, Foord concluded, “We don’t have that much time together leading into the World Cup, so that’s why these moments, it’s really important to build on that and take that into the next game and learn.”

“It’s disappointing to have these losses, but the bigger picture is what we’re working towards, and it’s easy to forget about that when you don’t get the result you want so we’re just trying to stay positive.”

The winger is hoping that her hard work domestically does eventually lead to more tangible results for Australia as well. “That’s [their domestic clubs] the place we spend most of our time, and although we’re in our club shirt, the picture is leading towards the World Cup,” she summerised.

“We’re going to try to get better there, fitter, and then come back into national team camp and bring our momentum from our clubs. Hopefully, by mid-season, we’ll be flying.”

Adran Premier Wrap Week Two

Impetus’ Martin Townley brings us the first of his weekly round-up of all the action from the top flight of women’s football in Wales with Round Two of the season taking place (22/9/22).

Above: Stacey John-Davis scores the winning goal for Swansea City against Barry Town United. Photo: Swansea City.

Both Swansea City and Cardiff City continued their winning ways, while Cardiff Met bounced back from defeat last week to pick up their first win.  Pontypridd United also picked up their first win as they beat Aberystwyth Town. 

Both Abergavenny Town and The New Saints are still looking for their first points with both sides losing both their opening matches.  Barry Town were denied a point after a strong performance against champions Swansea City. 

Swansea City 1-0 Barry Town United

Having won both fixtures 5-0 last season, Swansea were expected to win. They did, but only by a goal as a resilient defence performance by Barry meant Stacy John-Davis’s penalty was all that separated the two sides at Llandarcy Academy of Sport. 

Monet Legall broke past the Barry defence into the box but was brought down by Barry keeper Erin Brennan.  John-Davis stepped and as she does so often fired the ball into the top right corner. With Swansea in control of most of the game, Jessica Williams volleyed an effort over after a cross from Ellie Lake. 

In the second half, Williams headed wide from another Lake cross and Katy Hosford and John-Davis tried to catch Brennan off her line with lobs but couldn’t find the net. 

Swansea City: Claire Skinner, Alicia Powe, Ellie Lake, Emma Beynon, Kelly Adams, Katy Hosford, Stacey John-Davis, Monet Legall (Nia Rees 58), Lucy Finch, Laura Davies (Nieve Jenkins 71), Jessica Williams. Unused subs: Chelsea Herbert, Chloe Tiley, Gwenan Horgan.

Barry Town United: Erin Brennan, Lauren Harris, Delia Ebbin, Hana Bennett, Taite Trivett (Nia Davies 65), Anna Houghton, Mackenzie Olden (Rhian Thomas 77 (Olivia Townsend 87)), Manon Pearce, Emily Nicholson (Maisy Fahey-Pennell 65), Faith Mulenga, Chloe Jones. Unused subs: Ruby Hamed-Jones.

Abergavenny Town 0-5 Cardiff City

Above: Joy for Cardiff City as they comprehensively defeated Abergavenny Town. Photo: Cardiff City,

Cardiff made it two from two as they hammered newly promoted Abergavenny at Pen-Y-Pound Stadium.  Two first-half goals from Danielle Green gave the Bluebirds the lead at the break.  Danielle Broadhurst made it 3-0 just before the hour mark.  Captain Siobhan Walsh added a fourth and Rhianne Oakley made it five with her first goal for Cardiff after moving from Swansea in the summer. 

Green was looking dangerous throughout the opening 45 minutes, and it was a pass from Phoebie Poole that found her free in the box.  Green with a clinical finish to score. Green got her second firing in at the back post after a ball to her from Hannah Power. 

The Bluebirds kept the pressure on The Pennies in the second half and were rewarded when Danielle Broadhurst finished off a flowing move. Soon after and Seren Watkin’s corner was turned in by a powerful header from Siobhan Walsh.  Rianne Oakley added a fifth after 74 minutes. 

Abergavenny Town: Charlotte Hastings, Katie Williams, Ffion Simmonds, Mali Summers, Scarlett Teague, Olivia Barnes, Ceri Hudson (C), Elena Scrivens (Mia Sherrard 68), Ellis Lunn (Caitlin Davies 45), Eliza Atkins (Gracie Grosvenor 54), Lauren Boyd (Elie Bidhendy 85). Unused Subs: Neve Speicher.

Cardiff City: Ceryn Chamberlain (Emily Roberts 68), Ffion Price (Elise Hughes 65), Hannah Power, Siobhan Walsh (C), Rhianne Oakley, Seren Watkins, Danielle Broadhurst (Lilly Billingham 68), Danielle Green, Phoebie Poole (Megan Saunders 68), Hollie Smith (Megan Bowen 65), Zoe Atkins.

Cardiff Met 3-0 The New Saints

Cardiff Met got their season running with a 3-0 win over The New Saints (TNS) at Cyncoed Campus.  It was a second defeat for TNS and leaves them in seventh place.

Robyn Pinder got the Archers off to a good start with her first goal for the club after just eight minutes. Ellie Preece made it two nil after 13 minutes and Met went into the break leading. 

Preece added a third with her second in the second half and help Cardiff Met to their first win of the season. 

Cardiff Met: Amelia Forkings, Amy Long, Grace Corne, Tija Richardson, Sophie Turner (C), Sophie Hancocks, Ellie Preece (Kennesha Nanette 89), Jessica Westhoff (Emily Allen 57), Erin Murray (Evie Griffiths 74), Robyn Pinder, Elianna Chavez. Unused Subs: Millie Everest.

The New Saints:  Sarah Parkes (Libby Rubin 34), Beth Lewis (C), Jen Jarvie (Nicole Samson 49), Lexie Harrison, Danielle Staley, Lucie Platt, Tia Lockley, Caitlin Chapman, Helen Evans (Lily Whitefoot 85), Isobel Redding, Lia Lewis.

Aberystwyth Town 1-2 Pontypridd United

Above: Pontypridd United – who defeated Aberystwyth Town 2-1. Photo: Pontypridd Town,

Pontypridd Town picked up a big away win as they beat Aberystwyth 2-1 at Park Avenue.  Liv Francis and Alanna Trinci with the goals for the Dragons and Tania Wylde for Aber. 

It was a good first half for the Dragons as despite the hosts having the better of the possession, Liv Francis give the visitors the lead just before half-time.

Anais Trinci with her first goal of the season made it 2-0 to Pontypridd.  The Green and Blacks looked to get back into the game and with just over ten minutes to play pulled one back thanks to a penalty from Tania Wylde. 

Aber couldn’t complete the fight back and manager Gavin Allen rued his side’s missed chances. “We created so many chances without taking some fantastic opportunities to win the game,

“On reflection, we should have been two or three nil up at halftime. But that’s the level of football. If you don’t take your chances, teams in the Adran Premier will come back and bite you.”

Aberystwyth Town:  Elen Valentine, Lucie Gwilt (Hannah Pusey 62), Rebecca Mathias, Elin Jones, Bethan Roberts (Tania Wylde 68), Kelly Thomas, Libby Isaac (Kelsey Thomas 59), Shauna Chambers (Gwenllian Jones 59), Carys Davies (Ffiona Evans 46), Amy Jenkins.

Pontypridd Town:  Masie Jones, Clare Daley, Holly Broad (C), Emily Bayliss (Kirsty Pervin-Davies 68), Renee Day (Olivia Barnett 59), Ellie Gunney, Liv Francis (Sophie Bevan 90+7), Anais Trinci (Paige Ward 90+7), Shannon Greenway, Carys Bufton (Efa Preece-Jones 68), Jasmine Turner.

Graphic: Adran Premier.

Norfolk Weekly Wrap

Impetus‘ Darrell Allen provides his weekly round-up of all the women’s football action in Norfolk (21/9/22).

Above: Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers’ hat-trick hero Shanice Sutton fires in an effort at Thetford Town on Sunday. Photo: Hardy Scott Photos.

Main Match Of The Week:

Thetford Town 2-4 Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers

Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers were victorious on the opening day of the Norfolk Women and Girls League season as they saw off Thetford Town at Mundford Road in a Division One encounter. 

Star striker Shanice Sutton was the difference with a superb hattrick and Phoebe Green was also on the scoresheet for the visitors. However, it was Thetford Town who scored the best goals of the game as strikes from Kamile Omeleviciute and Abbie Corbyn lit up the Mundford Road stage.

Dussindale and Hellesdon, one of the division’s heavyweight clubs, started on the front foot with a series of good forward play which resulted in a corner being fired over before a wonderful move saw Sutton fire over from the edge of the box.

Above: Chelsea Page on the ball for Thetford Town against Dussindale & Hellesdon Rovers. Photo: Hardy Scott Photos.

They took the lead when Sutton calmly finished in the 21st minute to open her and the visitors’ account for the season. 

A good Thetford response followed this time Hannah Rogers with a chance wide before Abbie Corbyn forced Dussindale and Hellesdon keeper Tyla Cole into a wonderful save.

Thetford paid for not taking advantage of their opportunities when Shanice Sutton was on the end of a cross from the right and headed in low down from close range for her second of the afternoon to give the visitors a comfortable lead. 

Above: Kamile Omeleviciute, scorer of Thetford Town’s opening goal. Photo: Hardy Scott Photos.

Thetford finally got a reward for their first-half efforts as Omeleviciute cut inside the Dussindale and Hellesdon defence and finished emphatically into the roof of the net to crucially half the deficit just before half time. 

Omeleviciute was a force for Thetford all afternoon as the hosts began the second half on a high. She forced a save from Cole before floating another ball towards goal but this was easily dealt with by Cole.

Once more, Thetford paid the price for not taking chances as Dussindale and Hellesdon broke away and restored their two-goal advantage. Phoebe Green slotted past Jess Knight in the Town goal to score against the run of play. 

Sutton completed her hat trick 15 minutes from time when a long ball over the top was picked up by the talented forward who finished past Knight as visitors went three goals clear. 

Above: Thetford Town’s Abbie Corbyn, who scored their second goal. Photo: Hardy Scott Photos.

Thetford knew that the margin was harsh, and deservedly got a goal back when Abbie Corbyn finished thunderously on 83 minutes to reduce the deficit.

There was time for a late Phoebe Green chance who forced Jess Knight into a great save but Dussindale and Hellesdon were unable to further increase their lead and the match finished with a 4-2 victory for the visitors. 

For Dussindale and Hellesdon this was a solid job well done in a tough away match, not at their best but when you have a striker with the talents of Shanice Sutton, anything is possible and a hat trick and three points on the opening day is just the perfect start for them.

This was a match that Thetford Town knew realistically they were not going to get points out of, but all 16 players played for the shirt, scored two wonderful goals and ran one of Norfolk’s top teams all the way. There were plenty of positives to take for David Skipp and his team. 

Teams: THETFORD TOWN: Knight, Webb, Klimcke, Omeleviciute, Hardie, Lloyd, Martins, Howard, Rogers, Boulton, Bambury. Substitutes: Page, Howard, Corbyn, Burr-Walpole, Browne.

Scorers: Omeleviciute, Corbyn.

DUSSINDALE AND HELLESDON ROVERS: Cole, Belton, Kennett, Tink, Taylor, Nobbs, Hutchin, Booker, Sutton, Brister, Bussey. Substitutes: Roe, Green, Kowalczyk, Wetherall, Lafitte. 

Scorers: Sutton (3), Green.

Attendance: 88

Referee: Paul Gibson.

Norfolk Round-Up

Above: Megan Todd celebrates after scoring for Norwich City at QPR’s Loftus Road. Photo: Norwich City Women.

In the tier four FA Women’s National League Division One South East, Norwich City continued their fine form as they beat Queen’s Park Rangers 2-0 to make it four wins from their opening five games. Kathryn Stanley and Megan Todd were the scorers as the Canaries claimed a dominant victory at Loftus Road, the ground Queens Park Rangers men play at. 

Wymondham Town‘s match with Hounslow was abandoned due to an injury to a Hounslow player.

In the Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One, newly Promoted Caister and the University of East Anglia made all the headlines, both winning their opening games of the new season. Caister were 3-1 winners on the road at Beccles, Beccles took the lead through a goal from Elisha Bower but a hat trick from Bethany Turner saw Caister start the season with three points. The University of East Anglia (UEA) were victorious with a 3-2 home success over Bungay Town. UEA goals were scored by Lucy Gooding, Freya Fuller and the other was an own goal. Bungay had Selina Rowland and Lauren Purling to thank for their strikes. 

Long Stratton started the season as they mean to go on with a stunning 7-2 win at Stalham Town, Luci Middleton finding the net six times with Samantha Walker getting the other for Long Stratton. Stalham goals were scored by Maisie Roll and Emma Macmillan and Stalham felt they should have scored more having created lots of chances but found Jody Todd in the way of many in the Long Stratton goal.

In Division Two, Aylsham started with a 17-0 victory at home to Thetford Bulldogs. Hannah Claughton and Sophie Lubbock got five goals each, a hat-trick was scored by Sophie-Jayne O’Connor, a brace from Florence Simpkin, and the other two goals were from Vicki Lubbock and Rhiannon Dack. FC Viking Valkyries beat Shrublands 4-0 at home thanks to a hat-trick from Alexandra Denes and the other from Chelsea-Louise Gladding. 

Above: Joy for Norwich City who are top of the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East. Photo: Norwich City Women.

King’s Lynn Soccer Club were 10-1 winners at home to Horsford. Jordan Turner scoring four, Ellie Panks with a hat-trick, Chloe Edwards with a brace, and the other from Sophie McNeill. The Horsford reply was scored by Jade Shaul. 

Gorleston claimed a thrilling opening day away day success winning 4-2 at Mulbarton Reserves. A brace from Hazel Saddington as well as strikes from Chloe Dobson and Joana Patricia da Cunha Teixeira with Gorlestons goals. Megan Anderton and Amelia Barrett were on target for Mulbarton Reserves. 

North Walsham Town and Freethorpe shared the spoils in the day’s only draw Rhiannon Holt and Amy Roper with the North Walsham goals, Claire Garner and Kiera Squires with Freethorpes goals. 

In the day’s final match, Blofield United won 3-1 at Thorpe St. Andrew with Bailey Duffield scoring a hat trick. Abi Simmons scored a late consolation for Thorpe St Andrew in the 87th minute. 

Patience Rewarded As Dons Down Actonians

AFC Wimbledon 2-0 Actonians

by George Jones (AFC Wimbledon Women) 20/9/22

Above: Ashlee Hincks smashes home AFC Wimbledon’s second against Actonians at Plough Lane on Sunday. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

AFC Wimbledon marked their return to Plough Lane stadium in style by marking the occasion with a victory that was sealed by Ashlee Hincks.

Last season’s top scorer struck the second in a 2-0 win versus Actonians after an own goal had put Wimbledon ahead in what was a well-attended fixture at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.

The Dons got off to an encouraging start as Ellie Dorey came close to opening the scoring by forcing a fine save from the visiting keeper inside the opening 10 minutes. The Dons kept searching with Hincks as the focal point, her impressive runs into the channels ensuring that the Actonians keeper was kept busy. 

The best chance of the half came when a fine cross from Ellie Dorey went across the face of goal, but Ashlee Hincks and Rebecca Carter were both just unable to get on the end of it.

Following a start to the second half when Wimbledon struggled to create anything of note, Billie Brooks headed wide on the hour after getting on the end of a cross by Hincks. Shortly afterwards, there was a lengthy stoppage in play as Rebecca Carter received treatment for a serious-looking injury. Carter was replaced by Remmi Gardner, player of the match last time out, and she made an instant impact by winning possession to start an attack that led to an own goal.

After deservedly making the breakthrough, Wimbledon took complete control, and with 20 minutes left the advantage was doubled through Hincks, who finished off a fine team move to seal the three points.

First-team coach Andy May said: “It was pleasing to grind out a result. We didn’t really set our tempo or intensity out of possession. The stuff we did in possession was good, but we could have produced better in certain spells. When we did play quickly we got success, so we’ll be looking for more of the same in the coming weeks.”

AFC Wimbledon’s next home is at Plough Lane once more on Sunday 2 October (2.00 pm kick-off) versus Wymondham Town. Before then, the Dons make the long trip to Gloucestershire to face Cheltenham Town in a rearranged FAWNL Cup game.

Teams: AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Russell, Highman, Billingham, Mann (Taylor), Donovan (Lockett), Bath, Carter (Gardner), Dorey (Sampson), Hincks.

Scorers: Own Goal 67′, Hincks 76′.

ACTONIANS: Butler, Ebine, Sinclair, Drage, Munnelly, D’Santos, Graham, Kanno, Netschava, Khan, Ledezma-Viso. Substitutes: Shakes, Lopez, Williamson, Nee-Chambers, Ishmael, Brereton.

Saints See Off Unbeaten Palace

Crystal Palace 1-2 Southampton

EXCLUSIVE photos from Hannah Parnell for Impetus at Selhurst Park.

Above: Aerial battle at Selhurst Park in Sunday’s Championship clash. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Newly promoted Southampton won their first ever Barclays Championship match, spoiling Crystal Palace’s big day at Selhurst Park.

Above: Crystal Palace and Southampton players pause before kick-off as a mark of respect for the Queen. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

A record crowd of just under 2,000 gathered in South London buoyed by their team’s superb start to the second-tier season which saw them defeat last season’s runners-up London City Lionesses and Coventry United to push themselves into the top group of teams pushing for a place in the Super League.

Above: Lexi Lloyd-Smith (17) celebrates after giving Southampton the lead. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Whilst Palace dominated the possession, it was Saints who made their 40% of the ball count on the scoreboard. Beth Lumsden called home keeper Fran Kitching into action within two minutes. Shortly afterwards, Lumsden was in threatening action once more as she fed Lexi Lloyd-Smith to give the visitors the lead as her shot went into the bottom left-hand corner.

Above: Physical tussle for possession at Selhurst Park on Sunday. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Palace hit back with Coral-Jade Haines seeing one effort go wide and the other held by Kayla Rendell in the Saints goal. Katie Wilkinson created two chances for the visitors with two left-footed efforts just inside the area.

Above: Crystal Palace had the bulk of possession against Southampton. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

As the opening half reached its conclusion, Palace stepped it up with Isabella Sibley seeing an effort go wide, several corners forced and Annabel Blanchard’s shot hit the post. However, three minutes into stoppage time, the home side finally got their reward as Haines’ shot from the right-hand side of the six-yard box levelled the scores.

Above: Joy for Crystal Palace as Coral-Jade Haines levels the scores. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Parity did not last for long – within two minutes of the second-half opening, Lloyd-Smith grabbed her second for Southampton as her shot from the right-hand side of the box went in at the far corner of the net.

Above: Celebrations after Lexi Lloyd-Smith hit hers and Southampton’s second. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Crystal Palace tried to hit back with shots from Blanchard and Chloe Peplow blocked and Rendell was called into action to save Haines’ header and Sibley’s effort.

Above: Ella Morris driving forward for Southampton. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Saints were not without chances to extend their lead as Katie Wilkinson’s effort came back off the post, Beth Lumsden’s shot from outside the box just wide, and Ella Morris’ saved.

Teams: CRYSTAL PALACE: Kitching, Johnson, Sibley, Doran, Everett, Peplow, Haines, Arthur, Filbey, Sharpe, Blanchard. Substitutes: Reilly, Waldie, Negri, Olding, Noble, Barton, Hughes, Guyatt.

Scorer: Haines 45+3′.

SOUTHAMPTON: Rendell, Peake, Parnell, Rafferty, Ward, Rutherford, Collett, Morris, Lumsden, Lloyd-Smith, Wilkinson. Substitutes: Mott, Freeland, Williams, Pusey, Wynne, Griffiths, Watling, Harris.

Scorers: Lloyd-Smith 5′, 47′.

Attendance: 1,846 (Record Attendance).

Squad Changes And Injuries Impact As City Open Campaign

Impetus’ Johnathan Stack was in Manchester City head coach Gareth Taylor‘s media conference for us ahead of their season opener at Aston Villa tomorrow. Taylor knows that a mixture of key players departing and injuries make this game a major banana skin amongst a backdrop of concern over the players that have left the club (17/9/22).

Above: Manchester City head coach Gareth Taylor. Photo: Lynn Cameron/FA

It’s been a tough period for Manchester City. Key players have departed, a Champions League qualifying stage exit and fans have expressed concerns about what is going on. Despite the background of the Euros joy, it has not been the most joyful of summers in the sky-blue half of Manchester.

A rebuilding process has been required by City head coach Gareth Taylor and his staff down at the Etihad Campus after losing Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh to Barcelona, Georgia Stanway to Bayern Munich, Caroline Weir to Real Madrid, with Karen Bardsley, Jill Scott, and Ellen White retiring.

Above: Talented teenage Australian international Mary Fowler’s arrival is potentially huge for Manchester City. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Manchester City did manage to fill in the gaps in the squad and brought in Matilda Mary Fowler from Montpellier, Deyna Castellanos and Laia Aleixandri from Atletico Madrid, Leila Ouahabi from Barcelona, Sandy MacIver from Everton, Kerstin Casparij from Twente and Yui Hasegawa from West Ham.

Hasegawa was brought in after City sold Lioness midfielder Walsh for a world record fee of £400,000.

After the delayed start to the season City will now begin their season, with a trip to Villa Park to face Aston Villa.

In his media conference, City head coach Gareth Taylor recognised he had lost key players, but was positive overall. “I think we’re in a good place. We have lost experience, but we’ve brought in players we think are good for the future, we’ve probably lowered the average age quite a bit.

“With that sometimes you don’t want to lose all that experience but there were various circumstances with all the players. Probably more recently, Ellen’s retirement and Keira moving late was a bit of a jolt, up until then we were in a good place and it left us with a week or so once we realised Keira had requested to leave.”Gareth Taylor, Manchester City head coach.

“We had to strengthen and we managed to do that with Yui, we were pleased to bring her to the Club. There’s been a lot of changes but we’re pretty content with where we’re at as a squad of players.”

Above: Gareth Taylor – the Manchester City head coach needs a winning start tomorrow after a testing summer. Photo: Sky Sports.

Ahead of the game with Villa, Taylor said that Ruby Mace and Yui Hasegawa would be unavailable through injury while Matilda Alanna Kennedy could return to the squad after picking up an injury while on international duty with Australia. Taylor said “Ruby Mace won’t make it. That’s a certainty,” Taylor explained.

“She has had a little bit of a setback in her injury so it will be an extended period away from the team.

“Alanna Kennedy is close to returning but we’re not sure if she is going to have enough training minutes under her belt to be a part of the squad.

“They’re quite similar injuries, (Ruby and Alanna) both muscle injuries in the thigh region. Hopefully, they won’t be too far away.

Above: Alanna Kennedy could potentially miss tomorrow’s trip to the Midlands. Photo: Sky Sports.

“Yui is struggling a little with an ankle injury she sustained on the final day training with West Ham so she won’t make the weekend. Outside of that, the squad is healthy.”

You can read Impetus‘ Nathan Edwards‘ account of Aston Villa head coach Carla Ward’s media conference ahead of tomorrow’s match here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/09/17/carla-ward-city-are-still-formidable-opponents/

Aston Villa vs Manchester City takes place on Sunday at Villa Park with a 12:30pm KO local time, 9:30pm AEST, 7:30pm AWST, 1:30pm CET. On the UK it is live on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.

Carla Ward: City Are Still Formidable Opponents

Impetus’ Nathan Edwards was in Aston Villa head coach Carla Ward‘s media conference for us yesterday as she disregarded opponents Manchester City’s big-name losses and looks ahead to her own team’s further development this season (17/9/22).

Above: Aston Villa head coach Carla Ward. Photo: AVWFC Official.

Carla Ward has loved “people saying we will get relegated” ahead of their opening WSL game against a Manchester City team that has had a hectic summer transfer window.

City head to Villa Park in a redefined shape after big departures during the transfer window. However, despite Lucy Bronze, Keira Walsh, and Caroline Weir’s transfers, Ward still expects a familar opponent.

The 38-year-old said, “Man City are still very strong, their squad is unbelievably experienced and it still has got a lot of quality.

“I know you are looking for a line for me to say they are going to go to pot, but they are not. They have world-class internationals and they have recruited well after losing some big players.

“Do I think they will finish top three? Absolutely. We won’t underestimate them but it is down to us and we can’t fear them.”

The Citizens have seen nine players leave this window, but Ward still believes they will head into Sunday’s fixture as favourites and it is also a chance to see a new-look Villa side.

Above: Aston Villa’s new signing, Lionesses star Rachel Daly. Photo: AVWFC Official.

The Villans added Euro winner Rachel Daly, who started all of England’s games in their victorious campaign as a left-sided defender, but the Lionesses star will lead the line for Ward’s side.

“She played at left back for her country because she is a wonderfully talented footballer and you have to find a spot for Rachel Daly.

“She is an unbelievable human being, with a lot of quality on and off the pitch, but she comes in as a forward for us,” said the Villa manager

With the English international’s arrival from Houston Dash, Villa will hope to have someone who can score the goals needed to see them improve on last season’s ninth-place finish.

“We will be pleased with anything top eight. We have to keep improving each year, and I have seen people say we will get relegated which I love and be sure to put up on the wall.

“But Aston Villa as a club aren’t here to try to run before we can walk. It is a project that will slowly but surely make those steps.

“We believe we have had a good summer, which will help us get on the right track and some of the people we have brought in have allowed our youth team players to step up as well.

“We have a really good blend of youth and experience because the likes of Laura Brown, Izzy Goodwin, Freya Gregory, and Olivia McLoughlin are all knocking on the door for starting shirts, and that has been made possible with the guidance from the players we have brought in.”

The game on Sunday is also the first of four games being contested at Villa Park, Aston Villa men’s home ground, this season. Ward said “It will be good to play at Villa Park, but the build-up is like no other. Everything we do now is for points and we need to be ready to take points.”

Chelsea Travel To Liverpool On A Mission To Be Better

Impetus’ Kieran Yap was in Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes‘ media conference for us today, and heard her reveal her huge respect for Sunday’s opponents, and why she is determined her side will be better than ever this season (16/9/22).

Above: Lifting trophies has become a habit for Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes, but she wants her team to be even better this season. Photo: Sky Sports.

Chelsea FC will once again kick off the season as defending champions. Emma Hayes’ team were scheduled to open their campaign against West Ham United in front of a sold-out Stamford Bridge last weekend, but instead they will now travel to face Liverpool on Sunday.

“I love going back to Liverpool,” Hayes told the media. “I studied up there so it’s great. I get to see friends, playing at Prenton Park has always been a good stadium to go to. It’s great that the women have a top-quality surface to play on. The game, where it’s at, we need to be playing on the best surface.”

Hayes remains philosophical about the postponement of last week’s fixtures. She believes that the games were called off for the right reasons and another chance to play in the men’s stadiums will present itself.

“Our country has lost unbelievable service from a person who has given absolutely everything to her country during her reign. For the right reasons the game didn’t happen, and I don’t think it will be the last time we will sell out Stamford Bridge.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m more than happy to kick off away to Liverpool because I support the rationale for why the games didn’t take place.”

The delayed start to the season may have frustrated some supporters, but the trophy-collecting manager is confident it has not impacted her side’s focus or preparation. The past experience of playing football during COVID has left everybody in football flexible and ready for last minute changes.

The potential for stalled momentum following the massive crowds at England’s Euro win was brushed aside by the Chelsea manager.

“The women’s game is taking care of itself. I think the summer is another demonstration of the quality on show that’s been building in the WSL. I’ve said many times before it’s the best league in the world, I think it’s the most competitive.

Above: Emma Hayes knows that her team will face stiff challenges this season, starting at Prenton Park on Sunday. Photo: PA Images.

“I think that every team had strengthened, and this is another year where the quality is going to get better and better across the board. It’s been an enjoyable pre-season where the team are as prepared as the can be going into the opening weekend. We just really need to kick off to see how much progress we’ve made during the summer weeks.”

Liverpool is one of the giant names in world sport, and Hayes is happy that they have returned to the FAWSL. They finished top of the Championship 11 points clear of London City Lionesses and only lost twice out of 22 matches in 2021/22.

Although newly promoted sides traditionally struggle in the FAWSL, Hayes does not anticipate Liverpool will have the same difficulties.

“It’s great,” said Hayes. “Matt (Beard) is an experienced manager who I think has built a solid squad going into the season. It’s great to see that they’re back up in the top division. We’re just looking forward to playing them on Sunday.

“He knows the league… he knows what it takes at this level. Liverpool will not struggle, I think they will be very competitive this year.”

As they hunt for their fourth consecutive league title, Chelsea’s squad will look a little different this season. Some legends of the Hayes era such as Ji So-Yun and Drew Spence have departed, and the club has recruited impressively in the off-season.

Kadeisha Buchanan joined from Lyon, and the central defender made a strong impression in pre-season both on and off the field.

“She’s a winner,’ says Hayes of the Canadian international.  “She’s been performing at a high level for a long time for both club and country. She is coming to Chelsea because she wants the challenge. I’m sure this will be an environment which will challenge her to continue with those consistencies and those habits and become on the absolute best. She’s slotted in really well, a really good character and a funny girl.”

Above: Emma Hayes and Lauren James, who she believes will benefit from her first pre-season in four years. Photo: VisionHaus.

Lauren James may not exactly be a new recruit, but she will inherit Ji’s number 10 shirt. Hayes is excited about her as a long-term Chelsea prospect but urges patience with the rising star.

“I think it’s probably Lauren’s first preseason in maybe four years. She’ll keep gradually building, not to expect too much too soon. She’s still learning all the details around how to be a top professional. Everybody’s aware of her talent, our job this year is to keep her healthy, keep her on the grass and I’m sure she’ll contribute to the team throughout the season.”

Chelsea has a full squad to pick from this Sunday. There are no surprise injuries and Hayes’ biggest problem is fitting all that quality into just 11 places on the field. Erin Cuthbert is expected to play a deeper midfield role this season and Ballon D’or nominee Sam Kerr is fit to defend her Golden Boot status.

For Hayes, the mantra for the season is simple and perhaps frightening for the other sides in the FAWSL.

“I just want to get better,” says the OBE and MBE recipient, and 2022’s manager of the year. I’m not focussed on winning (the league) I just want to get better. I want to make sure training is top class tomorrow.

“I want to make sure that the starters I select perform at the levels we demand in this environment.”

Chelsea play Liverpool on Sunday at 5pm local time.

Chambers Positive Ahead Of United Clash

by Holly Wright (16/9/22)

Above: Reading head coach Kelly Chambers. Photo: Reading FC Women.

Reading kick-off their Barclays Women’s Super League campaign at Manchester United at midday tomorrow – a team that head coach Kelly Chambers describes as “one of the toughest teams in the league.”

Chambers also highlighted her eagerness for the campaign to get underway. “Yeah, look, we’re just excited to get going. We just want a competitive game really. We want to kick off on a positive and what a way to start than in the same way we began last season. So yeah, everyone’s raring to go and I think we’re just bored of preseason now and want to get going.”

The cancellation of last weekend’s opening fixture under unforeseen circumstances could be seen as a missed opportunity after the Lionesses’ success in the summer, but the Reading head coach remains optimistic for the season ahead in terms of attracting a good crowd.

“Obviously, it’s something that we had to do. We had to show our respects but for us and probably everyone else wanting to kick off the league, it was frustrating. We were due to have over 4,000 fans there in that game, and you kind of go that would have been the biggest crowd we’ve ever had at that stadium. People have worked really, really hard to try and grow the club so yeah, it’s definitely a missed opportunity. Just hope that those people that bought tickets for last weekend will come to the next game and make sure they see it for themselves to hopefully fall in love just as much as we do.”

After the tragic death of Queen Elizabeth ll delayed the start of the WSL season last weekend as a mark of respect, Chambers spoke of how her preparations have changed from what was going to be a record crowd at home to newly promoted Liverpool to champions league contenders Manchester United. “They are a team that are competing to be in the Champions League and for a club like Man United, that’s where they definitely should be. So, we know it’s going to be a tough game and I feel like more so this season.”

“For us, it’s about staying in the game as long as possible. We know that a weakness of theirs right now or it has been in the past, is the end of the game. They’ve chucked a lot of points away in latter stages of games.Emma Chambers, Reading head coach on Manchester United.

“I’ve got a team that’s full of confidence right now, in terms of the way that we’re playing and the way that we want to do stuff. It’s important for me, and for them, that they turn up at United, and they put a mark on there on the pitch and make sure that were fully in the game from the off.”

Above: Emma Chambers is confident that her team can take points at Leigh Sports Village tomorrow. Photo: Reading FC Women.

Chambers was also full of praise for new club captain Emma Mukandi (aka Mitch) who was awarded the armband after recently signing a new deal with the club. “It’s something I wanted to take time to do. I wanted to get a real good feel for players in preseason, just work with them and let everybody settle.

“Mitch is like a new signing to me after not having her much last season. She has got a huge depth of knowledge and experience in the women’s game, obviously, being at Arsenal, and she’s a winner. She’s a competitor and I want this environment to be challenging every day. So that’s why I’ve gone with Mitch because I think that’s what she’ll bring.

Reading’s head coach added what she thinks Mitch will bring to the squad not just as a captain and what it meant to her personally. “She will make sure that people keep high standards. She will make sure that people are living and breathing what we want to do every day that’s the reason I picked her. I think she was quite surprised.

“Like I said she’s been away from us for quite a while, so she definitely wasn’t expecting it but seemed really pleased. She was quiet. She said to me, she was honoured to be even just thought about to be selected and to work closely with me. Yeah, I’m really excited to be leading the way with Grace this year.”

Like their hosts, the Royals have added to their squad in the summer transfer market with six new signings and they will be keen to use them to improve on their eighth-place finish last season with Chambers believing they are in a much stronger position this season after struggling with injuries towards the latter end of last season.

“I’ve put together a real good squad in terms of strength and depth. The competition for places here and having a challenging environment is key and I think that’s really what’s driving the standards and us a club right and as a team.”

Above: Reading preparing on the training pitch this week. Photo: Reading FC Women.

Since the Royals beat United at Leigh Sports Village in February 2021, they have only dropped eight points with fellow title contenders Chelsea and Arsenal being the only sides to beat them, but Chambers feel like the women’s game is on an all-time high and it is important for clubs to capitalise on the publicity created by the Lionesses winning the Euros.  

“It’s magnificent for the game. This is what we want. We wanted to grow fan bases. We want more crowds in stadiums, and that is high on the agenda for every club in this league right now. I think that’s been the immediate impact from the Euros. When your country wins a competition like that you’ve got to use that, and we’ve got to try and really grow the game. It’s made people in this country more aware of the sport, and the quality of it. I think people just fell in love with it. Everyone I speak to about it, and people speak to me, they have fallen in love with women’s football just from that and it’s just great now for us as clubs to see the benefit of that as well.

Reading are currently the only non-Premier League team with a club in the WSL, but the club deserve their status: “Yeah, for us, it’s a sense of pride,” Chambers said, “We’re proud to be where we are. I think we always have been. Some might say that we’ve always punched above our weight. But I truly believe that we deserve to be there.

After a positive start which included an eight-game unbeaten run with seven of them being wins stretching from October to February they probably should have finished at least in the top half of the table, but last season’s campaign ended in frustrating circumstances falling to seven defeats in 10 games achieving only three points meaning the Royals tumble down the league table as a result of limited resources due to injuries.

Reading will hope they can begin the new campaign with their first WSL victory since February 6th when face they Manchester United on Saturday lunchtime 12pm kick-off at Leigh Sports Village.

Powell Hopeful Ahead Of Gunners Test

Ahead of tonight’s WSL opener against Arsenal, Holly Wright heard from Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Hope Powell at her media conference for us.

Above: Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Hope Powell speaking to the media. Photo: Brighton and Hove Albion Women.

A week later than anticipated and the start of the WSL is here beginning with Brighton and Hove Albion’s trip to Meadow Park to face last season’s runner-up Arsenal.

Albion boss Hope Powell expressed her opinion that the extra weekend off actually did her and her team a favour. “Very sad news for the Royal Family but we’ve just been getting on with it really. It hasn’t affected our training and preparation in any way apart from the game last week, obviously being called off, which in hindsight, actually did us a favour because a lot of international players just got back, and it would have meant a day’s prep for a really tough game so in the end its kind of all worked out well for us. It gave us more time to work on the Arsenal fixture.”

Having played the Gunners three times last season, losing out on all occasions Brighton will no doubt start the game as the underdogs, but Powell expresses that her side are definitely not going to make it easy for them under the Friday night floodlights and what is expected to be in front of a sell-out crowd.

“It’s a sell-out I believe, which would be good for the women’s game and good for us as a club. I think the expectation would be for Arsenal to win the game. We are under no illusions there, but we are not going to give it to them. We are going to make it very difficult, and the plan is to try and get something out of the game as we do every game so a Friday night under the lights suits me perfectly and at least I get a day off on Saturday which is rare.

Powell has had a busy summer transfer market and it is clear to see that one aspect she is focussing on improving in Brighton’s game this campaign is their creativity in front of goal. The Brighton head coach was quick to highlight Elisabeth Terland as one of their standout signings and what additions she will bring to the squad.

“I think Elisabeth, is a good goal scorer. I think she can play up front or she can play slightly deeper if need be. Then you’ve got someone like Vea Sarri, who is an out-and-out ball dribbler, a ball carrier. I think it just gives us different options, to be honest with different personnel who offer different skill sets and we hope that will sort of bear us going forward. The reason we brought them in was to try and add some value to it and hopefully during the course of the season, we get to see that.”

Above: Hope Powell coaching on the training pitch. Photo: Brighton and Hove Albion Women.

She added how satisfied she was with their business over the closed season with the possibility of more to come over the campaign. “I am really pleased with the work that’s been done. We are probably a little bit light on players. We perhaps wanted a couple more in but for various reasons couldn’t get it over the line. We control what we can control, which is now, and then if and when the window opens again, we’ll be looking again.”

Numerous signings are new to the league or new to the English way of football with Powell emphasising how important pre-season was for them to integrate into the squad and them to know each other not just on the pitch but off it as well. “For some of them, the league is new. The summer has been quite long given the Euros, so they are ready to play in games now and excited by the prospect. They have blended quite well.

“The preseason tour away was really good. It gave us an opportunity to focus on team building. They are with each other all day every day and I think they have started to get to know each other as people, which is really important. For me it’s more important that they get to know each other as players on the pitch and this preseason has been focusing on that. Playing together, understanding the nuances of each player, and credit to them they are getting on with it. It feels like they have been here for a considerable amount of time, which is really, nice.”

After the success of the Lionesses in the Euros, the focus returns back to club football where there is a huge attraction from overseas for players to come and play in the most physically demanding league in women’s football. Being involved at the highest level for numerous years Powell explained just how different the WSL is from European Leagues and how individuals have benefitted from the appealing style of football seen week in week out.

“I think if you speak to the new players that are experienced from last season, and you ask them what the differences are, they say it’s quicker, it’s faster, it’s a lot more physical. They have had to adapt, and they have done that very quickly. Your speed of thought has to be quicker. Your pace of play has to be quicker. Physically, you need to be stronger, and they have grown into it. Playing week in week out is giving them the ability to adapt and improve. The strength of the league compared to others is definitely a lot more demanding, than some in Europe.

Going into this evening’s game, the Brighton head coach hasn’t got the advantage of a full squad to pick from for reasons not shared, but is raring to get going and kick off the 2022/23 WSL campaign with a bang.

Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall’s media conference ahead of the match was attended by Impetus’ Johnathan Stack and can be read here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/09/15/arsenal-ready-and-gunning-for-glory/

Arsenal vs Brighton and Hove Albion kicks off at 7.30pm with the match being broadcast live on FA Player.

Arsenal Ready And Gunning For Glory

Impetus’ Johnathan Stack was in Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall‘s media conference for us ahead of the Gunners’ opening WSL game against Brighton and Hove Albion tomorrow night (15/9/22).

Above: Jonas Eidevall at this week’s Arsenal media conference. Photo: Arsenal WFC.

After an exceptional summer of women’s football that gripped the nation and ended in Euro’s glory for the Lionesses, the Barclays Women’s Super League returns this weekend.

Starting a week later than planned out of respect due to the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the WSL has seen a soar in popularity and ticket sales off the back of England winning UEFA Women’s Euro 2022.

At Arsenal, they have sold out of season tickets for the 2022/23 campaign and over 40,000 tickets have already been snapped up for the WSL North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium on 24th September.

The Gunners were supposed to get their season underway against Manchester City away at the Academy Stadium in the live TV game, but with all football being postponed last weekend, Arsenal will now get their campaign started at home at a sold-out Meadow Park against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Above: Arsenal in training this week. Photo: Arsenal WFC.

Head Coach Jonas Eidevall gave his thoughts on Friday’s opponents saying: “I’ve been very impressed by Brighton during the pre-season because I also saw that they had a huge turnover (of players). I’ve seen them play against Bayern Munich, I’ve seen them play against us, I’ve seen them play against Manchester City and they looked like a good team in those games.

“I think that some of the players they have got in over this window are of a really high quality, so we are expecting and preparing for a competitive game here on Friday.”

The 39-year-old Swede also gave his thoughts on how the WSL is going to respond to the increased interest after the Euros: “I’m sure that the players will respond in a way that will be excellent because of the quality on the pitch and we see that the sporting product is of high quality.

“We just need to make sure that we now find stadiums that allow all attendances to come in and watch. I think that will be the problem because we have a very low number of medium-sized stadiums in the country.”

Above: Reflecting on the challenge posed by Brighton and Hove Albion plus the correct venues to play WSL games – Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall. Photo: Arsenal WFC.

“You either have smaller stadiums or really big stadiums and our game that didn’t go ahead against Manchester City is a perfect example of that. We’re two good teams with a lot of interest which is going to be a sell-out in their academy stadium, so the question is: if so many more people want to watch the game, where do we play that? So we really can have all the people who want to come to the game and make sure they have access to it.”

He also gave his thoughts on how the WSL can maintain the levels of interest from the summer “In the end, it’s about creating a product that means so much to people that you go there and you watch the game even if it’s a snowstorm! You go there and watch even if it’s not convenient because you care so much about the team and you want to be there so much. We try to do our best on the pitch to create that.”

“Of course, if I speak just about Arsenal, as a whole club, we try to work together with all the departments so we can reach out to all our potential audiences and bring them to the stadium so we can experience that together. That’s not a quick fix just to do one thing, but it’s about creating that connection with people so they want to go and they feel that they have to go because it’s their first priority and then you don’t have to worry about the weather in January when you have created that.”

Arsenal take on Brighton and Hove Albion at Meadow Park tomorrow night (Friday), 7:30pm.

Norfolk Weekly Wrap

Impetus‘ Darrell Allen provides his weekly round-up of all the women’s football action in Norfolk (6/9/22).

Above: Jess Horn hits a superb strike from 40 yards for Wroxham against Bowers and Pitsea. Photo: Hardy Scott Photos. 

It was another action packed Sunday across Norfolk with Norwich City, Wymondham Town, Wroxham, King’s Lynn Town, and Fakenham Town all in action. 

Norwich City made it 10 points from a possible 12 in their opening four games, drawing 2-2 at home to London Seaward in FA Women’s National League Division One South East. 

London Seawood took the lead on 27th minutes with a curling shot from the edge of the box by Suzy Davies before Alice Parker equalised for the hosts right on half time to send the teams in level at the break.

Above: Megan Todd in action for Norwich City against London Seaward on Sunday. Photo: Norwich City Women.

Norwich City thought they had won it when Natasha Snelling scored her seventh goal of the season on 84 minutes but there was a late twist in the tale when Jo Butler-Williams header past Bryony Williams in the home goal meant that the North East London side took home a share of the spoils.

It’s been a wonderful start to the season for Shaun Howes and his team and a sign of how far they are progressing as a club that they were disappointed to not win this game. 

Wymondham Town‘s tough start to life in tier four life continued with a 4-0 defeat at Chesham United. Millie Comgerton, Gemma Fraser, former Norwich City star Keunna Dill and Kate Bowers were scorers for the hosts on the day. Wymondham are still with out a point this season.

