UK Football

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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. Therefore, Ria’s absence is not just a hole, but also makes it harder to resolve the jigsaw puzzle of team selection and make best use of those players that remain.

All of which is to say that Ria will be hugely missed.

It will be Rehanne Skinner who now has the complicated task of deciding how to reconfigure the team to accommodate her absence. Of course, Skinner has already performed miracles this season in getting this Spurs team to where it is challenging at the top half of the table. So, here’s hoping she’s got another miracle up her sleeve. She’s got a couple of weeks before our next game, to come up with it.

Till then we’re all sending lots of good wishes to Ria – and to her teammates and coaches, all of whom must be devasted by news of her injury.

This article was originally published on the Spurs Women Blogsite. https://spurswomen.uk/

NWGFL Round-Up

By Darrell Allen with contributions from Stuart Terry (12/4/22)

Above: Thetford Town interim captain Melissa Boulton (left) presents Beccles Town captain Lola Barber-King with a bouquet of flowers for her teammate Mae who suffered a serious injury in February. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

A warm afternoon greeted Thetford Town and Beccles Town on Sunday afternoon for their Norfolk Women and Girls’ League Division One fixture.

Before the game Thetford interim captain Melissa Boulton presented a bouquet of flowers to her Beccles counterpart Lola Barber-King for the Beccles player Mae who was seriously injured in a road traffic accident in February and Thetford also donated £180 to Mae and her family following a club collection at the men’s and women’s games over the weekend.

Thetford were boosted before kick-off by the news that Becky Russell their dual signing from Wroxham was available for late selection after Wroxham’s game was postponed. Becky was named as one of Thetford substitutes but would later play a significant key role for David Skipp’s team at the heart of the Thetford defence. 

Above: Becky Russell in action for Thetford Town. She recently signed on a dual deal from Wroxham. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

The first 10 minutes saw an even contest before Thetford broke the deadlock on 14 minutes thanks to a delightful through ball by Abbie Corbyn that gave Chelsea Page the chance to round the keeper and give Thetford a one-nil lead. 

Thetford went on to dominate the game but a number of chances were missed before a deep cross by Boulton gave Hannah Claughton the chance to score her first goal for the club and a few minutes later Claughton made it a personal brace and a 3-0 lead for Thetford from a delightful three-player move that Claughton calmly slotted into the back of the net.

The second half started much the same as the first ended with Thetford pushing and probing at the Beccles defence and the inspirational and super talented Abbie Corbyn was at the heart of most of Thetford’s moves.

Above: Abbie Corbyn (right) in control for Thetford Town against Beccles Town. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

The super wing play of Boulton was causing all sorts of problems and Claughton completed a hat-trick with a delightful 20-yard lob over the keeper to round off a comfortable 4-0 win for Thetford.

The only downside of a very good Thetford performance was an injury to Boulton who was carried from the pitch in the 64th minute. 

Abbie Corbyn showed why she is so highly regarded with another great performance that won her the player of the match award.

With six fixtures to go before the end of the season, a top-four finish is still very much an achievable target for David Skipp’s talented squad.

NWGFL Division One Round-up

In the day’s other fixtures, leaders Mulbarton Belles made it 17 wins from 17 thanks to a 2-0 victory at Long Stratton. Goals from Sophie Jermy and Lucy Lincoln gave Martin Francis’ team all three points and leaving them only needing a draw at Thetford Town on Easter Sunday to secure the title.

Second place Fakenham Town ran out 9-0 winners at home to North Walsham thanks to a hat trick from Sophie Lubbock, a brace each from Olivia Barker and Aimee Hutchinson, and a goal each from Shelley Woods and Megan Spurrell.

Third place Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers fresh from reaching the NWGFL Plate Cup Final with a 5-2 win over Sprowston, this time travelled to Sprowston on Sunday and ran out 3-0 winners thanks to goals from Shanice Sutton, captain Calista Tink, and Tallulah Bell. An important three points as they keep up the pressure on second place Fakenham.

Table From FA Full-Time.

NWGFL Division Two Round-Up:

Third-placed King’s Lynn Soccer Club went level on points with second place UEA with a fine 6-1 win at Freethorpe. King’s Lynn’s goals came from Jordan Turner (hat-trick), Kersey Ramm, Sophie McNeill and Viktorija Burkauskaite.

In the day’s only other game fourth place Gorleston ran out 9-1 winners over Horsford thanks to four goals from Rebecca Waters and other strikes from Sienna Saunders, Mariana Lino, Hannah Halfnight, Megan Bartlett, and Kelsi Adams.

Table From: FA Full Time

Four From Hincks As Dons Ease Past Harlow

AFC Wimbledon 7-1 Harlow Town

By George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Ladies (11/4/22)

Above: Ashlee Hincks smashes home for AFC Wimbledon against Harlow Town at Plough Lane yesterday. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

AFC Wimbledon marked their last game at Plough Lane this season with a swashbuckling 7-1 win over Harlow Town yesterday in the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East.

It didn’t take long for Kelly Highman to open the scoring as she headed home emphatically in the eighth minute after a cross by Ashlee Hincks. There was better to follow as Hincks turned from provider to scorer in stunning style with a fantastic shot from 25 yards out.   

With the Dons 2-0 up, Harlow had their best spell of the game as they searched for a win that would ensure that they avoid relegation. However, fine saves by Lauren Allen denied the visitors and it remained 2-0 heading into half-time, Rebecca Sargent heading against the crossbar twice at the other end. 

Wimbledon started the second-half strongly, aiming to reassert their dominance and take control of the game once again. With only seven second-half minutes gone, Hincks got her second goal of the game by taking the ball around the keeper, before rolling it into the empty net. Less than two minutes later, it was 4-0 with Katie Stanley getting in on the act.

The goals just kept on coming, Hincks completing her hat-trick with a composed finish, which meant that three goals had been scored in just 10 minutes. Despite a goal for the visitors, the Dons were not to be denied in search of more goals and Hincks scored with a cheeky lob, before Chloe Sampson rounded off the scoring.

Speaking after the game, El Sueno Tequila player of the match Ashlee Hincks said: “We had a bit of a disappointing result a couple of weeks ago against Harlow, so it was nice to finish the season at Plough Lane and get some goals in front of a good crowd.”

Wimbledon play their final away league game next Sunday at Norwich City who will need to win to stay on the right side of the drop zone. Dons follow that up with the big FA Women’s National League Plate Final against Nottingham Forest, which is being played at Solihull Moors FC with an 11.00 am kick-off. AFC Wimbledon complete their season against Cambridge United at Carshalton Athletic FC on the 1st May with a 2.00 pm kick-off.

Table From: FA Women’s National League.

Teams: AFC WIMBLEDON: Allen, Oliver, Highman (Fowler), Sargent (Taylor), Billinghman (Childerhouse), Mann (Russell), Stow, Donovan, Stanley (Carter), Hincks, Sampson.

Scorers: Highman 8′. Hincks 25′, 52′, 56′, 73′. Stanley 54′. Sampson 81′.

HARLOW TOWN: Salmons, Bassett, Brooks, Bilson, Farmer, Stacey, Messore, Howell, Dickens, Becs, O’Leary.

Attendance: 247.

Surrey To Host Afghan Women’s Development Team

11/4/22

Artwork: International Surrey Football. Photo: Girl Tiny Shooter.

International Surrey Football this morning announced that they will be hosting the Afghanistan Women’s Development Team in a friendly fixture on Sunday 29th May at the Meadowbank Stadium in Dorking.

The match which will also mark our Surrey Women’s first full debut since playing their opening trial game against the University of Surrey in 2021 which was won 8-1 by the county team. The game in Dorking will also be Surrey’s first game where fans will be able to attend and support the team on such an important occasion.

The Afghanistan Women’s Development team is made up of players forced to leave their homes in Afghanistan following the fall of Kabul to Taliban forces and the withdrawal of NATO forces in August 2021. The team had been planning to compete in the under-23 Central Asian Football Federation’s women’s championship, unfortunately, those plans fell apart suddenly with the Taliban’s quick advance on the Afghan capital in scenes many of us will remember.

This event placed all Afghan women’s players at immediate risk, with many players encouraged to destroy their own kit to protect themselves and not be identifiable as footballers. Fortunately, many of the players and their families were able to safely leave Afghanistan, the women’s first team, now based in Melbourne, Australia, and recently admitted to the regional Victoria football competition with assistance from A-League side Melbourne Victory FC.

Above: Members of the Afghanistan Women’s Team. Photo via: Surrey International Football.

Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Women’s Development team were initially unable to be evacuated to the UK. The team went into hiding on their journey to Kabul’s airport. They were at the airport when a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a gate on the perimeter, killing 170 Afghan nationals as well as 13 US service members. It wasn’t until they had managed to safely cross the border into neighbouring Pakistan that they were able to leave for the UK with the help of Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani that the team were able to reach the UK and are able to train at Leeds United FC.

The Afghanistan Development team recently enjoyed a trip to London with a game against the UK Parliamentary Women’s team with assistance from Amnesty International and played at Dulwich Hamlet and included a visit to Westminster. The Afghan team won every game they played against the British MPs.

The plan to bring the team to Surrey isn’t over just yet, with travel and accommodation costs to cover for what is being planned as a two-day trip for the Afghan players, International Surrey Football will be running a crowdfunding campaign, as well as seeking donations, to help contribute towards the travel and accommodation expenses for their stay in Dorking.

As well as individual donations, larger corporate donors can contact International Surrey Football directly to discuss sponsorship opportunities as well as to help cover the various costs for travel and accommodation.

Donations can be made to: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/afghanistan-to-dorking-football

Above: The Afghan Women’s Development Team pictured after taking on British MPs at Dulwich Hamlet FC. Photo via: International Surrey Football.

Dussindale See Off Spirited Sprowston

Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers 5-2 Sprowston

At Beccles Town FC.

Above: The scene at College Meadow as Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers faced Sprowston. Sprowston’s Rosie Graham (16) is front of shot. Photo: Darrell Allen.

By Darrell Allen (8/4/22)

Two Norfolk Women and Girls League (NWGFL) Division One sides met on Wednesday night in the NWGFL Plate Cup Semi-Final. Due to lack of pitch availability this game was played on a neutral facility at College Meadow in Beccles, the home of Beccles Town Ladies who are a fellow Step Seven club in the NWGFL. 

After an energetic team talk from manager Dean Leggett, Sprowston started the game on the front foot getting the ball down nicely and playing some good football and it was they who created the first big moment of the match when Emma Clarke thundered an amazing strike at goal that hit the under-side of the bar and bounced the right side of the line to give Sprowston the lead. 

Sprowston were determined and looked most up for it in the initial phases of play to build on the lead but they could not find a second goal.

Dussindale got their own passing game going and Abbie Hutchin was the first to have any real opportunity of note for them when she put a great cross in but the Sprowston keeper Jade Knight was there to deal with it.

A game of you attack, we attack was in progress and a joy to watch as Vicky Leyer for Dussindale hit a great shot but it was parried by Knight and cleared. Siesha Humphries hit a shot too, but it was high and to the right of the Sprowston goal. Shanice Sutton was then fouled in the box but penalty appeals were waved away.

Dussindale managed to level the score as their period of pressure finally paid off as Vicky Leyer forced Sprowston into an error and slotted beyond keeper Knight and in to level the scores at 1-1. 

Dussindale were in their groove, a wonderful free-kick was tipped over by Jade Knight but they had better luck when taking the lead after a clever ball was played across to Leyer from Calista Tink and Leya chipped it over the keeper and in.

Above: Sprowston boss Dean Leggett addresses his players at half-time. Photo: Darrell Allen.