In the tier five Eastern Region Premier Division it was a disappointing day for both Wroxham and King’s Lynn Town. 

Above: Becky Russell battles away for Wroxham against Bowers and Pitsea. Photo: Hardy Scott Photos.

Wroxham played their part in a thrilling contest against Bowers and Pitsea at Trafford Park.

Amy Jacobs gave the visitors the lead on 21 minutes before Wroxham captain Jess Horn levelled things up emphatically on 42 minutes scoring from 40 yards out.

Kelsey Smith scored within a minute of the re start to regain the lead for Bowers and Pitsea before an own goal made it 3-1 to the visitors on 49 minutes. The rapid fire scoring start to the second half continued as Laura Densley reduced the deficit for the hosts just after the hour before Jessica Strizovic made it 4-2 to Bowers & Pitsea, sending the points went back to Essex. 

King’s Lynn Town were also beaten in tier five going down 4-0 at newly promoted AFC Sudbury. 

Above: Alice Collins, usually a midfielder, spent the whole of Sunday’s game in goal for King’s Lynn Town at AFC Sudbury. Photo: Richard Brown.

Alex Penny, Evie Creaton, Holly Kennard, and Caitlyn Charles were the AFC Sudbury scorers. However King’s Lynn battled hard with players missing and a special mention has to go to midfielder Alice Collins who stepped up and played in goal to fill the void left by missing players.

With team spirit and togetherness like this, better results won’t be far away for Alex Cook and his team.

In the tier six Eastern Region Division One North, Fakenham Town remain pointless losing 3-2 at St. Ives Town however that doesn’t tell the whole story.

A remarkable brace from 16-year-old Chloe Gravett gave Fakenham a two goal lead was just the tonic the Norfolk side needed and they thought they were going to kick start their season but a brace from Hannah Seymour-Shove and another from Freyja Bermudez all in the final 12 minutes saw St. Ives complete a remarkable comeback and get the victory. 

Kelly Chambers: We Need To Inspire The Next Generation Weekly

Impetus’ Nathan Edwards spoke EXCLUSIVELY to Reading head coach Kelly Chambers on how the WSL clubs need to work constantly to build on the foundations laid by the Lionesses’ Euros triumph to keep growing the game (3/9/22).

Above: Reading head coach Kelly Chambers. Photo: Reading FC.

Kelly Chambers believes the Women’s Super League should be the next competition to inspire young girls to get involved in football, after England’s success at Euro 2022.

The Lionesses return to the field for the first time since their victorious campaign in the European Championships to play Austria in a World Cup qualifier this evening.

Following this batch of international fixtures, the top flight of women’s football returns, and with clubs expecting record-breaking attendances, the attention on the women’s game has never been stronger.

Reading FC kick off their campaign against Liverpool with an expected 400 season ticket holders set to be attending the Royals’ curtain raiser.

Looking ahead to that game, Chambers said, “Off the back of the Euros everyone is excited for the season to kick off, and the work that the people at the club have done to help get this attendance has been phenomenal and long may it continue.”

The Royals’ manager doesn’t just want the opening game to be the end of the growth, with Chambers also believing it is time for WSL clubs to take advantage off the field as well.

Above: Reading head coach Kelly Chambers believes continued action is needed to ensure that the women’s game keeps growing. Photo: PA.

The 36-year-old said, “We have seen the immediate impact from the Euros with ticket sales but we can’t rest on that.

“For me, the biggest thing is growing the club and helping women’s teams become more sustainable and start to see them stand on their own two feet.

“And this is going to be achieved through commercial deals to help push the game to another level off the pitch.”

The WSL has continued to show its potential with every passing season, but Chambers also believes that all levels of the game can be positively impacted by England’s performances this summer, with the right improvements.

“I hope young girls who wanted to get into the game who watched the Euros have been inspired, along with those who didn’t really have an interest in the sport have now wanted to get involved. I know my niece was the first to say she wanted to play football now.

“And the FA have done a lot behind the scenes to broaden their pathway, in terms of who they are hitting around the country and making sure everyone has access to join that talent pathway.

“For me, it’s a case of keep getting girls involved and use the WSL to keep inspiring those young players and get us players and staff out in the community to help keep people interested.

“At the end of the day, all the fans want to do is speak to the girls who step out on the pitch and have photos with them and that is an experience you get in the women’s game that might not be seen in the men’s game.

“So hopefully we keep on inspiring people every week and we keep growing the foundations that allow us to keep pushing at the top end.”

International Break Allows SWF Stars To Shine

Tom Freeman previews this weekend’s action in the third and fourth tiers of Scottish Women’s Football (3/9/22).

Above: Jemma McQuillan hits Rossvale’s first goal in their win at Dryburgh last weekend. Photo: Ger Harley/Sportspix.

The lack of SWPL action this weekend allows the spotlight of women’s football in Scotland to fall on the Championship and League One.

The highly competitive leagues run by Scottish Women’s Football are playing their fourth week of ties, with Livingston unbeaten at the top of the eight-team Championship with seven points travelling to Petershill to face Glasgow club Rossvale, who are just a point behind. Also on six points are Edinburgh’s Hutchison Vale, who host Dundee club Dryburgh Athletic in Wester Hailes, and Renfrew Ladies who are visiting Ayr United in Cumnock.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle will host Morton on Sunday with both sides looking to build on their three-point tally.

All eight teams are aiming for promotion, with the Championship winner gaining an automatic SWPL place at the end of the season, and the second-placed team also entering into a playoff.

Above: Livingston (amber) are unbeaten in the SWF Championship so far. Photo: Joe Patterson.

Falkirk’s victory in their local derby with Stenhousemuir last weekend has put them in pole position in the Women’s League One, and on Sunday they travel to face Paisley club Gleniffer Thistle, who are still looking for their first points of the campaign.

Also unbeaten in League One are Westdyke, who will host newcomers Giffnock to the northeast, and FC Edinburgh, who welcome Airdrie Ladies to Meadowbank. Grampian Ladies, who have scored 12 goals in their last two games will welcome Dundee West to the Bank of Dee.

Elsewhere, BSC Glasgow will be looking to pick up their first points of the season at home to St Mirren and Stenhousemuir play Edinburgh Caledonia at Ochilview.

Commenting, Scottish Women’s Football CEO Aileen Campbell said: “There are no SWPL games being played this weekend because of the international break, but there is plenty of quality, competitive women’s football happening across the country. Whether you are in the Highlands, the Northeast, Ayrshire or Central Scotland, everyone has the opportunity to get along to support their local girls in action.

“Even if there is no Championship or League One action near you, we also have our Biffa SWFL regional leagues and the Highlands and Islands league, providing opportunities for women and girls to play and get involved all across the country. If you are interested in watching a game, check out all the fixtures on the Scottish Women’s Football website.”

Above: Jayden Simmons of underbeaten League One side FC Edinburgh, who face Airdrie this weekend. Photo: Ger Harley/Sportspix

Dons Return To Winning Ways In Style

Ashford Town (Middx) 1-4 AFC Wimbledon

by George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Women (3/9/22)

Above: Celebrations for AFC Wimbledon at Ashford Town on Thursday night. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

AFC Wimbledon bounced back to winning form in style on Thursday night with Ashlee Hincks striking a superb hat-trick in a 4-1 win at newly promoted Ashford Town (Middx) in the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East.

The victory was achieved without captain Hannah Billingham, Emily Donovan, and Amy Taylor, but young talent Remmi Gardner stepped up impressively as she marked her first-team elevation by scoring with a lovely lob.

Aiming to make amends after Sunday’s disappointing 1-0 defeat to QPR, things certainly didn’t go to plan initially as Ashford took the lead inside 10 minutes as the home side’s dangerous striker Ashley Cheatley took advantage of a defensive mix up to put her team ahead.

The reaction that followed from the Dons was exactly what was required in the circumstances though as Ashford keeper Sophie Shults was required to make several fine saves. The woodwork was then rattled by Ashlee Hincks, who also came close to levelling the scores with a free-kick from range that went just wide.

It was starting to look like another frustrating match for the Dons, but then came that moment of brilliance from Remmi Gardner, who struck a lob from outside the penalty area that left Shults with no chance.

The second-half continued with more Dons pressure, but patience was required to gain the upper hand. With 15 minutes remaining, Ashlee Hincks bundled the ball in from close range to get her first of the season and that opened the floodgates. Two more from last season’s top scorer completed a quick-fire hat-trick, sending a warning to the rest of the league in the process. 

Manager Kevin Foster said: “Unlike Sunday when we couldn’t get that breakthrough goal, we got it today, and it calmed us down, helping us to start finding the back of the net again.”

Remmi Gardner added: “I felt that we started off well, but getting the goal gave us the momentum to go and get the next three goals. I thought it was a good battle.”

With Wimbledon’s next scheduled fixture at Hounslow on Sunday having been postponed, Kevin Foster’s side have to wait until Sunday 11 September to be back in action with a game at Cheltenham Town in the FAWNL Plate. 

Teams: ASHFORD TOWN (MIDDX): Shults, Kassem (Flood), O’Callaghan (Constantine), Neufville, Kinnane, Johnson, Hoseli-Atkins (Farrell), Down, Currivan, Clarabut, Cheatley.

Scorer: Cheatley 5′.

AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Russell, Highman, Brooks, Oliver, Mann, Gardner (Sampson), Bath, Dorey (Lockett), Carter, Hincks.

Scorers: Dorey 34′. Hincks 73′, 82′, 86′.

Attendance: 90.

Canaries In Seventh Heaven

Wymondham Town 0-7 Norwich City

by Darrell Allen (31/8/22)

Above: Celebrations after Megan Todd scored from the spot for Norwich City. Photo: Hardy Scott Photos.

Norwich City produced a performance of class and cutting edge to thrash local rivals Wymondham Town in the East Anglian Derby as Shaun Howes’ side continued their 100% win rate at the start of the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East season.

A hat trick from Natasha Snelling plus Olivia Cook, Rebecca Russell, and penalties from Megan Todd and Katie Knights saw the Canaries storm to a 7-0 victory.

The game played at the headquarters of Norfolk County FA on the stunning 3G facility at the FDC in Bowthorpe in front of a wonderful crowd of 435 saw the two best teams in Norfolk go head to head but the Canaries were streets ahead on the evening. 

Sensational Snelling 

Is there a player on better form in the country at the moment than Natasha Snelling of Norwich City? Two hat tricks in her opening three games of the season have got her campaign off to a flyer. The first at The Abbey Stadium on the season’s opening day and Snelling took this huge local derby in her stride notching another hat-trick.

Scoring Norwich City’s second, third and fifth goals on the evening, Snelling had a beaming smile after every strike and it is pleasing to see someone who had given so much to Norwich City Women in her life getting some great success. Six goals in three games with her side sitting top of the league will mean so much to the club but especially Snelling who has been with the Canaries through so many ups and downs.

Happy Howes

Above: Norwich City players and staff together last night. Photo: Norwich City Women.

What a night for Norwich City manager Shaun Howes, he took the whole evening in his stride, speaking to fans before and after the game and managing the team in his ever-popular cool, calm, and collected way with positivity at the forefront of everything he does.

Howes was buzzing as he left the field and remained out on the pitch for nearly 20 minutes after the final whistle engaging with supporters. To his credit, through the dark times, he kept telling everyone things would turn out positive and we are now starting to see the fruits of his labour really coming to the fore.

Reliable Russell 

Rebecca Russell is best known as a free kick specialist in Norfolk women’s football having scored many for Wymondham Town last season and now with Norwich City hopes were high for more and she has already delivered. 

Following Sunday’s outrageous strike to send Actonians back off packing to London empty-handed, she stepped up 17 minutes from time and caught Yaz Walford out in the Wymondham goal curling a beautiful free kick into the near post for the sixth goal of the night. When you need to capitalise on your set pieces, Russell is the player to have in your ranks. There will be plenty more to come.

Above: Megan Todd converts from the spot for Norwich City against Wymondham Town. Photo: Hardy Scott Photos.

Knights Rounds Off The Night 

A big occasion in Norfolk women’s football is not complete at the moment without a contribution from Katie Knights. 

Another player Norwich captured from Wymondham in the summer thought she was going to miss out on the scoring last night until the 14th minute of stoppage time, following an injury to Wymondham Town’s Natasha Youngs.

The last act of the game saw Norwich City awarded a penalty and Knights dispatched it emphatically to round off the scoring and celebrated wildly in front of her adoring friends who were gathered on the side of the pitch.

Important For Wymondham To Keep Calm

A tough few days for Wymondham, losing 10-0 at title favourites Hashtag United on Sunday before getting thumped 7-0 by Norwich City in their home local derby last night. 

It is important to recognise that these are not fixtures that will define Wymondham’s season. Greater assignments of importance lie ahead with two matches against both Cambridge United and Cambridge City where they will be desperate to pick up the required points in order to survive. 

It’s important for them to keep calm and with Rod Dyer at the helm that’s exactly what will happen. 

Above: Norwich City celebrate Olivia Cook’s goal. Photo: Norwich City Women.

Teams: WYMONDHAM TOWN: Walford, Osborne, Newcombe, Douglas, Cheal, Shipman, Codman, Kindred, Catchpole, Waters, Youngs. Substitutes: White, Studd, Hawkins, Kett.

NORWICH CITY: Williams, Larkins, Flye, Johnston, Parker, Knights, Russell, Smith, Todd, Cook, Snelling, Subs: Ward, George, Harper, Gooding, Gambell.

Scorers: Snelling (3), Todd, Cook, Russell, Knights.

Attendance: 435.

Dons Go Down To Rangers Defeat

AFC Wimbledon 0-1 Queen’s Park Rangers

by George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Women (30/8/22)

Above: AFC Wimbledon look to get away against Queen’s Park Rangers on Sunday. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

It took a special strike to defeat AFC Wimbledon on Sunday, as Chloe Gunn’s overhead kick was enough to secure a 1-0 victory for QPR at Colston Avenue – a result which leaves the Dons still searching for their first win of the campaign.

Speaking afterwards, first-team coach Andy May said that he felt that Wimbledon fell below the standards set last season when they finished third in the National League Division One South East table at the end of 2021/22.

“We really struggled to get a foothold in the game of football. We didn’t reach our standards with the intensity and tempo that we’ve come to expect.  We allowed them to dictate what happened in that game.”

Andy May, AFC Wimbedon First Team Coach.

Aiming to build on the encouraging opening day draw versus Hashtag United, the Dons started on the front foot at Carshalton with Emily Donovan forcing QPR keeper Katie McLean into a save inside 10 minutes. However, what turned out to be the winner followed as the West Londoners struck in style through Chloe Gunn, who produced an emphatic overhead kick goal after the Dons failed to clear a corner.

After taking the lead, QPR sat back with 10 behind the ball and set about being difficult to break down. Chances still followed for the hosts though with Becki Bath hitting the roof of the net and Ashlee Hincks forcing a superb save. With half an hour on the clock, shouts for a penalty to the Dons were waved away by the referee, who then booked Mia Lockett for simulation. Becki Bath twice came close before the break, but the visitors took a two-goal lead into the half-time interval.

Following the break, Wimbledon struggled to build any momentum until the final 10 minutes when Bath got on the end of substitute Rebecca Carter’s cross, but headed agonisingly wide. In stoppage time, the Dons came even closer when McLean pulled off an absolutely stunning save to keep out a long-range effort from Donovan.

“It was a frustrating game, credit to them. They scored a goal, then sat back and defended. They came away with three points and that is how football is sometimes. It was not pretty, but they took the three points and we look forward to playing them later in the season.”

Emily Donovan, AFC Wimbledon

Teams: AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Russell (Sampson), Brooks, Highman, Billingham, Taylor (Mann), Donovan, Bath, Lockett (Carter), Dorey, Hincks.

QUEEN’S PARK RANGERS: McLean, Curr, Searle, Jordinson, Gunn, Lewin, Blodgett, Hennessy, Nygaard-Parsons, Akerman, Hall. Substitutes: Petit, Leys, More, Pope, Wardlaw.

Scorer: Gunn 13′.

Attendance: 142.

Norfolk Weekly Wrap

Impetus‘ Darrell Allen provides his weekly round-up of all the women’s football action in Norfolk (29/8/22).

Above: Rebecca Russell (second left) celebrates after scoring Norwich City’s winner against Actonians. Photo: Norwich City Women FC.

It was another Sunday of top-class action across Norfolk with Norwich City and Wymondham Town having their latest Step Four contests, King’s Lynn Town and Wroxham having Step Five encounters, and Fakenham Town once again representing Norfolk in Step Six. 

Norwich City made all the headlines in Step Four with an impressive 1-0 victory over Actonians in FA Women’s National League Division One South East. The game was played in front of an impressive 389 supporters at their home ground The Nest – a record crowd since they moved there in 2020.

Ellie Smith went closest for Norwich City in the initial phases of the contest but fired her shot wide from the edge of the box. Actonians came into the game and it required brave goalkeeping from Bryony Williams and great resilience from the defence in front of her to withstand the pressure that the visitors were applying although the London side were not able to make anything count and the scores remained level at the break.

Above: Norwich City fans get behind their team at The Nest yesterday. Photo: Norwich City Women FC.

The Canaries played superbly together as a team throughout the afternoon and restricted their visitors to nothing more than long-range efforts from distance that Williams had under control. The game’s golden moment came on 70 minutes when Rebecca Russell fired in a rocket from more than 25 yards out which went into the top right-hand corner of the Actonians net to spark wild scenes at The Nest and it proved to be the decisive moment of the contest. 

For Russell, this was the moment that gets her time in Yellow and Green off to a perfect start, in just her second game since joining from local rivals Wymondham Town. It sent the near 400 crowd home happy and kept Norwich City near the top of the league after winning both matches so far.

In the day’s other Tier Four encounter, Wymondham Town were beaten 10-0 on the road at title favourites Hashtag United. A hat-trick from Malika Apindia Gillie and further goals from Amy-Leigh Abrehart, Brooke Mya Cairns, a brace from Grace Gillard, plus strikes from Katherine Nutman, Emma Samways, and Hailey Elaina West saw the hosts to an expected comfortable win against the newly promoted Norfolk outfit. The outcome of the afternoon was not a surprise to anybody, but despite missing key players due to holidays Wymondham Town battled through the afternoon and gave everything for their club and the shirt.

Next up for both clubs is the local derby as Wymondham Town entertain Norwich City on Tuesday Night (30th) at the Football Development Centre in Bowthorpe, Kick-off is at 7.45pm.

Above: King’s Lynn Town’s Lily Porter (right) gets free from a Royston Town player yesterday. Photo: Tim Smith.

In the Tier Five Eastern Region Premier Division, it was King’s Lynn Town who were the heroes of the day beating Royston Town 2-1 at The Walks Stadium to respond brilliantly to their opening day setback at Luton Town. King’s Lynn were roared on by mascots from Norwich Wildcats, took the lead when Royston put through their own net around 20 minutes into the contest. In a first half where the visitors dominated possession but failed to carve out any clear-cut chances, King’s Lynn did force the Royston goalkeeper into some great saves in the first half period. 

During the second half, the hosts battled hard whilst playing some lovely football and having increased levels of possession which led to Oksana Imanlijeva doubling their advantage. Gemma Croucher got a goal back for Royston but King’s Lynn defended well in the closing stages and ground out the result. 

For Alex Cook and his team, this was a huge victory against Royston who finished runners-up last season.

Above: Jo Brawn gives Needham Market the lead at Wroxham yesterday. Photo: Ben Pooley.

In the day’s other Tier Five contest, Wroxham were beaten 2-0 at home by newly promoted Needham Market at Trafford Park. Wroxham started brightly and forced some early good saves from Emily Cockrill in the Needham Market goal on her debut. The visitors stayed in the game and got their reward on 37 minutes when Jo Brawn rounded Megan Lightfoot in the Wroxham goal and gave Needham Market the lead. Wroxham continued to put pressure on the Needham goal as the clock headed towards half time, but Eleanor Catchpole made a stunning clearance off the line to keep Needham ahead at the break.

Needham Market defended well through the second half and clinched the game when Abbie Fisher crossed to find the head of Lois Balfour who flicked it in to double the advantage in second-half stoppage time and secure Needham’s first-ever victory at this level. 

In Eastern Region Division One North, Fakenham Town had their first away game of the season travelling north to face Yaxley Phoenix. Fakenham battled hard but lost the game 4-1. Milly Ramm opened the scoring on 10 minutes for the hosts before Vicky Lubbock found Sophie Lubbock with a delightful through ball to equalise for The Ghosts. 

Yasmin Green put Yaxley back in front on the half-hour mark and that’s how it stayed at half time. Green added her second on 51 minutes before Emily Johnson finished the scoring just after the hour mark giving Yaxley the 4-1 win.

For Fakenham Town this was another experience of tier six football and their first away day at this level, as they learn and grow, you can be sure points will arrive.

Final Run-Out Ends In Blues Win

Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur

by Ben Gilby at Kingsmeadow (28/8/22)

Above: Chelsea’s Maren Mjelde looks to block Spurs’ Nikola Karczewska at Kingsmeadow this afternoon. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

A Chelsea team without a host of international players overcame Tottenham Hotspur in a largely lacklustre pre-season friendly in the warm late summer sun at Kingsmeadow.

With a FIFA window in the coming days, Emma Hayes left out the likes of Millie Bright, Fran Kirby, Magda Eriksson, Jessie Fleming, Niamh Charles, Sam Kerr, and Kadeisha Buchanan. Lionesses Jess Carter and Beth England were selected and there was a chance for fans to see new signings Ève Périsset and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd on home soil for the first time.

Above: Johanna Rytting Kaneryd – an impressive Kingsmeadow debut this afternoon. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

This was a typical pre-season friendly – pretty flat with occasional explosions of action. One of the real positives for the Blues was the presence of Swedish international Rytting Kaneryd who offered a glimpse of the bag of tricks she has at her disposal. Her jinking runs, ability to turn on a five-pence piece and beat defenders, marks her out as a player who will be a real handful in the WSL this season.

Chelsea dominated the possession and territory in the first half. The approach play was far more ponderous than we will see once the regular season is underway. The home side did have two goals for their efforts thanks to Pernille Harder and a welcome return to the scoresheet for newly called up Lioness Lauren James.

Just before the break, Carter allowed Nikola Karczewska to get through into the box, her effort beat Zećira Mušović in the Chelsea goal, but a superb piece of chasing back from captain for the afternoon Maren Mjelde was rewarded with a sensational goalline clearance.

Above: Nikola Karczewska – her performance was a positive for Tottenham Hotspur this afternoon. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

Spurs offered more after the break. Karczewska needed close attention and substitute Kyah Simon was a creative force, but the North London side will need to improve their final ball once the real action gets started.

With a break for international action, the WSL gets underway on the weekend of 10th September. Chelsea will welcome West Ham United to the men’s Stamford Bridge stadium with Tottenham Hotspur hosting Manchester United at their men’s 62,850 capacity home.

Teams: CHELSEA: Mušović, Nouwen, Carter, England, James, Reiten, Périsset, Rytting Kaneryd, Cuthbert, Harder. Substitutes: Orman, Akpan, Blades, Potter.

Scorers: Harder 15′, James 39′.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Spencer, Ale, Turner, Bartrip, Zadorsky, Neville, James, Spence, Naz, Ayane, Karczewska. Substitutes: Korpela, Heeps, Pearse, Summanen, Cho, Petzelberger, Simon, Brazil, Bizet.

Referee: Lee Markwick.

Attendance: 2,400.

Top Of Table Falkirk Derby Headlines Big Weekend Of SWF Action

by Tom Freeman (26/8/22)

Above: Stenhousemuir midfielder Erin Wilson (left) and Falkirk winger Eva Rule (right) line up before Sunday’s huge derby match between the clubs. Photo: Ger Harley/Sportpix.

Falkirk Stadium will host a Scottish Women’s Football League One top-of-the-table clash on Sunday, with local rivals Falkirk and Stenhousemuir both having taken maximum points from the first two games of the season.

Stenhousemuir come into the game having defeated Giffnock SC 3-2 on the opening day then Dundee West 5-1 at home last weekend. Falkirk beat Dundee West in week one and followed it with a 2-0 victory at home over Edinburgh Caledonia, setting up a six pointer for their local derby this Sunday.

Speaking to club media, Stenhousemuir coach Jack Cameron said: “We go in with the same intention we do every week. We know it will be a tough match, of course. We respect them… but we’ve got a good group here and we’ll go in with the intention of winning every game.”

The game kicks off at 3pm at the Falkirk stadium on Sunday, with entry by donation.

Elsewhere in League One, the other team on maximum points, Westdyke, travel to face an Airdrie team looking to make amends for a heavy defeat at Grampian Ladies in week two. Edinburgh Caledonia host BSC Glasgow, Grampian Ladies visit Giffnock SC, St Mirren host FC Edinburgh and Dundee West welcome Gleniffer Thistle to Baldragon Academy in the City of Discovery with both teams looking to claim their first points of the season.

In the SWF Championship, just three points separate top from bottom meaning that any team could end Sunday at the summit. Current leaders Livingston welcome Ayr United to the Tony Macaroni Stadium, Morton host Hutchison Vale, Inverness Caledonian Thistle travel to Renfrew Ladies, and Dryburgh Athletic host Glasgow club Rossvale in Dundee.

Brooke Hendrix: Drawing On Experiences To Push Reading On

Impetus’ Nathan Edwards was invited to Reading‘s media day ahead of the new WSL season. In this the first of three interviews from the event which will be appearing on the site over the coming weeks, he speaks exclusively to the club’s new signing Brooke Hendrix, who had A-League Women success with Melbourne Victory last season, and asked head coach Kelly Chambers about the influence that her new arrival will have on her team (25/8/22).

Above: A Royal looking for many more Victories – Brooke Hendrix. Photo: Reading FC.

Brooke Hendrix is ready to have “the biggest impact” at Reading after finally signing a two-year deal for The Royals from Melbourne Victory.

Hendrix, born in Sharpsburg, Georgia in the USA, arrived in Berkshire off the back of a Grand Final victory against Sydney FC, but the defender was close to joining Kelly Chambers’ side earlier in her career, before her eventual transfer to Melbourne.

Hendrix said, “I have actually tried to be a part of Reading for a while now, even before my move to Australia. You know how football goes, a lot of it is about timing and I finally got the chance to come over in this window.

“The manager is just looking for me to be my usual, big, old-school centre-back self that will put my body on the line to help the team win.”

The 29-year-old has had a well-travelled career, playing in three different continents and already experiencing the Barclays Women Super League before with West Ham United.

From her travels and success, the American is looking to install a winning mentality within her new team.

Above: Brooke Hendrix (right) in action for Melbourne Victory at Adelaide United in the A-League Women lasgt season. Photo: Noe Lamas/SPP

“Kelly (Chambers) definitely brought me in for my experiences, and just having played in different football cultures and the things I have learned in each place has been really amazing to bring to this team.

“I think I will be useful in this young team, sharing my experiences and what I have learnt, with various formations, different teams and playing in the Champions League,” Hendrix said.

It has been three years since Hendrix’s last appearance in England, which was in the FA Cup final as The Hammers lost 3-0 to Manchester City.

But despite only a short period away from the WSL, the women’s game in England has evolved massively.

The American said “It has only been a couple of years since I left, but the growth has been amazing.

“Teams are bringing in top-notch players from all over the world, and England are really investing in the women’s game.

Above: Brooke Hendrix pictured during her previous spell in the WSL with West Ham United. Photo: Wikipedia.

“I also think with the Euros victory, it is carrying over into the league in terms of the resources, money, and attention that is going into it and if it wasn’t the best league in the world, it definitely is now and I have played everywhere so I can say that.”

And, along with five other new signings, the former Melbourne Victory defender, Kelly Chambers feels like her squad is ready for Liverpool at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.

The Reading manager said, “I wanted players who have had experience in this league, Brooke (Hendrix) is one of them, Diane Caldwell is another player that shows great leadership qualities.

“I need leaders in this group that will keep driving those that need to be driven and making sure our standards are high at training, and that we are pushing each other every day, but all for the best for the team.

“Hopefully it will reflect on the pitch that we have brought those players in and had a challenging environment that will help the people who were already here.

“I think we have added to a really good foundation, and we are done in the transfer window, so we are excited for the season to start.”

Reiten Joins Fox In Extending Blues Deal

by Ben Gilby (24/8/22)

Above: Guro Reiten – a vital member of Chelsea’s success in recent seasons – has extended her contract at Kingsmeadow for a further three years. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Chelsea FC Women.

Chelsea have announced that both Guro Reiten and Jorja Fox have signed new three-year deals at the club.

Norwegian international midfielder Reiten has committed to three more years at the club, signing a contract until summer 2025.

The 28-year-old has been an integral part of Emma Hayes’ team since joining in 2019 from LSK Kvinner and has played a pivotal part in the clubs’ trophy successes having been a back-to-back Champion of England for the past three seasons, also securing two FA Cup trophies and Women’s League cups and the Community Shield during this time.

The influential midfielder made 35 appearances last season with 11 goals added to her tally with her most recent decisive strike securing the Blues the victory against Portland Thorns last weekend.

Above: Guro Reiten hitting the target for Chelsea against Manchester United on the final day of the 2021/22 WSL season. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

The versatile winger has also featured regularly for Norway since Under-15s level and made her senior debut for her country in 2014, going on to compete in the 2017 UEFA European Championship, 2019 World Cup and most recently featuring in the group stages of the Euro 2022 in England.

Upon signing her extension, Reiten commented: “I’m so happy to be extending my time at Chelsea for three further years. We’ve already achieved so much during my time here at the club and I really can’t wait to see what we can do next.

“A big thank you to all the fans, they have been a huge support throughout, and I look forward to seeing them all this weekend ahead of our new season.”

Chelsea General manager Paul Green added: “We are delighted that Guro has extended her contract with the club. Her goals and assists have been vital to the team’s success in the last few years. 

“We look forward to seeing her continue to improve and develop in the upcoming years here at Chelsea.”

Young Gun Fox Signs On For Another Three Years

Above: Locally produced talent Jorja Fox has extended her deal with Chelsea. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Chelsea FC Women.

Jorja Fox has signed a contract extension with Chelsea which commits her to the club until the summer of 2025, before going on a season-long loan to Women’s Super League side Brighton & Hove Albion.

The Kingston-upon-Thames local joined the Chelsea Academy at the age of eight and progressed through the age groups, making her senior debut for the Blues against Aston Villa during the 2020/21 campaign. Fox then went on to make her first start against the London City Lionesses in a 5-0 victory.

Following the signing of her first professional contract in 2021, the number 29 went on loan to Championship side Charlton Athletic for the second half of the 2021/22 season.

Chelsea Women general manager Paul Green commented on Fox’s extension: “We’re extremely happy to be extending Jorja’s contract for a further two years.

“She has gained a lot of experience with the team over the past season and her loan to Brighton will now help her development further, gaining important WSL match minutes.”

This follows the recent announcement that fellow young Blue Emma Thompson would be heading to Lewes for a season-long loan, as well as Lucy Watson going on loan to Charlton.

Reiten and Fox’s news follows five new signings this summer with Buchanan, Perisset, Rytting Kaneryd, Svitkova and Watson joining the Blues with Bright and Charles both also committing to three more years with the club.

Norfolk Weekly Wrap

The new season is underway and Impetus‘ Darrell Allen returns with his weekly round-up of all the women’s football action in Norfolk. Each week Darrell will bring us an in-depth report from one game and a detailed wrap of all the other matches (23/8/22).

Above: Last-ditch defending from London Seaward’s Lucy Cockerill and Megan Burrows as Wymondham Town get a shot in. Photo: Taught Tight Media.

Game Of The Week:

Wymondham Town 1-2 London Seaward

London Seaward were victorious on the opening day of the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East season as they came from behind to beat newly promoted Wymondham Town.

Wymondham took lead through a Brook Cheal goal but the visitors were level before halftime thanks to a header from Maise Cannon. A second-half penalty from Katherine Long was enough to take all three points back to North East London.

This Tier Four contest played at the headquarters of Norfolk County FA, the state-of-the-art 3G facility the FDC Harrod Sport Arena, which will be Wymondham’s home for the season in the west of Norwich to comply with the ground grading requirements of the FA Women’s National League.

In the blazing heat it was London Seaward who dominated the initial phases controlling possession as they began to close on the Wymondham goal. Katherine Long tried an audacious lob but it went wide of Yaz Walford in the Wymondham goal.

Walford, who had a busy afternoon was a commanding presence at the back for Wymondham constantly instructing her defence and a great voice which will be needed through the season. 

Lauren Kett for Wymondham then found Hannah Waters with a delightful ball which Amber Cantwell then received but couldn’t finish. Cantwell, then had a thunderous shot at Alicia Garwood in the Seawood goal as the former Cambridge United star looked impressive and at home in a Wymondham shirt with her brother, Norwich City men’s star Todd and other family members watching on.

The opener came when Mary Croft was free down the left and put in a great ball which was flicked onto the crossbar by Cantwell but Garwood could only turn it onto the bar and Brooke Cheal was in the right place at the right time to give Wymondham the lead.

Above: Maisie Cannon heads London Seaward’s equalising goal at Wymondham Town. Photo: Taught Tight Media.

Seaward produced an onslaught in response, earning a series of corners. Walford punched one away spectacularly before another hit the bar. Leah Newcombe was doing an exceptional job dealing with the threats. However, any team could only resist a barrage of this nature for so long and the visitors levelled when Maisie Cannon rose highest to head home Kayleigh Xidhas’ corner.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first. Sophie Lee forced Walford into a good save with a strike from distance before Long floated a ball across goal.

The game’s winning goal came 18 minutes from time when Seaward substitute Ashleigh Marchant was fouled in the box, Katherine Long stepped up to convert the spot kick.

Wymondham responded positively again to going behind as Cantwell won a free kick which was floated in and cleared away before substitute Sian Douglas had a thunderous shot at Garwood in the Seawood goal.

There were to be no further goals though as the visitors were professional throughout and claimed an important opening day victory on the road. 

For London Seaward, this was a case of getting the job done in an awkward fixture on a long trip away to a newly promoted side and they did just that. For Wymondham, there are lots to be learned, but you feel if they play with the same heart and desire, then points will be picked up where required in order to stay in the league. 

TeamsWYMONDHAM TOWN: Walford, Osborne, Croft, Kett, Newcombe, Codman, Cheal, Youngs, Cantwell, Catchpole, Waters. Substitutes: Douglas, Shipman, White, Studd, Goodenough.

Scorer: Cheal.

LONDON SEAWARD: Garwood, Xidhas, Lee, Mcnally, Cockerill, Cannon, Davies, Burrows, Long, Malik,  Thomas-Arayo. Substitutes: Mackler, Pace, Marchant, Bracelli, Butler.

Scorers: Cannon, Long (pen).

Attendance: 62.

Referee: Elora Hardstaff.

Weekend Wrap:

Above: Natasha Snelling celebrates with teammates after getting her second for Norwich City at Cambridge United. Photo: Darren Gilham.

The weekend saw Norfolk’s most senior teams conduct their opening league fixtures of the season with Tier Four Norwich City and Wymondham Town both involved in their FA Women’s National League Division One South-East openers, King’s Lynn Town and Wroxham getting their Tier Five Eastern Region Premier Division campaigns underway and Fakenham Town began life in the Tier Six Eastern Region Division One North.

It was Norwich City who were the day’s headline makers in Tier Four as they travelled to Cambridge United and produced a stunning performance to run out 4-1 winners in a game played at United’s men’s home at The Abbey Stadium, to increase publicity after the successful summer of the Lionesses. It worked with an excellent crowd of 648 in the ground.

Francesca Partridge gave the hosts the lead on 18 minutes but after that, it was all about the Canaries.

Natasha Snelling scored her first of the afternoon before the break to see the sides go in level. The second half saw Megan Todd tee up Snelling who slotted home to put Norwich in front before Ellie Smith put the game beyond Cambridge. There was time for a penalty for the visitors as Snelling finished from 12 yards to complete her hat trick and a stunning opening day victory for Shaun Howes and his team.

In the day’s other Tier Four contest involving a Norfolk team, Wymondham Town‘s clash with London Seaward is featured in detail above.

Above: Wroxham’s Becky Russell (blue shirt) in action against Royston Town. Photo: Wroxham Women.

In Tier Five, it was Wroxham who produced all the headlines with an emphatic 4-1 win at last season’s Eastern Region Premier Division runners-up Royston Town.

Garden Walk is becoming somewhat of a good ground for The Yachtswomen having won 5-3 on their visit in December 2020 and having won 1-0 on their visit in February 2022.

Joe Simpson’s first game in charge was another Garden Walk triumph as they made it a hat trick of success on this ground as after a goalless first half, the Yachtswomen took control in the second half period. 

Holly Connell was first on the score sheet before the experienced Paige Shorten doubled the advantage and then Connell made it a brace for herself and three for Wroxham.  Royston pulled a goal back through Amy Cooper before Keela Olive was on hand to make 4-1 and a very happy start to the season for Joe Simpson and his team.

Above: Luton Town (orange) and King’s Lynn Town line up in front of an excellent crowd at Kenilworth Road. Photo: Richard Brown,

It was different fortunes for Norfolk Tier Five rivals King’s Lynn Town who travelled to face Luton Town at Kenilworth Road in front of a crowd of over 500.

After a goalless first half, Luton took the game by the scruff of the neck and scored three goals in the first ten minutes of the second half period thanks to Adi Milton, Jess McKay, and Elly Wade.

Fi Constable added a fourth for Luton but King’s Lynn played their part in the contest as Deva Rawlings and Samara Nche replied with a goal each to make Luton think. 

However, Jess McKay put any lingering Luton worries to bed with the home side’s fifth and final goal of the game.

Above: New Haverhill Rovers signing Rebekah Finch, who was on the scoresheet at Fakenham Town. Photo: Haverhill Rovers.

In the last match this week, Fakenham Town were beaten 5-1 at home by Haverhill Rovers on their debut in Tier Six. Fakenham, who should be applauded for taking the step up of leagues welcomed the Suffolk side to Clipbush Park in the sunshine. 

It was Haverhill who quickly got down to business though as Laura Mills opened the scoring. Fakenham were quick to reply thanks to a goal from Vicki Lubbock. 

However, it was Haverhill’s afternoon as they regained the lead thanks to Georgia England and then Laura Mills completed her brace. The second half saw Rebekah Finch add a fourth and Jordanne Sillitoe completed the scoring from the spot to make it a commanding win for the visitors. 

Blues Unveil Rytting Kaneyrd

5/8/22

Above: Swedish star Johanna Rytting Kaneryd signing with the West London club today. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Chelsea FC Women.

Chelsea have just announced the signing of Sweden international Johanna Rytting Kaneyrd on a three-year deal, with an option to extend for a fourth year.

The winger joins the Blues from BK Häcken in her native Sweden and has put pen to paper with the Blues until summer 2025.

The Swedish international player becomes Emma Hayes’ fifth summer signing following the announcements of Kadeisha Buchanan, Eve Perisset, Katerina Svitkova, and Lucy Watson.

The versatile winger began her professional career at the age of 17 for Tyreso FF before her real breakthrough in 2016 when she signed for Djurgårdens IF. Across two seasons she made 45 appearances, scoring six goals.

The Swedish international then made the move to FC Rosengård where she helped the team lift their 11th Damallsvenskan league title in 2019. Following a successful time with Rosengard, the 25-year-old made the move to BK Häcken where she really hit form, scoring 15 times in 55 appearances.

JRK also has 20 international caps under her belt and was selected to take part in this summer’s European Championship, where she featured in all five of Sweden’s games.

The winger will wear the number 19 shirt for the Blues and is excited to get her Chelsea career underway, saying: “I’m delighted to join this amazing club! I can’t wait to meet my new teammates and staff and start working on our goals for the season!”

Commenting on Kaneyrd’s move to the Blues, manager Emma Hayes said: ‘We’ve been watching Johanna develop over the last 12-18 months and she has had an unbelievable season last year in Sweden.

‘She’s extremely quick, direct, a great age and she’s the profile player we’ve been looking for. Johanna will bring another dynamic to the team and we are really looking forward to her career with us at Chelsea.’

Kaneyrd will join up with her new Chelsea teammates at Cobham, with pre-season already underway.

Summer’s Campaign For Equality

Back in June, the then nine-year-old Summer Hoofe went into her local branch of Sports Direct to buy a new pair of football boots. When she saw that the store had labelled football boots as being for boys, she was rightly shocked. Summer began a social media campaign highlighting the crazy situation and called for all football boots to be marketed as unisex which soon caught the attention of the Manchester Evening NewsImpetus’ Ben Gilby spoke to Summer about her campaign, her football, and, of course the Lionesses (28/7/22).

Above: Summer with some of the trophies won with Tikitaka Girls. Photo: Charlene Hoofe.

“I first started playing about two years ago. “I enjoy being part of my teams and scoring goals.”

Summer Hoofe is just like any other young female footballer. She loves the game, she loves playing it, and she loves the camaraderie it brings. When she went into her local branch of Sports Direct to buy a new pair of football boots to wear for the three different teams she plays for, she got a nasty surprise.

“When I went into Sports Direct, to get new boots, I noticed that all the labels said they were for boys. It made me really angry, so my sister helped me to make a TikTok video about it.”

Summer Hoofe.
Above: Summer playing the game she loves. Photo: Charlene Hoofe.

“Once my friends saw my campaign that football boots should be branded as unisex, they agreed with me – even the boys that I play football with agreed. There haven’t been any women players who reached out to back my campaign though, and that makes me really sad.”

Summer lives and breathes football and plays the game whenever she can, as she reveals: “I play for Wigan Junior Latics Mixed Team on the wing. I also play for Tikitaka Girls and Bolton Futsal Club. The Latics Mixed Team did OK this season. Tikitaka did great and won the league. My best performance was when I played in a tournament and scored a worldie from the half way line!”

Above: Summer in the kit of her beloved Liverpool. Photo: Charlene Hoofe.

The youngster then highlighted her footballing heroes, and she clearly has an eye for a great player. “My favourite is Luiz Díaz at Liverpool because he is an effective creative player. Ella Toone is my favourite player for Manchester United as she inspires me to be just like her – but she can’t sing! Alex Brooks at Blackburn Rovers is also great because she has made some great saves and has a great kick.”

Like everyone who adores women’s football, Summer is loving every second of the Euros, and having been to a Lionesses match herself during the competition, she is absolutely clear that they are going to lift the trophy on Sunday.

Above: Summer shows her delight at discovering she had tickets for the Lionesses opening game at the Euros for her 10th birthday! Photo: Charlene Hoofe.

“England are going to win the Euros because I personally think they have smashed every team so far and I cannot wait to watch them on the TV playing at Wembley Stadium. It’s going to be amazing. I was really lucky to go and watch the opening game against Austria at Old Trafford as I got tickets for my 10th birthday.

“It was a great game and the atmosphere was amazing. I just wish that they had scored more goals, but they have made up for that since! Making history against Norway scoring eight. I’m so excited for Sunday, but it will be sad when it is over as it’s been so good watching so much women’s football on the TV.”

Above: Summer at Old Trafford for the Lionesses’ opening game with Austria at Euro 2022. Photo: Charlene Hoofe.

Scottish Women’s Championship & League One Fixtures Announced

22/7/22

Artwork: Scottish Women’s Football

Fixtures for the new leagues immediately below the top two divisions in Scottish Women’s Football have been released.

The new SWF Women’s Championship and Women’s League One will open with a full card of fixtures on Sunday 14 August.

Glasgow club Rossvale, who narrowly missed out on SWPL promotion last season, face a trip to Inverness on the opening day, while the Championship Cup holders Dryburgh Athletic host Livingston in Dundee.

Greenock Morton will host Ayr United and Edinburgh side Hutchison Vale travel to Renfrew.

Above: Rossvale (yellow and red) will be hoping to have more to celebrate this coming season and make up for missing out on promotion last time round. Photo: Rossvale Women & Girls.

The new League One will kick off on the same day, with an Edinburgh derby between Edinburgh Caledonia and recently renamed FC Edinburgh (formerly Edinburgh City).