A crowd of more than 40 was in attendance which was a good number considering both teams had to travel from Norfolk into Suffolk for this fixture. A brilliant game continued with Sprowston’s Courtney Leggett having a free-kick that went all the way through and straight at Cole in goal. 

Sprowston’s effort, attitude and togetherness was outstanding as they continued to go toe to toe with Dussindale, who are regarded along with current league leaders Mulbarton as one of the best teams the NWGFL has to offer. 

They seized their moment and levelled the score when they scored another impressive goal when Katie Fray hit a strike from distance that went over Cole’s head and into the net to make the scores level at 2-2 which it remained at the break.

Sprowston started the second half well, but couldn’t make the most of their early pressure as Dussindale gradually began to get a grip of the second half and after some excellent build up play it was Vicky Leyer again who scored to give Rovers the lead with a wonderful strike from distance to complete her hat trick.

Dussindale made it four from the spot. Shanice Sutton was through and brought down by Sprowston goalkeeper Jade Knight who was shown a red card. Lois Irving went in goal but there was no stopping Shanice Sutton who superbly dispatched the penalty to give Dussindale a two-goal lead.

With Rovers having the player advantage they dominated the possession in the late stages of the contest and Vicky Leyer added her fourth and Dussindale’s fifth with a smart finish across the keeper and in to round off the scoring. 

Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers will now take part in the Norfolk Women and Girls League Plate Cup Final and will face either Caister or Freethorpe who play their Semi Final on Sunday 24th April at 1.00pm. 

Player of the Match: Vicky Leyer (Dussindale and Hellesdon)

Teams: DUSSINDALE & HELLESDON ROVERS: Cole, Wilson, Humphries, Sutton, Roe, Nobbs, Whetherell, Tink, Leyer, Hutchin, Brister. Substitute: Rusted.

Scorers: Leyer (4), Sutton (pen).

SPROWSTON: Knight, Curtis, Whayman, K.Braithwaite, M.Braithwaite, Irving, Shipman, Fray, Clarke, Morris, Leggett, Substitute: Winter, Graham.  

Scorers: Clarke, Fray.

Referee: Ryan Starkey.

Attendance: 40.

Tash Allderidge: Pride Park Through And Through

Pride Park captain and record appearance holder Tash Allderidge spoke to Impetus Ben Gilby about her footballing journey and life at the Derbyshire Ladies League Division One club (7/4/22).

Above: Tash Allderidge (left) strides forward with the ball for Pride Park. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Tash Allderidge first played for Pride Park in December 2006 and has now amassed over 150 appearances for the tier seven Derbyshire Ladies League Division One side, scoring over 50 goals in the process.

Pride Park’s captain first discovered her love of the game at the age of five. “I first started playing football at primary school in an after-school club when I was about five. After realising a love for the sport, I started playing outside of school at a football group where I was the only girl.

“When I turned 10 years old, I trialled to join Pride Park U11s in their first season. They were the first girls’ football team I’d even heard of and I’ve played for them now ever since. In 2013, I joined Burton Albion Ladies for a season, helping them gain promotion to the Regional League at tier six alongside playing for Pride Park U18s. We then became Pride Park Ladies after moving to open age, and I have played for this team ever since, captaining the team for the last five years.

“Pride Park have always been a welcoming and friendly club with a great atmosphere on and off the pitch. Although everyone in the team plays for enjoyment, we are also very competitive on the pitch and want to be winning games. It’s great to be able to play week in week out with a group of teammates who I would also class as my friends.”

With her status as a keen Newcastle United fan, Tash had some very famous strikers as her idols growing up.

“My role models when I was younger were Alan Shearer and Michael Owen – for his football ability, not his punditry! However, when I started playing central midfield, I really idolised Hatem Ben Arfa because of his amazing dribbling of the ball and regularly getting goals and assists from midfield during his time at Newcastle. When you watch a player doing that for your favourite club, you just want to get out on the pitch yourself and do the same.”

Above: Tash Allderidge – confident in possession. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Pride Park’s captain has found the most recent couple of seasons the most challenging of her career – a direct result of the added complications of COVID.

“It was so hard going months without being able to play football, training, or matches. Sundays just aren’t the same without football! Fitness was also a pretty big challenge once we were able to play again. During lockdown, I’d done a lot of running to try to maintain my fitness, but you need a different type of fitness for football so it took a while to build that back up when we were playing regularly again.”

With the season gradually moving towards the business end, Tash highlighted how she’s viewed the Derbyshire Ladies League Division One this time around.

“It has been extremely competitive. It really feels like a season whereby anyone could beat anyone. Some of our most competitive matches have been against Belper Town, playing two matches against them so far this season, winning one match each, however, they have been very hard-fought and close matches both times.

“Our toughest opponents were probably Draycott Victoria who have some great players and know how to win games. We lost to them in our first match this season but we have another two matches against them so we’ll see if we can get a better result!”

In terms of aims for the rest of the season, Allderidge said: “As a team, it would be great to finish in the top half of the table this season, especially with how competitive the league is this year. Personally, I would like to build up more confidence to take on players in matches and be able to get up the pitch more to help our strikers on the attack and hopefully adding to my goals and assists tally in the process.”

Taking the slightly longer-term view, Pride Park’s captain has some big ambitions for the future.

“I would love to play with Pride Park at a higher level, on the regional league, if we were to go for promotion, to see what it’s like to play against some different teams at that level.

“Also, I’d love to play in and win a match in the Womens’ FA Cup with Pride Park. We made our first appearance in the FA Cup in 2019, losing 5-1 against Hepworth United, a team playing at a higher level than us. It would be great to enter again and maybe even win a match to get into the next round.”

Above: Pride Park’s record appearance holder Tash Allderidge. Photo: Shaun Hardwick

Six of the Best For Thetford

Thorpe St. Andrew 0-6 Thetford Town

By Darrell Allen (6/4/22)

Above: Thetford Town’s player of the match Hannah Rogers, who scored one and made three of her team’s goals at Thorpe St. Andrew. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

Sir George Morse Park on Laundry Lane was the venue for the Norfolk Women and Girls Division One encounter between Thorpe St. Andrew and Thetford Town. 

On a bobbly parkland surface, the early exchanges were even. However, Thetford then began to take the upper hand in the match. Abbie Corbyn was dancing down the wing and played in Hannah Rogers who fired a great shot across Helen Crook in the Thorpe St Andrew goal. 

Summer Eccles on only her second Thetford start then made a great driving run but was denied in her tracks by a wonderful tackle by Natasha Frankland. This tackle inserted some belief and energy into Thorpe St. Andrew and they looked hungry to try and cause Thetford problems down the right-hand side where they were aiming most of their balls but they found Thetford’s Emily Bullett in the way who was doing some sterling defensive work. 

Above: Abbie Corbyn, who had another impressive game for Thetford Town. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

Thorpe had a glorious chance when Sarah Rooke took the ball off Rachel Lynch but fired it at Thetford keeper Lydia Ward. 

Thetford continued to threaten with Boulton, Eccles, and Corbyn prominent. Yet they didn’t have it all their own way as Nichols played in Emily Warnes who skied it over the bar as Thorpe continued to be wasteful and probably should have had the lead. 

Thorpe continued their pressing and made the first half very difficult for Town. The opening 45 ended goalless with Thorpe St. Andrew manager Tony Allen the happier of the two bosses at the interval.

The second half began with Abbie Corbyn having a shot against the post as Thetford pressure worried the Thorpe St. Andrew defence.

Above: The Thetford Town management team of David Skipp, Stuart Terry, and Sausha Levy-Twomey watch on with your match reporter!
 Photo: Luca Mangili.

Thetford took the lead just after the hour mark as Hannah Rogers headed in from a delightful Becky White corner. Eight minutes later it was Becky White who doubled their advantage from distance and Thetford had control of the game. 

The confidence and belief was there and David Skipp’s team then began to get into their stride and play the wonderful football which has achieved so much success this season. A Hannah Rogers corner was then knocked in by Chelsea Page off the stomach to make it 3-0.

Sophie Burr-Walpole was delighted to add the fourth which was a great finish after another fabulous Rogers assist.

Above: Becky White and Chelsea Page who came on together from the bench, linked up well and scored three of Thetford Town’s six goals between themselves. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

The fifth Thetford goal was thing of beauty. A wonderful precision pass from captain Melissa Boulton carved open the Thorpe St. Andrew defence and Becky White was there for her second of the afternoon and finished spectacularly over Crook in the Thorpe goal.

Boulton rounded off the afternoon’s scoring with a spectacular sixth from distance to claim a brilliant away success.

This was a wonderful win and clean sheet for Thetford after a tough recent run, six second-half goals that saw David Skipp’s team claim a much-needed three points which will hopefully breed confidence for the games ahead. Hannah Rogers took this week’s Thetford player of the match award after stats of with one goal and three assists. 

Teams: THORPE ST. ANDREW: Crook, Woodhouse, Mileham, Langley, Frankland, Rooke, Warnes, Nichols, Probert, Rumney, Musson, Substitutes: Saw, Boucher, Jackson, Gibbs, Gavin. 

THETFORD TOWN: Ward, Skipp, Bullett, Howard, Lynch, Klimcke, Eccles, Claughton, Rogers, Boulton, Corbyn. Substitutes Lloyd, Burr-Walpole, White, Page. 

Scorers: Rogers, White (2), Page, Burr-Walpole, Boulton.

Full of Pride As Park Send League Leaders To First Defeat

Pride Park 2-0 Draycott Victoria

By Doug Outt (5/4/22)

Above: Beth Jones wheels away after opening the scoring for Pride Park. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

It was top versus second at Moorways on Sunday. Despite occasional sunshine there was a chill in the wind, which was blowing down the length of the pitch.

With four missing through long term injuries, illness, and two further late withdrawals – life gets in the way of football sometimes – the Pride were left with just 11 at kick off, plus one late arrival still on the way. It was a problem faced by both teams as Draycott were also missing players. It wasn’t ideal coming into a top of the table meeting between first and second but you have to play with the cards you’re dealt.  

The games marked milestones for three Pride Park players, as Summer Evans made her 50th appearance in League and Cup, Tash Allderidge clocked up a century of League appearances, and it was the sixth anniversary of Maja Znamirowska making her debut.  

Draycott are runaway leaders of the Derbyshire Ladies League Division One, unbeaten and with 12 wins in 13 coming into this game. Pride Park were disappointed to lose the opening game of the season to them after taking a two-goal first-half lead, but could take encouragement from that game and recent form.  

Pride made a bright start, having much of the early possession, but without creating any clear openings. The first real chance fell to Draycott just after 10 mins, as their player was put through down the left but keeper Howell came out to narrow the angle and the shot was hit into the side netting.

Pride Park’s build-up play in the first half was good and looked threatening on a number of occasions, but their attacks were tending to break down as the goal came into range.  

Above: Pride Park apply pressure to the Draycott Victoria goal. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

The home side’s first opportunity came after 17 minutes after Allderidge was fouled in Pride’s defensive third. From the resultant free-kick Laight put Znamirowska through but under pressure from a defender, she shot wide.  

Both Evans and Znamirowska were on the receiving end of a number of challenges that resulted in free kicks, and could, arguably, have had more. From one of these, after Evans was felled on the corner of the box just before half-time, Allderidge’s kick was headed away from a crowded six yard box.  

The Pride were awarded another free kick from a similar position with very little time left in the first half. The set-piece was whipped in by Laight, the goalkeeper got to the ball, but could only parry to Znamirowska whose shot was blocked, the ball then ricocheted around a ruck of players inside the six-yard box, but the finishing touch couldn’t be found and the ball was cleared.  