The eight-team Scottish Women’s Championship will see clubs play each other twice home and twice away before a split which will see the top four teams joust for the title.

League One now contains 12 teams after the withdrawal of Buchan and Bishopton. This means the league will split after teams have played each other home and away into a top six and bottom six for one remaining round.

There will be no relegation from the Championship for its first season, allowing the league to grow to ten teams who meet eligibility criteria around youth pathways and player wellbeing.

Above: Falkirk Women – who will face a local derby with Stenhousemuir early in the League One season. Photo: Falkirk Women.

League One promises some more interesting local derbies. Falkirk women first face Stenhousemuir in round three on 28 August. The first Paisley derby of the season will see Gleniffer Thistle host St Mirren on 6 November, while Grampian Ladies face a North East derby against Westdyke on 26 February.

Above: Scottish Women Football CEO Aileen Campbell was full of anticipation today at the announcement of the competition’s fixtures for 2022/23. Photo: Colin Poultney/Scottish Womens Football.

Commenting on the new fixtures, SWF CEO Aileen Campbell said: “This season will be an exciting fresh start for our clubs, and both the new Championship and League One promise to be hard-fought competitive leagues between clubs from right across the country, culminating in prestigious trophies in their own right.

“As professionalism grows at the top of the game we are determined to ensure a route is there for every woman in the country to have the opportunity to participate and reach the top, and I’m confident the new structure will showcase the best our clubs have to offer, with some tasty local derbies in the mix.”

The fixture card for the opening weekend of the season 2022/2023 on August 14 is:

Championship:

Renfrew vs Hutchison Vale

Inverness Caledonian Thistle vs  Rossvale

Greenock Morton vs Ayr United

Dryburgh Athletic vs Livingston

League One:

Edinburgh Caledonia vs FC Edinburgh Women

BSC Glasgow vs Westdyke

St Mirren vs Grampian Ladies

Airdrie Ladies vs Gleniffer Thistle

Giffnock SC Women vs Stenhousemuir

Dundee West vs Falkirk

Full fixtures are available on SWF website here: https://scotwomensfootball.com/fixtures-and-results/

Chelsea Announce Watson Signing

19/7/22

Above: Lucy Watson signs for Chelsea today. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Chelsea FC Women.

Chelsea have just announced the arrival of young forward Lucy Watson from Championship side Sheffield United on a two-year contract until summer 2024. She will wear shirt number 25.

The winger from Barnsley comes with a significant amount of first-team exposure, having made her debut for the Blades at the age of 16, joining them halfway through the 2019/20 season from Doncaster Belles, where she made her first team debut while just 15.

Having shown incredible pace and confidence on the ball, she soon secured several starts for United that same season with her first senior goal coming in the form of a sensational strike from range in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup. Watson went on to score in both their FA Cup fixtures that season and went on to boast eight goals in 22 Championship matches in 2021/22.

Watson is also a significant young talent on the international stage, earning regular caps for England at both Under-17 and Under-18 levels, receiving her first call up to the Under 19s squad in June 2021 at the age of 17.

The young Lioness was most recently called up for the England Under-19 squad for the UEFA European Championship qualifiers at St. George’s Park going on to feature in the UEFA Women’s Under-19 European Championship tournament in the Czech Republic, where she made the starting line-up against Sweden.

On signing for Chelsea, Watson said: “I am so proud to have signed for a huge club like Chelsea. I am very excited to continue my development and see what the future holds for me. Thank you to Emma Hayes and the team for giving me this opportunity.’

Blues head coach Emma Hayes added on the signing of Watson: “Lucy is one of the best young attacking players in the country, so we are delighted that she has joined the club. 

“We have followed Lucy’s development for some time since her time at Donny Belles, where Paul Green had coached previously and it’s clear she has natural talent and ability.

“Lucy has developed really well at Sheffield United and we now feel she is ready to make the next step. In the short term, we’ll be looking to send her out on loan for the forthcoming season to ensure she gains valuable game time.’

Watson becomes Chelsea Women’s fourth signing this summer following the arrival of Eve Perisset, Kadeisha Buchanan, and Katerina Svitkova.

Ben Gooden: How ‘Little Chorley’ Flew Under The Radar

In the final part of our series looking back over the season with Impetus’ sponsored players and partner clubs, Chorley head coach Ben Gooden speaks to Ben Gilby about the FA Women’s National League Division One North side’s successful campaign in both league and cup (14/7/22).

Ben Gooden’s Chorley, although not receiving some of the attention that other teams in tier four have had last season, completed a campaign to be proud of. Just four defeats in the FA Women’s National League Division One North and a superb FA Cup run are examples of what the Lancashire team can do (see https://impetusfootball.org/2021/12/12/chorley-the-game-is-massive-in-stature/). Yet Ben tempers this pride with thoughts of how they could have done even better.

“I think we can look back with some pride that’s for sure. I’ll always look back on a few of the games and wonder ‘what if’? But that is for me to obsess over and try and put it right next season. On the whole though I think we gave a very good account of ourselves for the most part.

Asked whether he thinks the club has received the attention that their achievements deserve, Chorley’s head coach was clear.

“I still don’t think so, but I think it helps us go about our business on the pitch without fear and pressure from the outside. We just have to focus on ourselves. I think in the first round of games we were underestimated by most and you hear the post-match comments from coaches and players after we’d beat them saying ‘no disrespect to Chorley but…’ and that’s fine. We’ll embrace that attitude and use it to fuel us in the chase.”

Ben reflected in detail in identifying what were the keys to Chorley’s successful campaign.

“It’s not a difficult question but the answer has so many layers to it because I can’t put it down to just one aspect, it’s a combination of everything. The players have been brilliant, they’ve taken on board information, they’ve been open to new ideas and they’ve been happy to go and try and win every game that we played in last season.

Above: Chorley head coach Ben Gooden. Photo: @BenGooden.

“When you add this to the hard work we put in at training, the amount of hours put into analysis whether it’s counting every single one of our passes, duels, shots (the list goes on) and then we’ve got the opposition analysis to put the game plan together, it’s always going to be a good mix.

“There were a lot of sacrifices made last season and for a club of our size, that’s what it takes to have a year like that. When pre-season rolls around in the middle of June, it has to start all over again. Unfortunately, nothing is given to us, we aren’t attached and funded by a pro men’s club, we don’t play in a stadium, we have played on five different home grounds this season, our training facilities are spread around all over the place and in the eyes of everyone, we are little Chorley.

“But I think that is part of our charm and that’s what we thrive off. We are happy to be little Chorley in the eyes of everyone else, because we know we have massive hearts, incredible work ethic and a never say die attitude.

“There are lots that contribute really and I think it would be unfair to pinpoint a handful of players when it’s a full squad effort. Everyone brings something to the table and contributes in a positive way.

“Something we do have though is a unique way of implementing the team’s rules. We have a changing room court system where we have a judge, a player appointed jury and a non-financial fines wheel for punishments so there is a fun way of ensuring that the standards are kept.”

In terms of his most memorable moments of the campaign, Ben identified several. “I think it’s the attitude and resilience that is the highlight for me. There’s a bit of something special about the team and we’ve seen it not just on one occasion, but many throughout the season. Which in itself will have created memories that will stay with me and the players probably for the rest of our careers.

“We were 3-0 down at halftime against Stockport County and we came back to 3-3 and had more than enough chances to win the game. There’s the Middlesbrough FA Cup game that we just kept coming back at them and then had it about us to keep our nerve at the end to progress. There is an equaliser late on against Barnsley away, two games against Alnwick where we score a winner in the 94th minute, Stockport again who equalised in the 88th minute and we go and score the winner in the 91st minute.

Above: Ben Gooden (red top) watches his side in action during the campaign. Photo: John Shirras.

“We just don’t give up. We play the same way from the very first whistle to the last and everyone that played us last season may not like to admit it but they will say that if they’ve got something from us, they’ve had to work hard for it.”

Ben is not resting on his laurels and planning to get things in place to help the team’s continuing evolvement in 2022/23.

“In the coaching department, we are adding new people to ensure that we have the right balance of specialisation, individual and unit development, and tactical understanding without watering down what has given us an edge this season.

“In the playing department, we need to ensure our recruitment adds quality and not just quantity, as we are a little light in certain positions. There are upgrades to our game that I need to make on the grass in pre-season and we’ll need a few extra bodies to ensure we can do that consistently in every game of the season rather than most games. A number of targets haven’t paid off for us but the summer is only just beginning.”

“We need to continue what we are doing in terms of developing the younger players but also making slight changes to ensure we are enhancing what we do.

“I’ll not give all of it away but we are making changes to the game model which I think will allow us to be more consistent, see games out and ensure we get more wins on the board. I’ve made changes in the way we look at the analysis of the game which I feel will allow us to be far more productive and be prepared for anything that we may face. 

“The message to the players is that we don’t think of this season as a massive achievement and we’ve hit the ceiling but this is now the minimum expectation and the chase starts now.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Captains Speak Ahead Of Highlands & Islands Cup Final

1/7/22

Artwork: Scottish Women’s Football.

Sunday’s Scottish Women’s Highlands and Islands League Cup final on Sunday at Nairn sees Sutherland, who lifted last year’s cup with a dramatic 3-2 win over Clachnacuddin, return to the venue to take on Buckie Ladies Development.

Buckie Ladies Development currently sit top of the Highlands and Islands League with a game in hand.

Above: Buckie Development captain Michelle Johnson. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Scottish Women’s Football.

However, Buckie captain Michelle Johnson is unavailable for the tie as she is away on leave. She spoke of her mixed emotions about the situation: “I’m absolutely devastated I can’t be on that pitch (to) be part of this amazing milestone for Buckie Ladies.  The progress we have made as a team this season is unbelievable, who would have thought we’d be in a cup final and undefeated in the league so far this season. 

“I know (the team) will all give 100% today and play as the team that we have become. Each and everyone…deserve(s) this moment. What a day to be a Buckie Lady.”

Above: Sutherland captain Bethany Sutherland. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Scottish Women’s Football.

Meanwhile, Sutherland captain Bethany Sutherland said her team were ready: “Getting through to a consecutive cup final is a massive achievement for us as a club and one that we are very proud of. A cup final is a very special occasion and I feel privileged to be the one leading the team out.

“There is a huge buzz within the team, and we are all up for the game. As a team, we are constantly striving to be better and cannot wait to step out onto the pitch on Sunday and put all our hard work into practice.”

In recognition of the rising cost of living and the travel costs faced by supporters of Sutherland WFC and Buckie Ladies Development, Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) have made the game free to enter at Station Park in Nairn on Sunday, with a 2pm kick-off.

Euxton Girls: Constantly Growing And Achieving

Impetus partner club Euxton Girls in Lancashire have recently come to the end of their first full season of football in two years. Michael Taylor from the club spoke to Ben Gilby about how they have overcome the challenges of lockdown to add even more teams to their club with hopes for greater growth after the Euros (30/6/22).

Above: Euxton’s U14 West team celebrating County Cup success. Photo: Euxton Girls.

After losing two years due to the pandemic, it’s been a busy season of growth for Euxton Girls, based near Chorley in Lancashire, as Michael underlined.

“The growth of the club and teams and the retention within the teams has been very high, the club has doubled in size, there will soon be 21 teams. That’s all happened since lockdown over the last two years which is just amazing, and I think we’re pretty much the biggest girls club in the county which is testament to all the hard work that everyone’s put in and keeps putting in to keep all the girls playing football on a weekly basis.”

With the growth comes additional challenges, particularly as finances are a challenge for everyone at the present time. Michael highlighted how the situation is impacting Euxton in particular.

Above: One of Euxton’s U14 North team members in action. Photo: John Shirras.

“The biggest cost for us is facilities, they just aren’t getting any cheaper and with the squeeze on everyone financially at the moment, it’s a difficult balancing act. We have to be accessible to everyone regardless of status, and at the same time everything still needs to be paid, with us not charging any signing-on fees for two years is something we’ve had to look at again this year while not increasing our monthly subs.

“To put it in context, we’re actually cheaper than paying for Netflix a month, and we’re always applying for grants to help with the cost of pitch maintenance, kits, coaching courses, insurance, and ongoing equipment and costs. In terms of what we are looking to develop next, access to facilities is the main one through the winter especially and is something that’s under constant review.”

It’s not just the continuing growth of the club in terms of player and team numbers, but also in terms of finals and league success.

Above: Euxton’s U7s squad at their Cup Final played at League One men’s side Fleetwood Town’s stadium. Photo: Euxton Girls.

“I think all of the teams pretty much have been in contention for something at the end of the season as well as all the way through. Our U7s and 10s were standouts getting to their first and second finals respectively and playing at League One men’s side Fleetwood Town’s Highbury Stadium as well as the U14 West team winning a second consecutive county cup final at the LFA County Ground.

“In addition, my team, U14 North won their first-ever league title and there were several other close ones with the Development team narrowly losing out in a semi-final, and the U17s in a final on penalties. All in all, it has been a really good and long season.

“From a personal point of view, aside from my own team, I’m especially pleased for our women’s and Development teams, both have had really good seasons, with the Devs making the step up to open age football, with a squad of mostly 16 and 17 year-olds to start with and a tough learning curve but with a very respectable mid-table finish and the women’s team only four points from the top of their division in the county league in their first full season, definitely two teams to watch next season.”

Above: Euxton’s Development Squad. Photo: Euxton Girls.

Euxton’s ongoing links with FA Women’s National League Division One North side Chorley have continued to strengthen over the season in a number of positive ways.

“It has definitely created some excitement and momentum amongst all the teams, from the juniors upwards,” admitted Michael. “It was a proud moment to see Mollie from our U17s named in the Chorley first-team squad towards the end of the season and hopefully this will be the first of many going forward.

For the younger teams, from being mascots and seeing and meeting the likes of Lisa Topping and Laura Walker on the pitch as well as at training. It’s a fantastic opportunity to build on for both clubs, and for us to be involved with a National League club on our doorstep, who in my view should be getting a lot more recognition than they do, is something we can build on and drive forward with the management at Chorley who are a great team to work with and we’ll do all we can to make it thrive.”

Above: Euxton youngsters walk out as mascots with local FA Women’s National League Division One North side Chorley. Photo: Euxton Girls.

With a successful season behind them, Euxton are not resting on their laurels, as Michael wants to make sure that the club is well-positioned to cater for further interest in girls’ football as a result of this summer’s home European Championships.

“We’re fully expecting the Euros in the summer to have a huge impact and more girls wanting to play across all the age groups from Wildcats through to the womens. We’ve got a number initiatives and partnerships to look at over the next few weeks and the summer in time for next season and I think the main focus is going to be stability after two years of stop start.

“Then we can see where the land lies across the club after a period of consistency. There’s a lot to be positive about and build on and cement what we’ve built and retained over the last two years and we’re all raring to go again in September.”

Above: Euxton U14 players underline their relationship with local FA Women’s National League Division One North side Chorley. Photo: Chorley Women.

Bure Valley: Celebrating Successes Throughout Age Groups

In the latest of our end of season catch up features with Impetus’ sponsored players and partner clubs, Ted McCarter from Bure Valley Youth in Norfolk filled Ben Gilby in on how their first full season of football in two years has gone. have just ended their first full season in football for a couple of years due to the pandemic (23/6/22).

Above: Bure Valley’s U9 Jaguars celebrate success this season. Photo supplied by: Ted McCarter.

The last time we heard from Bure Valley, their young players were telling us all about the incredible experience that they had at the Arnold Clark Cup match between England and Spain at Carrow Road.

Above: Bure Valley’s U8 Pumas with a trophy won this season. Photo supplied by: Ted McCarter.

“We had a great time watching The Lionesses,” smiled Ted. “Girls aged from seven to 15 attended and really enjoyed it especially seeing local hero Lauren Hemp in action. This has inspired the girls to watch the Lionesses regularly on TV as well as the FAWSL. We’re now really excited about this summer’s Euros.”

However, the exciting times for the club have certainly gone well beyond that one afternoon.

“It’s been a great season,” Ted smiled. “Player numbers have continued to rise at a very good rate. We added a new U7 boys team and two new girls teams at U8 and U9. We have new teams ready to go for the 2022/23 season. We’re hoping the Women’s Euros inspires some new girls to give football a go.”

Above: This season’s Bure Valley U10 Kittens team. Photo supplied by: Ted McCarter.

The pandemic hit every grassroots club hard, and Bure Valley were no exception. “The challenges remaining from the pandemic are mainly financial. Our coffee shop has remained closed this season but with new confidence and Covid restrictions over, we’re hoping next season will see it fully operational. We’ve been very lucky attracting new sponsors to finance kit. Following Brexit, prices have risen sharply but we’ve managed to ride that storm.”

Whilst there have been challenges, there have been a large number of major successes for the club’s various teams during the season, as Ted explained.

“Our brand new U8s girls reached the Cup Final in their first season losing out to a very good Waveney side. Our U12s girls won the U12 B League to secure promotion, and our U13 Girls finished runners up in a very tough league.

Above: Bure Valley’s U12 Bobcats celebrate success this season. Photo supplied by: Ted McCarter.

“The rest of our teams all enjoyed plenty of matches, the first time in two years that full seasons were completed. All in all, it was a very successful season.”

Bure Valley has a successful relationship with tier five Eastern Regional Women’s Football League Premier side Wroxham which has now provided a pathway for Bure Valley youngsters to go on and potentially play senior football with the Yachtswomen. It is a partnership that is looking to get stronger for the next campaign.

“Lots of our families have enjoyed going to watch Wroxham Women play at Trafford Park,” said Ted. We’re now looking at a closer relationship as our players come to an end of youth football and look to progress to adult football. Announcements are due over the coming weeks.” 

Above: Another trophy haul for Bure Valley – this time their U13 Panthers team. Photo supplied by: Ted McCarter.

Whilst the future is looking rosy at Bure Valley, Ted is well aware that to grow further, there are challenges that need to be overcome, some of which are out of the club’s own control.

“We need more volunteers to get involved. We also need other clubs in the county to take the plunge and add new teams, especially at U7 and u8 girls. We’re improving our facilities all the time but there is still loads to do. Our aim is to create a safe, inclusive, fun environment for everyone to enjoy the beautiful game, so far it’s gone very well but we must continue to be the club that girls, in particular, want to join.

“Our main focus is continued growth. Our fantastic Mini Kickerz for kids aged three to six years of age is very successful with a clear pathway provided into League football. If new players continue to come to us we must be doing something right!”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Countdown To Historic Scottish Women’s League Cup Final

19/6/22

Glasgow side Harmony Row face Linlithgow Rose in both sides’ first ever Scottish Women’s Football League Cup final at Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld on 26 June 2022.

The teams were formed in 2019 and 2021 respectively and have each reached a cup final for the first time, in what promises to be a thrilling contest.

Linlithgow Rose currently sit top of the SWFL Central/South East League, while Harmony Row are third in the SWFL West/South West League, separated from the top spot only by goal difference.

Above: Harmony Row FC. Photo: Harmony Row FC.

Looking ahead to the game, Harmony Row captain Nicola Robinson said: “I am so proud to captain this team; to make history as the first Harmony Row Women’s team to reach a final, we have worked tirelessly in training to create not only a successful way of play, but also build unity and togetherness in our well-blended squad. 

“Being recognised as a leader on and off the pitch amongst such remarkable talent, has been a real pleasure to me. I feel very fortunate to be a part of such a supportive and hard-working team. I have also enjoyed sharing my experience from well over 300 games with our incredibly talented under 16s team who I help coach.

“They inspire myself and the rest of the women’s team to go out on big occasions like this – fearless and prepared to give our all. We want to show them that anything can be achieved with hard work and application. 

Artwork: Scottish Women’s Football.

“We look forward to a competitive match against a well-organised outfit in Linlithgow Rose and hope we can bring back the team’s first silverware to our small community club.”

Linlithgow Rose captain, Laura Hopwood also spoke of her pride ahead of next weekend’s match. “I am really looking forward to leading out the team out on the 26th June at Broadwood.  I am from Linlithgow and being the captain of my hometown football team is a real honour. 

“Linlithgow Rose Ladies were only formed in February 2021 and for us to reach the League Cup final in such a short time is amazing. We were proud last year to get as far as the Semi-Final but when we set our team goals at the start of this season we were determined to get to the Final.  

“We are a community team and have been very clear from the start that we are all inclusive and that everyone is welcome.  This has made sure the atmosphere within the team is relaxed and enjoyable and it seems to be working as we are winning games and more importantly having fun.”

Above: Linlithgow Rose FC. Photo: Linlithgow Rose FC.

The SWFL League Cup began with group stages, with those failing to qualify getting an opportunity to compete for the SWFL League Plate. The Plate final will precede the Cup final at Broadwood on Sunday 26 June and will see East Fife’s Development side face Motherwell’s Development side.

The Plate final kicks off at noon, with the League Cup final kicking off at 4:30pm. Spectators can watch both games for only £5, with pensioners and other concessions gaining entry for £2. Under 12s are free.

Thetford Town: Month-By-Month

by Darrell Allen (17/6/22)

Above: The Thetford Town team promote the Her Game Too initiative. Photo: Thetford Town.

Tier Seven Thetford Town achieved their highest ever finish of fourth place in the Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One in their first-ever season at this level.

Spearheaded by manager David Skipp and assisted by Stuart Terry, with Sausha Levy-Twomey captaining the side, with Darrell Allen and Amber Browne joining at other points in the season, the team embarked on their 20-game league adventure and various cup competitions with enthusiasm. Here we look back at how they achieved fourth in this month-by-month guide.

September 

Thetford Town began their season on the final Sunday in September with a tricky-looking trip to Long Stratton. Thetford came out on top in a physical and tough encounter winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Melissa Boulton and Rebecca White.

October 

Thetford contested three games, beginning with an 11-1 win over North Walsham coming in their first home game of the season. A display of high-quality football saw Rebecca White get four goals, Abbie Corbyn and Shannon Richardson secure a brace each. Rachel Lynch, Dayna Howard, and Melissa Boulton weighed in with the other goals.

The following weekend, Thetford were at home again and completed the double over Long Stratton with a 3-1 win with goals from Rebecca White and a Hannah Rogers brace.

Above: Thetford Town head coach David Skipp (baseball cap facing camera) and Stuart Terry (burgundy top). Photo: Richard Brown.

Thetford’s 100% winning start ended the following week when they were held to a 1-1 draw at Sprowston with a Rebecca White goal ensuring the team remained unbeaten.

November 

Thetford made it 13 points from 15 with a convincing 6-1 home win over Stalham thanks to a brace from Shannon Richardson and goals from Rebecca White, Chelsea Page, Dayna Howard, and Rachel Lynch.

The first cup game of the Thetford season followed as local rivals Thetford Bulldogs visited Mundford Road. A convincing 12-0 win thanks to hat tricks from Hannah Rogers, Rebecca White, and Melissa Boulton with Shannon Richardson, Courtney Musgrove and Abbie Corbyn adding a further goal each, saw Thetford Town progress into the next round of the Norfolk Women and Girls League Challenge Cup.

December 

During this month, Thetford Town played two league games, first a 5-1 home win over Thorpe St. Andrew with Shannon Richardson and Melissa Boulton getting braces and Hannah Rogers with the other.

The final game before Christmas saw Thetford win 3-1 at Beccles. Abbie Corbyn, Rebecca White, and Chelsea Page getting the team’s final goals of 2021. This was a win that saw the team head into the Christmas break unbeaten in all competitions. 

Above: Thetford Town celebrate Chelsea Page’s equalising goal against Wymondham Town in the Norfolk Women’s Cup. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

January 

2022 began with a massive cup tie at Mundford Road as Tier five Wymondham Town visited in the Norfolk Women’s Cup Quarter Final. Despite falling behind early, Chelsea Page levelled for Thetford as the team held their illustrious visitors with a terrific display until the 55th minute when their quality shone through and Wymondham ran out 6-1 winners with a display of clinical finishing.

The following weekend saw Thetford Town travel to Bungay Town in the Norfolk Women and Girls League Cup Quarter Final. Thetford had a squad of 11 but that became 10 when Rachel Lynch was forced off early through injury. Despite this, it took an 88th-minute penalty from Bungay to win as Thetford were beaten 2-1. Chloe Bentick with the Thetford goal as her team exited their second cup competition in as many weeks. 

The final weekend of January saw Thetford’s unbeaten league run end as Fakenham Town scored two goals at the death – 88 minutes and 90+1 to take the three points away after an Abbie Corbyn opener.

February 

February opened with Thetford beaten 7-0 by runaway league leaders Mulbarton.

The second game of the month saw a 5-4 win on the road at bottom of the table North Walsham. A brace from Chelsea Page with an own goal and strikes from Shannon Richardson and Rebecca White secured the points. This game was to be the last game temporarily for club captain Sausha Levy-Twomey who began her maternity leave from football after this game, Melissa Boulton took over the captain’s reins for the remainder of the season. 

Above: Melissa Boulton in action for Thetford Town. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

March

A disappointing month for Thetford saw two defeats. The first on the road 1-0 at Stalham before Sprowston visited Mundford Road and took all three points with a 2-1 win. Melissa Boulton the Thetford scorer on the afternoon. 

April 

A busy but brilliant April saw Thetford resurrect their tricky spell with nine points from a possible 15 in the month. 

The month began with a 6-0 win at Thorpe St. Andrew with Rebecca White getting a brace and further goals from Melissa Boulton, Hannah Rogers, Chelsea Page, and Sophie Burr-Walpole making it a comfortable win for Thetford.

The following weekend, the good form continued with Hannah Claughton getting a hat trick and Chelsea Page the other in a comfortable 4-0 win over Beccles Town.

Back-to-back home defeats followed against the division’s best teams Mulbarton and Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers both by 4-0 but that didn’t spoil a brilliant April for Thetford. 

Above: Thetford Town’s young star Abbie Corbyn leaps for a header. Photo: Richard Brown.

The month was rounded off with a 5-0 win under the lights in their final home game of the season at Mundford Road thanks to goals from Melissa Boulton, Hannah Claughton, Hannah Rogers, Rebecca Russell, and Rebecca White.

May

The season rounded off with three games in May as the team claimed a brilliant 2-2 draw at Fakenham Town thanks to goals from Abbie Corbyn and Rebecca White.

Thetford then secured fourth place and made it a double over Bungay with a stunning 3-1 win at Maltings Meadow thanks to goals from Abbie Corbyn, Charlotte Howard, and Rachel Lynch.

The season ended with a 4-0 defeat in their final game of the season away to Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers.

A brilliant season for Thetford Town and the aim will be to finish even higher next time round. 

Leah Embley: Gaining Confidence & Enjoying Football At Brighouse Town

In the latest of our series reviewing the season with Impetus’ sponsored players and partner clubs, Brighouse Town’s Leah Embley spoke to Ben Gilby about her superb first season at the Yorkshire club who flourished in their maiden Tier Three campaign in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier (16/6/22).

Above: Leah Embley (left) in action for Brighouse Town in their superb draw at eventual National League Northern Premier champions Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. Photo supplied by: Leah Embley.

Leah came into Brighouse Town from Championship side Blackburn Rovers ahead of their first ever campaign in the third tier of the women’s game, and the season went about as well as it could have done both for her personally, and her team.

“I think we’ve had a great first season in tier three. We’ve taken points off a lot of the top teams in this league and I think that just shows how good a group we’ve got,” the star attacker enthused.

As well as an excellent league campaign, Brighouse Town lifted the County Cup with a dramatic victory over Leeds United in the Final. Brighouse were leading before Leeds levelled in the dying moments of the second half, which took the final to a penalty shoot out. Leah was of those who stood up to dispatch a penalty to win the trophy. She looks back on the game with real pride.

“I thought first half we dominated, we were comfortable on the ball and Leeds didn’t really trouble us. I thought we had a few chances where we could have killed the game off early doors. In the second half, we lost our way a little bit and it became a battle, we didn’t really keep hold of possession and Leeds threatened us.

Above: Leah Embley pictured with the County Cup after Brighouse Town’s dramatic win over Leeds United in the Final. Photo supplied by: Leah Embley.

“Luckily we won on penalties otherwise it would have been a very disappointing night. I really enjoyed playing in it, the crowd was amazing and when I walked out from the changing rooms to the pitch I couldn’t believe how many people had come down to support. It was a great occasion for women’s football and we topped it off by bringing the trophy home.”

As well as a successful campaign results-wise, Leah sees the season as one which was hugely positive personally on a more fundamental level.

“I think a big thing for me was getting my confidence back and enjoying my football. I’ve scored goals this season and put myself in a position where I knew the team could rely on me to put the ball in the back of the net. I think 26 goals in one season is a massive achievement and one I am proud of.

“From a team perspective, we’ve had some really good performances, everybody wants to work hard and put a shift in and I think you can tell that in some of our results against Wolves and Derby County. I was welcomed into the team from the start and I was made to feel part of it from the staff and players straight away which I think is massive.”

Above: Leah Embley in possession at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Photo supplied by: Leah Embley.

Leah touched on her goal scoring record, but among those 26 were a fair number of absolutely sensational strikes. That is something that the Brighouse star puts down to getting her confidence back since moving to the club for this season.

“Haha! Yes, I’ve scored a few good ones. I think I went through a spell when every goal I scored was a special one. I think it goes back to having the confidence to shoot from them kind of areas. Finishing is something I know is one of my strengths, even though I’m not an out-and-out number nine, I always felt like I could score in every single game. The confidence I had in myself this season was top class and I think some of my goals showed that. This is probably the best goal-scoring season that I’ve had.” 

As always, there were challenging moments during the campaign, and Leah specifically found the number of midweek games her team had to play towards the end of the season was tough.

“They were a struggle not physically but mentally. When you get the win you feel like it’s worth it but they are hard games.”

Above: Leah Embley in action for Brighouse Town – she can see nothing but more good times ahead for the club next season. Photo supplied by: Leah Embley.

With the club comfortably securing another season in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier, the Brighouse attacker sees more positive times ahead next season. “I think with another pre-season together gelling as a team, we can punishing opponents more when we get in the final third. It’ll be another great season next season.

“Before we finish, I want to make clear how much I’ve really appreciated all the support I’ve received from Impetus this season and it has really driven me to keep performing. A massive thank you for everything this season and hopefully you’ve enjoyed being part of the journey.”

We certainly have, and everyone connected with the site is really excited to see what comes next for both Leah Embley and Brighouse Town.

Artwork: Brighouse Town.

Helen Ward: A Legend For Club And Country

Wales and Watford legend Helen Ward spoke to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about her incredible career for club and country as well as looking at how the game has developed and how she believes the sport is developing in tiers two and three.

Above: Helen Ward celebrating with Wales. Photo: FAW.

Earlier this year, Helen Ward won her hundredth cap for Wales. However, having been born in Brent, the Watford striker was eligible to represent the Lionesses, and indeed she did represent England U23’s earlier in her career as she reflects.

“I went on a few training camps and played in a game or two for England U23’s but, if I am honest, I never really felt like I fit in. I never felt like it was going to work out and in truth, I didn’t enjoy being away and so I didn’t show my best form.

“I then had a conversation with my assistant manager at Watford who also happened to be the assistant for Wales and he asked if I had a Welsh background or family history. When I explained that my grandparents were Welsh, he invited me along.  It didn’t take much to convince me and from the minute I met the staff and players, I felt right at home. It was the best decision I ever made.”

Above: Helen Ward shows her appreciation of the Llanelli crowd after Wales’ World Cup qualifier with Greece in November 2021. Photo: Lewis Mitchell

That decision culminated with Ward making her international debut for Wales in September 2008 away to Luxembourg, an occasion that she still looks back fondly on. “Luxembourg away isn’t the most glamorous of occasions, but it meant the world to me to stand in that line-up and hear that anthem for the first time. 

“There have been so many wonderful memories with Wales. It honestly has been the constant in my life for nearly 14 years and I have grown from a younger player to the oldest in the squad, and I feel like I have lived some of my best moments with these girls, certainly in terms of football.

“Other than my debut, the 45-minute hat trick in Haverfordwest against Kazakhstan was a good day – I came on at halftime as a sub at 0-0 and we went on to win 4-0 so that’s another.

“But one of my favourite team performances of all time was the 3-0 home win against Russia at Spytty Park, Newport. Again, it was 0-0 at halftime, it was roasting hot and we were running ourselves into the ground. Then we came out in the second half and absolutely battered them! It was the first time we had beaten a second seed team in a group and kept us in with a chance of qualifying for the World Cup. Ultimately, qualification didn’t come but that was a special game back in June 2018. It was also the first time I had both of my babies at a game.”

Prior to winning her hundredth cap, Ward highlighted how she feels her national team head coach Gemma Grainger had built on the achievements of the previous Welsh coaches. The striker outlined the real qualities that she believes Grainger has brought to the table.

Above: Wales head coach Gemma Grainger, who Helen believes is leading her team to a bright future. Photo: FAW.

“She has been great at acknowledging what and who had come before her and the foundations that we had built. Under Jayne Ludlow, we had become a very strong, defensive unit and a very disciplined team in terms of structure and our individual roles. We learnt how to adapt and adjust and learn new systems quickly and I think Gemma recognised that. 

“She has just adapted parts of what we are good at and built on them by not trying to change us too much – particularly in terms of our out-of-possession principles but added an extra dimension to our play as an attacking team. 

“We have a new formation but have good foundations and a good identity that has been built on and off the pitch over time.”

That identity is one that is making Wales extremely tough to beat. In their current World Cup qualifying campaign, they may have been beaten home and away by France, but Corinne Diacre’s team were well tested in both encounters. Ward believes that the Welsh are getting closer to the top teams, and it is only a matter of time before a historic win is achieved.

“It’s going to take time, of course, but we are as close as we’ve ever been. We are learning a lot about ourselves and, for me, that’s more important than learning about the other nations. We are learning that we can compete and that we have every right to compete with these sides and that’s showing in our performances. We just need to keep doing what we are doing and trust that it is working. The draw in a friendly against Denmark proves we have what it takes.”

Above: Helen Ward in her Chelsea days. Photo: Akio Hayakawa.

With Helen having grown into the game in a period when it was hard to have prominent female role models in a male-dominated sport, the Watford striker believes there have been major strides in recent times, including the numbers of female coaches.

“I think there has been a big improvement in this area (female coach numbers), to be honest. You look at us with Wales for example where our last two head coaches have been female FIFA Pro License holders so that can’t be a bad thing. The FAWSL and Championship also has a good number of female coaches so it is happening.

“I think in the past, with the game being so young, the focus was on getting more women and girls playing the game and naturally were often being coached by men. Now, those players have got older, learned the game, and are now progressing into coaching.

“You look at some of the pioneers of the women’s game, the likes of Casey Stoney, Jayne (Ludlow), Jo Potter – they played the game and won trophies at the highest level and are now managing and coaching. That’s the start of it and now it is a professional sport, it is the natural progression for many players so we will keep seeing more and more former players going down that route.

“It’s not just coaching, either. We’re seeing more and more women in other roles in football. Whether it is behind the scenes or in the media and that’s what we want. Strong female role models across the whole spectrum of football. 

I am interested in coaching but I also like the idea of working in the background of a club, developing pathways for younger players as well as working as a freelance broadcaster and covering the game that way. Let’s just say I am keeping my options open!”

Above: Helen Ward in action for Reading. Photo: Neil Graham.

As well as being a hugely respected long-term member of the Welsh national team, Helen is a legend at Watford, having originally joined the club at the age of nine.

“Yeah, Watford are a massive part of me as a player and a fan. I have had a connection with the club for over 25 years and it will always have a massive place in my heart.

“I was eight or nine when I first joined and it was basically a case of my older brother getting bored of me following him to football and playing in the garden so when he went to senior school and found an advert for trials at Watford he said I should give it a go. And that was that, I was hooked. I then stayed there until I was 22 when I left to join Arsenal.”

After a spell at the Gunners, Ward spent three years at Chelsea and four at Reading before returning to the Hertfordshire side that holds her heart. The striker has seen a lot of changes at Watford over that time.

“Things have changed massively. When I left in 2009 there was a very tenuous relationship between the men’s and the women’s sides and although coming back to finish my career there was always in the back of my mind, it would have to be right.

Above: Helen pictured on returning to Watford in 2017. Photo: Watford FC.

“If I’m honest, it didn’t look great for some time but then, when I fell pregnant with Charlie in 2017, everything fell into place and I realised the strides the club had made and I was ready to return.

“Even since 2017, things have been on an upward curve and despite spending longer than we’d have liked in tier three, it has given us a chance to grow again. We have hit another bump in the road with our relegation from the Championship at the end of this season but I know we are better equipped than ever to bounce back.”

That relegation came in truly dramatic style when Coventry United, who produced a superb late run of form to recover from points deductions to set up a final day decider against Helen’s side at Watford’s main Vicarage Road stadium. There was heartbreak for Ward and her teammates as a stunning 30-yard free-kick from Molly Green, seven minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game kept Coventry up and sent the Golden Girls back to the FA Women’s National League.

“It was a tough season for many reasons,” Ward admitted. “I think the gap between the FA Women’s National League and the Championship is closing, but with more and more of the Championship sides turning professional, it could well open up again.

“Ourselves and Sunderland (promoted with Watford into the Championship for the season just finished) found out ourselves pretty late after having to apply for upward movement due to the pandemic, so that set us on the back foot a little and we had to catch up in terms of player and staff recruitment all over the club. That’s not an excuse, though, and quite simply, we weren’t good enough often enough on the pitch and that is what has cost us our place in the Championship.

Above: Watford come together after the season ended in a heartbreaking manner against Coventry United at Vicarage Road. Photo: Watford FC.

Whilst Helen admitted earlier that as the Championship has more professional clubs, the gap between tiers two and three may grow, she feels that next season may be different.

“I think teams can thrive, of course and I have real high hopes for Southampton to do that next season. Of course, you never know what might happen, but I am hearing all the right things coming out of that club so I am keen to see how they get on.

“In the future, I’d love to see both FA Women’s National League Northern Premier and Southern Premier winners get promoted so that clubs in the third tier have even more incentive to raise their game and get on a level with the Championship sides. In turn, that will filter down the leagues and grow the game from within.”

Our discussion ended with Ward reflecting on what piece of advice she would give an eight-year-old version of herself. Her wise words carry great meaning to all of us, however young (or old) we are.

“Enjoy every minute and don’t put pressure on yourself,” Helen advises. “As a footballer, the best feeling in the world is scoring goals and winning games – so enjoy it!”

Chelsea Sign Top Defender Buchanan

It’s been a week of big announcements from the reigning FA Women’s Super League Champions. We hear boss Emma Hayes‘ views on her latest big-name defensive signing (10/6/22).

Above: Kadeisha Buchanan at Stamford Bridge after signing for Chelsea. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Chelsea FC.

Chelsea today confirmed the signing of Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan on a three-year deal ahead of the 2022/23 season.

The 26-year-old officially joins the Blues from reigning UEFA Women’s Champions League winners Olympique Lyonnais on 1 July until summer 2025. The centre-back will be the first player to wear the famous No26 shirt for Chelsea since Blues legend, John Terry.

Buchanan has spent the past five-and-a-half-years at Lyon where she most recently won the UEFA Women’s Champions League against Barcelona, securing her fifth European trophy with the French side. The Canadian defender has had an illustrious career to date proving to be one of Europe’s best, with 130 appearances and nine goals to her name at Lyon and a further eight domestic trophies secured including winning the Coupe de France three times and the French league title an impressive five times.

Prior to moving to France, Buchanan spent four years playing college football in the States with West Virginia Mountaineers where she made 98 appearances and established herself as one of the top players in the NCAA.

Above: Kadeisha Buchanan with the Champions League trophy she won with Olympique Lyonnais last month. Photo: De Fodi Images.

Buchanan also brings a wealth of experience having started her international career at just 14 years old when recruited into the Canadian Youth Programme in 2010. Her first silverware came in the form of a silver medal at the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship in Guatemala and she then went on to win the Young Player award at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The centre-back made her senior debut for her country in 2013 against China becoming one of the youngest international players at the time. Since then, she has gone on to make 118 appearances and receive a host of individual honours, being named Canadian Player of the Year three times, nominated for the prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or, and featuring in the FIFPro Women’s World XI. Last year, Buchanan also took home gold at the 2020 Olympics.

On her decision to join the London side, Buchanan commented: “I am coming to Chelsea with the same ambition I always had – win trophies and become the best in the world. The club has everything in order for us to compete in every competition and it’s time to bring a Champions League trophy to London.

“I’m hoping to bring my experience to the team and continue on the successful pathway that the club has been on for the past seasons. I can’t wait to join my new teammates and the coaching staff on this journey.”

Commenting on Buchanan’s move to the Blues, Emma Hayes added: “Kadeisha is a serial winner at the top of her game and I have no doubt we are signing a world-class player who has proven herself on the world stage.

“She is going to bring a quality to our group and with her brilliant personality and character, we think she will be really liked within the dressing room. We look forward to welcoming Kadeisha this summer.”

Buchanan will join up with the squad in the summer prior to heading to the States for the WICC tour in August.

Above: Kadeisha Buchanan in action for Canada, with whom she won a Gold medal at last year’s Olympic Games. Photo: SB Nation.

Will Boye Reviews Ashford Town (Middx)’s Historic Season

In the second of our series of articles catching up with Impetus’ sponsored players and partner clubs, Will Boye, chairman and head coach of Impetus partner club Ashford Town (Middx) talks to Ben Gilby about the team’s incredible season which included an unbeaten league campaign, promotion to the FA Women’s National League for the first time, a heroic FA Cup run, and two cup final victories.

Above: Will Boye (right) pictured with Ashford Town (Middx) assistant coach Matthew Aumeeruddy after the team’s Combined Counties Cup Final success. Photo supplied by: Will Boye.

When Will and I first spoke before the beginning of the season, just after the partnership between Ashford Town and Impetus had been announced, he hinted that the club were confident of having a successful season. What actually transpired was almost beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

“What we have done this season has been remarkable, certainly an unrivalled achievement. But I know the quality that exists in this team, whilst humble in our approach, we work incredibly hard and our open season targets were all met as a result.”

Above: Will pictured on the touchline for Ashford Town (Middx) this season. Photo supplied by: Will Boye.

Whilst Will has spoken in detail to us before about the specifics of Ashford’s FA Cup run (see https://impetusfootball.org/2022/01/20/ashford-town-middx-a-history-making-season/), the Tangerines had successes in other knock-out competitions too.

“The FA Cup as you know well was one we feel incredibly proud about. We were disappointed with our exit in the league cup, and still discuss now just how much it has left a stain on an otherwise extraordinary campaign. We take satisfaction mind you, from defeating higher league opposition to win the County Cup and the Combined Counties Cup. We came up against strong teams who finished in the top five of a league that has seen it at its largest size in years. We take satisfaction from this but realise we will need to improve to compete at the level week in, week out.”

The unbeaten season in the tier five London and South-East Regional Premier saw Ashford Town win 18 of their 20 matches, taking the title by 12 points from Dartford. With the championship comes promotion to the FA Women’s National League (FAWNL) Division One South-East, a notoriously tough league with quality teams. However, the Tangerine’s FA Cup run, which saw them defeat FAWNL Southern Premier (tier three) outfit Oxford United, gives the Middlesex club a degree of confidence that they will be competitive next season.

“We’re under no illusions that we will need to improve technically, tactically, and physically to challenge in the division,” Will said, “but we’re a determined bunch, winning is in our blood. We will take it game by game and give it everything we’ve got. The teams we will be coming up against are of good quality, they have big budgets. There’s also extensive travel, exciting players, ex-professionals to come up against – we’re competing with it all, but we believe in ourselves.

Above: Celebrating another superb achievement. Will captured with Jordanne Hoesli-Atkins after the Combined Counties Cup Final victory. Photo applied by: Will Boye.

“Recruitment has been good so far, I won’t give anything away just yet but we will release information in the coming months. We need to get this right in order to perform well. It’s not just about improving our starting eleven but ensuring we have effective strength in depth.

“It also extends to all areas on and off the pitch. We are constantly striving for better and looking at ways of improving our processes as well as our performances, so all areas will need to be bolstered to compete at that level.”