It had been a very even first half of few chances, with the majority of the play concentrated in the middle third of the pitch. Pride Park’s aim in the second half, therefore, was to turn their attacking play into clearer opportunities and to get more attempts on goal.  

They made a good start, as from a free-kick Znamirowska laid the ball back to Ayton but her shot was wide. Five minutes after the restart, however, Pride were a goal up. Centre-back Beth Jones intercepted a through ball inside the Park half and laid the ball off to Baker, who threaded a ball through to Znamirowska down the left. Znamirowska took the ball forward a few paces before squaring it across the six-yard box – where Jones, having continued her run, met the cross for a calm left-foot finish to steer the ball wide of the keeper.  

Pride were close to doubling their lead less than ten minutes later; Allderidge nicked the ball off Draycott in midfield, played a pass up to Evans who headed into Bryan’s path on the right. Bryan played a neat exchange with Evans which put Bryan behind the defence and her cross found Znamirowska in the centre but her glancing header went just wide of the far post.

Above: Annie Laight’s arching free-kick from 40 yards eludes the Draycott Victoria keeper for Pride Park to go 2-0 up. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Two minutes later Znamirowska had another chance but her shot went wide. After 15 mins there was almost a chance for Draycott as an attempted clearance rebounded but Howell was out quickly ahead of the striker to dive on and smother the ball.  

Pride were awarded a free-kick inside the Draycott half, almost 40 yards from goal. Laight took the kick and sent the ball up in an arc to glance in off the crossbar to put Pride two up with just under a quarter of an hour to play.  

It was now about game management, not taking chances, and keeping secure at the back. With four minutes to play the referee awarded a puzzling and soft free-kick to Draycott, apparently for a handball, but Howell had her angles right and collected the shot without having to move.  

Draycott had a couple of efforts in the dying minutes, both from distance and perhaps more in hope than expectation, but both were safely collected by Howell as Pride were able to see the game out for the win and hand the league leaders their first defeat of the season thanks to a very mature performance and a goal for each of the centre-backs.  

It was a hard-working and thoroughly deserved win. A second clean sheet of the season for Howell is a reward for extra training and reflects solid defending by the back four, but also all-round team effort to defend from the front out of possession.  

In possession, Pride Park built up well and probably had the better opportunities aside from the goals, but it is the centre-backs that get the headlines, as an excellent goal apiece for Beth Jones and Annie Laight, together with a clean sheet, secure the win.  

It is but a minor blip for Draycott, who remain 12 points clear and Champions elect. The teams do it all again next week, same time, same place, as Draycott return to Moorways next Sunday for the teams’ third and final meeting of the season.  

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Dons Extend Run At Cambridge

Cambridge United 0-3 AFC Wimbledon

By George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Ladies (4/4/22)

Above: AFC Wimbledon find the net away to Cambridge United at St. Neots Town FC yesterday. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

AFC Wimbledon extended their unbeaten run in the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East to 18 games with an impressive 3-0 victory away to Cambridge United on Sunday.

The Dons went into the game knowing that due to there being only one promotion spot available, promotion was no longer possible despite their brilliant run of form but with a cup final still to come in a couple of weeks the South Londoners wanted to continue their form. 

Wimbledon were without Gloria Siber for the trip to face Cambridge United due to her being called up for international duty by Hungary. Despite this, the Dons went into the game looking to build on the victory against Actonians in midweek and were keen to set a high tempo right from the start.

AFC Wimbledon dominated the opening stages and were awarded a penalty with United reduced to 10 players after Anna Re was sent off for a deliberate handball on the goal line. Ashlee Hincks stepped up and scored her 38th goal of the season in all competitions.

With the hosts being a player down Wimbledon continued to dominate and apply pressure and with 35 minutes on the clock, they doubled their lead thanks to an unlikely source with Steph Mann getting her first goal of the season from close range after a run-in from the back post gave the Dons a 2-0 lead at half time.

In the second half, Wimbledon continued their dominance and less than five minutes into the re-start, Megan Stow scored their third goal. With the game pretty much put to bed, the Dons continued to control the game in a professional manner whilst making changes with Kelly Highman, Steph Mann, Amy Taylor, and Megan Stow all coming off at various stages allowing Emily Oliver to make her return after a spell out along with Emily Donovan, Angel Fowler, and Chloe Sampson coming off the bench as Wimbledon ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.

Speaking after the match, Wimbledon defender Rosie Russell said: “It was a really enjoyable game in general, competitive. We raised the tempo which was good and brought in the success from Wednesday, started well moved it around, and yeah it was an enjoyable game.”

First-team coach Andy May was also positive “It was really pleasing. (Head coach) Kevin (Foster) spoke to them before the game and set a couple of challenges about what we do in terms of setting our standards and setting our tempo so to see that implemented in that 90 minutes was really pleasing.”

Teams: CAMBRIDGE UNITED: Webb, Re, Otten, Fox, Jenkins, Griffin, Hewitt, Rouse, Davies, Burt, Bennett. Substitutes: Markwell, Emmings, Marwell, Cantwell.

AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Russell, Highman (Fowler), Sargent, Billingham, Mann (Sampson), Stow (Oliver), Taylor (Donovan), Stanley, Hincks, Carter.

Scorers: Hincks (pen) 30′, Mann 35′, Stow 49′.

Rampant Second Half Sees Chelsea Go Top

Chelsea 5-0 Reading

Words and EXCLUSIVE photos by Ben Gilby (4/4/22)

Above: Deanne Rose (right)’s battles with Jess Carter was one of the highlights of the first half. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

Chelsea moved one point clear at the top of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League thanks to a dominant second-half performance against Reading at Kingsmeadow last night.

Goals either side of half-time from Jessie Fleming and a superb volley from Beth England turned the game after Kelly Chambers’ Berkshire side had frustrated the defending champions in the opening 45 minutes.