Whilst he might be forgiven for having a well-earned rest after a long season, Will is in the process of releasing a book. He told us a bit more about what we can expect from it.

“It’s a self-published book I will be releasing in the coming weeks. It’s about taking Ashford from the foot of the football pyramid to the FAWNL. An achievement you just don’t see today from a club without a ‘named’ male affiliate. We pride ourselves in having done this so I have documented this for all to read. I hope it’s something people purchase when it’s released. I will be making plenty of noise on my social pages when it’s ready for release.”

Above: Will and the Ashford Town (Middx) team celebrate their Combined Counties Cup Final victory. Photo supplied by: Will Boye.

Ashford Town have come a long way up the leagues in a relatively short period of time. With the National League now reached, I ended our conversation by asking Will how much further he believes that his team can go. 

“We want to challenge for promotion again. Don’t get me wrong we are competing against some of the very best, but we have a belief in our camp. Game by game we will acquire new knowledge on the league and learn quickly enough about what can be achieved.”

Given what has happened over the past few years at Ashford Town (Middx) and the quality already in their team, it would be a very brave person to bet against them mounting yet another promotion challenge.

Artwork By: Ashford Town (Middx).

Chelsea To Take On World’s Best & Announce Big New Signing

It’s been a busy day of announcements from the FAWSL champions. We hear from Blues boss Emma Hayes on her team’s summer showdowns with top European and North American sides plus the arrival of Ève Perisset (8/6/22).

Above: Ève Perisset signs on the dotted line after joining Chelsea from Paris St. Germain today. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Chelsea FC Women.

Emma Hayes’ squad will take part in this summer’s Women’s International Champions Cup (WICC) in Portland, USA.

Following the Blues triumphant end to the season winning both the Barclays FA Women’s Super League for the third consecutive year and the Vitality Women’s FA Cup for the second year in a row, the squad will head to Portland, Oregon to face three champions from around the world with the aim to be named the world’s best club team.

Above: Portland Thorns – who will host the tournament. Photo: Soobum Im/Getty Images.

The tournament, organised by Relevant Sports Group will take place between August 17-20 at Providence Park in Portland, home of the Portland Thorns. The tournament will consist of four matches played as two doubleheaders. Chelsea Women will take on Champions League and D1 Féminine winners, Olympique Lyonnais in the opening European round with the NWSL Shield and Challenge Cup winners, Portland Thorns up against the Torneo Grita México Apertura 2021 winners, C.F. Monterrey in an all-North American battle.

This will set up a European vs. North American final on August 20th, as the winners of the first doubleheader meet, while the clubs that lose in the first doubleheader will play in the third-place match on the same day. Portland will be looking to defend their WICC title, after previously defeating defending champions Lyon in a thrilling 1-0 victory. 

Above: Olympique Lyonnais, who Chelsea will face in Portland. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

The WICC matches will be televised live in both English and Spanish on the ESPN networks and will be broadcast globally in over 140 territories. Tickets will go on sale on June 21st on the ICC website with updates available via @ICCWomen and Instagram and Twitter.

Emma Hayes commented on the news: “We are really excited to take part in the WICC and relish this unique opportunity for the chance to be crowned the world’s best club team following an unforgettable season and a fantastic summer of football. We can’t wait to see our Blues supporters cheering us on in Portland.

RSG CEO Daniel Sillman was equally excited about the announcement, saying: “Each year the WICC competition grows as the world’s top players circle their calendars for the chance to be crowned the best club in the world. We are honored to be hosting the stars of the game on the biggest stage and we hope to inspire the next generation of girls and boys to compete in the world’s game.

Above: Rayadas celebrate their 2021 success. Photo: C.F. Monterrey.

Earlier in the day, Chelsea announced the signing of French international Ève Perisset on a three-year deal.

Perisset will join from French D1 Arkema side Bordeaux on 1st July, the 27-year-old has signed with the Blues until summer 2025 and will wear shirt number 15.

The versatile defender started her professional career at Olympique Lyonnais in 2012 where she stayed until the end of the 2015/16 season before making the move to Paris St. Germain in 2016. While at Lyon, she won the league and the Coupe de France Feminine four times while also lifting the latter at PSG for the fifth time. Perisset signed for Bordeaux in June 2020 where she has played both full-back positions and in midfield with 45 appearances for the Girondins and over 125 D1 appearances across her career.

On the international stage, Perisset brings a wealth of experience to Kingsmeadow with 34 caps to her name since her senior debut against Brazil in 2016, most significantly representing Les Bleues in the UEFA European Championship in 2017 and the FIFA World Cup in 2019. With her home nation, she has won the Tournoi de France and the She Believes Cup. The French national has been selected for this summer’s Euros and is currently training with the squad in France.

Above: Ève Perisset in action for France. Photo: FFF.

The experienced international also has significant European experience, having played in the last nine UEFA Champions League tournaments representing Bordeaux, Paris Saint-Germain, and Lyon where she went on to take the winners medal in the 2015/16 season.

Upon signing Perisset said: “It’s a fantastic honour to join Chelsea and to be the first French female player to become a Blue. I am very thankful for the opportunity that has been given to me.

“The time was right for me to make this big move to London and join the Super League and I cannot wait to meet the team and the fans later this summer at Kingsmeadow and at the famous Stamford Bridge!”

Commenting on Perisset’s move to the Blues, Emma Hayes said: “Eve brings a wealth of experience and is a versatile player who is able to play in both full-back positions and midfield.

“A tenacious defender, with her mentality and professionalism we have no doubt she will complement the group well. We really look forward to welcoming Eve to the team later this summer as we head into the new season.”

Alice Curr: Building On Good Foundations With QPR & Surrey

Queen’s Park Rangers’ attacker Alice Curr was part of the Surrey team that played in the landmark game against Afghanistan Development last weekend. After the match, she spoke to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about her footballing journey, life at QPR, and why she loves representing Surrey (6/6/22).

Above: Alice Curr in action for Queen’s Park Rangers this season. Photo: Ian Randall via Alice Curr.

Alice Curr has been playing football for almost as long as she can remember. “So I started playing whilst at school with a group of boys when I was around four or five years old,” she reveals. “I come from quite a sporty family and I have always loved PE and any sport.

“I continued to play football at school for the school team and then I joined a local team (Woking Cougars) when I was 10. I played there until I was 15 and then the team folded. So I moved across to Abbey Rangers. Within that first year, I was scouted for Fulham’s first team. I made my debut at 16 in the fifth tier of women’s football.

“I spent four years at Fulham and then spent a year at AFC Wimbledon in the FA Women’s National League before moving to Queen’s Park Rangers last August. Alongside this, I have played for St Mary’s University and The English Universities Squad.” 

Above: Alice Curr raises her arm in recognition for QPR. Photo: Ian Randall via Alice Curr.

Whilst Alice has had some memorable times in her career with representative honours, her footballing journey has also come with its challenges.

“I did have one tough season at Fulham where I was injured for a long time. But I’m really lucky to have a good network of people that push me every day to get me back on the pitch and keep spirits high.”

Alice’s first season at Queen’s Park Rangers in the tier four FA Women’s National League Division One South-East was a success, as she highlights: “We’ve had a great season as a squad, and finishing fourth was a testament to a lot of hard work from everyone at the club.

“Personally I’ve had a good first season at the club and I have really been enjoying it. The hat trick against Bromley was a personal highlight. The final game of the season being played at Loftus Road (the QPR men’s team’s home stadium) was a great way to end the season and we put in a great performance for the fans that have supported us this year. 

“I’ve always wanted to play in the FAWNL and I love that I have had the opportunity to fulfill that dream. Alongside that, I always just try to enjoy my football, that way I tend to play better.”

Above: Alice Curr in action for Surrey against Afghanistan Development last weekend. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Shortly after the season ended, Surrey announced their squad for their two post-campaign matches, with Alice being the sole FAWNL player called up. She explains the selection process.

“I heard about Surrey through social media. As a kid, representing Surrey was a big deal to me but I never had the opportunity. So to see this opportunity arise, I knew I had to get involved. Danny Clarke works really hard behind the scenes to advise on social media and then last summer they hosted trials.  

As with any representative team selected within a lead-up time to the match in question, it can be a difficult process to get the squad to gel, but Alice saw the experience as overwhelmingly positive.

“The women’s football circuit is quite a small one so I have met and played with many of the girls before. However, there are occasions on the pitch where things don’t always sync up. I think as a squad we understood from the get go that would happen. We just worked hard and trusted that the opportunities would come.”

Whilst Surrey originally had two matches scheduled for June, in the end only one took place, but it was a momentous encounter with Afghanistan’s Development team. The Afghan squad had to go into hiding and were advised to burn all their football equipment when the Taliban took control of the country last year. In preparation for their emergency flee to the United Kingdom, they had to go into hiding and then had to run the gauntlet of a suicide bomb attack en route to Kabul Airport.

Alice was proud to play in the match and clear about its wider significance. “Obviously we knew that the match was more important than football. The fact that the Afghanistan team were here and able to play is amazing. They did themselves proud. I think before the game we prepared well and focused on our game plan going forward as a squad. I think that we played well and executed the game plan well. I was happy with my performance. I also thought their goalkeeper was outstanding.”

Above: Alice Curr celebrates with her QPR teammates. Photo: Ian Randall via Alice Curr.

Whilst Surrey doesn’t have another game scheduled for a number of months, the QPR attacker is keen to pull on the yellow and blue of her county again soon.

“Surrey has provided me another opportunity to play and enjoy football over the summer months. It also allows me to represent my county whilst playing with old friends. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity.” 

Alice then looked ahead to next season. The FAWNL Division One South-East looks to be as tough a league as ever with some very strong teams coming into the league in the form of Ashford Town (Middx) and Wymondham Town.

“I think the division has always been a tough league and it’s always been hard to predict who will finish near the top,” Alice admitted. 

“But at QPR we will continue to work hard as a squad and play our football. I know that this will put us in a good place going into next year. I personally want to build on the good foundations built last year and continue learning and growing.”

Above: Alice Curr (second row, second from right) pictured with her QPR team-mates at Loftus Road where they played Norwich City in their final FAWNL Division One South-East match of the season. Photo: Ian Randall via Alice Curr.

Scotland’s Top League Structure Changes For 2022/23

4/6/22

Above: Inverness Caledonian Thistle, one of the clubs in the SWF Championship for next season. Photo: P&J Sport.

Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) has unveiled the structure of its top leagues for the 2022/23 season.

With the highest two leagues in the country, the Scottish Women’s Premier League (SWPL) One and Two being administered by the Scottish Professional Football League from next season, SWF’s top tier will become the Championship, a competitive national league made up of eight teams, the membership of which is determined by specific criteria, such as commitments to youth pathways and player wellbeing. Under that, a national League One will be made up of 14 teams.

There will be no relegation from the Championship after the first season, with two teams who have met minimum requirements promoted from League One to create a Championship League of ten criteria-compliant teams.

The new criteria will require clubs to provide sanitary products at games and work to support the well-being of players. A meeting of the new league structure will take place on the 4th July.

Above: Aileen Campbell, Scottish Women Football CEO, Photo: Colin Poultney/Scottish Women’s Football.

Commenting, Scottish Women’s Football CEO Aileen Campbell said: “Women’s football in Scotland is growing and reaching every part of the country.

“Our new Championship will represent an exciting and competitive contest among eight teams from right across Scotland, culminating in a prestigious trophy in its own right. I’m delighted that participating clubs have shown a commitment to the wellbeing of their players – things like ensuring sanitary products are available at training facilities – and providing player pathways, to give girls opportunities to play at a grassroots level.

“League One will also be a fiercely competitive league, with the prize of two places in the Championship up for grabs. As professionalism grows at the top of the game we need to ensure a route is there for every woman in the country to have the opportunity to participate and reach the top, and I’m confident the new structure will showcase the best our clubs have to offer.”

Above: Grampian Ladies – members of the new SWF League One.

The new SWF Championship participating clubs: Ayr United, Dryburgh Athletic Women, Hutchison Vale WFC, Inverness Caledonian Thistle WFC, Livingston WFC, Morton FC Women, Rossvale FC Women, and Renfrew Ladies FC

The new SWF League One participating clubs: Airdrie Ladies FC, Bishopton FC Ladies, BSC Glasgow Women, Buchan Ladies FC, Dundee City West WFC, Edinburgh Caledonia FC, Edinburgh City Women, Falkirk FC Women, Giffnock SC, Grampian Ladies FC, Gleniffer Thistle Ladies, St Mirren Women, Stenhousemuir Women FC, and Westdyke Ladies FC.

David Skipp Reviews Thetford Town’s Memorable Season

Thetford Town manager David Skipp speaks to Darrell Allen about the team’s first season in the tier seven Norfolk Women and Girls Football League (NWGFL) Division One (3/6/22).

Above: David Skipp (blue baseball cap) speaks to his Thetford Town squad this season. Photo: Richard Brown.

Thetford Town have had a fantastic first season in the tier seven Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One, finishing in fourth place. 

Manager David Skipp outlined to me the clubs’ thoughts pre-season as they approached their maiden Division One adventure.

“Due to a restructure of the Norfolk Women and Girls Leagues, the team was placed into Division One for the first time. There was apprehension around the squad not knowing how they would gel going into the new season or if indeed we had the quality to compete at a higher level as we were entering into the unknown.

“The apprehension was short-lived as we embarked on a pre-season programme against higher league opposition which helped our preparations.”

Thetford Town got the season off to a flyer winning their opening three games which included a double over Long Stratton and success over North Walsham. David reflected on those opening encounters.

Above: Thetford Town boss David Skipp (in baseball cap) alongside assistant coach Stuart Terry on the touchline. Photo: Richard Brown.

“The season got off to a flyer with the ladies winning their first three games and going to the Christmas break unbeaten, returning after the festive break we had a few key players pick up injuries, and at one point the team had no recognised defenders.

“This said, the group plugged away to produce battling performances, but results didn’t go our way. Gaps between games due to weather postponements helped with the recuperation of some of the players and slowly one or two began to return for the run-in.”

The team started to put a little run together and fought hard to secure themselves fourth spot at the end of the campaign to the credit to the whole squad of which every player played a part.

David emphasised his pride in the staff he has brought in this season as well as the sponsors and people who have supported the club to ensure the season was a success.

“Off the pitch, the team were bolstered by Amber Browne coming into a coaching role and this helped the ladies gain structure to their play. With Amber on board, the team are in good hands moving forward. 

“Darrell, you obviously also came in to bolster our media coverage including introducing us to Impetus, and what a fantastic difference this has made, the profile of the club has risen and has helped us when injuries hit.

Above: David Skipp is proud of his squad’s achievements in their first season in tier seven. Photo: Richard Brown.

We were able to dual sign players. I would like to thank King’s Lynn Town, Wroxham, and Norwich City for all their help. Not forgetting my assistant manager Stuart Terry who works tirelessly behind the scenes attracting sponsors raising the profile of the club in the community and the main role being my right-hand man.”

“Talking of sponsors, I would like to thank our kit sponsors Beez Leisure along with Silver Fern Ceremonies and Chilterns for their continued support along with the many tracksuit sponsors who individually sponsored a player. Your support goes a long way in helping the team run whilst giving our players an identity so thank you from all of us at Thetford.”

The biggest part of the football club is of course the players, and David acknowledged his debt to them.

“My biggest thank you goes to all the players that have pulled on the Thetford shirt and given 100% commitment. Without them, there is no team, and they should all be proud of what they have achieved as a squad.

“From the first training session to the last game, I cannot fault anyone one of them, and to finish fourth is a testament to how far they have come not only as a team but as individuals. The whole squad has been fantastic, we’ve had laughs, we’ve had squabbles, but we have always stuck together and that is what has made it an honour to coach them this season.

“As for next season watch this space! Who knows what we could achieve but our players have set a marker and the hard work begins again during preseason which begins on 20th June.

“My thoughts in September 2021 were ‘let’s stay in the league and build on that’, my thoughts at the end in May 2022 were ‘what a squad’ and to finish fourth is what is meant as teamwork.”

Lisa Topping: Chorley’s Season Has Been On A Different Level

In this, the first of our post-season catch-ups with Impetus’ sponsored players and partner clubs, Lisa Topping of FA Women’s National League Division One North side Chorley spoke to Ben Gilby (2/6/22).

Above: Lisa Topping (right) in action for Chorley against Newcastle United this season. Photo: John Shirras.

For the second season running, Impetus sponsored Chorley defender Lisa Topping. The Lancashire side has had a superb season in league and cup. Only four league defeats all season and a marvellous run in the FA Cup, defeating higher league opposition along the way. Lisa was overjoyed about so many elements of the season.

“Yes, absolutely, we did have a very successful season. We managed to take valuable points away from big clubs in the league, including an amazing win over Newcastle United towards the end of the season, who were fighting for top spot and we had a really good run in the FA Cup. But above all that, we’ve seen young talent come through the development and reserve teams into the first team squad which is fantastic to see.”

The former Liverpool defender believes that Chorley probably haven’t had the attention they deserved this season as a result of their impressive sequence of results.

Above: Lisa clears the ball for Chorley at FC United of Manchester. Photo: John Shirras.

“We only had four losses in the league this season which is a very low number and demonstrates how hard it is for teams to play us and get an easy result. One thing about Chorley is that teams will always have to work hard to take anything from us. 

“Chorley is a real family club and always has been. But, this season the camaraderie between the players and amongst the coaching staff has been a different level. We all fight for each other and we’re all striving for the same goals for the team and the club.

“We want to be there and we want to train hard. In terms of training too – everyone has been improving this year and that’s down to Ben (Gooden, head coach) and the coaching staff’s time, commitment and focus. 

“In general, we’re all tight as a team which is fantastic. We’re good at welcoming in new players and having fun at training and on game days. But, our skipper Laura Walker plays a key part, without a doubt. She’s a fantastic captain and a worthy leader of the Chorley team. She checks in with everyone and makes sure we’re all always focused on what we need to achieve.”

In such a fantastic season, there were so many potential high points, but for Lisa, it was their astonishing FA Cup game with higher level Middlesbrough that stands out.

Above: Lisa in possession for Chorley at FC United of Manchester. Photo: John Shirras.

“It was a fantastic moment for the club to beat a team in the higher league and progress to the next round when all the odds were against us. There was a buzz around the club for weeks. It went one way then the other and then to penalties! 

“There was one other highlight for me. Scoring the opener against Leeds United away in the league. I don’t score very often but that one was a special goal and on YouTube too! My Grandma passed away a few weeks earlier so I was able to dedicate that one to her.” 

Lisa has been happy with her performances this season, highlighting: “I’ve been a part of a team and backline who has not allowed many losses and I’ve managed to get my name on the score sheet a couple of times. As a left back, I always try to be hard to beat regardless and enjoy getting forward into the attack too and I think I’ve done that.”

Whilst the season now at an end, the defender is still focusing on keeping in good shape ahead of the new campaign.

“I’ve signed up for a gym now that the season is over. For me, it’s important to not lose all of the fitness I’ve gained so I’ll go straight into fitness work in preparation for next season.

Above: Chorley FC 2021/22. Photo: John Shirras.

“Personally, it’s a nice time to have full weekends back for a little bit and not have Sundays booked up, so I’ll go on lots of camping trips or walking over the weekends and make use of the spare time.”

Lisa believes that Chorley’s mix of exciting youngsters and experienced players puts them in a really good place to experience more success in 2022/23.

“Next season is going to be exciting and I can’t wait. The blend of players that we have puts us in a really good position to build on this past season and push on further towards our goals.

“The group that we have is extremely special with a good work rate and a tough attitude that makes us hard to break down. Another pre-season together will allow us to fix a few things and come back stronger.” 

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Second On The Day, Second Placed Finish In The League

Borrowash Victoria 3-1 Pride Park

Above: Pride Park midfielder Bleu Lewis-Wilson challenged by Borrowash Victoria’s Tebble. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

By Doug Outt (2/6/22).

The curtain fell on Pride Park’s 2021/22 season in the tier seven Derbyshire Ladies League Divison One with an away match at Borrowash Victoria, which was ultimately won by the hosts. With runners-up trophies waiting for the team at full time it was already a successful season regardless of the result.

The home side were boosted with a much bigger bench than usual and were in search of a draw or a win to see them leapfrog Sandiacre Town into third place in the league. They started the brightest, opening the scoring within a minute as Nat Eley latched onto an under-hit back pass and made no mistake after rounding Jade Howell.

After that rude wake-up call, the match evened out, with Vics enjoying the lions’ share of possession but not creating many chances. The two best sights of goal were for Pride Park, with Summer Evans seeing a shot blocked at the last moment, and Maja Znamirowska finding the back of the net with a tidy finish, but was called offside – a very tight decision.

It was Borrowash that found the net next though, as a long ball from midfield went straight over the backline and was volleyed home from inside the box by Eley for her second.

It had been a disappointing scoreline at half-time as although Pride Park kept Borrowash at bay, the goals that were conceded were sloppy and life hadn’t been made difficult enough for the home side when they were on the ball.

Above: Summer Evans scored the Pride’s goal and finished the season as top scorer with 15. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

The second half started much brighter, and within five minutes Pride had pulled a goal back. Evans did well to hassle a midfielder and win back possession high up the pitch and lay the ball off to Znamirowska on the right-hand side. She returned the pass and Evans swept the ball home for her 15th goal of the season.

Much like the first half, there were not too many chances for either side, although Borrowash were able to make it 3-1 with 15 minutes to go, Scott – on as a substitute – coolly finishing a one-on-one opportunity.

With nothing to play for in the league, there was an opportunity to experiment a little with players in different positions.

Ultimately it was not the result Pride wanted to round off the season, but everyone involved should be proud of their efforts throughout the year, having secured the highest league finish since 2017/18.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Journeying To Watch Some Of World’s Best

Darrell Allen started attending FAWSL games regularly for the first time this season, making 300+ mile round-trips to Kingsmeadow. He shares his experiences from the campaign below (30/5/22).

Above: Chelsea lift the FA Cup at Wembley to cap the end of Darrell Allen’s first season watching them at Kingsmeadow. Photo: Vitality Women’s FA Cup.

That was certainly some season to be attending regular Women’s Super League games, a Chelsea league title success and turned into a cup double with the extra time success over Manchester City at Wembley. Just those two events alone come with enough memories for a lifetime.

In the heart of summer 2021 just as Covid restrictions had been lifted and society was returning to normal, despite living 169 miles from Kingsmeadow, I made the decision to journey regularly through the season to watch some of the world’s best players.

The first trip would be for Chelsea’s game with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday 2nd October. In hindsight, probably not the greatest of decisions with kick off moved to Saturday at 11.30am for television and weather conditions were also as dire as they could possibly be.

Above: Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion players await a corner at Darrell’s first Kingmeadow match. Photo: Ben Gilby.

My first experience of seeing Chelsea live was just incredible and seeing all the names you associate with greatness in front of your eyes was a moment to behold. It wasn’t Chelsea’s best performance but a 3-1 win with Sam Kerr and Beth England adding to Guro Reiten’s opener made it a memorable afternoon and a good start to my trips to Kingsmeadow.

My second trip of the season came in February when I attended the Friday night game against Arsenal billed as arguably the FAWSL title decider. This was a day that will live long in the memory as I had the privilege of meeting Emma Hayes and see the players arrive. 

Above: Darrell with Emma Hayes prior to Chelsea’s huge clash with Arsenal at Kingsmeadow. Photo: Luca Mangili.

The game itself was something special, with fans of both teams rammed into the stands together with only enough room to just stretch your arm. A closely fought 0-0 with both sides denied a stonewall penalty was my second offering.

Just two weeks later I returned for the Fifth Round FA Cup tie with Leicester City. Chelsea took care of business with a stunning 7-0 win thanks to braces from Pernille Harder and Kerr with Ji So-Yun, Aniek Nouwen, and England adding a goal each to complete the success.

Above: Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr celebrate during Chelsea’s 7-0 FA Cup win at home to Leicester City. Photo: Ben Gilby,

Two weeks later and the league game against Aston Villa. This was a surreal day as the ground was bare and no programmes or merchandise for sale due to the restrictions imposed by the government. However, it was a privilege to be there to see Hannah Hampton produce one of the greatest goalkeeping displays I have ever seen but Sam Kerr eventually found a way through with a dramatic stoppage time winner to spark wild scenes on the terrace. Another trip certainly well worth it.

This day I particularly thought was the decisive one in the direction of the title race, Chelsea had Hannah Hampton in the way of everything in the Aston Villa net, a crowd limited due to the aforementioned restrictions, and this game was heading for two dropped points until Sam Kerr found a way and got the stoppage time winner. Kerr was continuously trying to raise the crowd, as well as continuing to remain calm when opportunities were squandered but the incredible movement in behind Villa’s defence was going to catch them out eventually and so it proved.

Above: Sam Kerr scoring Chelsea’s stoppage-time winner against Aston Villa. Photo: Ben Gilby.

A player who is priceless, a goal that was priceless and a day that I believe gave Chelsea the forward momentum to that would eventually see them go on to win the FAWSL title.

My final visit of the season was for the final day clash against Manchester United. Chelsea knew a win would guarantee them the title and what followed was an extremely enjoyable afternoon as Chelsea came from 2-1 down at half time to win the FAWSL title 4-2 thanks to goals on the day from Erin Cuthbert, two specials from Sam Kerr and Guro Reiten with the other. The title celebrations, speeches, and trophy lift will stay with me forever.

Above: Sam Kerr celebrates after scoring THAT goal against Manchester United on the final day of the FAWSL season. Photo: Ben Gilby,

If that wasn’t enough, the following Sunday was Chelsea against Manchester City in the FA Cup Final at Wembley. Seeing Chelsea win the trophy in dramatic style thanks to a Sam Kerr extra-time winner was a special day in itself but nothing compares with the close, tight knit family atmosphere and feel that Kingsmeadow provides.

There has been a lot of talk over the season as to why Chelsea did not play any games at Stamford Bridge this season, and Sunday 8th May at Kingsmeadow for the game with Manchester United proves why.

Fans close to the pitch, a ground packed to the rafters and a great atmosphere being created. I believe Chelsea won the title because this match was at Kingsmeadow. The players needed the fans to help inspire the second half turn around and they did just at. Had it been at a likely half full Stamford Bridge at best then the Chelsea players would have found it very difficult to feed off an atmosphere that at Kingsmeadow inspired that second half comeback. Long may it continue that Chelsea use Kingsmeadow.

Above: Fans packing out Kingsmeadow – a contributing factor to Chelsea’s success in Darrell’s eyes. Photo: Ben Gilby,

Surrey Take The Spoils, Afghanistan Take The Plaudits

Surrey 4-0 Afghanistan Development

Words and EXCLUSIVE Photos By: Ben Gilby (29/5/22).

Above: Surrey and Afghanistan line up prior to kick-offPhoto: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

Whilst Surrey ran out winners against a hard-working and talented Afghanistan Development squad at Dorking Wanderers’ Meadowbank Stadium today, this was an occasion that was about far more than the action on the pitch.

Above: Afghanistan’s presence at Meadowbank Stadium this afternoon was the culmination of a long period of upheaval and uncertainty for a group of female athletes who had to flee their country last year. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

The very fact that this Afghan team were on the pitch and playing was worth celebration in itself. The squad had to go into hiding and were advised to burn all their football equipment when the Taliban took control of the country last year. In preparation for their emergency flee to the United Kingdom, they had to go into hiding and then had to run the gauntlet of a suicide bomb attack en route to Kabul Airport. This is an incredible group of young female athletes who represented their country with pride, passion, and exceptional skill this afternoon.

Above: Lola Meyer, one of Surrey’s stand-out players today, gets a shot in against Afghanistan. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

The Afghanistan team were extremely well organised, full of pace and in possession of an outstanding goalkeeper who was worthy of a player of the match award. Surrey started well with Lola Meyer threatening from the off. Meyer was another one of the stand-out players of the afternoon, probing and creating non-stop. In the early play, she linked up well with Sarah Chapman to the left of centre. The Afghan custodian was called into action several times and bravely dived at the feet of onrushing Surrey attackers to pounce on the ball.

Above: Sarah Chapman in possession for Surrey. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

Chapman was involved in another promising attack for the hosts as she saw a shot come cannoning back off of the crossbar after capitalising on a place-kick which went straight to her. Shortly afterwards, Surrey took the lead when Alice Curr of tier four side Queen’s Park Rangers gained possession and lifted a shot over the Afghan keeper and into the net.

Above: Surrey captain Lily Davis in a battle for possession today. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

With 25 minutes played, the home captain Lily Davis found Esme Parsons with an inch-perfect long pass. She in turn played in Curr on the left who put in a cross-shot that bounced narrowly wide of the far post.

Above: Esme Parsons looking to get away from an Afghanistan player. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

There was one further opportunity in the first half which fell the way of Eva Keen whose shot looked to be heading in, but a superb diving save from the Afghan goalkeeper ensured that it remained only 1-0 to Surrey at the break.

Above: QPR’s Alice Curr, who put Surrey in front. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

Two minutes into the second period, Curr hit a long-range rocket from 25 yards which went just wide. Substitute Juliet Jacques got in on the action with a powerful shot from the edge of the box which was well held by the Afghanistan goalkeeper.

Above: Eva Keen (6), scorer of Surrey’s second goal. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

With 57 minutes on the clock, Surrey doubled their advantage as Keen fired a shot into the corner of the net.

Afghanistan continued to enjoy possession and looked to work it along the right, but were never quite able to conjure up a final shot to bother Morgan Palmer in the Surrey goal.

Above: Giulia Ciarini Azzi fires in a shot for Surrey. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

As the game entered its final quarter of an hour, substitute Giulia Ciarini Azzi showed her worth with a low shot which the Afghan keeper did well to push out. However, Ciarini Azzi was not to be denied and a minute later she smashed a shot into the top right hand corner of the net from the edge of the box.

Above: Juliet Jacques powers in a shot for Surrey. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

She completed the scoring just before the end with an acrobatic effort from Jacques’ right-wing corner.

Surrey’s dominance showed on the scoreboard at the end, but Afghanistan have more than enough skill and potential in their ranks to prove tougher opponents in the future. They are an outstanding group of female athletes and deserved every bit of the wild ovation that greeted them at the end of the match.

Squads: SURREY: Palmer, McAllister, Davis, Alberts, Crook, Keen, Downes-Evans, Parsons, Meyer, Curr, Chapman, Stuart, Gillett, Marr, Ciarini Azzi, Jacques.

Scorers: Curr, Keen, Ciarini Azzi (2).

AFGHANISTAN: Squad names not released due to security concerns for family members back in Afghanistan.

Attendance: 107.

Above: Impetus are proud to sponsor Surrey Women’s coaching team’s polo shirts. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

Clinical Wymondham Complete Treble

Mulbarton Belles 0-2 Wymondham Town

By Darrell Allen at Carrow Road (26/5/22).

With EXCLUSIVE photos from pitchside by Hannah Parnell.

Above: Wymondham Town celebrate with the Norfolk Women’s Cup last night. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Wymondham Town produced a clinical and professional display to see off Mulbarton Belles and win the Norfolk Women’s Cup for the third time.

A goal in each half from Laura Nicholls and Natasha Youngs saw the favourites take the trophy home.

The game played at Norwich City’s Carrow Road in front of a record crowd, saw tier five champions Wymondham Town from the Eastern Region Premier Division play tier seven champions Mulbarton Belles of Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One.

Mulbarton started the game brightest retaining possession well in the initial phases of the contest and looking to try and find their prolific captain and goalscorer Rebekah Lake up top.

Above: Mulbarton’s Alanta Griffith (right) in possession as Chloe Newcombe looks on. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

It was remarkable that Lake was even playing after recently suffering a broken arm.

After a quiet opening few minutes, Wymondham began to get in their groove as Hannah Waters played in Kyla Love but it was superbly dealt with by the Mulbarton defence and the danger averted.

Mulbarton responded with Alanta Griffith’s superb curling effort that was saved by Chloe Pearce in the Wymondham goal.

Ellie Hunter was next to look lively with some excellent closing down as Mulbarton did well to prevent Wymondham playing how they wanted to in the first half.

Wymondham came close again when Chelsea Clarke’s corner came off the top of the bar and away to danger.

A like-for-like change for the favourites followed when they lost Hannah Waters to injury and she was to be replaced by Laura Nicholls.

It didn’t take Nicholls long to impact on the game as she received an inch-perfect pass from Katie Knights before slotting home past Cara Anderson in the Mulbarton goal.

Above: Laura Nicholls puts Wymondham Town ahead. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

The Mulbarton heads continued to stay in a positive frame of mind as Lake found her way past the Wymondham backline again but this time Wymondham’s captain got rid of any risk. 

Mulbarton missed a golden opportunity when Sophie Jermy delivered a corner and Alanta Griffith headed wide. 

Wymondham penalty appeals were then turned away by referee Andrew Wilson when Newcombe crossed and Lincoln was under suspicion but referee Wilson was content no rules had been broken.

Before the interval, there was time for Griffith to find the side netting but Wymondham held their single goal lead at the break. 

Wymondham found a second goal following a terrific team move started by Mary Croft who found Clarke on the left who found Youngs to volley home inside the box. 

Above: Natasha Youngs celebrates after putting Wymondham Town 2-0 up. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Clarke then had a thunderous shot wide as Wymondham looked to try and add to their tally but without success.

Despite being two goals behind Mulbarton continued to stick to their job and looked to get back in the game, roared on by approximately two-thirds of the 959 crowd.

They had three half chances. First, Alice Smith had a shot from distance which Pearce dealt with well. Jermy then found Griffith but her shot was scuffed. The final opportunity saw 

Hunter got her feet in a pickle in front of goal and was unable to get her shot away.

Five minutes of stoppage time were added which saw Wymondham run the clock down through the duration of this period to run out 2-0 winners.

You have to applaud Wymondham. Their manager Alex Guy told everyone at the beginning of the season they were going for the Eastern Region Premier Division Title, the Eastern Region League Cup, and the Norfolk Women’s Cup they have delivered exactly to their targets and won all three. Guy is an astute operator and he and his players and staff have delivered in spectacular fashion this season for themselves and the town.

As for Mulbarton Belles, a season of incredible progression once more led by Martin Francis. Beaten comfortably 7-0 by Norwich City in this same final last year this time giving Wymondham from two leagues above a great game. They will be hoping to make it third time lucky next season. 

Player of the Match: Katie Knights (Wymondham Town)

Summer Evans: Pride Of Derbyshire

Pride Park striker Summer Evans spoke to Impetus editor Ben Gilby about her footballing journey and why she loves being a part of the tier seven Derbyshire Ladies League Division One side (26/5/22).

Above: Summer Evans on the charge for Pride Park against Mickleover Sports. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Summer Evans is a player with a superb goalscoring record. In 52 matches for Pride Park, she has scored 58 goals and is the club’s second-highest all-time scorer behind Maja Znamirowska.

Evans once scored a club record seven goals in one game back in October 2018. She is a dynamic, non-stop striker who never gives opposition defences a moment’s rest, doesn’t believe in lost causes, and isn’t afraid to go in where it hurts. Often being rewarded with goals.

Last season’s leading scorer for the tier seven Derbyshire Ladies League Division One club, Evans also tops Pride Park’s scoring chart with 14 from 11 games this season, despite missing almost half of their matches with injury. 

The striker takes up the story of how she got involved with the game. “I started at a young age training with a number of teams growing up. In the early days when teams were mixed gender, I trained with Chesapeake and Derby County Academy.

“When I was old enough and confident enough I joined Little Eaton at the age of 11/12 and developed with them right through until we were an under-18s team. 

“I then took a break, a quite big one, and decided after having my daughter I wanted to start playing again. I joined Pride Park a 2018/19 season and have remained there ever since.”

Above: Summer Evans in possession for Pride Park at Belper Town. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Whilst some players will name major sporting stars as their role model, for Evans, it is someone a lot closer to home. 

“It’s my dad. He was the one that took me down the park most weekends to practise, bought my boots, and was on that touchline rain, sun or snow. He loved and still does love football, so I guess that’s where it all comes from. Oh, and he still is there on that touchline too every weekend he can!”

Pride Park’s top scorer came back into the squad late this season after a spell injured, and it’s a period that has been immensely challenging for her. “I don’t think I’ve felt so frustrated with myself, being unable to train or get on that pitch every Sunday.

“It’s probably the biggest challenge since getting back into the game after such a long time out. Fitness and confidence being the main challenges but it was the best decision I ever made. As far as changing me is concerned, it’s just made me love the game again and I gained a lot of friends I know I’ll have forever.

“At Pride Park the girls are amazing. I have definitely gained a few friends. On the pitch, when we are on form, it is amazing and we are strong and confident. My favourite thing about us is that I believe we are a friendly team to play with and we just go out to enjoy it.  Obviously winning is a bonus and important too.

“Off the pitch, we have a good bond, we get together socially throughout the year and training is a laugh. I have a lot of respect for these girls and I’ve felt extremely welcome from day one.

Above: Summer Evans receives a moment marking her 50th appearance for the club. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

“Joining a well bonded team that has girls that have been there for years and years is scary but I never once felt out of place.”

Pride Park play their football in the seventh-tier Derbyshire Ladies League Division and Evans highlighted what an incredible league it is.

“The league this year has some crazy competition. Which makes every game exciting. You just don’t know which way the results will go. I really find it hard to say who our toughest opponents have been, you cannot rule anyone out of this league.”

With the season having one more game to go, the Pride Park striker outlined her aims for the rest of the campaign. “I’d like to say my only aim right now is to just finish a season! Between COVID and the weather, we haven’t finished many since I’ve been at Pride Park! I wouldn’t mind another season as top goalscorer too of course.”

Taking a slightly longer-term view, Evans said: “If I look back in five years’ time, I’d have like Pride Park to achieve being league winners once or twice. Continuing to win trophies in tournaments would be great too. We did really well last summer in those.” 

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Norfolk Wrap

Darrell Allen rounds up all the action from the women’s game in Norfolk over the past week (24/5/22).

Above: Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers FC, whose win over North Walsham clinched second place in the NWGFL Division One. Photo: Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers FC.

There was one game on Sunday in Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One which saw third placed Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers face North Walsham Town.

This was a match that Dussindale and Hellesdon were due to host, but there was a switch and so the fixture took place at North Walsham’s Greens Road.

Following their midweek win over Thetford, Dussindale went into this game knowing they needed just a single point to finish above Fakenham Town in second place.

Dussindale didn’t waste time going about accompanying their mission. A brace from Vicky Leyer within the first five minutes saw them off to the perfect start. Shanice Sutton got her first of the afternoon on 14 minutes before Leyer completed her hat trick and got Dussindale’s fourth on 16 minutes. Tallulah Bell was next to find the net to get the fifth, and before the interval, there was time for Sutton to complete her hat trick and get Dussindale to a 7-0 lead.

Above: Vicky Leyer (right) – scorer of seven goals for Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers in their 18-0 win over North Walsham Town. Photo: Richard Brown.

It only took a few minutes into the second half for the next goals to arrive as captain Calista Tink made it eight and that was followed by Charlie Head further adding to the tally. Leyer was back amongst the scoring to make it double figures before Chelsea Brister made it 11. Leyer and Sutton were having their own goalscoring competition on the afternoon and for the season’s golden boot with Sutton adding the 12th and making it 4-4 between Leyer and Stutton for the afternoon. The 13th arrived when Captain Tink does what she does best rising highest to head home into the corner. 

Sutton became the highest scorer on the day with her fifth and Dussindale’s 14th. Leyer then decided she wanted to be the star of the day scoring a further hat trick to take the lead to 17-0. The final goal of a thumping 18-0 win was an own goal.

A stunning win and exhibition of clinical finishing saw Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers leapfrog Fakenham Town to finish second.

Table From: FA Full-Time
Above: University of East Anglia, who clinched promotion to the top tier of the NWGFL with victory over Caister at the weekend. Photo: UEAWFC.

There was also one game to finish the season in Division Two as University of East Anglia (UEA) hosted already confirmed champions Caister.

The game was played at FDC Open Academy on a 3G surface. The first act of the afternoon was a penalty to UEA which was emphatically converted by Lucy Gooding and UEA had a single-goal lead at halftime.

Rachel Lawrence doubled UEA’s lead very shortly after the interval before Caister halved the advantage thanks to a goal from Bethany Turner. The best goal of the game was next when Kirsten Spooner curled a brilliant finish into the top corner. Caister replied again through Ellie Hills but Ella Burnley had the final say when she made it 4-2. There was time for Burnley to be denied a brace when she had an effort cannon off the underside of the bar in stoppage time.

This was a really good win to end the season for UEA. With Caister winning Division Two and UEA finishing as runners-up, both will play Division One football next season replacing Thorpe St Andrew and North Walsham in Norfolk’s Premier League. 

A big thank you for all your support for my Norfolk Wraps this season, one of my most popular features and they will return in the new season.

Table From: FA Full-Time.

Southampton Secure Championship Place

Southampton 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers

By Darrell Allen at Edgeley Park (22/5/22)

Above: Southampton celebrate after their win against Wolverhampton Wanderers, securing Championship football next season. Photo: Saints FC Women.

Southampton secured promotion to the Tier Two FA Women’s Championship with a narrow victory over a Wolves side reduced to ten players in the FA Women’s Championship Play-Off Final at Stockport County FC’s Edgeley Park.

In a game that was labelled Judgement Day by the league and with a prize of a place the second tier of a pyramid, the stakes could not be higher.

The early action saw Sophie Pharoah find Lucia Kendell who tried to lob the keeper but Shan Turner in the Wolves goal got her fingers to it to turn the ball away for a corner. The subsequent corner was delivered well but then cleared away by Wolves. 

Southampton continued their early dominance of the game with Alice Griffths shooting from long range before Emma Cross brought down Pharoah but the penalty appeals were waved away by referee Lauren Impey. 

Above: Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers battle it out for possession at Edgeley Park yesterday. Photo: Saints FC Women.

Wolves began to get a foothold in the game after surviving an early onslaught but were restricted to a few half shots that were blocked by a strong Southampton defence. 

In a fast and frenetic Championship Play-Off Final both teams were very watchable with Wolves next to roll the dice, Amber Hughes had two shots followed by an initial third terrific curling shot into Kayla Rendell’s hands.

Despite the end-to-end nature of the match, Southampton continued to look more prominent as Kendall floated a delightful free-kick into the box before Pharoah headed wide.

The deadlock was broken when Pharorah cleverly rounded Turner and slotted the ball into the net to spark wild scenes amongst the large contingent of Southampton supporters who had made the very long trip from the South Coast.

Above: Joy for Southampton. Photo: Saints FC Women.

The Saints attacking three of Alisha Ware, Sophia Pharoah and Alice Griffths seemed to have communication on point all afternoon as their awareness of each other and timing of runs, and good link-up play was a key element of why Southampton were so successful.

The Saints had a golden chance to double their lead when Kendall’s free-kick found Griffiths, the net was waiting to bulge but she put what looked a certain goal wide.

Tensions began to flare and what was on the line in this game was evident when Amber Hughes and Megan Collett clashed with some then verbal exchanges but the brilliant match officials did well to calm everything down.

Wolves ended the half well with a good spell of pressure although disaster did strike just before half time when Kelly Darby fouled Ware and was shown her second yellow and dismissed. It was a silly challenge and the disappointment etched across her face when she left the pitch and some water bottles received the brunt of her anger as she left the field the play.

Southampton led at the break and it was theirs to lose in the second 45 with the player advantage.

Credit to Wolves they came out for the second half and were the better team with some confident passing and early corners and free kicks showing sign of their second-half intent.

Southampton nearly put themselves into trouble when a sloppy goal kick by Rendell found Merrick but she fired wide. Indeed, the South Coast side were leading a dangerous existence despite the player advantage as both teams reached for reinforcements from the bench to add fresh legs to this contest.

Above: Wolverhampton Wanderers in possession as they search for a way back into the contest. Photo: Wolves Women FC.

Substitute Katie Rood headed wide before having a curling shot wide.

The Wolves behind the goal gave their team a rally making terrific noise as they sensed there was time to force extra time. Their team created late pressure but Jade Cross missed the best chance to draw level.

Late rallies of the famous song ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ rang out from the 700-strong travelling contingent from the South Coast as they helped see their team over the line.

This was a fantastic contest ended with Southampton securing promotion after only one season in the Southern Premier and next season they will play Tier 2 football in the FA Women’s Championship.

Credit to Wolves who were outstanding in that second half period but Southampton stood strong, defended well, and got themselves the promotion they deserved over the course of the season effort and these 90 minutes on Judgement Day.

Above: Wolverhampton Wanderers gather after the match. Photo: Wolves Women,

Player of the Match: Sophia Pharoah (Southampton)

Teams: SOUTHAMPTON: Rendell, Pagnell, Rafferty, Freeland, Ware, Pharoah, Kendall, Mott, Griffiths, Rutherford, Collett. Substitutes: Morris, Pusey, Luce, Rood, Watling.

Scorer: Pharoah 22′.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS: Turner, Cooper, Price, Cross, Gauntlett, George, Cross, Hughes, Darby, Morphet, Merrick. Substitutes: Dicken, Miller, Walker, Elsmore, Burridge.

Referee: Lauren Impey.

Attendance: 1,354.

Ashleigh Neville’s Exclusion From The England Squad Is A Bad Look

Rachel Lara Cohen highlights the case of Ashleigh Neville, one of the players omitted from the Lionesses’ provisional Euro 2022 squad this week, and argues that the wider ramifications of a national team selected from such a small pool of clubs is far from positive (20/5/22).

Above: Ashleigh Neville of Tottenham Hotspur – Rachel believes that she should be in the Lionesses squad. Photo: Telegraph.

The England Squad was announced this week for the final pre-Euros friendly games. Once again all the outfield players were drawn from just four clubs and once again Ashleigh Neville was overlooked. For me, this is a bad look. First, because Neville is a great player who could contribute to the England setup. But also because of the message her omission sends to other players at clubs outside the Top Four and, finally, because it reproduces economic concentration within the game.

Why Ash?

Cards on the table: I’m biased. I’m a Spurs fan, and alongside most Spurs fans, I love Ashleigh Neville. As part of that, whenever an England squad has been announced this year I have looked for her name, and when I haven’t found it have grumbled – mostly to other Spurs fans. So, yes, I’m partisan. But not so partisan that I think that every Spurs player should be playing for England. Okay, maybe Molly Bartrip who’s had a standout season – unruffled at the back with fantastic distribution – but that’s another story.

It’s not for nothing that she has just won the Club’s two Awards for Player of the Year as voted by both Supporters and Junior Supporters.

Yet, it’s not just Spurs fans who hold Ashleigh Neville in high regard. Her stats are outstanding. She was player of the month in February, has featured in numerous Teams of the Season and is one of nine players shortlisted as Barclays FAWSL Player of the Season (although is unlikely to win given Sam Kerr’s stellar season). In other words, there’s a wide consensus that she’s more than good.

Above: Neville is one of nine players shortlisted by the FAWSL for their Player of the Year Awards. Artwork: @BarclaysFAWSL.

Neville is also positionally flexible, a necessity for international tournaments. We saw that this season at Spurs, during which she has played at both left and right back, sometimes within the same game. In the first half of the season, this involved playing as a full-back in a back four, but she has more recently been used as a wing-back and has covered at centre back. Then there were the mid-season games where she was deployed at right-wing or attacking midfield, to good effect.

Additionally, if you talk to people who have watched Spurs Women for longer than I have, they’ll tell you about how, as the team has evolved, moving up from the Championship to WSL and from relegation-battlers to (almost) Champions League contenders, so Neville has evolved, raising her game and adapting her style.

Why is this important?

Well, in part because it suggests that should she be surrounded by a group of players of a higher standard than those she currently plays with (and yes, I can admit that Spurs are not yet at the standards of some of the top WSL clubs), then she would not suddenly be out of her depth. Rather based on past evidence it’s likely she would find a new level, playing to the standard of those around her and adapting to the coach’s style of play.

England Manager, Sarina Wiegman, already knows how Lucy Bronze or Millie Bright will play when surrounded by the best players, because she, like the rest of us, can watch this week-in, week-out at club level. As such including Ash in an England training camp, and getting an opportunity to see her play in friendly games, as part of the squad (and to include other players who, like Ash, play club football in less stacked teams), will provide more additional information than watching players we already know can combine with top players.

Above: Ashleigh Neville pictured after scoring for Spurs. Photo: @SpursWomen.

I should make clear that I do not know that Neville would smash it if selected. She may not. Nor am I saying she should start every game. There may be better players or players whose style is more suited to particular games. What I am saying is that without a call-up we’ll never know whether she could translate a widely heralded club season into an England career. Nor, whether her astonishing tackling abilities, on-the ball confidence and pin-point crosses, might bring something extra.

The current England squad are all at Top Four clubs

In the most recent England squad, every outfield player plays their club football at one of the top four WSL teams (Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, or Manchester United) with the only exceptions being Rachel Daly, who plays in the US with the Houston Dash and Jill Scott, who until the end of this season, was on Manchester City’s books but, since January, has been on loan at Aston Villa. This dependence on the Top Four for outfield players has persisted across every England training camp and squad this year, although goalkeeping selection extends a little wider, with the most recent third and fourth choice keepers playing for Aston Villa and Everton.

Just for the sake of comparison, the current men’s England squad includes outfield players from 11 Premier League teams (plus one Bundesliga team), with goalkeepers drawn from another two teams.

There are, of course, good footballing reasons to rely on players from the top teams. You get a core of players who are used to playing with one another at club level. It might also be argued that the clubs that these players come from play on the front foot, in the way that Sarina envisages for her England team. And of course, as a tournament approaches it is good to have a more settled team.

All of this is reasonable, and might even produce success. England have after all been playing well. Rebounding from a disappointing Olympics last summer (under interim manager, Riise) Wiegman’s team has dominated qualifying and friendly games against weaker opponents and, earlier this year, narrowly won a friendly tournament, The Arnold Clark Cup, against high-quality opposition (Germany, Spain, and Canada).

Above: England celebrating a goal at Northern Ireland in the World Cup Qualifiers. Photo: Girls On The Ball.

But even if this Top-Four strategy ‘works’, what talents are being missed that might take England up a level? And what does this kind of closed shop say to players who ply their trade outside of the Top Four? At the moment the message is clear: they will not be selected. While, conversely, players who do play at top teams may continue to find themselves on the team (or at least in the squad), irrespective of how many games they have started, or their current form. Given widespread commentary on the increasing competitiveness of the WSL this is a bad look.

And in this context omitting Nevile, after the year she’s had and the accolades she has received, matters. Because if she cannot get a look in, who will?  

The economics of it

We might ask whether selection for England really matters and if so, why?

First off, selection is important to players in cementing their reputation. Having the opportunity to play for your country is something many aspire to. I’m sure Ash does.

But in the women’s game, where remuneration is relatively low, even among the top tier, playing for your country can provide a substantial earnings boost.

Information about wages in the women’s game is largely kept under wraps (with data on who is on contract to England and how much individual players are paid by club or country hard to come by) so some of the following is speculative. But we know that since 2020 international appearance payments were equalised for men and women (at that point at about £2,000 per game), with additional bonuses for wins. From 2018 the FA provided central contracts to about 30 women, each worth about £30,000 per year.

For most women footballers, whose salaries continue to lag well behind their male counterparts, the amounts described here are not insignificant. Indeed, for many playing for England would effectively double their annual salary. Of course, players in the England squad are likely among the better paid in the WSL, but even at the top of the WSL salaries reportedly peak at around £200,000 to £300,000, so an England contract would minimally amount to a 10 percent bonus (more if England progress in a tournament and Winners’ Bonuses come into play).

And that’s before you get to the exposure and additional sponsorship deals that come with playing for England. During a home Euros in which the coverage is likely to reach new levels these might be especially significant.

So even while money is not typically the reason players want to represent England, within a context of relatively limited earning power, even among the elite, it is consequential.  

I’m guessing the economics also make it harder to release players who are already contracted to England where this negatively impacts their income. And it is not unreasonable that this produces a conservatism evident in a reluctance to drop current players and a reluctance to experiment. But it also means that not selecting new players is doubly harsh – hitting both their career and earnings.

When you combine the economics with the fact that the England squad is exclusively from Top Four clubs you also end up in a strange situation where the FA is essentially subsidising the richest and most dominant clubs in the league.

So, I’ll watch England play this summer: I’m lucky enough to have tickets to a bunch of games and, depending on how far England progress, might see quite a bit of them. When that happens I’m sure I’ll enjoy the many qualities of this squad, and there are many. And if it goes well I’ll undoubtedly get caught up in the emotion during games. But I also fear that I won’t feel a strong connection to this team with its Sven-era England men’s team vibes: lots of good players, but not representative of the wider range of clubs nor my football fandom.

Meanwhile, I’ll wait impatiently to see Ashleigh Neville play when she, Molly Barttip and every other English player not currently at a TopFour club, return to the field at the start of next season. 

Above: Ashleigh Neville (right) with Karrys Harrop. Photo: @SpursWomen.

Rachel Lara Cohen also writes for Spurs Women Blog where this article was originally published. The site can be accessed here: https://spurswomen.uk/

Brooke Chaplen: Farewell To A Legend

By Abi Ticehurst (20/5/22).

Above: Brooke Chaplen walking out onto her home pitch with Reading. Photo: Reading FC Women.

Reading’s Brooke Chaplen retired from professional football at the conclusion of the FAWSL season. The midfielder had been sidelined for the Royals since November due to injury, but her season was indefinitely put on pause in February when it was confirmed she had a tumour in her leg which required surgery.

Speaking about operation, Chaplen said: “It was successful, the tumour has been removed and scans show that there’s no sign of it left which is obviously great news. Unfortunately, the operation that I had to have meant that a couple of knee ligaments attached at that point weren’t able to be saved and as a result of that I’ve been advised that playing football going forward won’t be an option for me”.

Chaplen has an impressive set of stats in the FA Women’s Super League, having made 143 appearances, scoring 29 goals, winning 50 games, and completing 2286 passes which is testament to the attacking midfielder she has developed into.

Portsmouth-born Chaplen began her youth career playing for side in Southampton and Portsmouth from the age of 13. She began her senior career at Portsmouth in 2005 and she spent three years at the club.

Above: Brooke Chaplen pictured against Tottenham Hotspur. Photo: Reading FC Women.

Chaplen then moved to Chelsea on a year-long deal and scored a single goal for the West London side in a 5-0 victory against local rivals Fulham.

Everton then came calling for the Hampshire-born midfielder where she spent five years making 51 appearances for the Toffees and netting three goals. Everton were involved in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in the 2010/11 season and Chaplen was pivotal in their campaign, scoring a hat-trick against MTK Hungaria in the Round of 32 and a brace against Brøndby IF in the Round of 16. Everton were however relegated in 2014 and that prompted a move to promoted Sunderland Ladies where she scored six goals in 25 appearances.

She signed on a free transfer to Sunderland and played for the Black Cats for just one season between 2015 and 2016.

Chaplen joined Reading in the 2017/18 season and made 94 appearances and scored 26 goals as a Royal. She was the top goalscorer for the club in her first season and has been a stalwart for the club for the last five years.

Speaking about her time at Reading, the midfielder said: “I’ve been here a long time, I feel like I’m part of the furniture at the club, I have some great memories, I feel like I developed most as a player here and that’s credit to the staff and coaching staff and how much they invest in me as a player, I can’t speak highly enough of the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had.”

On her favourite memory at the Berkshire club, she revealed, ”The first time we played Man United, it was a really tough, aggressive game and it wasn’t a great goal but at the time they were our rivals. And at home at Adams Park against City scoring on the half volley there”.

Above: Brooke Chaplen training with an England age group team. Photo: Sky Sports.

Chaplen also represented England at age-group levels, making her debut for the U19s in 2008 against Germany. She also represented the U20s and U23s, she played in the World Cup, the Four Nations Tournament, and La Manga Tournament. She scored one goal in a 2-0 win over Chile in the U20 World Cup.

Looking ahead to the future, Chaplen said: “I’ve been away studying for a few years looking at the business side of football so I really hope so but right now I obviously still have the injury that I suffered in November that got put on the back burner because of the tumour so just to get fit and healthy”.

Chaplen has been an often underrated midfielder, perhaps for her quiet consistency but will be much missed by the Reading squad and has had a genuine impact on the development of the women’s game and the FA Women’s Super League.

Norfolk Wrap

Darrell Allen rounds up all the action from the women’s game in Norfolk over the past week (19/5/22).

Above: Fakenham Town lift the Norfolk Women & Girls League Cup. Photo: Darren Gilham.

The big games on Sunday in Norfolk were the Norfolk Women and Girls League Cup and Plate Finals.

A day that always celebrates the success of the Norfolk Women and Girls League this year was held at Youngs Park, the home of Aylsham Football Club, 14 miles north of Norwich city centre.

First up was the Plate Final at 10.30am with Division One high flyers Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers against champions of Division Two, Caister. Caister were missing a number of key players which made a very difficult task all the more harder.

Things didn’t get any easier for Sophie Gillett’s team when Shanice Sutton scored with her first touch inside the opening minute to give Dussindale the lead. Sutton hit a hat trick as she scored the rest of her tally either side of a Chelsea Brister strike which meant Sutton had the match ball and Dussindale had four before the interval.

The second half was similar one-way traffic although Dussindale did find an inform Laura Beevor in the Caister goal, but she couldn’t stop Brister from getting her brace and Dussindale’s fifth on 50 minutes. The final act came when Abi Nobbs scored from distance to secure a 6-0 win and the Plate win.

Caister have had a brilliant season in their first season as a club and won Division Two with a game to spare. Reaching this Plate Final was a sign of their outstanding progression in their first season. Caister play their final match of the season this Sunday away to University of East Anglia.

Above: Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers lift the Norfolk Women & Girls League Plate. Photo: Darren Gilham.

The lunchtime entertainment for the crowd at Youngs Park was the 12.30pm kick-off which saw Kirkley and Pakefield face Costessey Sports in the Sevens League Cup Final and Costessey Sports ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a goal from Sharnie Boast.

After the this match, it was back to 11-aside action as the top two in Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One, Fakenham Town and Mulbarton Belles went head to head at 2.30pm in the last game of a busy day of Cup finals.

Mulbarton have already been crowned champions of Division 1 having won 20 out of 20 so Fakenham Town knew the size of the task ahead although Mulbarton were without captain Rebekah Lake.

The game was goalless after 90 minutes and Mulbarton dominated chances and possession but found a very strong Fakenham defence in the way of everything they were trying to do.

Lucy Lincoln eventually found a way through for Mulbarton in extra time before Sophie Lubbock levelled in the second period of extra time for Fakenham to send the game to penalties.

All 10 penalties were scored in a fabulous exhibition of how to convert from 12 yards. However, when the sudden death phase was reached, Vicky McNorton fired over the crossbar for Mulbarton which gave Olivia Baker the chance to convert and she did to win the league cup for Fakenham Town.

Mulbarton have had a brilliant season and will be hoping to still add more silverware to their collection when they face Wymondham Town at Carrow Road on Wednesday 25th May in the Norfolk Women’s Cup Final. A game that will be covered by Impetus.

Above: Shanice Sutton – Dussindale & Hellesdon Rovers’ hat-trick hero in their Plate Final win over Caister. Photo: Darren Gilham.

Norfolk Women & Girls League Division One

On Wednesday night, Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers beat Thetford Town 4-0 at The Nest in their penultimate game of the season. Shanice Sutton, Tallulah Bell, Chelsea Brister, and Charlie Head were on target. The win means that they need just a point from their season finale on Sunday to leapfrog Fakenham Town and finish in second place.

Table From: FA Full-Time.

Norfolk Women & Girls League Division Two

On Sunday there were two games in the penultimate weekend of action. Shrublands won 2-0 away to Bulldogs thanks to goals from Lacey Andrews and Samantha Burgess to continue a solid fifth-place finish for the season.

In the day’s other game Freethorpe beat Horsford 4-2 thanks to a brace from Carys Christopher, Claire Garner, and an own goal.

The result sees Freethorpe leapfrog Horsford and finish the season in sixth place.  

Table From: FA Full-Time.

Fightback Seals Second Spot For Pride

Mickleover Sports 3-4 Pride Park

By Hannah Roberts (18/5/22)

Above: Pride Park’s Maja Znamirowska (blue shirt) scores her hundredth goal for the club. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

A second-half hat-trick from Maja Znamirowska fuelled an impressive comeback from Pride Park away at Mickleover on Sunday. A 4-3 win on the day was enough to seal second place in the tier seven Derbyshire Ladies League Division One with one match to play.

With the previous encounters between these two teams this season ending in an 8-0 win for Pride Park and a 6-4 victory for Mickleover, it was clear that any outcome was possible. Despite the high-scoring history, the first half was one of few chances. Pride looked a bit disjointed to start and struggled to get passing movements going, and when they did, Mickleover’s sweeping centre-back was always on hand to tidy up any promising attacks.

The opening goal of the game was an avoidable one as Pride failed to deal with the second phase of a corner, and a weak but accurate shot nestled into the bottom corner from Mickleover’s number three from the edge of the box. Park looked to respond quickly and their best chance of the first half came from a long-range effort that was well hit by Eliot Sayavong but ultimately flew over the crossbar.

With the first half looking like it was going to peter out without further action, Mickleover once again took advantage of some sloppy play on the edge of the area and their striker hit a thunderous strike up and over Jade Howell to double the home side’s lead.

Above: Pride Park goalkeeper Jade Howell makes a save on Sunday against Mickleover Sports. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Pride Park hadn’t looked themselves in the first half, but despite the two-goal deficit, it was clear that the game was there for the taking if they raised their level – the goals conceded were the only real chances Mickleover manufactured.

The visitors came out of the blocks at full speed in the second 45, getting first to every ball and pushing forward with purpose. They quickly earned a free kick as Summer Evans was taken down just outside the 18, but the free-kick from Tash Allderidge was comfortably held by the keeper.

This was just the start of the pressure, however, as Pride kept Mickleover penned into their half for most of the opening 15 minutes of the second half, and any counters from the home side were swiftly dealt with by the backline. On the one occasion Mickleover did breakthrough, they were thwarted by some brave goalkeeping from Jade Howell, snuffing out the chance at the striker’s feet.

The Pride Park pressure continued, and it wasn’t long until they a goal back. A shot from distance from Beth Thompson bounced awkwardly on the hard ground and up onto the crossbar, and a melee ensued until Maja Znamirowska popped up in the right place at the right time, as she has so many times, to fire home from close range. This goal was Znamirowska 100th for the club in just 82 appearances since her debut in 2016 (full a feature article on Maja Znamirowska, click here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/02/10/maja-znamirowska-aiming-to-be-pride-parks-first-to-a-hundred/)

The momentum was fully swinging Pride Park’s way now, and the equaliser came ten minutes later, as an inch-perfect cross from Tash Allderidge on the right was headed home by Znamirowska from about a yard out at the far post. Five minutes later the comeback was complete, as a long free-kick from Annie Laight on the halfway line was headed past the Mickleover keeper by one of her own players from inside the box.

Above: Summer Evans in possession for Pride Park at Mickleover Sports on Sunday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Pride Park won the ball back almost immediately after the kickoff, and an inch-perfect through ball from Summer Evans set Maja Znamirowska away with just the keeper to beat, and she rounded off her hat-trick with a tidy finish into the far corner. 

Mickleover hadn’t looked like scoring from open play in the second half, so it took a 30-yard free-kick goal to add some nerves to the final minutes, but Pride Park saw out the game without further event for the 4-3 victory.

Three points were fully deserved for an excellent second-half display, and coupled with Borrowash Victoria’s 1-1 draw at Draycott, saw Pride Park seal second place in the league, a feat last achieved by the team in the 2017/18 season. It is a great achievement in what has been an incredibly competitive league this season.

A special mention must go to stand-in referee Pearse Lavery after the official didn’t turn up and we were left without a referee at kick-off – and without him, the game could not have taken place.

Pride Park have one further game to play, when they travel to Borrowash Victoria on May 29th.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Kerr Clincher Seals FA Cup After Raso’s Late Rally

Chelsea 3-2 Manchester City

By Darrell Allen at Wembley Stadium (16/5/22)

Chelsea made it a League and Cup double on Sunday with a dramatic extra-time win in the FA Cup Final.

In front of a record crowd of 49,094, Emma Hayes’ side came out on top in a high-quality contest that ebbed and flowed from the off as arguably the two best teams in the country produced a wonderful sporting spectacle.

It was Manchester City who started brightest and had the first two chances of the game, Caroline Weir fired over after receiving the ball following good footwork from Lauren Hemp. Hemp then had a chance of her own that was superbly blocked by Millie Bright.

Above: The record crowd for a Women’s FA Cup Final – just over 49,000 are entranced in the action. Photo: Ben Gilby

Chelsea then dealt their first punch of the contest, Sam Kerr thought she had opened the scoring when she rounded Ellie Roebuck and placed the ball in the net but the flag was rightly up for offside

The opening goal came on 33 minutes when Millie Bright’s cross-shot went over Roebuck’s head and was on its way in but Kerr made sure on the line by nodding in.

Manchester City came back and equalised three minutes before the break when, not for the first time in the game, the Chelsea defence stood off. After previously getting away with it, this time they paid the ultimate price. Hemp was allowed to freely cut inside past Bright and curl a glorious effort into the top corner.

Above: Lauren Hemp (far right) shows her delight after hitting a stunning equaliser. Photo: Vitality FA Cup.

Manchester City started the second half brightly and it was Hemp again threatening, but this time she was thwarted superbly by Ann-Katrin Berger to keep Chelsea on level terms. 

The next roll of the dice was from Chelsea as outstanding performer Erin Cuthbert received a ball from Beth England and fired a rocket of a shot past Roebuck that clipped the underside of the bar and went in. The Scot’s incredible strike sparked wild scenes at the east end of the stadium where she found the net in front of most of the Chelsea supporters. 

Above: Scenes of sheer joy with Sam Kerr, Erin Cuthbert, Sophie Ingle, and Beth England. Photo: Vitality FA Cup.

Just as it looked like the holders would see the game out, the final act of normal time belonged to Manchester City. Alex Greenwood superbly played a ball past Magdalena Eriksson to find Hayley Raso who controlled beautifully, showed outstanding strength to hold off the Swedish defender and then smash it past Berger to force extra time.

At the start of the additional period, Blues boss Hayes made what appeared to arguably be a defensive change as the more attack-minded Guro Reiten was replaced by Jonna Andersson as the momentum appeared to be with Manchester City at the start of extra time. This was to be Andersson’s final appearance for the West Londoners before joining Damallsvenskan side Hammarby.

Above: Hayley Raso (centre) celebrates after her sensational late equaliser. Photo: Vitality FA Cup.

City started extra time brightest as Berger had to superbly deny Ellen White from tapping in a Weir cross.

Chelsea, however, have Sam Kerr and the Western Australian was there when it mattered to serve up the final chapter of an unforgettable occasion as her international team-mate Alanna Kennedy made an error by misjudging Bright’s clearance and the East Fremantle-born star was there to pick up the pieces, drive forward and shoot. Roebuck was slightly wrong-footed by a deflection, but Kerr’s shot was well on target in any case.

Chelsea saw out the remaining 20 minutes to seal a league and Cup double, which served as a special way to finish for outgoing players Ji So-Yun, Drew Spence and Jonna Andersson. 

Above: Chelsea’s goalscorers and partners in crime Sam Kerr and Erin Cuthbert after the match. Photo: Vitality FA Cup.

Player of the Match: Erin Cuthbert 

Teams: CHELSEA: Berger, Eriksson, Nouwen, Bright, Carter, Ingle, Cuthbert, Reiten, Harder, England, Kerr. Subs: Musovic (GK), Ji, Kirby, Fleming, Mjelde, James, Charles, Spence, Andersson.

Scorers: Kerr 33′, 99′. Cuthbert 63′.

MANCHESTER CITY: Roebuck, Bronze, Kennedy, Greenwood, Stokes, Walsh, Stanway, Weir, Kelly, Hemp, Shaw. Substitutes: Keating (GK), Coombs, Angeldahl, Raso, Park, Losada, White, Mace, Blakstad. 

Scorers: Hemp 42′, Raso 89′.

Referee: Kirsty Dowle

Attendance: 49,094.

“The Women’s Game Wins Again”

Ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup Final at Wembley, Impetus’ Kieran Yap heard from the head coaches of both teams for us – Emma Hayes of Chelsea, and Manchester City‘s Gareth Taylor (14/5/22).

Manchester City and Chelsea have a strong mutual respect, and both managers are predicting a high-quality match in front of a potentially record-breaking Wembley crowd on Sunday.

Both sides can lay claim to deserving a trophy this weekend but are under no illusions that it will be an easy job. Gareth Taylor and Emma Hayes have both had seasons they can be proud of for different reasons.

City started the season off disastrously. Taylor’s side struggled for momentum and form after being plagued by injuries. Since slipping to ninth on the table. They recovered to finish third after embarking on an 18-game unbeaten run and claiming the Conti Cup over this week’s opponents.

Chelsea won the league but are at the end of a very high intensity campaign. Any dropped points during the season could have handed the title to Arsenal. Hayes’ team has beaten injuries to Fran Kirby and Magda Eriksson, Sam Kerr and Ji So-yun’s absences for The Asian Cup and a COVID outbreak that put an end to their Champions League run.

These two very different paths have converged on the biggest day of English football. The FA Cup has prestige, and both managers are excited for the opportunity to lift the trophy.

Above: Manchester City head coach Gareth Taylor – excited about tomorrow’s showdown, but full of respect for Chelsea. Photo: Sky Sports.

“The FA Cup is still a special competition for players, for coaches, for supporters,” said Taylor to the media.

“I think previously in both the male and female game that was probably more important. Now its shifted slightly with European competition becoming more potentially lucrative. I think increasing the purse for all teams that enter the FA Cup is massive in the women’s game now. It’s never lost its magic. It’s a great competition. It’s a competition I remember playing in as a player.  Being the underdog, being the favourite and what that brings, I think it’s a really special competition.”

City’s recovery under Taylor has given them serious momentum. Although he appreciates the form the current side is in, the manager is taking nothing for granted against the league champions.

“I think we’re going into it in form. I’d say Chelsea have been in decent form as well. They finished the season off well, so I think it’s sometimes going to have a relevance in a game. It’s a one-off game. It’s about who manages that game well enough on the day. Who plays the game and not so much the occasion.”

Cup finals are nothing new to Manchester City. They have carried home the trophy on three of the last five occasions. The other two years were won by Chelsea.

Above: Manchester City lift the FA Cup in 2020 after their win over Everton at Wembley. Photo: Telegraph.

“We’ve been there before,” reflects Taylor. “We’ve been in cup finals a lot of the times…there’s no real kind of edge if you like for either team. The ones who go and perform best on the day are likely to take the trophy home.”

City’s resilience has been something to behold this season.  There was expectation and excitement around a squad that had added some star recruits such as Hayley Raso and Khadija Shaw, and after a tough start, they secured a champion’s league place, a Conti Cup win and an FA Cup Final.

“Being in the finals is important for us,” says Taylor

“We got to the final game of last season, being in contention for the league with Chelsea, going quarter-finals of the Champions League, going quarter-finals of the Conti cup, winning the FA Cup. I think that’s the really important thing for us is going as far into competitions as we can. There are many ways to get there, we eventually got there.

“We left it late but when you look at the circumstances early on in the season with the lack of preparation that we were able to have, with the amount of injuries that we had. At times we looked like we were a long way away in terms of qualification, but the players were amazing in that point for me. We’re desperate to win on Sunday. We’re giving everything to win.”

Down in London, Chelsea coach Emma Hayes has recovered quickly from last weekends’ FAWSL title winning celebrations. She manages the champions of England but knows that City will be a stern test at Wembley.

Chelsea will need all of their ability to beat Taylor’s team, but have had some surprising, good news in the selection department.

“It’s going to be tight,” Hayes told the media.  “Most of us would agree that there’s not a lot between the sides.

“I think for us, last time we played City we were depleted, this week we’ve got a full-strength squad to pick from, including Fran Kirby.”

Above: Fran Kirby is back for Chelsea on Sunday. Photo: Chelsea FC.

The star forward, who’s assists and goals propelled Chelsea to last season’s trophy haul, has been missing though illness. The announcement that she is available for the final is the ultimate good news story in a week full of them.

“I don’t want to put any pressure on her because I love that kid and she’s been through a lot,” said Hayes. “But she looked like she hadn’t been away. She looked that good in training. It was nice to see a smile on her face. She’s participated in everything. In the beginning of the week we said ‘let’s just see how it goes’. Let’s do one bit of one session.

“On day one, she came up and said that’s not enough. Then we did day two and ‘let’s use you as a neutral or you play half the blocks of game’. She said’ I’m fine.’

“She’s been in training all week, so I’m over the moon to be honest. I think Fran’s a generational talent. Maybe I’m biased because I work with her. Rarely have I seen a football player that can do what she does. The way that she finds space, the way that she makes decisions. The way that she plays selfless attributes in possession.

“She can pick a pass out, she’s got eyes on the back of her head. She’s a winner. Every day she wants to be on the winning team. She’s a grumpy one when it isn’t going well. She’ll openly acknowledge that because she wants to win so badly.”

Kirby may be the biggest inclusion for either team this week, but she joins a pair of team sheets packed with international stars.

Hayes is appreciative and wary of City’s squad. One name in particular stand out for the Chelsea manager.

“I’ve seen a team grow and grow under Gareth’s leadership. And a team where they’ve come together in a really difficulty moment and recovered from a tough moment. They’ve got outstanding talent.

Above: Lauren Hemp – Chelsea boss Emma Hayes is a big fan of Manchester City’s Lionesses star. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

“Particularly in Lauren Hemp, what a player! I love watching her play I really do. I’m excited for England in the summer. I hope she’s amazing in the summer and terrible on Sunday.”

One player that could decide the game is Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert. The Scottish midfielder scored a crucial goal and was Chelsea’s best player in a difficult first half against Manchester United.

“When lots of players were struggling, she was dominating,” said Hayes. She took the game by the scruff of the neck. I think she’s found a home (in midfield). She’ll always say to me that’s always been her home anyway, but we’ve had some top midfielders, so she’s had to wait her turn. That’s where she’ll remain running the show for the team.”

“She’s had to improve, particularly out of possession positionally. And in possession she’s starting to make better decisions…. she’s always been a great learner anyway… I think she’s an unbelievable talent that’s becoming a real leader in the side.”

One name above all

Both sides could name a first XI made up entirely of internationals, with Chelsea boasting numerous national team captains in their ranks. In a galaxy of stars, one has shone brightest this season and has the attention of the football world and both coaches.

After a stunning performance in the last FA Cup, where she scored a stunning brace against Arsenal. Sam Kerr returns to one of football’s biggest stages.

Taylor, like all others is aware of what Kerr can do but is not focussed too much on any singular player. Neither coach can afford to this weekend.

“Sam is a very good player, but I think if you start to concentrate on here too much, we’re probably going to neglect one of the other really good players they have. Emma’s been in that role for 10 years now, I think it is, and has won 10 trophies.

“She’s been heavily supported, but I think we’re not doing so bad. This is my second trophy I’ve won. There’s an opportunity to win a third one in two seasons. It shows that we’re moving in the right direction.

Above: Sam Kerr – the Manchester CIty manager Gareth Taylor has a healthy respect for the Australian striker. Photo: Sky Sports.

“What I like about Sam Kerr is she was very gracious in the Conti Cup final. I thought she was amazing. Understand that you’re hopefully going to win games but understand that occasionally you’re not going to be successful. I thought that the way she handled herself as a person was spectacular.”

Hayes echoes those sentiments.

“Everyone in this dressing room knows how good those players are. We knew that the setbacks were temporary. Everyone in my dressing room rates Manchester City.”

Chelsea is the benchmark side in England, Taylor admires what they have accomplished but has faith that City can get the win. “There’s healthy respect between the players, between myself and Emma, between the organization. She’s done amazingly well. Why wouldn’t we commend what they’ve done?

“It doesn’t change things of course.  We want to be there, and we want to be that team that’s there and beating them and we’ll have another opportunity. We have one more opportunity to build on it, to stretch that unbeaten run.”

The Biggest stage

The opposing teams share similar views of this game. Both anticipate it will be high on quality, and both are eager to play in front of what should be a huge crowd.

After experiencing empty stadiums, Gareth Taylor is not taking a packed Wembley for granted.

“It just shows that the game is moving in the right direction,” he says. “We played in a final last year which was a different feel with no supporters there. This is going to be amazing, there’s not better placed to see than a pretty full Wembley. The atmosphere will be great.

“It’s really nice and special for the players of both teams to be able to celebrate that with their supporters and their families as well. Sometimes, as a coach you think these finals are going to come around all the time. I remember standing there and wishing that my family and friends were there, and our brilliant supporters. It felt great, don’t get me wrong. But it also felt a little bit empty in that respect.

“Sometimes you wonder if you’re going to be back in that situation again. Fortunately, we are. Things are different now. I think it changes everything. It changes the whole build up, even around the hotel before the game it was a bit of a ghost town last year.”

“It’s going to be fantastic. Two good teams, slugging it out. Two teams who showed real good quality during this season.”

Hayes is also eager to step into a stadium filled with more than 50,000 fans. The growing atmosphere at women’s football matches is something she is relishing, and she is supportive of the idea of separating fan groups.

Above: Chelsea lifting the FA Cup at Wembley last December. They are all out to repeat the scenes in front of their fans tomorrow. Photo: BBC.

“We need to keep crowds separate. I think there’s rivalries. I think believe it or not, there’s fans coming into the game that are vocal. There’s colourful language and I think that we have to be conscious that we should build these rivalries. We should build tensions in the stadium between teams, healthy tension of course. I do think it’s the way to go, I think we should have designated sections.”

Neither team goes into this match with a clear advantage in form or fitness. It is a finely balanced contest that should be as spectacular as it is unpredictable.  

“We feel the same way about each other. The difference is the games against Arsenal are more of a derby game. This is a chess match between two sides, and I think that we’ve got our strengths that could expose them, and they’ve got theirs that could expose us.

“I don’t think anybody in this room can call it, we’re favourites, they’re favourites. Either way it’s going to be a great game.”

Both clubs want that famed trophy, and both will be confident of winning.  Beyond what happens on the field, there is a bigger picture that is taking shape in women’s football.

In the shadows of England hosting the Euros, there is real momentum behind the sport. As Hayes puts it, regardless of the result this weekend, “the women’s game wins again.”

Norfolk Wrap

by Darrell Allen.

With contributions from John BarrettCharnelle Riggall, and Stuart Terry (12/5/22).

Above: Wymondham Town celebrate after their League Cup success over Wroxham. They also received their league trophy after the game. Photo: Wymondham Town.

The big game of the weekend in Norfolk was the Eastern Region League Cup Final between two-tier five clubs and big local rivals Wroxham and Wymondham Town.

It was a closely contested encounter played on neutral ground in Suffolk at The New Croft, home of Haverhill Rovers. 

Wymondham Town took the lead in the ninth minute when Hannah Waters finished beyond Cyan Fullbrook after a great ball through from Becca Russell.

The Wroxham defence stood firm to prevent any further first half danger and the team ended the first half stronger as Wymondham goalkeeper Chloe Pearce had to superbly deny attempts from Lauren Bullard and Grace Birchall.

Wroxham were the better side throughout the second half but the Wymondham defence played very well all afternoon and they secured the game when Chelsea Clarke scored a trademark free kick just as the clock struck 90 minutes.

There was a lengthy period of added time due to injuries for both teams and Lauren Bullard got a consolation for Wroxham in the 11th minute of added on time but it was not enough to prevent Wymondham winning the trophy and making it a double having previously been crowned ERWFL Premier Division Champions.

This was the final game in charge for outgoing boss Rebecca Burton and Wroxham’s season is now complete. Wymondham Town will be hoping to make it a treble when they face Mulbarton Belles at Carrow Road on Wednesday 25th May in the Norfolk Women’s Cup Final.

In the Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One, Sunday saw two games as Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers continued to hunt down second-placed Fakenham Town with another emphatic victory over Stalham Town. Eight goals with four in each half saw Dussindale claim another vital three points. A brace each from Victoria Leyer, Shanice Sutton, and Georgia Belton and other goals from Tallulah Bell and Charlie Head secured the points in terrific style. Dussindale require four points from their final two games of the season against Thetford Town and North Walsham to leapfrog Fakenham Town.

Above: Rachel Lynch, one of Thetford Town’s scorers against Bungay Town. Photo: Rebecca Parnell.

In arguably the game of the day in the local leagues, Bungay Town welcomed in form Thetford Town to Maltings Meadow in a game that the hosts had to win to stand any chance of finishing fourth. Equally, Thetford just needed a point to secure that placing for themselves. Thetford came into the game with a squad of just 11 players and a makeshift lineup and without six first team regulars.

Bungay Town started brightest and took the after hitting a wonderful strike on the half turn into the top corner.

The game was held up for around 25 minutes due to an injury to home striker Lucy Eagle who was taken to hospital by ambulance.

The game restarted with the agreement of both teams on the adjacent pitch at Maltings Meadow.

Thetford came out for the second half fired up and determined to succeed. Rachel Lynch headed home a superb Hannah Claughton corner to level things up. 

Six minutes later, Abbie Corbyn turned the game around and gave Thetford the lead by calmly planting the ball into the back of the net.

The points were secured by the Breckland club when Jessica Knight fed Thetford Player of the match Charlotte Howard to score the third for the visitors and the double over Bungay.

Thetford Town have now secured a fourth place finish, a remarkable achievement in their first season in Division One and they can enjoy their final game away to Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers on Wednesday 18th May knowing they have had a wonderful season.

Table From: FA Full-Time.
Above: Action from Freethorpe’s game against Gorleston. Photo: Gorleston FC.

There was only one game in Norfolk Women and Girls League Division Two as Gorleston completed their season by winning 3-2 at Freethorpe with a squad of just 10 players.

A brilliant finish from Hannah Halfnight gave Gorleston the lead before Freethorpe turned the game around thanks to two headers from set pieces scored by Emma Chambers and Tamara Edwards.

Kelsi Adams equalised for Gorleston with a great finish from inside the area to level things at 2-2.

Ruby Allen suffered a bad knee injury which saw Gorleston go down to nine players for the remainder of the game but there was time for a late winner as Adams made it a brace with an unstoppable finish in the 83rd minute.

Freethorpe had a late goal ruled out for offside after a period of pressure but Gorleston just about held on to finish their season with three points.

Table From: FA Full-Time
Above: Fakenham Town celebrate after seeing off Stalham Town to reach the NWGFL Cup Final. Photo: Fakenham Town.

STOP PRESS! On Wednesday night in the Norfolk Women and Girls League Cup Semi Final, Fakenham Town beat Stalham Town 3-1 to thanks to a brace from Shelley Woods and another from Sophie Lubbock. Megan Swain was on target for Stalham. Fakenham will face Mulbarton Belles in the final this Sunday whilst Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers play Caister also on Sunday in the NWGFL Plate final. Both games are at Aylsham Football Club and both will feature in next week’s round up. 

No Jonas, Football Was Not “The Winner”

By Rachel Lara Cohen (9/5/22)

Above: Things get tasty in Wednesday night’s North London Derby. Photo: Arsenal WFC.

Following the North London Derby at the Emirates, Arsenal Manager Jonas Eidevall, stated that his team beating Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 meant that “football was the winner”.

It’s a tired cliché, but there are lots of tired clichés in football. More pertinently, it’s a cliché that’s usually trotted out to celebrate games that are hard-fought or a developing rivalry. Not used by a manager to gloat about his team’s home win over a significantly less well-resourced side, especially not one led by a manager in their first full year at the highest level.

Yet, both pre-and post-match Eidevall’s comments went beyond the usual ‘the better team on the day won’, choosing to make explicit criticisms of Spurs playing style.

Cards on the table: As a Spurs fan I am preternaturally disposed to dislike Arsenal. That said I respect and have long envied our North London rivals’ commitment to the women’s game. And am often awed by the quality of individual Arsenal players and at some of their combinations.

Moreover, on reflection, the outcome of Wednesday’s game was no worse than I feared it might be. I had hoped we might scrape a result – of any kind. Indeed, the draw in the reverse fixture (which could have – should have – been a win had Ashleigh Neville controlled her shot into an open goal) was an important step on the path to closing the gap. But the ongoing gulf in quality exists, not just between Spurs and Arsenal, but Arsenal and most of the league. Indeed, notwithstanding Spurs’ loss at the Emirates, our head-to-head record against Arsenal remains the fourth-best in the league (after Birmingham City, Chelsea, and Manchester United).

There’s no one way to play football

As noted by Rio Ferdiand in commenting on the Premier League Liverpool v Spurs game, “There are different ways to win a game of football”. Indeed, for many of us, the beauty of football is exactly this – that teams employ different tactics, and related, that the ‘best’ team may not always win.

Most of us gasp at the attacking verve of Brazil circa 1970 or, more relevant here, the current Barcelona women’s team, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t also appreciate the defensive nous, collective will to win, and occasional shit-housery of the Italian men’s teams of the 1980s and 1990s, admire the direct-play of Wolfsburg in this year’s Champions League (becoming the first team to beat Barcelona in 45 games), or marvel at Greece’s wholly unexpected and joyous if hard-fought and unstarry 2004 men’s Euro campaign.

Along those lines, the way that Spurs have played this season has, for those of us following it closely, been uplifting. Because it’s depended on and been underpinned by a commitment to one another, something the players and staff frequently talk about in interviews as ‘a family mentality’. The team’s strong defensive record is widely recognised, what is less often made explicit is that this is not simply the product of strong defenders (although it has clearly required that), but rather has involved the entire team working extremely hard, pressing, tracking-back and covering each other. In the North London Derby this was seen in the willingness of our attacking players (Jessica Naz, Rachel Williams, Rosella Ayane, and Kyah Simon) to put in blocks and try to win the ball back.

It is also seen in analysis of the season. The team’s desire to chase things down is evidenced by Spurs having won more loose balls than any other team this season. While ten Spurs players, as compared to just three Arsenal players, average over 20 pressures per 90 minutes played. Spurs have also won 30 more tackles than any other team and are second only to Chelsea in the number of aerial duels won. Ashleigh Neville tops the league in both tackles made and won and, until her injury, Ria Percival was also in the top five.

A corollary of that, as Eidevall pointed out in his pre-match interview, is that Spurs players have committed more fouls than Arsenal players. Does that mean that Spurs are a dirty team, as he unsubtly implied? Well, the difference is hardly massive – Spurs typically are called for four more fouls per game than Arsenal (12 as opposed to Arsenal’s eight), but for both teams, this has varied hugely across games against different opponents. In the game on Wednesday Spurs committed more fouls than Arsenal, but a few of those (in the first half especially, were marginal calls). By the end of the game Spurs had four yellow cards, but two (Summanen and Clemaron), as well as one for Arsenal’s McCabe, were for dissent as the Second half of this derby became increasingly feisty on and off the pitch.

The moment when both Clemaron and McCabe got booked. Image from @catherineivill

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Spurs, a team that focuses heavily on whole-team defence, winning the ball back, and tackling will commit a few more fouls than a team with the personnel to control possession. But this is not to agree with Eidevall’s pre-match characterisation of Spurs as a team that shies away from possession and “doesn’t want the ball in play”. In fact, only the top four teams, and Everton, have (with one game remaining) averaged higher possession across the season than Spurs (who are on 50.3 percent).

It’s probably most accurate to say therefore that Spurs are equally likely to play in as out of possession, on the front or back foot, depending on their opponent. Indeed, even in the two games against Chelsea in the week before the Arsenal game, Spurs had 55 percent (home) and 45 percent (away) possession, while in their away game against Everton, which ended in a draw, despite less possession, Spurs had ten more shots, 6 more on target than their opponents. Moreover, by the end of the first half of the game at the Emirates, Spurs were starting to find spaces to play, with a few clear goalscoring chances. As the game went on, however, and as Spurs tired this reduced, with Arsenal increasingly dominant.