Reading were exceptionally well organized, resolute, and adopted a super high press which earned them turn over ball and forced Chelsea into occasional misplaced passes. Add into the mix the sensational Deanne Rose whose pace on the counter led to a hugely entertaining personal duel with Jess Carter. If the Royals only had a quality striker to finish, then Chelsea could have been in trouble.

Above: Jessie Fleming in action last night. The Canadian Olympic champion put Chelsea ahead with a great piece of skill. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

However, as they usually do against the massed ranks of defensive visitors at Kingsmeadow, Emma Hayes’ side found a way to breakthrough. Erin Cuthbert, a real Scottish terrier in midfield once more found Reiten on the left. The Norwegian, in sublime form all night, pulled over a cross on the left which Beth England nodded back to Fleming who chested down and struck home.

Just seven minutes into the second period, it was the game-breaking second. Once more it was Reiten the provider. England fed the ball out to her on the left for a cross which the Lionesses striker volleyed home into the left-hand corner of the net.

It was all Chelsea after that with Reading’s efforts of the first half just a fading memory. Two goals in 11 minutes from Sam Kerr added gloss to the Blues’ rampant showing. Her first goal on 66 minutes was supplied by Norwegian star Reiten once more as a low ball in from the left was swept home by Australia’s all-time leading goal scorer.

Kerr made it 4-0 when Cuthbert laid across a perfectly angled shot for the East Fremantle-born star to side foot comfortably into the net.

Above: Beth England sizes up the penalty in stoppage time at the end of the game which made it 5-0. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

There was time for a fifth in stoppage time when England was brought down. Kerr initially picked up the ball for what would have been a hat-trick goal, but to the applause of the crowd handed it to England to dispatch into the net.

Chelsea were comfortable winners in the end and now are a point clear of Arsenal with a superior goal difference. Reading had produced the best performance of any non-top three side at Kingsmeadow this season, but Emma Hayes’ side’s ability to score when it mattered did for the Royals in the end.

For Ben Gilby’s EXCLUSIVE photo gallery from the match, click here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/04/04/rampant-second-half-sees-chelsea-go-top/

Teams: CHELSEA (3-5-2): Musovic, Bright, Nouwen, Eriksson, Carter, Fleming, Ingle, Cuthbert, Reiten, England, Kerr. Substitutes: Mjelde, Charles, Spence, Andersson, Abdullina, Berger (GK), Thompson.

Scorers: Fleming 40′, England 52′, 90+2′ (pen). Kerr 66′, 77′.

READING (5-4-1): Moloney, Bryson, Harding, Evans, Cooper, Woodham, Harries, Eikeland, Peplow, Rose, Rowe. Substitutes: Dowie, Stewart (GK), Roberts, Primmer, Troelsgaard.

Referee: Emily Heaslip.

Attendance: 2,485.

Hincks Bags A Brace On Return

AFC Wimbledon 2-0 Actonians

By George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Ladies 31/2/22

Above: Goalmouth action from Plough Lane last night as AFC Wimbledon took on Actonians. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

Ashlee Hincks marked her return from injury with a second-half double to help the Dons record an important victory in the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East.

The brace from Hincks made it a highly impressive 37 goals from 28 games this season, as Kevin Foster’s side secured a 2-0 win versus Actonians at Plough Lane.

The victory extended Dons’ unbeaten run to seven months and got them back to winning ways after two successive 0-0 draws.

In the first half, Wimbledon carried attacking intent through great link-up play from the front three of Ashlee Hincks, Chloe Sampson, and Katie Stanley, but the breakthrough proved elusive and the pair of Hannah Billingham and Faye Baker were required at the other end to stop Actonians.

The opening goal was certainly worth waiting for in the second half when Hincks fired home a superb 25-yard free-kick. There was more to come from Hincks as she scored from close range to seal victory.

Above: AFC Wimbledon boss Kevin Foster addresses his players in the post-game huddle. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

Manager Kevin Foster said: “Actonians are always a good side. They always make it difficult and that was the case again, so credit to them, but I thought it was a very good professional performance. We stayed with it, dug it out, and played some good football at times.”

El Sueno Tequila Player of the match Steph Mann said: “We always knew it was going to be a physical game, it always is against Actonians, but we came in with a game plan and we executed it perfectly.”

Next up for the Dons is a trip to Cambridge United on Sunday (2.00 pm kick-off at St Neots Town) and Wimbledon are back at Plough Lane on 10th April versus Harlow Town (2.00 pm kick-off).

Teams: AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Russell, Highman, Sargent (Donovan), Billingham, Mann, Taylor, Sampson (Siber), Hincks, Stanley (Carter).

Scorers: Hincks 67′, 90′.

ACTONIANS: Team sheet not published.

Attendance: 162.

Thetford Edged Out By Sprowston

Thetford Town 1-2 Sprowston

By Darrell Allen (29/3/22)

Above: Thetford Town’s Abbie Corbyn in possession closely shadowed by a Sprowston player. Photo: Darrell Allen.

Thetford Town returned back to Mundford Road for their first home game in the Norfolk Women and Girls League since 30th January. 

Sprowston were the visitors who came into the game in form following a stand-out 3-2 win at Bungay the previous Sunday. 

It was the visitors who started brightest through Katie Fray’s great run-through, but Rachel Lynch, returning to the Thetford lineup after a lengthy injury lay off was there to intercept. 

There were further chances for Sprowston through Oshea Winter and Keira Braithwaite but Thetford bodies were put on the line to clear the danger.

Thetford had been appealing for assistance to aid them with a goalkeeping crisis on social media. Friendly face Jess Knight was between the sticks this week and put in a highly committed and commendable shift. 

A mistake in the Town defence saw Kate Morris through, but she placed her shot wide of goal as Sprowston continued to squander their early chances in the contest.

Above: Summer Eccles on debut for Thetford Town. Photo: Darrell Allen.

Summer Eccles making her Thetford Town debut following her transfer from Norwich City was looking lively in midfield as the hosts looked to get a foothold in the contest.