Timing

Speaking of tiredness, the North London Derby was Spurs’ fourth game (and third away game) in eleven days. As noted above, Tottenham’s previous three games included two hard-fought matches against Chelsea and a back-and-forth 2-2 draw at Everton. Weirdly, and something that speaks to the widely noted problems of WSL scheduling, across the previous two months Spurs had played just two games, mostly because of international breaks, but also Covid postponements.

In contrast, Arsenal came into the NLD after just two games in 11 days, the most recent a 7-0 home win over a hugely depleted Aston Villa side.

Spurs have a smaller squad than Arsenal, and had two fewer players on the bench. There is also a relatively large fall-off in quality between Spurs starting 11 and substitutes. Notwithstanding the injury to Jordan Nobbs last weekend, Arsenal’s bench on Wednesday included World Cup, Champions League, and WSL winners.

As such Eidevall had the capacity to make impactful substitutions, something that his counterpart, Rehanne Skinner was only able to do by not starting Evelina Summanen (who has been a consistent starter since joining in January) and bringing her on in the half. Perhaps most indicative of Spurs’ limited resources was the introduction on 69 minutes, 2-0 down, of Izzy Lane, an Academy player who had previously played once, as a 91st-minute substitute away at Manchester United. It was hardly surprising that she was unable to impact the direction of the game.  Arsenal, meanwhile could bring on key players like McCabe, Maanum, and Parris.

Izzy Lane. Image from @SpursWomen

Timing matters here because when games are spaced apart it’s possible to compete by relying on a group of starters who can play most of the 90 minutes. But as games come thick and fast and include difficult opponents, this dependence on starters is no longer viable. With a Spurs team whose average age is a whole year and a half older than any other WSL team tiredness can be even more of a problem, especially where games are coming thick and fast.

Resources

The Telegraph’s Tom Garry reported that for the 2019-20 season Tottenham ranked low for both total and average wages, above only Birmingham City, who have now been relegated. Garry suggests that things have since improved, but that he heard reports that up through last year Spurs were offering contracts that failed to adequately cover the higher cost of living in London.

With a rash of contract renewals agreed since Easter (Neville, Spencer, Zadorsky, and Graham so far) I very much hope this has been corrected and that Spurs players are paid at a wage commensurate with their skill and the club’s ambitions. Certainly, Spurs have committed additional resources to supporting the team in non-pay ways, for instance with full inclusion at the club’s state-of-the-art training facility. But at the same time, I doubt this will (yet) take Spurs anywhere near the wage bills of Arsenal (second top in 2019-20) or other top-four WSL clubs, where some players earn as much as £250,000 per year.

Spurs are a big club so, to some extent, it is the club’s choice to spend, or not, on the women’s team and if they don’t they have themselves to blame. Yet, it’s hard to make a big jump in quality. Spurs have created stability and cemented their promotion by bringing in older players with WSL experience (thus the team’s age profile). But, without Champions League games to entice players, and with mid-and low-table performances in their first two WSL seasons, and a still-relatively small fanbase, Tottenham’s work in last summer’s transfer markets was low key, with lots of churn, but no ‘star’ recruits.

Instead, most of those signed had been released from low/mid-level WSL teams undergoing equivalent churn. Several of these have become core to the team’s success this term (Molly Bartrip, Tinja Korpela, and Maeva Clemaron spring to mind), but none are the kind of player who is individually transformative.

Moreover, what’s notable about Spurs’ starters on Wednesday was that three of them had come up with the club from the Championship in 2019 (Ash Neville, Josie Green, and Jess Naz). One, Josie Green, has actually been at Spurs since the team was in the third tier of women’s football. Another, Ash Neville, has grown as a player under Rehanne Skinner, so that she is now a certain starter and won the FAWSL Player of the Month in February.

Spurs’ limitations are equally clear when we look at the January transfer window. They had already lost a key player in Kit Graham (ACL injury) by January and were having to play games with just three outfield players on the bench, so new blood was essential. In the event, however, the only signing was managed via the agent-skills of goalkeeper Tinja Korpela whose Finnish National Team ties netted the team the relatively unknown Evelina Summanen.

Additionally, Viki Schnaderbeck arrived on loan from Arsenal to play out the last few months of her contract, presumably to allow Arsenal to renew their own roster (her loan terms however made her ineligible for the North London Derby). In contrast, Arsenal recruited the highly rated Stina Blackstenius (who has already in her half-season in the WSL scored more goals than Spurs’ highest-scorer Rachel Williams has this season), Brazilian centre-half Rafaelle Souza and Austrian full-back Laura Wientoither.

Which is to highlight that Rehanne Skinner has much more limited resources. This season she has created a team that is greater than the sum of its parts, that is committed to playing for and with one another, and this has meant that they have ‘over-performed’ expectations. But there remain real limits.

When does ‘football win’?

When Arsenal beat Spurs they did so because they have objectively better and fresher players. But, as noted, they have better and fresher players because they have more resources. To ignore that and to argue that in winning you have secured the greater good of football is to celebrate the reproduction of existing inequalities in football, inequalities that make leagues uncompetitive, and uninteresting for all of those except the small minority of fans who support a top Four team.

For the rest of us, football may as often be ‘the winner’ when games are unpredictable, when the better team does not always win, and when teams play in ways that maximise their resources and improve the players they have to hand. By that standard, Spurs have contributed massively to the WSL this season, but so have West Ham, Birmingham, Aston Villa, and all the other teams who have produced upsets by playing their own way.

I hope that in the future this is something that Jonas can recognise and when the next North London Derby rolls around he manages to be more generous about his opposition. I also hope that by then the inequalities have shrunk further and, most importantly, that Spurs are the actual winners of that game.

Rachel Lara Cohen writes for Spurs Women Blog, on which this article was originally published. The site can be viewed here: https://spurswomen.uk/

Chelsea Second Half Super Show Seals Title

Impetus’ Ben Gilby was at Kingsmeadow to see Chelsea lift their third straight Barclays FA Women’s Super League title. But it needed a major second-half comebackHe captures the drama in words and EXCLUSIVE photos (8/5/22).

Above: Chelsea lift the FAWSL title. Photo: Chelsea FC.

Chelsea have lifted the Barclays FA Women’s Super League title for the third season in a row after a sensational second-half performance which saw them come from 2-1 down to see off Manchester United.

Emma Hayes’ side went into the game knowing a win would give them the title. Anything less would see it go to Arsenal.

Above: Chelsea fans raising the roof from the start at Kingsmeadow. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Manchester United were aware that if they could spoil the party and Reading did them a favour in Berkshire, they could deny Manchester City the final Champions League spot. So, it was all on the line in front of a raucous Kingsmeadow.

The Red Devils were the better side in the first half. Leah Galton was hugely influential across the pitch and Martha Thomas was buzzing around making herself a nuisance. A clever defensive setup forced Chelsea on the back foot.

Above: Martha Thomas (9) celebrates after putting Manchester United ahead. Photo: Ben Gilby.

With 13 minutes played, United took the lead as Thomas headed home – you could not say it was not a surprise.

Five minutes later, Erin Cuthbert smashed home a leveller, but that was as good as it got for the Blues in the opening 45. They were forced into playing long balls forward and gave away possession cheaply. Ella Toone’s deflected strike from Galton’s ball in ensured that United went in at the break in front.

Above: Leah Galton supplies the ball into the box for Ella Toone to restore Manchester United’s lead. Photo: Ben Gilby.

At this point, the league title was going to Arsenal on goal difference, but Emma Hayes got her team in the dressing room and made some crucial changes.

On came Beth England and Ji So-Yun. England’s influence was notable from the start of the second period, linking with Sam Kerr with the Matilda becoming more prominent as a result.

Within a minute of the restart, Chelsea were level. A ball in from the right found Kerr who laid the ball back for Erin Cuthbert. The Scot’s shot was blocked but rebounded to the Australian superstar who hit an absolute rocket first time on the volley into the net from the edge of the 18 yard box.

Above: Guro Reiten puts Chelsea 3-2 ahead. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Just five minutes later, the Blues were in front as Ji played in Pernille Harder along the left. Guro Reiten ran across the Dane to get onto the end of her squared ball to roll the ball home.

Kingmeadow was at maximum volume all afternoon, but the noise was reaching levels that have rarely been reached in the 32-year history of this stadium.

With Chelsea now absolutely flying, the ultimate was reached with another sensational strike from Kerr. Reiten headed the ball forward to the East Fremantle-born star who had her back to goal, just outside the ‘D’. Kerr chested the ball down, turned, and saw United keeper Mary Earps positioned well to the left of the goal. In an instant, Australia’s all-time leading scorer lifted a stunning volley into the right-hand side of the net.

Above: Sam Kerr celebrates after her second stunning volley sealed the title. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Sam Kerr has scored some stunning goals in her life. But the two at Kingsmeadow this afternoon take some beating.

The remaining 25 minutes of the match were generally a procession on the pitch and a party in the packed stands. The introduction of departing club legends Ji and Drew Spence brought a clear desire for the pair to sign off at Kingsmeadow with a goal, but it was not to be.

This was a game of quality. Whilst both teams were not at their best simultaneously, there was so much to enjoy. Chelsea showed that, when it really matters, they know how to win matches against the better teams. This is the step that Manchester United need to take in order to finally play Champions League Football.

Teams: CHELSEA (3-5-3): Berger, Carter, Bright, Eriksson, Charles, Cuthbert, Ingle, Andersson, Harder, Kerr, Reiten. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Nouwen, England, Ji, Fleming, Mjelde, James, Spence, Adullina.

Scorers: Cuthbert 18′. Kerr 46′, 66′. Reiten 51′.

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): Earps, Battle, Ladd, Thorisdóttir, Blundell, Groenen, Zelem, Thomas, Toone, Galton, Russo.

Scorers: Thomas 13′, Toone 25′.

Referee: Abigail Byrne.

Attendance: 4,378.

Above: Sam Kerr with the FAWSL trophy. Photo: Ben Gilby.
Above: The FAWSL Golden Boot winner – winners are grinners. Photo: Chelsea FC.

Reading’s Kelly Chambers on the Development of the FAWSL and Challenge of City

Ahead of tomorrow’s final game of the FAWSL season for ReadingImpetus’ Abi Ticehurst heard from their head coach Kelly Chambers (7/5/22).

Above: Kelly Chambers, Reading’s head coach. Photo: PA.

Reading head coach Kelly Chambers is well aware that her team face a serious test on the final day of the season against Manchester City, but is confident her players are prepared and ready for the task.

“It’s going to be a tough game, we’ve seen over their past fixtures that they’ve had how they’ve been quite rampant in front of goal. Also, I think Birmingham did a very good job for 45 minutes to frustrate them (on Wednesday night). Our game will be their third game in a week. We know what we’re going to be facing and for us we’ll be taking our approach into the game, in terms of tactically to try and frustrate them and try and be defensively really, really strong and that’s the stuff we’ve been working on this week.”

Reading’s opponents on Sunday have had a sensational couple of months. With what seemed for so long an unlikely Champions League qualification spot now in their own hands, and a fully fit team at the peak of their powers, it seems like a long time ago since Manchester City’s head coach Gareth Taylor was under pressure at the club.

Above: Gareth Taylor, head coach of Manchester City who Reading face tomorrow. Taylor’s future was under question before Christmas. Photo: Sky Sports.

“I think having players coming back has helped. He had a lot of injuries at the start of the season and players are obviously through that process and coming back into the fold and back into the team,” Chambers observed.

“For Gareth, he’s done exceptionally well and been exceptionally patient. He knows what the team can achieve, he trusted the process and trusted the players that they’d be able to turn it around and we’ve been able to see the fruitions of that now.

“You watch them and they’re unstoppable at the minute. They have world class players in their set up and for us on Sunday, we’ll need to make that game as difficult as possible and that for us is making sure that we’re defensively strong.”

Manchester City’s win over Birmingham City in midweek condemned the West Midlands club to relegation. With the Blues having been a foundation member of the FAWSL, Chambers sees this as an example of the direction that the women’s game is heading.

“They’ve been in it from the start, they’ve always been a team that have competed in this league and competed against the best. We’re starting to see the women’s game take a different turn. As much as we want to try and keep everyone on a level playing field, but unfortunately the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City in terms of the money that’s been invested there.

“They’re just pulling away from the other clubs and even if I look at ourselves, we’re now going to be the only team with a men’s Championship side in the league. But, when you’ve got Brighton, Leicester, Aston Villa, West Ham, those kind of mid-table teams, it’s about how do we get there. The investment in the women’s game from the top clubs is far superior to what the other clubs around them are getting.

“We thought the gap was getting smaller and don’t get me wrong, the league’s been very competitive this season and I think there’s not been a game where any manager would step into and go ‘this will be a three points in terms of planning ahead’, but I think we’re starting to see that divide again in terms of the top three and everybody else.

“In terms of the off-the-pitch stuff, like facilities, a lot of the teams’ training at the men’s training grounds. But, when you get to playing budget, I think it’s night and day in terms of what the top teams are investing. It might take time, Tottenham are very new, they’re probably going through a building process. I’d like to think everybody will be heading that way, it’s a case of looking at those clubs and they probably have double the player budget that some of who are in and around the table do right now.

Above: Kelly Chambers asserts that the gap between the top three and other clubs has widened this season. Photo: Robin Parker/FA.

“So, that gap is quite big but in terms of everything else, I think it’s great that the women are training at the men’s ground, clubs starting to try and play at their men’s grounds. Investment in being able to grow things off the pitch which allows you to then grow on the pitch.”

That investment from clubs in the FAWSL is seeing an increased focus on and recognition of fitness and tactics.

“There’s a lot more…elements this season for me, in terms of being able to look at ‘can we change? do we need to change?’ We’re adding so much more quality with regard to players, we’ve got some unbelievable world-class players in the league right now and that is driving the game forward.

“Some of our players haven’t been professional for that long, there’s still a learning element within that side of things. What does a professional environment look like, especially for our younger players?

“In terms of the league, we’ve definitely seen a rise in the quality and standard of football being played, that’s then leading to more people coming to watch it, then see the figure numbers for Sky and BBC. You see the flip side in terms of England games now. This league was put in place to create a winning women’s England team and I think that they’re in a very good place to step into the Euros this year.”

In terms of how she believes her own team have progressed this season, Chambers sees mixed signs. “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster season, in terms of where we are, maybe (I’d like to be) one or two places higher if I look at the season as a whole I’d have liked to have finished.

“When we look at stats we’re fourth with clean sheets in the league, so why aren’t we winning games? We had that really good period, so we’ve had consistency this season and that’s what we need to iron out for next season. More consistent with our performances, more consistent with playing styles, and more consistent in terms of results.”

Off the pitch this week at Reading there has been mixed news with sadness at the announcement of Tash Harding’s impending departure, and the success of Amalie Eikeland at the club’s Gala night.

In terms of Harding leaving, Chambers said: “It was one of those (situations) in terms of pushing forward and in terms of freshness. In terms of where Tash was and where we were. It was a case of that decision was made and then she can start looking at what her next steps are.”

Above: Amalie Eikeland – a successful night for the Norwegian at the club’s Gala awards. Photo: Reading FC.

On Eikeland’s clean sweep of awards at their Gala night, Chambers was full of praise for her Norwegian star. “I think she’s been phenomenal.

“From start to finish, I think you’re guaranteed to get an eight out of 10 performance (from her) weekly. First and foremost the energy that she gives us, I think there’s been one or two games where she hasn’t played in midfield and she’s been a big miss there.

“Her energy, her willingness to get back and support the defence to prevent goals, but also her energy to get higher up the pitch. She’s been one of the first names on the team sheet across the season and been an integral part of the team.”

With this Sunday being the final game of the FAWSL campaign, Chambers cast her eyes ahead to preparing for next season and potential transfer targets.

“We’re looking to bring in a couple of players. For me what I’m really excited about is having a big core of the group moving to a second season together. It’s something that I haven’t had over the last couple of windows, I’ve had a turnaround of eight to 10 players in the last two windows.

“We’ve started something now, laid foundations, this season was always going to be one of these. The players are getting to know each other, I’m learning about the new players and everything else. I’ve got a big core of the group staying and what does that season look like.”

In terms of potential targets, the Reading boss said: “A lot of players if they are in the Euros, they want to try and get stuff done before they step into that zone because they want to come out of that knowing where they’re going.

“It’s important for me that we’re trying to get that part of the game plan done, so that if we’re bringing in someone from the Euros we concentrate on that and they know what we’re doing post that.”

Success For Sudbury In Suffolk Final

AFC Sudbury 3-1 Needham Market

By Darrell Allen at the Jobserve Community Stadium (7/5/22).

Above: AFC Sudbury celebrate with the trophy after their 3-1 win over Needham Market. Photo: AFC Sudbury.

Colchester United’s Jobserve Community Stadium was the venue on Friday night for the 2022 Suffolk FA Cup Final between two tier six teams, AFC Sudbury and Needham Market. 

Sudbury played in their traditional yellow shirts with Needham Market in their usual red.

The Suffolk FA had organised the evening well and ensured that the best possible atmosphere would be created with one stand open. Additionally, AFC Sudbury supporters were allocated the left hand side of the stand and Needham Market supporters on the right as you were looking at the pitch.

Above: Needham Market fans roar their team on at Colchester last night. Photo Needham Market FC.

Sudbury started the game with vibrant energy and enthusiasm as they began to pass the ball between themselves to get everyone confident in the initial phases.

However, they did not have it their own way as Lina Nagib had a chance from close range for Needham. Lois Balfour then found Ellie Rossiter but it was cut out by Sudbury. Needham did have penalty appeals waved away.

It was Sudbury who took the lead when a fine ball was picked up on the left by Evie Creaton who slotted beyond Clark in the Needham goal.

Above: Evie Creaton (3) gives AFC Sudbury the lead. Photo: Suffolk FA.

Sudbury doubled their advantage shortly afterwards when Kate Edwards found Creaton who forced a great save from Clark but the ball rebounded to Allen who finished well beyond Clark to put her team into a commanding position.

Sudbury continued their dominance as they looked to put the game out of sight. The next big chance was Alex Penny firing a ripper of a shot across the goal face and it needed a super outstretched save from Clark to prevent further damage to the scoreline.

Needham were next to have chances as a series of corners saw the best chance fall to an unmarked Ele Catchpole who fired over the bar.

Following a break in play for an injury and subsequent treatment required to the Sudbury keeper Millie Carter, it was Catchpole herself who had a decisive impact this time. A floated free-kick hit the crossbar and Catchpole was there to head in and spark wild scenes of celebration on the Needham dugout and amongst their fans.

The arrears had been reduced at a vital moment just before the break and there was renewed sense and belief that a remarkable turnaround could come in the second half.

Above: Jessica Allen (yellow shirt) doubles AFC Sudbury’s advantage. Photo: Clive Pearson.

However, Sudbury started the second half just as hungry as they began the first and scored immediately afterwards to restore their two-goal lead. A ball across the box from Creaton found Allen found who shot out to Penny who was there to finish. This was the moment when everyone in the ground knew the destination of the cup was Sudbury.

Needham tried to find a response as Abbie Fisher floated a free kick just wide. Sudbury’s Phoebe Guiver had a shot from distance saved by Clark which fell to Allen but Clark was there again as this time stopped the shot with her legs.

The Sudbury captain Boni Shepherd was here, there and everywhere for the cause running her heart out for her club and ensuring they would experience no danger towards the climax. Alex Penny fired a late free-kick over the bar and that was the final act of a special night for Sudbury.

Teams: AFC SUDBURY: Carter, Harrison, Provan, Mchale, Shepherd, Crawford, Edwards, Guiver, Creaton, Penny, Allen. Substitutes: Candice, Jeffrey, Smith, Dodd, Silva. 

Scorers: Creaton, Allen, Penny.

NEEDHAM MARKET: Clark, Pannifer, Thomas, Bloomfield, Catchpole, Rossiter, Henderson, Balfour, Etheridge, Nagib, Fisher. Substitutes: Ward, Brown, Wakefield, Sharp, Hall

Scorer: Catchpole.

Attendance: 566

“This Is A Joy” – Emma Hayes On Chelsea’s Must-Win Match

Impetus’ Kieran Yap heard from Chelsea boss Emma Hayes and key player Millie Bright at today’s media conference ahead of Sunday’s huge game against Manchester United (6/5/22).

Photo: Emma Hayes pictured at today’s media conference. Photo: Chelsea FC.

Chelsea coach Emma Hayes is not feeling the pressure in the decisive game of the season.

The equation for Hayes’ top placed side is simple. If they defeat Manchester United they will be guaranteed a third FA Women’s Super League title in a row.

If Arsenal better their result in their match at West Ham United, the title goes go the North London club.

It will not be an easy task, The Blues will face a Manchester United side who are hunting a result to secure a Champions League place.

Speaking the media on Friday, Hayes detailed how both she and the club both deal with the intensity of repeated must-win games.

“We take everything in small chunks, daily chunks to build towards the game,” she said. “I don’t think this game has any different impact on us than the week before… because we’ve had to win every game. So it’s easy for us in our mindset to know that you have to do that, but you have to build towards it.

“You have to train properly, you have to recover properly, you have to prepare your mindset and all of that energy can be spent on game day not in the days leading up to it. I think our squad do really really well at managing that.”

It is a concept that was echoed by star defender Millie Bright. The England international described a team that had great balance but also extremely driven individuals.

Above: Chelsea’s inspirational defender Millie Bright. Photo: Chelsea FC

“We know what we need to do to get the job done, and we know what’s expected of one another,” said Bright. “Everyone’s got a lot of experience in our team. “Everyone’s been in different scenarios where they’ve had to deal with this sort of pressure. For me it’s just another example of being at a top club. For us it’s what is expected, it’s what Emma’s prepared us for.”

Like her coach, Bright was unfussed at the prospect of another vital match. Chelsea’s players have been accustomed to this. Last season they were also crowned on the final day of the season after cruising to a 5-0 over Reading.

“I think for us, every game is a must-win and that’s the mentality that we’ve had throughout the season,” reflected Bright.

“It really doesn’t make a difference in my opinion. We want to go there, we want to get a win, a good performance and end the season on a high so that would have been the same no matter what.”

If they are crowned league champions, the celebrations will be extra sweet for the home fans. In the previous two seasons, they have won away from home or during COVID lockdowns. On Sunday, they will be at Kingsmeadow, their fortress home ground where they enjoy strong support and an enviable record.

Bright described the home fans as like a 12th player that gives her teammates a lift when needed.

“A lot of the trophies we have won have been hard to celebrate. So to be given an opportunity to do that back at home in front of the fans who have been absolutely amazing the whole season would be incredible.”

If Bright seemed relaxed, Hayes was almost Zen-like in her approach to the season’s most important fixture. She reflected on the anxiety and stress of raising a son in the world and the daily issues many people face. Compared to those concerns, competing for a title was not stressful, but a case of living the dream. It was exactly where she and her players wanted to be.

Above: Millie Bright talking to the media today. Photo: Chelsea FC.

“Look at the rising cost of people paying their bills, this is far from pressure. This is a joy, I love my job. I enjoy these situations and more importantly I enjoy representing a club that I absolutely adore and want to be in a position where we can continue to win on behalf of Chelsea is something I was born for.

“There’s no pressure… maybe an older wiser coach who is enjoying it a little more perhaps than the past.”

Hayes’ outlook was born from her unsuccessful tenure in the USA with Chicago Red Stars. Under her management, the team only recorded six wins in 26 games. Times have certainly changed for the reigning winner of FIFA’s Best Women’s Coach award. She credits those early struggles with crafting a new philosophy.

“I never forget failing so badly when I was in Chicago, and it sticks in my brain how I let so much affect me. The growth of social media, lots of different owners in my head, not feeling like I could find a clear solution. I promised myself that whatever happened from that day, that I was always going to live much differently as a coach, and I have ever since.

“I’m just blessed to be in the position I’m in for as long as I’ve been in and grateful that we have the opportunity to compete for the title on Sunday.”

In many ways, should Chelsea be triumphant, this will be the most impressive of the three league wins.

Aside from the constant uncertainty about the club’s ownership, they have had multiple long-term injuries to important players. Captain Magda Eriksson was injured early in the season, Pernille Harder joined her on the sidelines and Fran Kirby has been unavailable through illness.

In addition to that, Melanie Lupolz is on maternity leave, and both Sam Kerr and Ji So-Yun departed for the Asian Cup mid-season.

Above: Kingsmeadow Stadium – A firm favourite venue for Chelsea boss Emma Hayes. Photo: Chloe Knott for the FA.

For Chelsea to have survived these absences with championship aspirations intact is something that Hayes is particularly proud of. She highlighted the improved form of Jess Carter, the starring role of Guro Reiten, and the selfless teamwork of Erin Cuthbert.

“My question is how many top teams would have coped with that?” she said of the multiple obstacles they had to overcome to reach the pinnacle again.

A title win at Kingsmeadow will cap off another remarkable season by Chelsea and their manager, but she is quick to spread praise around the entire club.

“The one thing I’ve loved about working at this club is that everything that’s been done, has been done by everyone. The build at Kingsmeadow, the build of the fan base, the marketing, the media, the commercialisation of the club. That whole one (club) approach I think has put the team in a place where it could be successful on a pitch at Kingsmeadow.”

That stadium is often referred to as a fortress, but both Hayes and Bright agreed that it is their spiritual and footballing home. Although the club can sell out Wembley at an FA Cup Final, they are resistant to playing league games at Stamford Bridge.

“I’d much rather play in front of a packed crowd than a big stadium with 5,000 people in the back of a doubleheader where people don’t want to be there,” said Hayes. That for me is not the right way to go.”

If the players needed any extra incentive, this may be the last time star midfielder Ji So-Yun is seen in the WSL. It will also be a likely farewell to Drew Spence and Jonna Andersson.

Bright is determined to send them off on a high. “It will be, I think, the biggest high and I think it will be biggest win that we’ve ever done with the season that we’ve had with the challenges, how competitive the league’s been. But ultimately it will be a great send off for the players that have been so good for so long.”

Chelsea face Manchester United on Sunday at midday.

Foord Masterclass Spurs The Gunners To Vital Win

Arsenal 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur

By Darrell Allen at the Emirates Stadium for Impetus (5/5/22)

Above: Caitlin Foord gets a shot in at The Emirates last night despite Spurs’ Ashleigh Neville’s attempted block. Photo: Arsenal WFC.

Arsenal comfortably beat North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night to set up a final day title decider in the FAWSL.

The Gunners moved to within a point of leaders Chelsea and have a superior goal difference meaning a win on Sunday at West Ham United will be enough to lift the title if Emma Hayes’ side lose or draw against Manchester United at Kingsmeadow. 

Tottenham had the first chance of the game, Maéva Clemaron set up Kyah Simon but the shot was straight into the hands of Manuela Zinsberger in the Arsenal net.

However, the home side established its dominance shortly afterwards. With just four minutes in the clock, Leah Williamson beautifully split the Tottenham defence with a stunning through ball to find Beth Mead who finished brilliantly to open the scoring.

Above: Beth Mead celebrates after giving the Gunners an early lead. Photo: Arsenal WFC.

Spurs almost found a way back into the game, but following a goalmouth scramble that saw Vivianne Miedema block two shots, the danger was dealt with.

This roused the contingent of Tottenham supporters who had their own segregated area in the Clock End, something which pleasingly has started to appear within the women’s game.

Steph Catley was next in for Arsenal but the move was cut out by Ashleigh Neville. Next, a stunning Mead ball then split open the Tottenham defence but Stina Blackstenius’ effort could only find Tinja-Riikka Korpela’s hands.

Arsenal continued to dominate the match but Tottenham did well to contain the onslaught of set pieces during the first half period.

Caitlin Foord came alive and almost finished, but the ball hit the side netting after an in-box scramble before Miedema fired just wide of goal.

Matildas star Foord continued to be a nuisance for the Tottenham defence and particularly was giving Shelina Zadorsky a torrid time as she continually pushed and probed.

Catley also continued to cause Tottenham trouble all evening in a wide position but also cutting inside.

The Williamson and Mead link-up was a feature of the evening. Another great ball from former which the latter fired wide.

The Tottenham defence was standing firm but you sensed it was only a matter of time before the second arrived.

Foord had time for a further shot at Korpela but the lead remained singular at the break.

The second half followed a similar pattern of total Arsenal domination, and a tale of the two M’s early in the second period. Mead found Miedema who skipped inside the Tottenham defence and let fly but Korpela saved.

Foord continued to be influential in everything Arsenal were doing, carving the visitors defence open on numerous occasions.

It was the Australian who played a delightful ball across, but Mead could not finish.

Foord was everywhere as more great running found Miedema again who found the Tottenham defence napping but fired over.

Katie McCabe was introduced to a terrific reception from the Emirates crowd who were in party mood all evening.

The second goal arrived when Miedema hit a low swinging ball across and Foord was there to slide in to finish and deservedly double the Arsenal lead.

Above: In true North London derby style, it all got a bit heated in the second half… Photo: Arsenal WFC.

Ill temper was sparked when Lia Wälti put a horrendous challenge in on Josie Green with the Arsenal star fortunate to escape with a yellow.

The highlight of the night was to come as Foord curled in a delightful third to wrap the win up in style for Arsenal.

Lionesses captain Williamson was replaced late on to a standing ovation and Foord later forced Korpela into a further save.

There was time for Spurs to be awarded a late penalty as Angela Addison was brought down by Lotte Wubben-Moy but the spot-kick was saved by the legs of Zinsberger to round off a miserable night for the visitors.

Sweet Caroline rang out around the Emirates at Full Time as Arsenal celebrated another North London Derby win and the fact they have taken the FAWSL title race to the final day.

Above: Beth Mead and Caitlin Foord – Arsenal’s goal scorers and outstanding performers on the night. Photo: Arsenal WFC.

Player of the match: Beth Mead

Teams: ARSENAL: Zinsberger, Wubben-Moy, Williamson, Catley, Mead, Little, Miedema, Wälti, Maritz, Foord, Blackstenius. Substitutes: Williams (GK), Beatty, Maanum, Parris, Mccabe, Boys, Iwabuchi, Wienroither, Cull.

Scorers: Mead 4′. Foord 71, 82′.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Korpela, Zadorsky, Green, Bartrip, Harrop, Naz, Williams, Simon, Clemaron, Ayane, Neville. Substitutes: Spencer (GK), So-Hyun, Jiali, Ale, Addison, Summanen, Lane.

Referee: Louise Saunders.

Attendance: 13,438.

Above: Caitlin Foord and Lotte Wubben-Moy (right) jump for joy. Photo: Arsenal WFC.

Heroic Thetford Take Point From Fakenham

Fakenham Town 2-2 Thetford Town

By Darrell Allen (4/5/22)

Above: Becky White floats in a free-kick for Thetford Town at Fakenham. Photo: Darrell Allen.

Less than 72 hours after their 5-0 win over Bungay Town, a Thetford Town squad and management team that had since been ravaged by Covid, injury, and illness made the 70-mile round trip to face Fakenham Town.

Thetford had a playing squad of 12 and some of those were carrying injuries. Norfolk Women And Girls Football League Division One’s second-placed side Fakenham had the full 16 available so Thetford went in firmly as the underdogs. 

A positive for Thetford was the game was moved from the main pitch due to a veterans game and played on a smaller sized pitch which pleased the Thetford manager David Skipp ahead of kick-off.

It was Thetford who came out of the blocks fastest. A quick break saw Rebecca White find captain Melissa Boulton whose shot was saved by Tilly Betts in the Fakenham goal.

The subsequent corner by Hannah Rogers was cleared by Amie Hutchinson before a series of Thetford throws ins saw the early pressure continue with Dayna Howard forcing Betts into a save.

Fakenham began to get a foothold and a great ball through to Vicky Lubbock who then caught the Thetford defence off guard but could only slot past Lydia Ward to see the ball hit the post and go wide. 

The game turned into more of a midfield battle with the Town defence working hard but Fakenham were on top, but found Dayna Howard in the way every time. 

Thetford got back into what then became a stunning end-to-end contest. Good play from White, Melissa Boulton, Abbie Corbyn, and Courtney Musgrove saw an incredible amount of passes but ended up being cut out by Fakenham.

Above: Hannah Claughton takes a corner for Thetford Town. Photo: Darrell Allen.

Thetford opened the scoring when Melissa Boulton struck brilliant and the ball hit the bar before coming back out to top scorer White who finished superbly over the keeper.

The visitors should have doubled their lead before the break. White floated in a wonderful free-kick and Abbie Corbyn fired over the bar when it looked like a certain goal. It remained 1-1 at the break.

Thetford started with the second half with the same work rate and intensity as the first. A great Boulton break found White but it ended up in the keeper’s hands.

Fakenham had some more good moves but Klimcke and Dayna Howard were in the way of all of them. However, the visitors’ defence could not hold out.

Fakenham levelled the scores when Sophie Lubbock hit a great finish first time across Ward and in.

Nicole Costin floated in a beautiful free-kick for Fakenham but it was dealt with well by Ward.

Disaster struck for Thetford when Captain Boulton had to come off and Erin Lloyd was reintroduced to the pitch.

Fakenham broke brave Thetford resilience in the 70th minute when Olivia Barker found the corner to give the hosts a 2-1 advantage.

Above: Charlotte Howard on the ball for Thetford Town at Fakenham. Photo: Darrell Allen.

Thetford would now require every inch of team spirit and togetherness to get something out of this, they delivered.

You could forgive Thetford if they went on to collapse at this point. They had given everything for 70 minutes.

Somehow, somewhere the Thetford squad found a new burst of energy, a new feeling of togetherness and with the same great attitude, Corbyn, Rogers, and White were still getting joy in behind.

The reward came when great work from Musgrove saw the ball fall to Corbyn who smashed it beyond Betts to level the scores and spark wild scenes of celebration.

Thetford enjoyed the final stages of the game and Rogers had a shot into the keepers’ hands before Amy Skipp fired over the bar and Musgrove fired wide.

The scores ended level but this felt like a win for Thetford.   This is right up with Thetford’s best days of the season, to come away with limited numbers to second place Fakenham and get a fully deserved point. It took bravery, guts, team spirit, and determination of huge proportion.

The result was made even more impressive by the fact Fakenham had a free week and Thetford played less than 72 hours previous against Bungay Town.

With only one point needed from the final two games to finish fourth, this was a  huge achievement for the club. 

Thetford players of the match: Dayna Howard and Zoe Klimcke.

Teams: FAKENHAM TOWN: Betts, Pooley, Riches, Smith, Hutchinson, Sands, Dilling, Lubbock, Lubbock, Woods, Spurrell. Substitutes: Baker, Costin, Davies, Wright, Marjoram.

Scorers: Lubbock, Baker

THETFORD TOWN: Ward, Musgrove  Klimcke, Howard, Lloyd, Howard, Corbyn, Rogers, White, Boulton, Claughton. Substitute: Skipp.

Scorers: White, Corbyn.

Norfolk Wrap

Darrell Allen brings us his ever-popular round-up of all the action in the Norfolk Women’s Football scene (3/5/22).

Above: Norwich City pictured on the Loftus Road pitch after their game at Queen’s Park Rangers. Photo: Norwich City Women FC.

Tier Four Norwich City ended their season in defeat, their final FA Women’s National League Division One South-East fixture. They went down 2-1 at Queen’s Park Rangers.

The game was landmark occasion for QPR with the hosts playing the game at the men’s team home ground Loftus Road in front of a crowd of 502.

Norwich City fell behind when Vicky Grieve opened the scoring for the hosts, Natasha Snelling levelled it up for the Canaries on 48 minutes before the hosts won it in the 88 th minute with a goal from Sue Kumaning. Always disappointing to finish the season in defeat, but Norwich City got their business done prior to this fixture, having won their previous four matches to secure safety with a game to go and they can look forward to FAWNL Division 1 South East football again next season.

It was also the final round of games in the tier five Eastern Region Premier Division, with Wymondham Town already finished and promoted as champions.

Above: All smiles at the finish for Wroxham. Photo: Wroxham FC.

Wroxham took centre stage and they won their final league game of the season 4-1 at home to AFC Dunstable. Due to the lack of availability of their home stadium at Trafford Park, the fixture was played at the nearby FDC Open Academy. The change of venue did not distract the Yachtswomen as Lauren Bullard opened the scoring early on, before Becky Russell made it 2-0 and continued her scoring form for the week having netted for Thetford Town in their 5-0 win for Bungay Town on Thursday night.

Lauren Bullard then made it a brace for herself to give the Yachtswomen a 3-0 lead at the break. Dunstable got a goal back from the penalty spot before Grace Birchall scored the fourth to complete a comfortable win for Wroxham. It’s a victory that sees manager Rebecca Burton end her fantastic tenure at the club on a high and they will be hoping to have one last success and win silverware when they play Wymondham Town in the Eastern Region League Cup Final next Sunday. 

Above: King’s Lynn Town celebrate Tiffany Forshaw’s goal. Photo: Tim Smith.

King’s Lynn Town finished their season with a 2-2 draw at home to Royston Town at The Walks. King’s Lynn led this game 2-0 thanks to goals from Aime Ford and a long-range blast from Tiffany Forshaw. However, Royston secured a point thanks to a penalty from Natalie Richardson and a late equaliser from Becky Charter. Royston finish the season second and the seventh placed finish for King’s Lynn Town also represents a very successful first season in step five. The club have earnt many friends on and off the pitch this season, and have been helped by their home games being played at The Walks. They will be hoping to continue their upward momentum in 2022/2023. 

Table From: FA Full-Time.

In the Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One, it was second-placed Fakenham Town who took centre stage with Mulbarton Belles already having completed their season and promoted as champions. Fakenham Town were frustrated and held at home 2-2 by fourth placed Thetford Town. Thetford took the lead late in the first half with a goal from distance from Becky White. Fakenham levelled it up through Sophie Lubbock before Olivia Barker gave them the lead. Thetford equalised late on thanks to Abbie Corbyn to take home a point and cause a shock result. 

That result good news for third placed Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers who stormed past Stalham on the road 13-0. Seven of those goals came from Vicky Leyer. There was also ahat trick from Shanice Sutton, a brace from Tallulah Bell and the other from captain Calista Tink. Dussindale therefore continue their relentless pursuit of second placed Fakenham Town. Fakenham have now finished their league games and face an anxious wait to find out where they finish as Dussindale sit 10 points behind but still have four matches to play. For a full report of this game, see Impetus tomorrow (Wednesday).

In arguably the day’s biggest game, Sprowston and Bungay Town shared the spoils in an entertaining 1-1 draw. Lucy Eagle opened the scoring for Bungay before the hosts equalised late on thanks to a goal from Keira Braithwaite. Bungay now must beat Thetford Town on Sunday to stand any chance of finishing in fourth place. 

Above: Harriet Hunwicks-Rush being applauded off the pitch after her final game, 12 years and 280 appearances for Long Stratton. Photo: Long Stratton FC.

In the day’s final game, Long Stratton hosted North Walsham Town at Manor Road, in what was an emotional occasion for Long Stratton’s Harriet Hunwicks-Rush who played her final game after 12 seasons with the club making 280 appearances along the way. Long Stratton sent her out in style winning 6-4 thanks to a hat-trick from Luci Middleton, a brace from Samantha Walker, and the other goal coming from Emma Allsopp. North Walsham were very proud of their performance running a good Long Stratton side close with just a squad of bare 11. 

Table From: FA Full-Time.

In Division Two, the story of the day in Norfolk saw Caister win the title with a superb 11-0 victory over Shrublands. There were five goals from Bethany Turner, a brace from Molly Simms, and strikes from Ellie Hills, Samantha Hunn, Hayley Muir, and Enya Tooke. The result saw Sophie Gillett’s team crowned champions in style with a game to go. They can also look forward to the upcoming NWGFL plate cup final against Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers. 

Above: Caister FC celebrate winning the Norfolk Women & Girls’ Division Two title. Photo: Caister FC.

In the only other Division Two game on Sunday, King’s Lynn Soccer Club rounded off their season with a 5-0 win over Freethorpe thanks to four goals from Jordan Turner and the other from Kelsey Ramm. They now face a wait to see what the University of East Anglia do in their two final matches to see if they hold on to second place. 

Table From: FA Full-Time

Polished Pride

Pride Park 4-0 Borrowash Victoria

By Doug Outt (3/5/22)

Above: Pride Park’s Summer Evans with her commemorative shield marking her 50th appearance for the club. Photo via: Pride Park FC.

Pride Park moved into second in the Derbyshire Ladies League Division One with a polished and composed performance against a depleted Borrowash Victoria on Sunday.

It was third against fourth at Moorways, with both sides in the hunt for second place. Prior to kick-off, Pride’s striker Summer Evans was presented with a commemorative shield to mark her reaching 50 appearances at the beginning of April.

Vics made a lively start but there weren’t many chances early on. Pride Park gradually grew into the game and started to enjoy the better possession, although the first shot on target came from the visitors after 15 minutes, but was comfortably caught by Jade Howell in the Pride Park goal. The home side were building play up well, but the final ball wasn’t quite finding the intended player.

Nevertheless, The Pride started to build some momentum and there were chances for Beth Jones, Lottie Bryan, and Summer Evans, before two goals in three minutes for the hosts around the twenty minutes mark put the hosts in control. 

The first came after some slick build-up play as Evans played in Bryan who smartly squared it for Sophie Ayton on the right, who made no mistake from inside the box for her first goal of the season. 

Three minutes later, again after good build-up play, Bryan provided another assist as she unselfishly squared the ball to Evans who, with her back to goal, allowed the ball to run across her before turning and placing a smart finish wide of the keeper.

After 30 minutes Park were awarded a penalty after a free-kick was lifted into the box and the ball hit a defender’s raised hand as she challenged for a header. Tash Allderidge stepped up and drilled the spot-kick home to give Pride Park a 3-0 lead on the half-hour

Above: Sophie Ayton, scorer of Pride Park’s opening goal against Borrowash Victoria. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

There were a couple more chances, for Beth Jones and Rachel Weaver, but at the break, it remained 3-0 to the home side, who were good value for their lead. 

It was important for Pride Park to maintain the performance level in the second half, and they started well, with early chances for Sophie Ayton, Eliot Sayavong, and Lottie Bryan. 

A few more half chances were created that couldn’t be converted, but shortly after the hour, The Pride extended their lead. A good passage of play culminated in an inviting ball into the area from Ayton which was met at the far post and smashed home by Eliot Sayavong 

The first good chance of the second half for the Vics – a header from a speculative ball forward – came with just under twenty minutes to play, but Jade Howell collected comfortably. 

With ten minutes to go, a goal-bound shot from Beth Thompson was diverted into the net by Sophie Ayton but the goal was ruled out for offside. There were no further chances for either side and Pride Park saw the game out for a valuable win. 

Defensive solidity set the foundation for the performance – it was particularly pleasing to get a third clean sheet of the season – and with some excellent build-up play added in for a fully deserved three points in a polished performance. It was good to see Eliot Sayavong and Sophie Ayton cap good displays with goals, and for Lizzie Pacey to get some playing time under her belt in her first outing since the start of the season, but there were good performances from all twelve players involved. 

The win takes Pride Park into second, behind champions Draycott, with two games to play; at Mickleover in two weeks (15th May, ko 1.30pm) and the final game of the season away to….Borrowash Victoria, again (29th May, ko 1.30pm), who have four games left.

Above: Eliot Sayavong, who completed the scoring for Pride Park. Photo: Shaun Hardwick,

Dons End The Season On A High

AFC Wimbledon 8-0 Cambridge United

By George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Ladies (2/5/22).

Above: Another shot on goal for AFC Wimbledon yesterday at home to Cambridge United. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

AFC Wimbledon ended their season in style yesterday, running out 8-0 winners against Cambridge United at Carshalton Athletic FC in the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East.

The Dons went into the game looking to end the season in a strong fashion and put last weekend’s FAWNL Plate Final defeat to higher league Nottingham Forest behind them. Before the game, there was a touching tribute to long-standing player Katie Stanley who will retire from football at the end of the season.