A Boulton cross came to nothing and Klimcke and Corbyn were linking well but nothing was coming off for Thetford.

Sprowston had more chances but continued to find Rachel Lynch in the way of every forward move. 

Chances at both ends followed with Katie Morris looking lively for Sprowston all afternoon but Lynch defended well.

Morris continued to threaten for Sprowston but Courtney Musgrove was there at right back to hack the ball away from danger in an inspired performance in a position which is not her usual role in the team.

The half ended with Charlotte Howard firing over the bar and Rebecca White did the same with a free-kick as the two teams went in level at the break.

Above: Thetford Town’s Mia Banbury (right) in action against Sprowston. Photo: Darrell Allen.

It was Sprowston who started the second 45 minutes liveliest and the ball was played across to Katie Morris who tapped it in to give the visitors the lead four minutes into the second half.

Sprowston almost increased their advantage but found Jess Knight coming out to make a vital intervention. 

They had a further golden opportunity but Morris skied a chance and certain goal wide to miss the goal and the chance to wrap the game up.

The visitors paid the price for this profligacy when Thetford Town equalized on 73 minutes. The ball was played to captain Boulton on the right side who fired a thunderous shot into the top corner. A great move and finish to level the scores. 

Just as it looked like the points were going to be shared, Sophie Rose got in behind and did well to finish into the bottom corner past the onrushing Town keeper Knight to give Sprowston the lead with just two minutes remaining. 

Thetford put the pressure on in the remaining minutes in pursuit of an equalizer but a Lynch shot into the keeper’s arms was the best it got in the closing stages and Sprowston took the points home to Broadland. 

Above: Jess Knight who put in an impressive performance on her first appearance in goal for Thetford Town. Photo: Darrell Allen.

This was a fully committed and determined performance from the Thetford squad against a confident Sprowston. The visitors had the best chances but good defensive displays from Lynch, Musgrove, and Knight in goal gave Thetford a chance.

Boulton’s equalizer was a thing of beauty and when you are on a poor run of results, luck is just not with you and an unfortunate 88th-minute goal saw Town get nothing for their efforts.

Sprowston continue their good form and Thetford will be looking for a confidence-boosting win when they travel to Thorpe St. Andrew on Sunday but that will be a very tough away day.

Thetford Player of the Match: Rachel Lynch.

Teams: THETFORD TOWN: Knight, Musgrove, Klimcke, Howard  Bambury, Lynch, Corbyn, Eccles, White, Boulton, Rogers. Subs: Page, Bullett, Howard, Smith, Burr-Walpole. 

SPROWSTON: Knight, Curtis, Whayman, Braithwaite, Graham, Copeman, Winter, Fray, Shipman, Morris, Leggett. Subs: Rose, Braithwaite 

Harlow Hold High-Flying Dons

Harlow Town 0-0 AFC Wimbledon

By George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Ladies (28/3/22)

Above: Action from the game yesterday between Harlow Town and AFC Wimbledon. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

AFC Wimbledon were held to a 0-0 draw away to Harlow Town on Sunday in the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East.

The Dons went into the game full of confidence after a performance to be proud of saw them draw with league leaders Hashtag United last weekend despite illness severely depleting their ranks.

Wimbledon got off to a good start when Katie Stanley forced the home keeper into action inside the first two minutes. The Harlow custodian was again forced into action a few minutes later as Angel Fowler got on the end of Megan Stow’s cross.

The Dons continued to build on the early pressure as a fine move involving Kelly Highman and Katie Stanley before Jessica Lewry’s shot was deflected away by the Harlow keeper. However, after a good first 20 minutes, Wimbledon began to fade as the physical nature of the game began to take its toll as the first half ended goalless.

The second half was a disappointing one from the Dons as they never really got going again after the restart. The physical nature of the game was starting to make a bigger impact on both teams with Dons head of medical Steph Cantelo fresh from helping out with the men’s first team the day before, being called on several times with multiple players struggling.

There were some positives in the second half as Ashlee Hincks made her return from injury for the final 30 minutes after having a spell out injured for the last couple of weeks. As the game was coming to a close the Dons were forced to bring off Gloria Siber due to injury and the only unused sub was goalkeeper Lauren Allen which meant that Allen had to come on and play upfront for the final few minutes. The final chance of the game fell to her but she was not able to get on to the end of Megan Stow’s cross.

Above: Lauren Allen – AFC Wimbledon’s sub goalkeeper came on as a striker due to injuries. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

After the game Dons player Kelly Highman said “It was really frustrating to be honest. You know, we had quite a few chances today, and to be fair to Harlow, so did they but we could have easily taken three points and we obviously didn’t.”

AFC Wimbledon first team coach Andy May reflected: “It was a difficult day in the office, we probably just… well there’s no probably, we were not at our best today. We created some good chances, good clear-cut chances but it just felt like one of those days if I am being honest.”

Wimbledon are back in action at The Cherry Red Records Stadium, Plough Lane under the lights on Wednesday against Actonians with a 7.45pm kickoff. Tickets are available now via: https://tickets.afcwimbledon.ltd.uk/selection/event/seat?perfId=101630941850&ot=0&gtmStepTracking=true

Teams: HARLOW TOWN: Team sheet not published.

AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Russell, Billingham, Fowler, Highman, Sampson, Stow, Childerhouse, Stanley, Siber, Lewry. Substitutes: Allen (GK – but used as an outfield player), Mann, Sargent, Hincks, Taylor.

Attendance: 67.

Mulbarton Shock Lynn To Make Cup Final

King’s Lynn Town 0-1 Mulbarton Belles

By Darrell Allen (22/3/22)

Above: Mulbarton Belles celebrate after their superb win at King’s Lynn Town in the Norfolk Women’s Cup on Sunday. Photo: Richard Brown.

Mulbarton Belles overcame a gap of two divisions to defeat Tier Five side King’s Lynn Town to make their second successive Norfolk Women’s Cup Final.