The game itself saw Wimbledon get off to the perfect start as Rebecca Carter’s cross was deflected in off a Cambridge defender to give the Dons the lead with less than five minutes on the clock.

Five minutes later, Wimbledon doubled their lead with Rebecca Carter again involved as her shot hit the post before Emily Donovan scored the rebound. Just before the 30-minute mark, it was 3-0 as Gloria Siber scored after a brilliant run beating several defenders in the process. 

With Wimbledon 3-0 up at halftime, manager Kevin Foster took the opportunity to make a double change with Amy Taylor coming on alongside Angel Fower who was making her farewell appearance for the Dons before going to America.

Less than five minutes into the second half, Dons further extended their lead as Hannah Billingham scored an incredible lob from over 30 yards whilst close to the touchline. With 55 minutes on the clock the moment all connected to AFC Wimbledon been waiting for happened as Ashlee Hincks scored her 40th goal of the season in all competitions by scoring her side’s fifth goal of the afternoon.

With 30 minutes left it was 6-0 as Emily Donovan converted from close range to get her second of the game. Ten minutes later, Molly Childerhouse got in on the action scoring her first goal for the Dons with an excellent finish from close range. With five minutes left, there was a fairy tale ending for Angel Fowler who scored an excellent header after a brilliant flick on by Amy Taylor to ensure Fowler signed off from the Dons in perfect fashion. 

As the final whistle blew with the Dons 8-0 winners, there was confirmation that Ashlee Hincks had won the league golden boot award adding to the club player of the year award she had won the previous day. There was also confirmation that Faye Baker had kept the most clean sheets in the league meaning she would win the Golden Glove award.

El Sueno Tequila Player of the Match Emily Donovan said “We didn’t quite get the end to the season that we wanted. No lie, we wanted promotion at the very start of this year, but we finished off as strong as we could and that is testament to the group, the people behind the players, and the whole set up at the club so we are happy today.”

First-team coach Andy May said “It’s a really pleasing positive result. We said earlier in the week we were going to take it seriously even though we know that the promotion push is not there, so it’s really pleasing because there are elements there that we have been working on for months, and its really good to see them in that performance today so we finish on a high which is so important to us.”

Teams: AFC WIMBLEDON: Allen, Oliver, Highman (Fowler), Sargent (Childerhouse), Billingham, Mann (Taylor), Stow (Sampson), Donovan, Siber, Hincks, Carter (Russell).

Scorers: Carter, Donovan (2), Siber, Billingham, Hincks, Childerhouse, Fowler.

CAMBRIDGE UNITED: Webb, Bennett, Otten, Burt, Fox, Jenkins, Stojko-Down, Rouse, Griffin, Fraser, Marden. Substitutes: Waygood, Davies, Pamplin, Hodgson, Barker.

Attendance: 143.

FA Women’s National League Division One South-East Final Table:

Table From: FA Full-Time

Emma Hayes on Sam Kerr, Ji, And Birmingham

Impetus’ Kieran Yap was in the Chelsea head coach’s media conference for us yesterday and heard her talk about her Football Writers Player of the Year Sam Kerrdeparting star Ji So-Yun and overcoming the threat of a Birmingham City side fighting for their FAWSL lives (30/4/22).

Above: Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes who spoke of the huge influence of Sam Kerr and Ji So-Yun on her team. Photo: Yui Mok PA Images.

There are no quiet news weeks at a club like Chelsea FC and coach Emma Hayes had only hours to bask in the 2-1 win over Tottenham that inched them closer to the title.

Speaking to the media ahead of another must-win game against Birmingham City, Hayes spoke glowingly about two of her best players, for very different reasons.

Star striker, Sam Kerr has been announced as the Football Writers player of the year. She receives the award alongside Mohammad Salah of Liverpool who was voted the best men’s player.

Kerr has so far scored 18 times for Chelsea in the league this season, including a vital matchwinner against Tottenham. Her strike rate is even more remarkable considering that she does not take penalties for Chelsea. Hayes estimated that 16 of her goals came from what she called the “golden zone” around the six-yard box.

The other player that everybody was talking about was midfielder Ji So-Yun. The South Korean star will depart Chelsea as a legend of the club after announcing her departure. She remains one of Haye’s most influential signings and favourite players to coach.

“She’s watched this club grow from semi-pro status to full-time status to champions league finalists and serial winners domestically,” said Hayes.

Above: Ji So-Yun in typical action for Chelsea. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

“I know I will miss her, I have a great relationship with Ji and we’ve had some tough conversations over the last few months.

“It’s important to remember that Ji has been without doubt the best international player into the WSL ever.

“She’s been an important cog in this team but she’s also going to pass on vital knowledge to the next generation coming through in Jessie Fleming and Lauren James.

“Ji goes with our blessing, and I think the time is right for her to live another challenge. I know that we leave each other in the best possible place. She is very much and always will be a part of this family

Hayes is optimistic that the younger players in her squad will be able to step up in Ji’s absence. They are impossibly huge boots to fill, and Chelsea will not be shopping for a direct replacement, simply because none exist.

“You can’t replace Ji. What I’ve learned is you can’t replace people with like for like. That’s not something I like to do. I think Ji is unique, special, one-off, and been instrumental in our success up to this point.”

Above: At the peak of her powers – Sam Kerr. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

On the subject of Kerr, Chelsea have the world’s best striker in at the peak of her powers. When she arrived at Chelsea she was already the record goals scorer in Australia and The USA. However long-term fans of Kerr’s saw further improvement in the FAWSL.

Most notably her off-the-ball work rate and ability to lose defenders or break offside traps has made her an even more deadly threat.

“The timing of her movement, I have never seen a forward with that quality before,” said Hayes of Kerr’s quality.  

“I think she gets penalised, if I’m brutally honest with you… I think the officials need to be better at recognising that Sam’s timing is really really good and perhaps theirs is not.

“I think she gets penalised for offside when she isn’t, and that’s a gift. That is something that you can’t teach. She’s got a natural ability to make the right runs and time the right runs and be in the right areas. There’s no question that Sam Kerr is one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”

Since arriving at Chelsea, Kerr has scored 40 goals in 44 matches. It may be a frightening thought for defenders around the world, but according to Hayes, she is still constantly looking to improve.

Above: Penalty box predator – Sam Kerr. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

“I do think there’s more to come. I think there’s little details all the time we’re asking her to work at. As I told her this morning, it’s a prestigious award, and one that she should be so proud of. I know how important it is in this country and I think she’s completely deserving.

“She’s really produced goals in really key moments, especially the second half of the season but we’ve all come to expect that from Sam. She lives with the privilege and that pressure really really well. She copes with it and thrives on it to be honest with you.

“She’s one of the coolest customers there is come game day. The bigger the opponent the bigger the game I think the better she gets.”

Kerr adapted relatively quickly to the FAWSL, despite some frustrating misses at the start of the 2020/21 season, she soon started scoring with incredible consistency. Hayes signed a star, but Kerr has worked hard at becoming a Chelsea player to the benefit of club, country, and the footballer.  

“I think it’s a combination of things,” reflects Hayes. “I know what she needs and what she doesn’t need, I figured that one out. Sam is a hard worker in training and that’s where the magic happens.

“She’s applying all the details and diligence on the training ground and the league had for sure improved Sam but the credit is all her. That’s what makes her the player and the person she is. She’s committed to making herself the best possible player in the world.”

Above: “Coping and thriving” with the pressure – Sam Kerr. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

With all of the fanfare about Kerr’s award and Ji’s impending departure, it would be easy to forget that Chelsea still have a game on Sunday. Two more wins will guarantee the title remains at Kingsmeadow.

Birmingham City are no easy task and Hayes is is not taking them lightly. “I think everybody has to pay a bit more respect to Birmingham and the fact that they aren’t out of the division…They’re fighting for their lives. They certainly won’t be underestimated by us.

“We know that they are confident about their abilities to stay in the WSL. We’re going to have to find something else again this time against a very different opponent to Tottenham but one that is nonetheless going to do everything they can to take points off of us.

“They’re going to make it difficult like Tottenham did. We have to be better, we’ve conceded two goals from set-pieces that we haven’t conceded all year. That’s not good enough from us. It’s the way that we’re conceding the corners or the free kicks that are the concern for me. You have to stop it at its source.”

For the second season in a row, Chelsea’s title hopes are down to the wire. It is an exciting end for neutrals and the Chelsea boss relishes the contest for the trophy, whether that be against Arsenal or Manchester City like it was previously.

“I always enjoy the process of competing to win, I like that we’ve found some real consistency in our performances, especially in the second half of the season.

“I like that we’ve developed depth within the squad again. I think Chelsea’s future is bright, and I’ve been here so many times to know that nothing is won yet. We need to keep grinding every day because we’ve got another important game this week.”

Master Magician Ji To Depart Chelsea

Impetus brings you news of the imminent departure of one of the FAWSL’s outstanding players. Ben Gilby ends the article with his own personal tribute to the South Korean star – one of his stand out players in three years covering Chelsea Women (29/4/22).

Above: Ji So-Yun pictured hitting a trademark shot from outside the box. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Following an outstanding eight years with the club, Ji So-Yun will leave Chelsea at the end of the season to head back to South Korea.

The Chelsea midfielder will continue with the Blues for the remainder of the season aiming to clinch a third successive FAWSL title and second consecutive FA Cup win. After these games, Ji will head back to South Korea.

As one of the club’s longest-serving players, Ji has been a pivotal member of Emma Hayes’ side, scoring an impressive 68 career goals at the club across a total of 208 career appearances so far, with three matches left this season. The 31-year-old has 37 WSL goals to her name, ranking her among the top scorers in WSL history.

Remarkably, Ji has been a part of each of the 11 major trophies the club has won in the WSL era, becoming a champion of England five times including the Spring Series, taking home the FA Cup three times, and also securing two Continental Cup wins and one Community Shield.

Ji was initially spotted by Hayes and general manager, Paul Green when Chelsea Women played Japanese side INAC Kobe Leonessa in the final of the 2013 International Women’s Club Championship in Tokyo. A two-year contract was signed, a landmark deal at the time for an international player to be heading to the WSL.

Above: Ji So-Yun – a fan’s favourite at Kingsmeadow. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Ji became the first South Korean to play in the FA Women’s Super League in her debut campaign for the club in 2014 when she scooped FA WSL Player of the Year and PFA Players’ Player of the Year awards. She also went on to become the first non-British player to reach 100 and 200 league appearances respectively.

Ahead of the 2019/20 campaign, the Blues No.10 extended her stay for the final time for three years until 2022, with further accolades following with the South Korean shortlisted for FIFA’s Best Women’s Footballer and the FIFPRO World 11. Throughout her time at Chelsea, Ji has become renowned for her technical ability and brilliance on the ball, scoring some of our most memorable, big game goals, as well as her infectious personality and endless quirks and positivity that she brings to the team daily.

Away from Chelsea, Ji was appointed Co-president of the Korean Pro-Footballers’ Association in 2020, becoming the first female to occupy that role. She has also had a glittering career with Korea on the international field with over 125 caps for her country, most recently taking her team to the AFC Asian Cup Final. Ji has also been named South Korea’s Women’s Footballer of the Year an impressive six times and remains their top all-time goal scorer.

On Ji’s departure, Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes commented: “What an honour and a privilege it’s been to coach one of the most amazing players the WSL has ever seen. There’s no question she’s been the most successful player from outside our league.

“Ji’s helped the club grow on and off the pitch and she’s a fabulous character who will be sorely missed. I will miss her terribly and I’m so grateful for everything she’s done for everyone at the football club. We are in a much better place because of it.”

On a personal level, it has been an absolute pleasure and privilege watching Ji at Kingsmeadow and other FAWSL grounds over the past three seasons. The midfielder is a true creator of the highest quality and a fun figure that exudes love of life and the game. Ji is always one of the last to leave the pitch, posing for photos and autographs each week. Her departure leaves a huge hole at Chelsea both on and off the pitch.

As the fans’ song goes – Ji So-Yun: She’s Unbelievable.

Five Star Thetford Defeat Battling Bungay

Thetford Town 5-0 Bungay Town

By Darrell Allen (29/4/22).

Above: Melissa Boulton, Thetford Town captain, player of the match, and scorer of her team’s fifth goal in action last night. Photo: Richard Brown.

A rare midweek match for Thetford Town saw Bungay Town visit Mundford Road for Thursday night football under the lights in Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One

Despite the two towns being 34 miles apart, this fixture has a derby day type feel to it and has become a hotly contested affair this season with Thetford losing 2-1 with 10 players in the NWGFL League Cup and the League fixture at Bungay being abandoned with the hosts 5-2 up after a late injury to Thetford’s Courtney Musgrove.

The added significance and atmosphere of a night game and with Bungay having scored eight goals in their away win at Stalham on Sunday and Thetford producing a disappointing performance and 4-0 defeat to Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers meant that the two sides came in on the back of contrasting results.

Bungay travelled with just a squad of bare 10 players due to suspensions and exams and the numerical advantage was a huge unexpected positive for Thetford Town ahead of kick-off.

Thetford started the game on the ascendancy and an early cross from captain Melissa Boulton was into Sophia Serghiou’s hands

Becky Russell, Thetford dual signing again showed her love for the game by playing for Thetford less than 72 hours before her next Wroxham fixture on Sunday and superbly fed in Hannah Rogers who shot but again this ended up in the hands of Serghiou.

Bungay, regardless of their numerical disadvantage looked hungry and a Lucy Eagle cross was fired over the bar by Ciera Flatt. They also went close when Gemma Foster found Flatt who sent Eagle through but Thetford keeper Lydia Ward was there to stop with her legs.

Thetford opened the scoring halfway through the first half when following some stunning work by Hannah Rogers, Russell was there in acres of space to calmly slot past Serghiou.

Above: Thetford’s Courtney Musgrove (2) and Becky Russell deny Bungay last night. Photo: Richard Brown. 

Bungay went in search of an equaliser before the break as Foster’s shot was saved by Ward before a corner was played in, again saved by Ward and a goalmouth scramble followed but Thetford cleared the danger away and went in at the break with a single goal lead.

The second half was a contest for little more than 3 minutes when Thetford went 2-0 up when Becky White dinked the ball superbly over Serghiou from distance.

The game was made safe for the hosts when substitute Abbie Corbyn crossed and found Rogers who tapped in like a typical poacher for 3-0.

A fourth goal was not far behind as Corbyn, who had an inspired evening down the Thetford wing, was there again to shoot. Serghiou saved but she could not prevent Hannah Claughton from following up.

Bungay continued to be proactive in their attitude and commitment, and were determined to do their club and town proud as the numerical disadvantage showed as energy levels wained as this contest headed for its final stages.

The evening got worse for Bungay as Lucy Eagle had to come off leaving eight outfield players. It got even tougher when Cierra Flat was sin-binned. Eagle determined as ever, went back on for the final exchanges, someone who represents passion and determination in abundance.

The concluding stages of the affair were Thetford domination. The hosts broke and a Boulton cross found Rogers, but the shot was fired at Serghiou.

The final act came when captain Boulton rounded off an outstanding team and personal display by slotting past Serghiou to make it 5-0.

Above: Thetford Town’s Rebecca White, scorer of her team’s second goal, in action last night. Photo: Richard Brown.

This was a night that Thetford Town needed, naturally assisted by the numerical advantage, but this team has had some terrible knocks in recent weeks and deserved luck being on their side. That said, you still have to beat what’s there, and whilst Bungay competed admirably in the first half, it was Thetford who blew their visitors away in the second 45 with four goals to add to the Russell opener and a wonderful team performance.

With three away days to come at Fakenham Town, Bungay Town and Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers, after last Sunday’s heavy defeat, these games looked daunting. They might still be, but after this outstanding team performance and win, these games can now be approached with renewed self-belief and confidence. Thetford know that they can succeed if they all pull together, all help each other and all believe in each other as not just footballers, but people too.

Many would say these are very evenly matched clubs and with the reverse fixture on 8th May at Bungay coming soon, the hope will be that both are at full strength.

Player of the Match: Melissa Boulton (Thetford Town).

Teams: THETFORD TOWN: Ward, Musgrove, Mae-Davies, Howard, Lynch  Klimcke, Rogers, Russell, White, Boulton, Claughton. Substitutes: Corbyn, Escreet, Burr-Walpole, Lloyd, Knight.

Scorers: Russell, White, Rogers, Claughton, Boulton 

BUNGAY TOWN: Serghiou, Galer, Riggall, Webb, Adams, Flatt, Studd, Renwick, Eagle, Foster.

Referee: Craig Ellis

Attendance: 103

Liskeard Athletic: Pushing For Promotion In Cornwall

Lee Mann is the manager of tier six club Liskeard Athletic. He spoke to Ben Gilby about the club’s great progress, and high hopes for the future (28/4/22).

Above: Liskeard Athletic FC. Photo: Janina Augustynowicz.

Liskeard Athletic are a big part of a growing successful women’s football scene in Cornwall. Manager Lee Mann came in ahead of this season and knew there was huge potential at the club.

“I was approached about coming to Liskeard and time being the manager of the men’s team, I decided I wanted to take the opportunity as they were a very talented and good group of girls.

“From then we worked very hard as we only had three weeks before the season started to prepare. We are now on the brink of winning the league, and got to the First Round of the FA Cup.

“Our striker Chloe Williams is still the top scorer in the competition with 12 goals and has been invited to the Final at Wembley! We’ve also reached the quarter-final of the Cornwall Ladies Cup. So the first season has been successful with so much to build on.”

Liskeard Athletic’s success come amidst the shadow of the pandemic. Lee believes that the club used the pause in football to their advantage.

“We continued to work hard behind the scenes and it gave us a chance to focus on other areas such as administration and trying to attract sponsorship and obtain grants.

“The biggest thing for any grassroots football is the amount of money that it takes to run a club and the amount of effect behind the scenes all committees member have to put in. It is very hard to attract volunteers as being involved in a football club is a full-time job.

Above: The Liskeard Athletic team. Photo: Janina Augustynowicz.

“We have some wonderful volunteers. I have been managing for 12 years now and I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if it wasn’t for Janina my other half she is the oil that makes the machine work so well. It’s just a thing we do now we turn up and don’t even have to ask what the other person is doing. John Wilson is the ladies’ linesman. He gives his time up for free and travels everywhere with the girls and for both teams, we have a fantastic local man, Jon Harris that takes photos and helps with promoting the club.”

At the present time, the club are still revelling in being back playing football after the pandemic. “During the COVID period, not playing games was a big loss physically and mentally, not just for the players, managers, and committee, but also for the supporters.”

Liskeard are presently in the South-West Regional League Division One West and are extremely well placed to win promotion only having lost two games all season. This has put them a point behind leaders Plymouth Arygle U23s who have completed their season. With Liskeard having home and away games with Helston remaining, two points will seal the title.

Lee summarised the competition as “a small league (only six clubs) due to teams pulling out due to lack of players or struggling at the standard. Having said that, the teams are very competitive and all very much on their day can beat each other. 

“As a manager I always push players to be the best they can. This isn’t just good for football, it is good for everyday life being a winner having the strong mentally to do better and never settle for just enough. So I will always push the side to win leagues, cups and promotion. If not there is no point.”

One of the club’s development points is to build a pathway from girls’ football towards the first team. Lee highlights how they are planning on going about doing it.

“At the moment we only have the one team but we are building pathways with local side St. Cleer who have girls’ teams. We are also going to try and build bridges with the school next door to the club as it’s key to give local girls and ladies the opportunity to play.”

Dussindale Defeat Town

Thetford Town 0-4 Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers

By Darrell Allen (27/4/22)

Photo: Thetford Town gather on the pitch. Photo: Richard Brown.

Encouraged by recent results and performances Thetford Town welcomed third-placed Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers to Mundford Road for their latest Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One clash. 

Dussindale made a bright start to the game with some good early touches of the ball. A throw from Victoria Leyer saw Shanice Sutton in but Ellie Mae-Davies did well to clear the danger for Thetford.

Two further chances came the visitors way through Leyer who first was found from a corner and picked her shot wide of goal. She then pounced on a Thetford error but Lydia Ward in the Town goal reacted brilliantly to stop her in her tracks.

Dussindale upped the pressure, Lucy Wetherall put a ball in but it was superbly cleared by Ellie Mae-Davies. The ball was then played back on and this time Ward dealt with the danger.

Dussindale continued the ascendancy and got a deserved lead when Leyer calmly slotted past Ward to open the scoring for the visitors.

An electrifying break followed as Dussindale sensed that Thetford were vulnerable but once again Mae-Davies dealt with the danger.

The half was rounded off by a Dayna Howard break for the hosts as she tried to make something happen but without a positive conclusion and Dussindale led by a single goal at the break.

Dussindale continued the second as the first ended with lots of pressure. A Sutton cross was superbly cleared away by Rachel Lynch.

Above: Thetford Town’s Abbie Corbyn wins a header against Dussindale & Hellesdon Rovers. Photo: Richard Brown.

However a mistake was then made by Lynch in the next move and Leyer was there again to slot past Ward to double hers and the visitors’ tally. 

Thetford’s best chance of the afternoon came when Abbie Corbyn fired over the bar but it really was a day when Thetford’s forward line were frustrated at their lack of time on the ball.

Dussindale continued their game of playing balls over the top, and another found Leyer who finished well for her hat trick to make the game comfortable for Dussindale.

Thetford woes increased when Chelsea Page was helped from the pitch by Town physio Amber Browne with an ankle injury that could see her out for the remainder of the season.

The fourth and final goal came late on when Ruby Wilson netted after a scramble in the box.

It was a comfortable win for Dussindale. Thetford will be frustrated about how easy the visitors were able to win the game.

It was a day to forget quickly for Thetford who will be hoping for a significantly improved performance and hopefully a positive result when they host Bungay Town in their final home game of the season on Thursday night.

Player of the match: Vicky Leyer (Dussindale & Hellesdon Rovers).

Teams: THETFORD TOWN: Ward, Musgrove, Klimcke, Howard, Lynch, Mae-Davies, Corbyn, Page, Rogers, Boulton, Claughton. Substitutes: Burr-Walpole, Bambury.

DUSSINDALE & HELLESEON ROVERS: Cole, Kennett, Hunphries, Wetherall, Roe, Goodenough, Sutton, Tink, Leyer, Hutchin, Brister. Substitutes: Nobbs, Wilson, Kowalczyk, Bell.

Scorers: Leyer (3), Wilson.

Referee: Paul Gibson 

Attendance: 85

Above: Dussindale & Hellesdon Rovers’ Callista Tink (left) and Hannah Claughton of Thetford Town (right) bump fists. Photo: Richard Brown.

Norfolk Wrap

Darrell Allen rounds up all the action involving Norfolk’s clubs at the weekend (26/4/22).

Above: Wroxham, in their away kit pictured after their 1-0 win at Colney Heath. Goalscorer Lauren Bullard is front left. Photo: Wroxham FC.

Tier Five Wroxham were victorious in the day’s only game in the Eastern Region Premier Division.

A Lauren Bullard goal immediately after the break was enough to give The Yachtswomen all three points in a closely fought game at Colney Heath.

The win sees Wroxham continue their fine form now having won five consecutive games in all competitions and seven out of their last eight in all competitions.

The Yachtswomen aim to continue their good finish to the season which could see them finish third or fourth in the league and silverware is targeted in the form of the ERWFL League Cup.

In the Norfolk Local Leagues it was Mulbarton Belles who were the day’s headline makers winning 14-1 at North Walsham in their final game of Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One which included hat tricks for Rebekah Lake and Alanta Griffith and completed an incredible league campaign for Mulbarton winning 20 games out of 20.

Second place Fakenham Town won a closely fought game with Beccles Town, Fakenham led 2-0 thanks to goals from Sophie Lubbock and Shelly Woods but Beccles bravely responded to get the game back to 2-2 and Fakenham required a late winner from Holly Davies to get all three points in a 3-2 win.

Third place Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers kept up the pressure on Fakenham with a comfortable 4-0 victory at Thetford Town. A hat trick from Vicky Leyer the headline act and Ruby Wilson getting the other goal. A full report on this game will appear on Impetus later in the week.

In the day’s final game, Bungay Town were comprehensive winners in an 8-3 success over Stalham at Rivers Park. Stalham made Bungay work hard for the points though in a spirited first-half display although Bungay quality won the afternoon. Lucy Eagle the hat trick hero for Bungay on a day of hat tricks in Division One, a brace from Gemma Foster, Ciara Flatt, Nicola Hazell, and an own goal completed Bungay scoring. For Stalham it was a tale of their two Charlotte’s as Fisher got a brace and Crane the other.

Table From: FA Full-Time

In Division Two, Leaders Caister were involved in cup action away to Freethorpe and were victorious 2-0 in the NWGFL Plate Cup Semi-Final thanks to goals from Laura Atkinson and Beth Turner. They are now in the final against Dussindale and Hellesdon on Sunday 15th May. Freethorpe deserves praise for hosting the game after Caister were originally supposed to be hosts, but their pitch was unavailable due to a cricket match taking place at The Allendale.

In the days’ league matches, second-placed University of East Anglia (UEA) were 3-0 winners on the road at Thetford Bulldogs.

A Kelsey Ramm brace saw King’s Lynn Soccer Club keep up the pressure on UEA with a 2-0 win at Horsford.

In the day’s final game, FC Viking Valkyries made it six points from the last nine with an impressive 2-0 win over Shrublands as Ben Binders’ team have a positive end to the season.

The Division Two title can be won next weekend if Caister take a point or more from their home game with Shrublands.

Table From: FA Full-Time

Dons Heroics Not Enough As Forest Earn The Silverware

AFC Wimbledon 1-2 Nottingham Forest

FA Women’s National League Plate Final – at Solihull Moors FC.

By George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Ladies

Above: Aerial action between AFC Wimbledon and Nottingham Forest in the FAWNL Plate Final yesterday. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

AFC Wimbledon came up just short against a strong Nottingham Forest side from the division above in the FAWNL Plate Final.

After beating Norwich City, Chesham United, Portishead, Portsmouth, and Sporting Khalsa to reach the final, Wimbledon knew that the game against Forest would be by far their toughest.

With the 11:00am kick-off at Solihull Moors, the Dons started the game strongly in front of a good-sized crowd where despite the long journey, Wimbledon fans heavily outnumbered Nottingham Forest and were making plenty of noise as the South Londoners set out to make history.

Dons came close to opening the scoring only five minutes into the game as a long-range free-kick from Ashlee Hincks landed on the roof of the net. However, it would be Nottingham Forest that took the lead.

Emily Donovan was off the pitch after receiving treatment for an extended period of time during which Forest took advantage of having the extra player and took the lead in the 11th minute from Brown. Despite the setback, Wimbledon rallied and looked for an equalizer.

Yet, the Dons needed Faye Baker to make a couple of fantastic saves to keep the game alive and as the half went on, AFC Wimbledon began to find their feet. With 25 minutes gone they got a much-deserved equalizer as Kelly Highman expertly headed home from an Ashlee Hincks free-kick.

However, less than 10 minutes later, Forest were back in front after a stunning freekick by Anderson left Faye Baker with no chance.

The second half saw Wimbledon push for an equalizer and despite piling on the pressure and making several attacking changes, there was a feeling that perhaps it just wasn’t going to be the Dons’ day as they couldn’t quite convert a chance with substitute Gloria Siber coming closest however her shot went wide.

There were worrying scenes in the closing minutes for Wimbledon as Katie Stanley was carried off the pitch after suffering a serious knee injury. The game finished 2-1 to Nottingham Forest.

Speaking after the game, Dons captain Hannah Billingham said “I feel we had a good performance, especially in the second half, we could have got more from this game. So I am just gutted, few tears at the end there as it’s hard because we have done so well this season and we could have got more from that game.”

Dons Manager Kevin Foster was proud of his team. “Credit to Nottingham Forest, I thought they were excellent in the first half, they moved the ball well, played between lines and they got in between us. It’s frustrating because the first goal has come when we have had a player off the pitch for a minute and a half nearly when we were trying to get them back on. In the second half, we showed a bit of resilience, we could’ve had a couple and we’ve come back against an excellent Nottingham Forest side.”

AFC Wimbledon’s season is not over yet as they still have one more league game at home to Cambridge United in the FA Women’s National League Division One SE at Carshalton Athletic on Sunday 1st May with 2pm kickoff. Tickets are available on the gate priced at Adults £5 and U18’s Free.

Teams: AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Russell, Highman, Sargent, Billingham, Mann, Stow (Taylor), Donovan, Stanley (Sampson), Hincks, Carter (Siber). Unused Subs: Allen, Fowler.

Scorer: Highman 25′.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST: Batty, Harkin, Hewitt, Brown, Cook, West, Reynolds, Mitchell, Anderson, James, Greengrass. Substitutes: Steggles, Walters, Docherty, Powell, Aguirre.

Scorers: Brown 13′, Anderson 33′.

Mulbarton Masterclass After Bright Bungay Start

Mulbarton Belles 8-1 Bungay Town

By Darrell Allen (24/4/22)

Above: Mulbarton Belles pictured together after their 8-1 win over Bungay Town. Photo: Grace Barley.

Fresh from their title-clinching victory at Thetford Town on Sunday, Mulbarton Belles welcomed Bungay Town for their final home game of the season at Mulberry Park. 

It was Bungay though who started the game brightest with some good early touches of the ball and getting on the ascendancy from the off with Nicky Hazell having an effort cleared off the line by Mulbarton’s Lucy Lincoln.

This was the wake-up call Mulbarton needed and they began to get forward themselves. The home side’s front three have had a wonderful season and linked up superbly once again.

Mulbarton found the net when Melissa Belsey cross found Lucy Lincoln but the goal was ruled out.

Bungay had a flurry of attacks before Mulbarton earned a number of corners, but the score remained goalless.

What you don’t do against Mulbarton is give away cheap goals, but Bungay committed the cardinal sun as Joanne Pipe in goal passed the ball straight to Alanta Griffith who duly accepted her gift and slotted home.

Laura Hedtke doubled the lead from close range shortly after a Lake cross.

Above: Mulbarton Belles players gather round their coaching team. Photo: Darrell Allen.

It was nearly a third after a dancing run from Griffith slotted through Pipe’s legs but the shot went wide of the post.

A third goal followed moments later and it was a case of meat and drink. Griffith crossed and Lake finished from close range. Mulbarton were cruising and Bungay’s defending was making it too easy.

The Mulbarton front three linked up superbly once again as Hunter found Lake who passed to Griffith to finished to tap in at the back post to make it 4-0 inside 25 minutes. 

A wonderful Bungay free-kick was then saved by Kirstie Andrews in the Mulbarton goal.

Great work rate from Griffith then tried to make things happen for Mulbarton but the Bungay defence was standing firm to keep it at four.

Bungay reduced the arrears just before half-time when Molly Webb scored from distance. 

However, Mulbarton continued to press and earned their fifth from Laura Hedtke after Griffith then Lake set her up to tap in from inside the box.

Above: Mulbarton hat-trick hero Alanta Griffith watches on. Photo: Darrell Allen.

Lake then had a shot saved by Pipe before the sixth goal came when Hedtke fed in Jermy with a beautiful ball which was finished into the corner.

Griffith fired a shot straight at Pipe before completing her hat trick when she slotted home her third of the evening to make it 7-1.

The scoring was completed thanks to Melissa Belsey’s close-range finish.

Bungay should have led in the early stages, but a masterclass in Mulbarton finishing followed with Griffith the star, Lake not far behind and Hunter providing some incredible balls too.

Mulbarton ended the game with champagne celebrations and squad photos and Bungay Town kindly waited for these celebrations to conclude so they could give Mulbarton a guard of honour. A wonderful gesture from Bungay. 

Mulbarton’s march to domination continues with 19 wins from 19 in the Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One with just a single league game to go as they aim to win the lot. 

They will also play in the Norfolk Women and Girls League Cup Final and the Norfolk County FA Women’s Cup Final at Norwich City’s Carrow Road vs Wymondham on 25th May.

Player of the match: Alanta Griffith 

Teams: MULBARTON BELLES: Andrews, McNorton, Smith, Smith, Belsey, Lincoln, Belsey, Hedtke, Griffith, Lake, Hunter. Substitutes: Ladbrooke, Anderton, Jermy, Jenkins, Smith.

Scorers: Griffith (3), Hedtke (2), Lake, Jermy, Belsey.

BUNGAY TOWN: Pipe, Serghiou, Adams, Studd, Renwick, Riggall, Rowland, Eagle, Hazell, Webb, O’Connor. Substitutes: Hood, Williams, Galer.

Scorer: Webb

Referee: Jaden Lister

FAWSL Media Conferences: Chelsea and Reading News

Impetus was represented in FA Women’s Super League media conferences by Kieran Yap, who heard from Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes ahead of their game with Tottenham Hotspur, and Abi Ticehurst, who spoke to Reading boss Kelly Chambers as she prepares her team to face West Ham United (22/4/22).

Above: Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes speaking to the media. Photo: Chelsea FC Women.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is under no illusions about the challenge ahead for her side, but is confident that they can hold onto first place for the final month of the season.

The reigning champions currently sit one point clear of Arsenal but face a tough schedule of must win matches to clinch a third consecutive title in the FAWSL

Speaking to the media ahead on Friday, Hayes was pleased with the mood around the squad. The confidence is high at Kingsmeadow after another F.A Cup Final place was secured. The Blues defeated Arsenal 2-0 in a tightly contested semi-final last weekend.

“We’ve just had a really good training session,” she said of the preparations. “There was a lot of laughter, (and) I think a lot of confidence in the group. It’s always sort of difficult when you come home from international breaks, those games are so tough on the players that have been travelling worldwide. I think to win that game in the way we did last week has given us a huge lift into this week.”

The equation for Chelsea is simple. Win all four remaining games and they will be crowned champions.  It is a tough ask as two of those games come against fifth placed Tottenham Hotspur in the space of just five days. However their destiny remains in their own hands for now.

Above: Emma Hayes with the Barclays FA Women’s Super League championship trophy. Two games against Tottenham Hotspur will go a long way to deciding if they can retain it this year too. Photo: Sky Sports.

“We just have to focus on this one,” said Hayes. “We’re going into a tricky pitch, probably the worst pitch in the league if I’m honest. I think that makes things very difficult.

“The fact that they haven’t conceded a lot of goals against the top teams at home makes this a difficult game for us. The fact that we haven’t played them, there’s an unknown that comes with that.

“They’re an aggressive team with a very very good defensive record, we’re going to have to work really hard to have a win there.

“However, our focus and confidence I think is growing. I think the team has adapted so well to the challenges put in front of them. We know this is a must win game, so sometimes that makes it easier.”

Tottenham has enjoyed a strong season. Spurs boast the third best defensive record in the league, behind only Chelsea and Arsenal.

Hayes must prepare he team to play them twice in five days after earlier fixtures were rearranged due to COVID. It is a tough challenge even without the pressure of the league title at stake.

Above: The Hive Stadium, home of Tottenham Hotspur Women – a venue that Emma Hayes believes is one of the toughest to play at. Photo: Barnet FC.

“They make it a difficult place to go,” Hayes said of Barnet FC’s The Hive Stadium, Tottenham’s home ground.

“I think the pitch makes it a challenging place to be. I think every top team that’s gone there has had to work hard to earn anything they’ve got from it.  It’ll be no different for us. They’re in their position in the league through hard work and they’re deserving of that and they deserve our respect and they have that. My job is to get my group right for that, that’s what I’m doing.”

Chelsea emerged from the clash with Arsenal unscathed, and Hayes anticipates that aside from Fran Kirby, she will have a full squad to choose from.

The lineup is packed with international stars, but ontop of the indisputable talent, it is the mentality of the squad that gives Hayes confidence that they can deliver in the run in.

“I hear lots that money wins games, if that’s the case and there’s a relative amount of parity between three of us at the top… my team has won more than most in the last few years.

Some of that’s the character of the personnel. Some of that’s the longevity of the team… some of that is being able to mix it up when you can have as much possible possession for example and you might have to play more direct.

“The one stand out factor with my team is that even when we don’t play well, we stay in the game. That’s strong mentality from everyone, that’s confidence, that’s camaraderie, that’s been built over such a long time. “

Chelsea travel to face Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday 24th April at 2:30pm.

Above: Reading head coach Kelly Chambers. Photo: Reading FC.

Reading head coach Kelly Chambers believes she knows what to expect from Sunday’s opponents West Ham United and can build on positive experiences against them this season.

“I don’t think West Ham have changed very much in any performance this season. We know they’re very much woman for woman in terms of defensively they’re aggressive in the press. So, we know what we’ve got to deal with.

“They started bright against Manchester City (in the FA Cup semi-final last weekend), and I think the mistake from Gilly Flaherty set them back, they could’ve kept a foot in the game but yeah we know what we’re going to face. We know we always have a tough encounter against them.

“We’ve got to be better in possession, be more comfortable to possess the ball. Look, for us over the last couple of games, we need to be more ruthless in front of goal, I think that’s cost us a few points in games recently and we’ve had chances where 1v1’s with
goalkeepers, we’ve got to be finishing those chances. I believe we’ll have those chances at the weekend, for me it’s in both ends of the boxes when we play West Ham.

“Both teams like to play aggressive, both teams like to defend aggressively so we know that the most important part is going to be how we defend our box and our half of the pitch, but also when we do those moments in and around their goal, we need to punish and for us that’s going to be a real highlight going into the game.

“We know we’ll create opportunities, we do that a lot. It’s making sure we build
confidence in training and in front of goal, making sure that people are taking chances in terms of instead of passing the ball when we should be shooting. We’ve been working on those parts in training and making sure people are taking those chances they take them.”

The Royals boss had good news in terms of availability for the visit of West Ham United. “Everyone is looking good, obviously the only injury we have is Emma
Harries (plus Brooke Chaplen’s ongoing challenges) who’s out now for the remainder of the season after picking up a serious (ACL) injury away with England on the last international camp so right now she’s the only player we’re missing at the weekend so everyone is fully fit and raring to go to get back into a game.

In terms of how Harries is doing, Chambers revealed: “When the news came through, it was heart-wrenching because she’s obviously a long-serving player for us and she’s been doing really, really well and found her feet this season in the WSL.”

Above: Emma Harries – her ACL injury came in the midst of a stellar run of form. Photo: Neil Graham.

Royals star Brooke Chaplen remains out indefinitely after a tumour was found in her leg. Chambers asserted that whilst the rehab process will be a long one, Chaplen remains in good spirits.

“She’s had her operation and she’s trying to let the knee settle down. It’s not a nice one to really stabilise that knee. But she’s in with us every day as usual and again it’s just a case of getting her back fit and taking the time to make sure we get it right. In terms of next season for her, right now, it’s unknown in terms of what the knee can present and what she can actually do going forward.”

In terms of Reading’s more recent new arrivals, Chambers spoke about the impact of Sanne Troelsgaard on the entire squad. “Sanne is a different breed to everybody else in my squad. She’s very, very professional, she goes above and beyond to make sure that she’s fit, she’s strong. She’s in the gym everyday, some people would say that she probably does too much but I don’t think we’ve seen the best of her. I think it’s taken her a little bit of time to settle in, it’s the first time she’s been this far away from her family.

“So, there’s loads of things at the moment, but it’s just taking her a little bit of time to settle and really get to know the squad and obviously coming in half way through the season doesn’t help that anyway. As much as she’s been a great impact, I think we’ll see bigger and better things from her going into next season.

Continuing on the theme of looking slightly further ahead, the Reading head coach revealed that she is positive in terms of her squad make up already for next season after a lot of ins-and-outs in recent years.

“We’ve got a big part of the squad that are still under contract for next season so it’s a case of I’m going through the process with players that are out of contract right now. Look, we’re always open in terms of transfer window, for me, it’s a case of I’ve got to have everything set from above and waiting for those confirmations in terms of what our season can look like for next year and how much we can push on.

“If I look at the last two summer windows, we’ve had a massive turnaround in players so to build that consistency has been difficult and that is going to be key for us next season. We’ve got our foundations, we’ve been able to build on that this season and next season we really need to kick on because we’ve got that big group of players that will be stepping into next season and will know what I want to get out of it.”

Reading host West Ham United on Sunday 24th April at 2:00pm.

FAWSL: Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea Preview

Rachel Lara Cohen‘s detailed look at two FAWSL clashes between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in five days emphasizes how hugely important in the context of both team’s seasons the games are. Rachel also considers the importance of squad depth in a successful outcome to the matches (22/4/22).

Above: Action from Tottenham Hotspur’s game with Arsenal earlier this season. Photo: Spurs Women.

Spurs Women play Chelsea at the Hive on Sunday (24th April) and then away on Thursday (28th April). Following that Tottenham’s season wraps up with three games in eight days: away to Everton (Sunday); away to Arsenal (Wednesday); and Leicester at home, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (Sunday).

After a surprisingly successful third year in the WSL, these final weeks will define how Spurs’ season is ultimately viewed. On current form they are (at best) favourites for just two of the five games. Even then, given the team’s struggles with scoring and injuries, wins against Everton and Leicester may be a stretch. But Spurs have made life difficult for top teams across the season and may yet find ways to do so again before the season draws to a close.

If this is going to happen, how Spurs manage these first two Chelsea games is going to be critical. A win or a draw in either game, even narrow defeats, will provide a platform to build on in the final three games, including the North London Derby. Conversely, a bad defeat (or two) could make it hard to regroup and may mean we limp across the line. This would not negate the many positives there have already been, but it would be a disappointing way to conclude a season marked by so much optimism.

The Challenge of Chelsea

It’s not for nothing that Chelsea currently top the WSL. They are the highest-scoring team this season with 52 goals. As we all know, Sam Kerr is prolific (so much so that the podcast Two Girls Talk Balls have an ongoing wager on whether Kerr will score more than the whole Spurs team – currently she is on 16; the Spurs team are on 19). While Chelsea will undoubtedly miss Fran Kirby up front there are another four Chelsea players (in addition to Kerr) who have scored at least five goals in the WSL this season, with Beth England recently coming into a rich seam of form. In contrast, Spurs’ highest scorer, Rachel Williams, is on just four (all coming before Christmas).

Perhaps most worryingly, we have seen that Chelsea are more than capable of ramping up a big goal margin once they’ve broken down a team’s defence: their 9-0 demolition of Leicester springs most obviously to mind. Not least because this followed a period in which Leicester had found some form.

That said, across the season Spurs have only once allowed a WSL game to get away from them: Manchester United away (which we lost 3-0). This was a game that came during the Asian Cup, when the squad was at its barest of bare-bones. Across all their other WSL games Tottenham have conceded no more than one goal per game.

The problem is that Chelsea’s defensive record is also impressive, conceding just seven this season, and Spurs have found it hard to score against even more apparently leaky defences. This is seen in statistics which show that we’ve underperformed our expected goals by four (19 actual goals as compared to an xG of 23). In other words, Spurs are decent at creating chances, but have performed worse than any other WSL team at converting these chances. These problems have been especially acute in the period since Kit Graham’s injury. Not least because in her absence, Rachel Williams has played a deeper role, doing great work keeping the ball, but providing less goal threat.

Another key concern for Spurs is whether we can retain our defensive solidity without Ria Percival (who is out following an ACL injury incurred playing for New Zealand). Percival has started every game and while she has only occasionally been part of the back-line (most recently against Manchester City) she has played an important defensive role across the pitch, pressing as the ball gets played out from goal, making life difficult for opposition midfielders and providing cover in our box.

Finally, playing any team twice in short succession is tricky. Managers are able to adjust; enmities are built up; weaknesses are exposed. This is especially true of a team like Chelsea whose manager, Emma Hayes, is well known for making astute tactical adjustments.

Conversely, Spurs manager, Rehanne Skinner has done an amazing job this season, but (with the possible exception of Birmingham away) has not yet proved herself especially strong at tactical substitutions or within-game adjustments. This will have to change if she is to make the in-game (and between-game) adjustments that will be needed for Spurs double-header against Chelsea. Skinner acknowledged the unique nature of these games in a recent interview: ‘Ultimately, when you play a doubleheader, because it’s so close together and not focusing on another team in the meantime, you have a clear opportunity to fix it if you don’t get it right.’

This is spot on. But for the Spurs boss to set up the team, and especially to ‘fix’ things within and between games, it is essential that she finds a way for Spurs’ bench-players to become both more involved and more productive.

Will Spurs’ bench-players step up?

Spurs have relied heavily on a core group of players. Six players, the majority of our outfield, have started at least 16 of the 17 Spurs WSL games this season: Bartrip, Percival, Clemaron, Zadorsky, Neville, and Williams. In addition, Evelina Summanen has started four of five WSL games since she joined the club; and Jessica Naz has had periods out injured but has started most other games; while Kit Graham started all but one game before her injury. In addition, Harrop has become a regular starter as the season has progressed.

Chart showing Spurs players' game time across the 2021-2 WSL season to date
Graph compiled by Rachel Lara Cohen.

This can be seen in the chart above, which shows starts (of 17) in red, the number (of the 17 possible) 90 minutes that each player has played in yellow, and the number of games in which players have featured in blue. The above-mentioned ever-present players are clustered on the left, with blue, yellow, and red lines approximately equal and close to the maximum (17).

Interestingly, Tottenham’s two goalkeepers, Becky Spencer and Tinni Korpela, have shared the workload almost evenly this season: each starting about half of Spurs’ games, and since neither has been substituted within a game, each has equal starts and appearances. Both have good communication with the backline and are competing for league-leading save percentages so for now at least this is a position in which Spurs have some depth.

We can also see, however, that clustered to the right (starting with Chi Ubogagu, and excluding Summanen for the reasons mentioned above) is a group of eight players with more appearances than starts and relatively low game-time. Most extreme, Angela Addison has played in 15 games, but only started one. As a result she’s racked up the equivalent of just 3.3 90-minute games across the season-to-date. That’s because, with Tang Jiali (8 games, 1 start) Addison has overwhelmingly been used as a late (75 minute+) substitute.

Rosella Ayane has had a little more game time (totalling 4.7 games) but has again largely made substitute appearances. Cho So-hyun and Josie Green have started a little more often but neither has surpassed five 90s yet this season. Of course, a player’s contribution is not simply measured by game-time, and commentators have repeatedly reported on the strong ties that exist across the whole Spurs squad, with Rehanne Skinner commending her team’s collective identity and workrate, but these data are useful in highlighting the relative marginality of a group of players and that even those who are regularly used as substitutes are typically given little opportunity to influence the game.

The two players who fall in-between the ever-presents and the bench-players are the forward, Kyah Simon (ten starts, eight 90s) and full-back, Asmita Ale (seven starts, 7.7 90s).

Chart showing Chelsea players' game time across the 2021-2 WSL season to date
Graph compiled by: Rachel Lara Cohen.

One way to get a better sense of Spurs’ squad use, is to compare it to their upcoming opponents, Chelsea (see chart above). A couple of things are immediately apparent. First, Chelsea have a bigger squad – not least because they have had to cope with more Cup and European games. This means there is much more rotation.

Only Millie Bright has started every WSL game this season (something that five Spurs players have done). Yet there are eleven Chelsea players who have played at least ten 90s, as opposed to seven Spurs players who have done this. That means that there is a wider group of players getting significant game time. Indeed, even players who are disproportionately used as substitutes (e.g. Niamah Charles or Jonna Anderson) have clocked up about twice the game time of Spurs’ frequent-substitutes, Roeslla Ayane, Angela Addison or Tang Jiali.

Now, however, with Ria Percival injured, one of Spurs’ constant-starters is out for the rest of the season. By necessity, therefore, the upcoming games will provide a little space for players who have had relatively marginal roles in the squad. As such it will require that they step up.

The most likely to take that step are Ale and Simon, who have already made important contributions, albeit not fully cementing their places. How and whether Ale is used may depend on where Rehanne Skinner thinks Neville will be most effective (right back, right wing or forward), and whether she remains committed to a back four (Spurs’ most frequent formation this season and one that perhaps suits Ale’s less-progressive defensive playing style better than other options).

Simon should find it easier to lock-in her berth in Spurs’ attack, given the lack of goals coming from elsewhere. That she has only hit the back of the net in two games this season (scoring three goals) and has not yet clicked as a partner to Rachel Williams is the lingering doubt here. But the bigger question is whether any of Spurs’ other players will be given the minutes or will find the form to make a difference and fill the gap that Ria’s absence and a challenging pair of games bring.

Above: Spurs Women in a huddle. Photo: Spurs Women.

With games against Chelsea likely to be intense and require high concentration and fitness levels, the effective use of substitutes will be critical. When players come off the bench they can re-energise the team, provide relief or cover for starters, but also (ideally) allow the manager to change the team’s shape or dynamic.

For instance, we know that Jessica Naz’s pace, especially running at a tired opposition, make her a potentially impactful substitute. The problem is that with relatively few options, Naz may well start and it is not clear that other Spurs players can similarly come off the bench and change the game. Indeed, more often than not this season Spurs’ substitutions have diluted rather than enhanced the team’s performance.

Team selection and organisation is likely to be even more essential in the second of these back-to-back games, given that Emma Hayes has the flexibility in her squad and tactical nous to set her Chelsea team up to counter whatever problems Spurs create in the first game.

New players, and new ideas will be at a premium. No doubt, this will be a tricky test for a Spurs team whose season to-date has relied on consistency rather than tactical novelty. But what’s marked Spurs out this season is a surprising resilience, especially in games against ‘bigger’ teams, so it’s not inconceivable that we find a way to come away with some points.

Whatever happens, with several Spurs players out of contract at the end of this season and with Rehanne Skinner confirmed in post until 2024, there is a lot to play for. Indeed, the next games may determine both how the team finishes the season and also which players remain at Spurs into the 2022-3 season.

This article was originally published Rachel’s own site, Spurs Women Fan Site: https://spurswomen.uk/

Scottish Cup Final Venue Announced Plus Promotion Battle Update

Scottish Women’s Football CEO Aileen Campbell announces the venue for this year’s Scottish Cup Final – plus all the details for a decisive weekend for promotion into the second tier of the game north of the border (22/4/22).

Above: Tynecastle Stadium in Edinburgh, which will host this year’s Scottish Cup Final. Photo: The Stadium Guide.

With just over a week until the semi-final of the Biffa Scottish Women’s Cup, representatives of all four teams taking part in the penultimate round of the competition gathered in Edinburgh to announce that the cup-final venue will be Tynecastle.

The semi-final will be hosted at Falkirk Stadium on 1st May in back-to-back games that see Heart of Midlothian take on Celtic, and Partick Thistle face-off against Glasgow City. The winners will progress to the final at Tynecastle on 29th May.  The final will also be broadcast live on BBC ALBA.

It is a return visit to the capital for the conclusion of this prestigious competition, with Tynecastle having hosted the event in 2019.  In that tie, Glasgow City beat Hibernian 4-3 in a close-run match which was the last final to be played due to covid disrupting the subsequent competitions. 

The Scottish Women’s Cup will conclude an historic season which has seen SWPL games being played in main Scottish stadiums right across Scotland including Easter Road, Ibrox, Celtic Park, Pittodrie, Fir Park and Tynecastle.  Adding to the games already played at New Douglas Park and Rugby Park.  A significant indicator of how much the game continues to grow.

Commenting on the announcement, Scottish Women’s Football CEO Aileen Campbell said: “We are delighted to announce that the venue for this season’s Biffa Scottish Women’s Cup final will be Tynecastle and that it will be broadcast live on BBC ALBA. 

“Tynecastle is a fantastic venue that provides a wonderful atmosphere for football fans and is a great facility that will make this year’s cup a real showcase.  We are looking forward to welcoming the teams that emerge from the semi-finals on 1st May at Falkirk and drawing to a close an exciting season.  Of course, it has not been without its challenges.  Covid has meant that this cup final will be the first since 2019 with the pandemic disrupting the competition.  

“The four remaining semi-finalists will all be determined to book their place here at Tynecastle and we want to encourage as many people as possible to come to our games on the 1st May and also to book a place here on the 29th May to cheer on inspiring female footballers representing the very best of our game.”

Commenting on Tynecastle playing host to the Biffa Scottish Women’s Cup final, Heart of Midlothian CEO Andrew McKinlay said: “We are really looking forward to welcoming the cup final back to Tynecastle. 

“It is a real privilege to host this important competition and underlines the importance our club places on the women’s game.  This comes after our announcement to increase our focus and investment in our women’s team and at the end of a season where we hosted the Edinburgh derby in front of strong crowds at Tynecastle.  We look forward to working with SWF on this event.”

Above: Montrose – Championship North winners 2021/22. Photo: Montrose FC.

Meanwhile, this weekend will see which teams can earn promotion to the SWPL2, the second tier of Scottish women’s football. Whilst Montrose have already sealed the Championship North title, second place is still up for grabs between Dryburgh and East Fife, with a place in promotion play-offs at stake.

Championship South will also be decided and depends on whether Gartcairn can win in their game against Hutchison Vale or whether the trophy will need to travel further west where Morton will host Rossvale who are also in with a chance of winning the league.

Details of the games are below:

Championship North

Montrose v Dryburgh
24th April – KO 2pm, Links Park Stadium

Buchan v East Fife
24th April – KO 2pm Macbi Community Hub

Championship South

Gartcairn v Hutchison Vale
24th April – KO 2pm MTC Park

Morton v Rossvale
24th April – KO 2pm Parklea Stadium

Marine Academy Plymouth: Giving Opportunities To Showcase Passion

Samantha Drewery fulfils many roles at Tier Five South-West Women’s Regional Premier side Marine Academy Plymouth, whether it be player, treasurer, and social media officer. She spoke to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about the club, player pathway and aims of FA Women’s National League football (21/4/22).

Above: Marine Academy Plymouth players gather together prior to their game with Ilminster. Photo: Tim Badger Photos via Samantha Drewery.

Marine Academy Plymouth (MAP), previously known as Tamarside, are now in their 12th season and have an extensive youth setup with the club itself, including the women’s side having 22 teams with three female youth teams as well.

The women’s side originally competed in the South West Regional Women’s Western Division which they won in 2015 and have been competing in the Premier ever since, narrowly missing out on promotion in three consecutive seasons.

Drewery highlighted some of the challenges that the club have faced in recent times. “With the pandemic having an impact on two seasons, it was quite difficult for players to motivate themselves back into another season. Due to playing on Sundays, some players found that having a weekend free was quite a nice idea, especially with the distances we have to travel to play. However, some players were looking forward to the challenge of having a complete season after losing out on match fitness and competitive fixtures. 

“The biggest challenges that face sides in the women’s game in the South West is the amount of travel and time commitment that the players have to buy in to. If you want to play a competitive level of football you have to understand that it will potentially take up your whole Sunday.”

Finances are always an issue, with players needing to either pay to be part of the club or look for a sponsor on top of all the regular bills.

“Some players have struggled with finding sponsors in the past. Along with financial aid towards playing fees to help cover the running cost of the season, such as pitch hire, referee fees, and training facility fees, gaining sponsorship to replenish playing attire can sometimes be a stumbling block as well. We are always looking for sponsors of any amount to help with the day-to-day running of the club to make it as easy as possible to allow the players to continue playing the sport they love.”

Above: Action from MAP’s game against Bishop’s Lydeard. Photo: Tim Badger Photos via Samantha Drewery.

The growth of the women’s game has also produced new challenges for MAP, as Samantha explains: “One challenging factor which hasn’t just been this season but previous as well, is the competition for players who want to play at a high standard. We as a club have to compete against sides who are linked with a professional outfit in the men’s league, which to some is more appealing. A small crop of talented players with a number of teams looking to entice them to play for them means that recruiting new players can be quite challenging.”

MAP are currently in the fifth-tier South-West Regional Women’s Premier, one step below the FA Women’s National League. For Drewery, this has been a transitional campaign.

“After finishing strongly post COVID leading into the end of what would have been last season, we lost a high number of players to other local teams playing higher, lower for fun and some even gave up to pursue family commitments. We have picked up some fantastic young players who have jumped into the deep end this season, some in their first season at adult level, and have developed magnificently in character and ability throughout.

“As a club, we have always strived to do the best that we possibly can and to give ourselves the challenge of stepping into Tier Four of the women’s football pyramid by reaching the FA Women’s National League Division One South-West. This will continue to be our aim for next season.

MAP has a well-established pathway for females to develop their footballing skills from a very young age.

“It starts at the age of four, with a number of rising footballers taking part in our community football programme. We have always had a successful Wildcats Programme that allows female players to take part in all girls’ sessions which can formulate teams ready to compete in local Devon Junior Minor leagues.

“We currently are developing an U8 and U10 team for next season, along with our already well-established U13 and two U15 sides, one of which is competing in the boys’ league. Our U13 and one of our U15 sides will be competing in a National Tournament later in April and both have reached the National Futsal Regional Finals in May.

“The integration of the U15s leading into the women’s senior side has been positive. The current crop of players have a high interest in pursuing their game at the club and we hope that many of them will stay with our side and help us push for the promotion into the FA Women’s National League.

“At MAP, we will always strive to give the opportunity to players to showcase their passion and enthusiasm for the sport and encourage them to take part at any age and level.”

Mulbarton Clinch Title At Hardworking Thetford

Thetford Town 0-4 Mulbarton Belles

By Darrell Allen (19/4/22)

Above: Atlanta Griffith celebrates after putting Mulbarton Belles 2-0 up. Photo: Richard Brown.

The game of the day on Easter Sunday in Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One saw Thetford Town host runaway league leaders Mulbarton Belles at Mundford Road. Mulbarton knew a point from this game or better would see them crowned step seven champions in Norfolk.

Mulbarton got a good early footing in the game, knocking the ball around well and trying to get their prolific front three of Ellie Hunter, Atlanta Griffith, and Rebekah Lake involved early on. It was Hunter who had the first opportunity when a great ball came through from midfield but Lydia Ward came out well in the Thetford goal to prevent any trouble for Town.

Mulbarton continued their early confidence and momentum but found Becky Russell in the way. The dual signed midfielder from step five Wroxham but played at centre back for Thetford last Sunday in the 4-0 victory over Beccles and impressed so much that Thetford manager David Skipp gave her the role again against the league leaders and she was a commanding prescence. 

Russell’s centre back partner and Thetford stalwart Rachel Lynch was also on form in making an incredible last ditch tackle to deny Lake as Thetford bravely defended to keep the score level.

Above: Becky Russell (red boots) another impressive performance for Thetford Town. Photo: Richard Brown.

Having survived the initial early phases, Thetford then began to believe in themselves and went on the ascendancy, Abbie Corbyn and Rebecca White linked up well all afternoon and Corbyn played a delightful ball through but White could not provide an end product.

Kirsty Andrews playing in goal for Mulbarton yesterday in place of the unwell regular number one Cara Anderson was then called into action as Thetford upped the pressure. Andrews had to stop a shot from White but it then rebounded to the same player who crashed a shot against the crossbar. 

Mulbarton then opened the scoring with a strike from distance from Laura Hedtke that seemed to take an age to go in and trickled past the Thetford defence and ended up in the back of Ward’s net. It was a disappointing way to go behind from a Thetford point of view.

The visitors then added a second from Hedtke’s free-kick which was superbly headed in by Griffith. 

Above: Thetford Town player of the match Rachel Lynch heads away. Photo: Richard Brown.

Despite Mulbarton’s continued pressure, Thetford could be proud of their efforts. Corbyn and White linked up well as a duo. They communicated well in a shift that was always going to be difficult against the league leaders.

The second half started with Olivia Smith having a shot from distance but this was tipped over by Ward in the Town goal. Thetford responded as Russell played a wonderful ball to captain Boulton who then fired across the pitch to Corbyn who fed White but again nothing materialised. 

Lake had two further chances for Mulbarton but Ward was in the way of everything that tried to find the net. However, nothing was to stop a wonderful third from distance by Sophie Jermy to put Mulbarton firmly in control. 

A Mulbarton game is not complete without a Lake goal and the NWGFL legend rounded the keeper and finished well to get Mulbarton’s fourth and final goal of the match. 

Above: Rebekah Lake (centre) celebrates after scoring Mulbarton Belles’ fourth goal. Photo: Richard Brown.

Thetford kept their heads and had chances to score, Russell fired over the bar before the best Thetford chance of the game saw a wonderful Boulton cross headed wide by Lynch which should have been a goal for Town but the final score ended in a 4-0 win for Mulbarton. 

The final whistle saw Mulbarton officially confirmed as champions of Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One. The honour was respected by the hosts as Thetford Town gave all the Mulbarton players a guard of honour as they left the pitch and headed down the Mundford Road tunnel. 

From a Thetford perspective, this was a performance to continue confidence from the previous back-to-back wins and another exciting game awaits when Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers visit Mundford Road this Sunday.

Thetford Player of the Match: Rachel Lynch

THETFORD TOWN: Ward, Hardie, Klimcke, Howard, Lynch, Russell, Corbyn, Eccles, White, Boulton, Musgrove. Substitutes: Escreet, Lloyd, Smith, Knight. 

MULBARTON BELLES: Andrews, McNorton, Belsey, Smith, Belsey, Hedtke, Jermy, Hunter, Griffith, Smith, Lake. Substitutes: Smith, Anderson, Ryan, Ladbrooke, Jenkins. 

Scorers: Hedtke, Griffith, Jermy, Lake.

Referee: Jaden Lister

Attendance: 50. 

Norwich End Dons Seven Month Unbeaten Run To Stay Up

Norwich City 1-0 AFC Wimbledon

By George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Ladies (18/4/22).

Above: Action from The Nest. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

AFC Wimbledon suffered theiur first league defeat since August on Sunday as they slipped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat away to Norwich City. A result that saves the hosts from relegation out of the FA Women’s National Leagues.

Wimbledon went into the game without Kelly Highman, Steph Mann, and Captain Hannah Billingham who were all unavailable. However it presented the opportunity to Dons U23s players Remmi Gardner and Olivia Clement to potentially make their league debut from the subs bench. 

The game itself got off to a scrappy start with both Faye Baker and the Norwich keeper Bryony Williams was called into action in the first 10 minutes. However, then it looked like the Dons were starting to control the game even if they did lack the composure that’s normally a key part of their game.

Despite that, with 30 minutes gone Norwich took the lead with the ball being bundled past Faye Baker in the Dons goal by Ellie Smith. With the visitors lacking the clinical edge up front and snatching at several half chances we went into the break a goal down.

The second half followed much of the same fashion with Wimbledon taking shots from long range forcing the Norwich keeper Williams into action, however the Dons never really looked like scoring and the game ended in the Canaries’ favour.

Speaking afterwards, Dons’ Emily Donovan said “Credit to Norwich they did not give up, they pushed us hard and had a lot to play for today, and ultimately they have gone and got it so credit to them.”

First-team coach Andy May wasn’t overly impressed by his team’s performance: “Firstly credit to Norwich, they came here with a game plan and a result that they needed and they have gone and got that result and made things difficult for us.

“At the same time that is not a performance that we are proud of, we didn’t do the basics that we look for, didn’t set the standards, the tempo or the intensity that we look for.”

Next up for AFC Wimbledon is the FA Women’s National League Plate Final against Nottingham Forest taking place on Sunday 24th with an 11 am kickoff. This game is being played at Solihull Moors.

Teams: NORWICH CITY: Williams, Johnston, Larkins, Drake, Daviss, Smith, Snelling, Todd, Stanley, Bishop, Harper. Substitutes: Gambell, Symonds, Gooding, Ward, Fuller.

Scorer: Smith 33′.

AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Russell (Clement) Fowler (Childerhouse), Sargent, Oliver, Stow, Donovan, Taylor, Hincks, Sampson (Stanley), Carter (Gardner). Unused Sub: Allen (GK).

It’s A Blue Day At Meadow Park

Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea

Words and Photos by Ben Gilby at Meadow Park (17/4/22)

Above: Winners are grinners – Jess Carter and Beth England are all smiles at the final whistle as Chelsea made it to Wembley. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Above: Meadow Park was packed for today’s FA Cup Semi-Final. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Chelsea’s ruthless second-half performance was more than enough to overcome Arsenal at a packed Meadow Park this afternoon as the holders made it through to a Wembley showdown with Manchester City next month.

Above: Beth Mead leaps for the ball for Arsenal between Chelsea’s Guro Reiten (11) and Sophie Ingle. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Whilst this game was far from the classic league encounter at Kingsmeadow or Chelsea’s sumptuous Wembley dismissal of the Gunners in December, the Blues proved once more that when it really matters they can take their chances.

Above: Arsenal and Australia’s Steph Catley – just one of a number of players who only returned to club training at the end of this week. Photo: Ben Gilby.

The timing of this showdown was not helped by coming just days after the international window which saw both teams only being able to train with full numbers at the very last minute. Chelsea boss Emma Hayes identified this fact in her Friday media conference saying that teams “take a while to gel again after the international break.” This was certainly the case in the first half.

Above: Katie McCabe looks for options in the box in the first half. Photo: Ben Gilby.

It was Arsenal who settled first and had slightly more of the offensive play, but Jess Carter was outstanding at the back, shutting down any potential danger before the threat honed in on goal.

Above: Millie Bright (left) looks to close down. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Carter has grown hugely throughout the season. Earlier on, there were occasions when she appeared vulnerable against the very top players, but those days are long gone now. She has the strength, pace, and belief to mix it and beat the very best. How she deserves the plaudits and international recognition that has come her way.

In truth, the first half was largely played out in the middle third and there was only one real opportunity that fell the way of Vivianne Miedema, but the shot went over the bar.

Above: Millie Bright looks to get up as a ball comes into the box. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Chelsea came out for the second period looking both energised and determined. There was a pep in their passing and crispness of vision that wasn’t quite there in the opening 45 minutes.

The outcome of this match effectively came within five minutes of the re-start. Beth Mead broke through for Arsenal but hit an effort wide. Chelsea’s characteristic ruthlessness then broke through to show the Gunners the importance of taking chances as Norwegian star Guro Reiten fired home a rocket shot from the edge of the box.

Above: Guro Reiten, Chelsea’s first goal scorer tackles Beth Mead. Photo: Ben Gilby.

The Blues kept pushing with Beth England a ball of energy and Ji becoming more involved across the midfield.

After Gunners keeper Manuela Zinsberger was forced to deny both Sophie Ingle and Reiten, it was the Korean magician who pulled out her magic wand to double Chelsea’s advantage by smashing a shot in off the crossbar before being buried by an avalanche of team-mates.

Above: Chelsea celebrate Ji’s goal which put them 2-0 up and earned their place at Wembley. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Arsenal brought on Frida Maanum, Nikita Parris, and Tobin Heath, but Chelsea were comfortable in the closing stages. Emma Hayes’ side are back at Wembley and for the second domestic Cup Final this season face Manchester City. It’s going to be quite a final.

Above: Tobin Heath’s introduction was not enough for Arsenal. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Teams: ARSENAL (4-3-3): Zinsburger, McCabe, Williamson, Wubben-Moy, Catley, Little, Miedema, Wälti, Mead, Blackstenius, Foord. Substitutes used: Maanum (for Wälti), Parris (for Blackstenius), Heath (for Foord).

CHELSEA (3-5-2): Bright, Nouwen, Carter, Charles, Ingle, Ji, Cuthbert, Reiten, England, Kerr. Substitutes used: Fleming (for Ji), Harder (for Kerr).

Scorers: Reiten 50′, Ji 61′.

Referee: Rebecca Welch.

Attendance: 3,458.

Emma Hayes: Squad Selection, Fran Kirby & Focus on Wembley

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Chelsea boss Emma Hayes at her media conference today ahead of their FA Cup Semi-Final against Arsenal on Easter Sunday (15/4/22).

Above: Emma Hayes talking to the media this afternoon. Photo: Chelsea FC Women.

Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes goes into Sunday’s semi-final at Boreham Wood against Arsenal unsure of who is available for selection.

With members of her squad returning to club training from international duty at different times at the end of this week, final decisions will not be made until tomorrow (Saturday). However, The Blues boss was able to confirm that Pernille Harder is likely to be available, but there is contrasting news about Fran Kirby.

Hayes revealed that it is still likely to be some time before the Lionesses star will be able to return due to long-term struggles with exhaustion that the club’s medical team are still investigating.

“Not everyone is in full training today (Friday) due to arriving back from international duty at different times. Pernille (Harder) will be back. I can’t name the team until tomorrow as, due to the nature of the international break, some of them are still recovering from their games.”

In terms of Kirby, the Chelsea head coach went into a bit more detail about the difficulties that the player is experiencing.

Above: Fran Kirby who, according to Emma Hayes is unlikely to return for Chelsea or England “for the foreseeable future.” Photo: Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images.

“There is no chance of Fran playing. She has been taking some time in the background, suffering with a lot of fatigue. I don’t have a definitive reason why. We are trying to get to the bottom of it and find the right solutions. It’s been ongoing and until we do get to the bottom of it, she won’t be available for selection.

“Forget the athlete. There is a human being involved and she is struggling. We need to get to the bottom of that. Until we understand some of the underlying reasons for the fatigue, I would be just speculating. It’s a process of elimination to try and determine why she is struggling the way she is.

“This is not the first time, it’s been going on for a lot of years if I’m honest. We need to give the time to find the right support so we can come up with a diagnosis. Then we can come up with strategies. Right now, I don’t have any answers other than to say she won’t be available for club or country for the foreseeable future.”

Hayes was though able to provide some reassurance about Beth England and Niamh Charles who missed England’s international in North Macedonia due to testing positive with COVID by saying: “We have a medical briefing later today. I don’t believe that there is any fall-out from those who got COVID during the international window.”

Focusing specifically on the occasion of Sunday’s FA Cup Semi-Final, the Chelsea head coach is revelling at the challenge, which she feels is additionally complex this time round due to coming immediately after the international break.

Above: Emma Hayes at today’s media conference. Photo: Chelsea FC Women.

“This is what you go to work for, to compete for these special occasions. There is no greater privilege than to play for a place in an FA Cup Final. Playing against Arsenal, we’ve had a lot of battles against them over the years. I certainly enjoy those games.

“I always think that the first game after an international window always makes things difficult. Normally you get a week’s build-up. We only have one training session when we all come back together.

“Performances can take a while to gel again, so the qualities for us to build on are the clear sheets that we’ve worked on this side of January. Most importantly we need to be clinical. It’s a big area for us. The conversion rate is a big difference – the number of goals we’ve put away in recent games compared to previous performances.”

This is a cup semi-final, it’s two really good sides who have battled it out all year. We’ve been in this position enough times to know what to expect. We have a top group of players here.

“I have a game plan in mind, but we need everyone to recover. Tomorrow at training I will be able to pick a team. As long as everyone knows their roles and how to make the impact we need, we’ll be fine.”

Above: Chelsea lift the 2021 FA Cup after comprehensively beating Arsenal 3-0 at Wembley. Photo: James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images.

Whilst the two teams know each other very well, most notably from December’s 2021 FA Cup Final which Chelsea comprehensively won 3-0, Hayes doesn’t see any way that the previous encounters will influence what happens on Sunday.

“There have been good battles between us and Arsenal over the years. I think they have had a tremendous season. We’re neck-and-neck with them in every competition. They are at home, it’s sold out. We’ll have to suffer at times in the game. We will cause them problems. Previous results are not indicative of what happens.”

With the match at Boreham Wood FC a 4,500 sell-out, the Blues boss believes it is time to reconsider the venues for FA Cup semi-finals to allow more fans in.

“I supported the move in the past to play semi-finals at the home ground stadiums because the neutral venues that were available were so poor as better ones couldn’t be booked in time. You played in places where the pitches weren’t brilliant and the fans couldn’t get down to.

“Maybe we need to have conversations now about whether we need neutral venues just because of the way that our game is going. Perhaps those semi-finals could be more well attended if we open them up. Not necessarily Wembley, but elsewhere for fan reasons.”

AFC St. Austell: Big Progress In Cornwall

Ben Cooper, assistant coach at tier five AFC St. Austell spoke to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about the team’s rapid development over the past three years and how they are building towards a place in the FA Women’s National League (14/4/22).

Above: AFC St. Austell 2021/22. Photo: Ben Cooper.

Whilst women’s football in the Cornish town has a longer history, the present AFC St. Austell side has only been going for three years as the club’s assistant coach Ben Cooper takes up the story.

“St. Austell had a women’s team in the early 2000s, but after over a decade without a team, the current management team and squad were set up in 2019 when manager Simon Parnell contacted chairman Jason Powell about starting a team. We were placed in The Earthbound Electrical Women’s Football League for the 2019-20 season.”

That first season of course coincided with the onset of the pandemic. There were mixed feelings during the time. “Covid stopped us in our tracks as we were seven wins from seven in our first season and flying high at the top of the league.

“The long break from March to August 2020 really damaged our momentum and quite a few players’ motivation to play football. Nevertheless, we were granted upwards movement into South West Regional Women’s Football League Western Division and started brightly. However, in January 2021 we were, again, stopped in our tracks with five wins and a draw in six league games. Again, we were granted upwards movement into the tier five South-West Regional Women’s Football League Premier Division for this season.  

The league for us was a bit of an unknown entity. We had some knowledge of the more local teams such as: Torquay, Marine Academy Plymouth, and Bideford. However, the teams further east were relatively unknown to us, so we’ve gone into lots of games not knowing what to expect.

“We have just tried to approach each game in the same way and to play our game each time because we believe in our system and our game model. It’s been a demanding season in the sense that there have been maybe three or four teams that have been almost flawless in their results, and a little bit like the Premier League is now, to finish top of this league you have to be almost perfect. We have a handful of games to go and we are in a good position, but we are still just taking it one game at a time.

Above: AFC St. Austell’s togetherness is a big part of their great progress in such a short period of time. Photo: Cornwall Sports Media, supplied by AFC St. Austell.

“With such disruption in our formative years, the main challenge for us was to keep the team together and motivated. We didn’t have the luxury of a large squad or multiple teams with a few years of playing behind us. We were brand new and there were times when we would struggle to get more than six players to training, let alone games.

“In a way, that could perhaps be one of the reasons why our current squad is such a tight-knit bunch. As a team, they have experienced quite a lot together over the past three years and I definitely think that that has formed some mental toughness and grit in the girls, so perhaps there is a silver lining to it all.

“We have five or six players in our current starting 11 who have been with us since we formed. I would say that between them, they have missed maybe five games. Without them, and everyone else in the squad, we would not be where we are today.”

All Cornish clubs from whatever sport they play face the challenges of long and expensive challenges. Ben highlights how this impacts AFC St. Austell.

“At the present time, one of the biggest challenges is the financial burden of being the most South-Westerly club in our division. Our closest away game is Marine Academy Plymouth, and that is around 50 miles. We’ve had some very early mornings and late nights on away days to the likes of Royal Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire and our final league game of the season will be at Forest Green Rovers in Gloucestershire. The financial implications of these away days are quite substantial. The coach costs alone have doubled our expenditure this season. I’m sure this is only going to get worse with the current fuel prices!

“Another big challenge for us is player recruitment. It is fantastic to see so many new women’s teams popping up everywhere, but in a place like Cornwall, where there is a limited number of players (although this is changing!), it means that the pool of players to choose from is getting smaller and smaller. It’s not been uncommon for us to have a bare 11 or 12 to 13 players on matchday over the past few years and if you look at some of the other teams in Cornwall and Devon, you can see the same thing happening. Combine that with the distance we have to travel, injuries, and covid and you quickly begin to see why matchday squads can be pretty thin on the ground.”

Above: AFC St. Austell’s Izzy Berks and Char Whitmore pictured against Marine Academy Plymouth. Photo: Cornwall Sports Media, supplied by AFC St. Austell.

One of the positives for the club is the strong link between the men’s and women’s teams at AFC St. Austell as Ben outlined.

“We have a fantastic relationship with the men’s team. Our chairman, Jason Powell, has been fantastic from the get-go in ensuring that we are an inclusive club. When Simon Parnell approached Jason about setting up a team in 2019, he had two non-negotiables: the women play on the first team pitch and don’t have to pay a penny to play football, including tracksuits and training, and the chairman stayed true to his word on this.

“The men’s team come and support the women at games and vice versa. We’ve even had a few training sessions together. Our management team across the club are very close and keep in regular contact with one another. One good thing that came from the pandemic was that we created Zoom coaching group where we would share ideas with one another.

“One of the most disappointing things in professional football is seeing the dissociation between the men’s team and the women’s team and there are plenty of examples of that up and down the country- we are proud of how inclusive we are.”

As the team has made such rapid progress in its three-year history with two promotions seeing them move up to Tier Five in this period, Ben highlights the fact that he believes that his squad can push ever higher.

“When we started in 2019, we had a five-year plan where our target was to be playing Step Four football, so we have always been extremely ambitious and that target still stands. We want to put Cornish football on the map in terms of the women’s game and be a hub for the women’s game in Cornwall.

Above: AFC St. Austell 2021/22. Photo: Ben Cooper.

“In order to achieve this, I think we need to just keep doing what we are doing and trusting the process. Our team is very young and will get stronger and stronger as the seasons’ pass, so we believe that the future is bright for us.”

One of the aspects of the future of the club is branching out further to attract local girls to play, and Ben believes that there are opportunities there.

“As it stands, we only have the capacity to run a first-team and therefore don’t have a development or reserve squad. Fortunately for us, there are a number of very well-run girls’ and women’s teams in the surrounding areas of St Austell. Biscovey, Bodmin, Charlestown, and Foxhole have all helped to produce some brilliant players that are currently in our first team.

“This definitely links into how we can progress as a club. If we want to move on and become a hub for the women’s game in Cornwall, we need to look at building reserve and development squads.

“Long term, we want to achieve our aim of getting into Step Four. Ideally, we would like to establish ourselves as a permanent member of the FAWNL Division One South West.

“The women’s game is only going to get stronger and stronger. The FA Cup prize fund has increased for next season –finally – which is fantastic. We had a brilliant cup run this year, making the Second Round proper and it would be amazing to see some of those massive crowds from the professional game trickle down into grassroots women’s football.”

Pride In Defeat

Pride Park 0-4 Draycott Victoria

Above: Pride Park’s Rachel Weaver, who had an impressive performance on Sunday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

By Doug Outt (13/4/22)

Pride Park knew the Derbyshire Ladies League Division One leaders will have been stung by their first defeat of the season at their hands last week and – whilst, in all probability, it only delayed the inevitable – that there would be a reaction from them in the second of two consecutive games at Moorways on Sunday yesterday. However, boosted by last weekend’s win it was a challenge that the home side were looking forward to.

There was a late change to the starting eleven, as Maja Znamirowska was held up by a motorway accident, but otherwise, The Pride had the unusual sight of an almost full bench.

Both teams were joined for the walk-out by mascots from #ThePride U8 and U9s who also enjoyed a penalty shoot-out on the pitch at half-time.

Above: Members of Pride Park’s U8s and U9s meet the players pre-game. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Pride Park FC.

Pride Park made a bright start to the game and enjoyed good possession and territory in the opening stages. There was an early shot from distance by Sayavong that drifted wide, before a really good chance for Bryan after a powerful run down the left took her clear and into the box but her shot cleared the crossbar.

It was a high tempo game, broken up by a series of free-kicks – a yellow card being shown to a Draycott player for a late challenge on Pride’s Weaver. The teams were like two boxers circling each other in the ring, throwing the odd jab but looking for the opportunity to land a decisive blow – which came from the visitors after 25 minutes. A high bouncing ball down the Pride Park left was headed on by a Draycott player for a half-volley lob from the edge of the area.

It was a setback, but Pride Park responded well – Jones had a shot saved, and Sayavong and Znamirowska had shots but were unable to work the goalkeeper. As the half was ending, there was a scramble in the Park goalmouth, but Weaver and Sayavong combined to block the chance and clear for a corner, which came to nothing. 

Above: Eliot Sayavong who was a key player for Pride Park on Sunday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Pride Park had edged the first half, both in terms of overall play and chances created – but it was Draycott who went in ahead at half-time.

The second half started in much the same vein as the first half – a foul on Znamirowska giving Pride Park a free kick on the angle of the penalty area. Weaver took the kick, curling an inswinging shot in towards the far corner and forcing the keeper to turn it behind. 

The game was more or less decided as The Pride lost concentration at the back, allowing balls in from the left to find an unmarked player to hit her shot home – three times in five minutes – to effectively seal the game for Draycott.

Despite this, the home side rallied and pushed in search of at least a consolation goal, creating several good chances; Bryan putting in a low cross that first Allderidge and then Evans were only inches away from putting in. Evans had a couple of good chances after beating defenders – putting a shot over when clear – and seeing another shot slip through the keeper’s hands, but she recovered just in time to prevent the goal. Znamirowska also shot wide, and had a shot blocked on the line, and it was confirmed it was going to be that kind of day when Bryan skipped through two tackles in the box and her shot was blocked, only to ricochet against her, up onto the crossbar and over! 

Above: Lottie Bryan in possession for Pride Park. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

It was particularly disappointing for Pride Park to concede in the way they did in that costly five-minute spell, as they otherwise defended well and largely contained the threat from Draycott. The Pride had more than matched the league leaders and created enough good chances for the game to have – potentially – even finished in a draw, but having been ruthlessly efficient in front of goal in recent games, their eye for goal, or luck, deserted them on Sunday, whilst Draycott took their chances well. 

It was a battling and committed performance all round. Sayavong and Allderidge were again outstanding together in centre midfield, Bryan was a constant threat down the left, and Ayton did well in reverting to her original right of midfield role for this game.

The win for Draycott means only Borrowash Victoria can catch them now, but two more wins for Draycott will seal the title, even if Borrowash win their remaining games. There’s no game for Pride Park this Sunday, with the next fixture being at Borrowash Victoria on Sunday 24th April (1.30pm ko).

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Percival Injury: What Does This Mean For Spurs?

Impetus welcomes new contributor Rachel Lara Cohen from the Spurs Women Fansite. In this her first article, she highlights the importance of Ria Percival to Tottenham and ponders what the serious injury that she suffered on international duty means for the Super League side (12/4/22).

Above: Ria Percival – a key member of the Tottenham Hotspur team. Photo: Getty Images.

Last Friday in Townsville, Australia during the fifteenth minute of a dramatic friendly between New Zealand and Australia women’s teams, Ria Percival went down. There was no contact, it was no one’s fault.

But, unlike the innumerable times this season that we’ve seen Ria get fouled or watched as she’s gone in for a tackle, end up on the ground and then brush herself off and get up again with nothing worse than a muddy shirt, this time she didn’t get up. It was immediately obvious that what had occurred was serious. She was helped off the field grimacing.

The next day New Zealand Ferns coach Jitka Klimková confirmed that it was an anterior cruciate ligament injury: “Ria has gone back to her club, Tottenham. She is so important for us. It is a long-term injury, an ACL injury to her left knee. Depending on the assessment she will out for the rest of the year.” This has now been confirmed by Tottenham. She’s being treated by Spurs’ medical team and should have the best possible support.

Obviously, this is terrible for Ria, and we wish her a speedy recovery. It’s also bad news for Ria’s national team the New Zealand Ferns, for whom she plays a key role (not to mention being the most capped New Zealand player ever).

And of course, it’s bad news for Spurs Women.

Ria’s role for Spurs Women

Ria has been a core part of Rehanne Skinner’s team (see article on Ria from February). She has started every WSL game this season. Indeed, across the seventeen games to date, Ria has played all but 19 minutes so far (only Molly Bartrip been on the field for more minutes).

Ria’s statistics indicate some part of her role in the team. For instance, she is sixth in the league for key passes and she has scored two goals and has two assists (her xA, or expected goal assists, is actually 3.3, placing her ninth in the league, but given the team’s finishing problems goals have not always resulted where they were statistically likely). Ria’s defensive figures are also strong. She has made 54 tackles of which she’s won 34 (a figure that puts her second only to Ashleigh Neville among Spurs Women players and fourth in the WSL). Most of her tackles (33) have been in the middle third of the pitch, where she has made more tackles this season than any other Spurs player.

Above: Great stats for a great player. Tottenham Hotspur’s Ria Percival. Photo: Getty Images.

The fact that these strengths span different areas of play are a huge part of Percival’s importance to Spurs Women: she is an enormously versatile and intelligent player. Over this term, the Football Fern has played at right-back, defensive midfield, at the wing, and as a forward.

In many games she starts in midfield but seems to have the leeway to roam forwards, getting into the box and pressing high, but also dropping back into defence where needed. Meanwhile, Ria’s midfield tackling is a sign of her work rate and the part she plays in chasing down players and reducing their time on the ball, something that has been essential in producing the defensive solidity that the 2021-2 Spurs Team has become known for.

What are Spurs’ options if Ria is unavailable?

Ria has provided an option at right-back that has allowed head coach Rehanne Skinner to move Ashleigh Neville higher up the field (e.g. at home against Manchester City, where it partially worked). Given our problems with scoring and Ash’s speed on the break unleashing her higher up the pitch may be critical if we’re going to create goal-scoring opportunities, especially against stronger teams where there is not a lot of space (and a reminder that we’re yet to play Arsenal or Chelsea (twice)). Moreover, with no Ria in midfield, Ashleigh Neville’s tackling may become needed further forward.

For this to work we will need an alternative at right-back. The most obvious answer is Asmita Ale. Ale has only started seven games (many of these coming before Kerys Harrop nailed down her position at left-back), but Ale recently played at right-back away at Birmingham to excellent effect. The only other defensive player in the squad is Viktoria Schnaderbeck (who has so far been a relatively under-used loan-signing from Arsenal). From what I’ve seen Vikky is more of a central defender, meaning that her inclusion requires more rejigging – and risks disrupting the central partnership of Bartrip and Zadorsky.

Conversely, of course, if Neville stays at right-back we may stymie her attacking guile and midfield tackling, but would keep what has typically been the first choice back four (Neville, Bartrip, Zadorsky and Harrop).

In midfield

This is where Percival has most often played, typically in front of Maéva Clemaron, who occupies a defensive role in the engine room of midfield. And, over the last run of games, alongside Evelina Summanen. Summanen has become a regular starter since her January transfer and like Ria she plays as a flexible attack-minded hard-tackling midfielder, making 16 tackles and taking eight shots in her four starts (five games) in the WSL. With Ria out, Evelina’s part in the team may become even more critical. That means, that with Summanen and Clemaron a lock-in central midfield we could have Ashleigh Neville and Jessica Naz on the wing, and Rachel Williams and Kyah Simon in front.

Other options

There are a few other options in the squad, but finding options that retain our whole-team defensive energy while releasing players to go forward, are limited.

Above: Rosella Ayane – an outside chance of helping to plug the gap left by Ria Percival’ injury. Photo: Andy Rowland / PMI / Imago.

If Neville remains at right-back, Rosella Ayane is a possibility on the wing. But she has been consistently – and frustratingly – ineffective this season, at times seeming to lose concentration. Angela Addison is another possibility. She has demonstrated her ability to find space in the box, but can find herself bullied off the ball and in her numerous substitute appearances has too often seemed peripheral (although this may just be a lack of game-time).

A different approach would be to bring Josie Green into midfield, allowing Summanen to move forward or out wide. Josie’s been reliable but hasn’t regained the rhythm of a couple of years ago (and has remained down the pecking order from Clemaron, Summanen, and Percvial). Cho So-Hyun also plays in central midfield and could be more of a replacement for Ria, but has only shown glimpses of what she can do since joining Spurs and does not always seem interested in the harrying or pressing aspects of how this team is set up to play.

The other options are less useful in terms of filling the Ria-size-hole: Tang Jiali is more of a pure striker, and yet to make a mark, while Chioma Ubogagu, who had occasional good games in the Autumn, is either injured or has been otherwise side-lined, not appearing in the squad since January.

If the main point is to replicate the pressing game (especially in the attacking and midfield thirds) that Ria is so good at, Green or Addison perhaps come closest, but there is no like-for-like replacement.

Moreover, and somewhat ironically perhaps, it is clear that Ria’s flexibility has previously provided the manager with options in making substitutions, insofar as Ria could be moved to accommodate the introduction of other, less flexible, players. The