The hosts got the game underway and started the game brightest. Rachel Skinner looked lively and played a great ball to Ella Gavaghan who could only shoot straight at Cara Anderson in the Mulbarton goal.

Lynn captain Tiffany Forshaw was noticeably a vocal presence at centre-half guiding the team through the early stages of the contest as her team got good early touches and a passing game going but without really creating much. There was one rare opportunity when Ella Gavaghan blasted across the keeper.

Mulbarton then got into their stride. A beautiful ball to Rebekah Lake who drilled it across Ellie Prentice in the Lynn goal but it was seen out of danger by the hosts.

Above: Jodie Hopkins-Duckhouse in action for King’s Town against Mulbarton Belles in Sunday’s semi-final. Photo: Richard Brown.

Ellie Hunter was next to charge forward for the visitors but an inspired tackle by Shanice Burch dealt with this particular instance of danger.

Mulbarton were building and Rebekah Lake was through again but Prentice did well again coming out to deny the striker.

Lynn went up the other end thanks to a beautiful ball from Peeling to Hopkins-Duckhouse but once more there was no end product. 

Mulbarton then opened the scoring as Lake was denied by Prentice who could do nothing to prevent Alanta Griffith being on hand to give the visitors the lead with a tap in from close range and spark wild scenes on the visiting bench.

Mulbarton were in the ascendancy, their press fantastic in pushing Lynn back in their own half.

Above: Mulbarton Belles celebrate their winning goal. Photo: Richard Brown.

An incredible few minutes followed, absolutely liquid Football between Jermy, Lake and Hunter saw them breeze past the Lynn defence but there was no end product the moved deserved. 

Lynn broke again but Hopkins-Duckhouse could do nothing on a generally frustrating afternoon for the King’s Lynn star.

The home side then lost a player when Alexa Hunter was then sent to the sin bin for alleged foul and abusive language. As Hunter was making her way off the pitch, referee Cameron Saunders ran up to encourage her to get off the pitch faster, which prompted more alleged foul and abusive language from Hunter which prompted Saunders to produce a red card for Hunter in a crucial moment in the contest. 

Mulbarton with the advantage continued their great press but the warrior that is Forshaw continued to clear danger well. Lake fired a further chance over as Mulbarton looked to increase the lead.

Gavaghan had a shot clear before the half ended with Lynn penalty appeals being waved away and it was Mulbarton who held the lead at the break. 

Above: Rebekah Lake (10) attacks for Mulbarton Belles. Photo: Richard Brown.

The Belles had a chance at the start of the second period when, following a spell of pinball in the box from a Belles corner, Griffith fired a shot into the hands of Prentice. 

Lynn, a player down but not going out of the cup without a fight as Hopkins-Duckhouse had a terrific curling shot into Anderson’s hands.

Griffith went wide of Prentice’s goal in Mulbarton’s final chance of the game.

Lynn Sub Amy Cropley had a shot straight at the keeper in the final act of the contest. 

A final word for Alice Collins another Lynn substitute who had a fine second-half cameo as she continues her personal recovery from recent injury and surgery. A huge plus point on a frustrating day for King’s Lynn Town but it was Mulbarton Belles who advance to the Norfolk Women’s Cup Final with the 1-0 win.

Mulbarton will face Wymondham Town in the Norfolk Women’s Cup Final after Wymondham Town, who will play FA National League football next season. defeated Dussindale & Hellesdon Rovers 2-0 in the days’ other Semi-Final thanks to goals from Laura Nicholls and Katie Knights. 

Teams: KING’S LYNN TOWN: Prentice, Forshaw, Burch, Davis, Peeling, Ford, Hopkins-Duckhouse, Hunter, Porter, Gavaghan, Skinner, Substitutes: Cropley, Collins, Magnus, Powell. 

MULBARTON BELLES: Anderson, Mcnorton, Mungham-Grey, Smith, Lincoln, Belsey, Hunter, Hedtke, Griffith, Lake, Jermy. Substitutes: Belsey, Smith, Anderson, Ryan, Smith. 

Pride In Performance On The Road

Wirksworth Colts 1-5 Pride Park

By Boot Room (22/3/22)

Above: Eliot Sayavong shoots from the edge of the area for Pride Park at Wirksworth Colts on Sunday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Wirksworth’s pitch is a beautiful setting for a game of football, made all the better on Sunday by the Spring sunshine.

This fixture is one of the more unpredictable games in the Derbyshire Girls and Ladies League Division One, as although the sides are well-matched, games between them invariably feature goals and rarely end in a close score-line (although there was a bizarre 6-6 draw a few seasons ago!). It hasn’t been any different this season as both teams enjoyed wins in their respective home fixtures, 5-3 at Moorways in October, and 5-2 at Wirksworth in January. 

Pride Park were pleased to welcome back a number of players missing from last week’s game at Belper. 

In the early stages, Wirksworth settled better and were moving the ball well, although without really finding any clear openings. Both teams had a couple of sighters without testing the ‘keepers, before Wirksworth had a five-minute spell in which they threatened to open the scoring; Weaver clearing a corner off the line, a direct free-kick from the edge of the area clearing the crossbar, a shot that went wide of goal and another that ‘keeper Howell did well to get down and hold. 

Having weathered that period of pressure Pride Park responded, and after 20 minutes Bryan made a run down the left, got ahead of the defender, and hit the ball low across the face of goal for Laight to finish at the far post. 

Five minutes later, from an Allderidge corner, the ball was turned goalwards by Sayavong but was blocked and half cleared, only to fall for left-back Weaver to hit an unstoppable volley into the roof of the net from the edge of the area

The goals settled Pride Park who exercised a degree of control for the remainder of the half and almost extended their lead when Lewis-Wilson played Evans in, but her shot went wide of the post. However, there was a let-off for Pride Park with a minute to the interval, as with the defence turned and running towards goal, they attempted to play their way out and a Wirksworth striker latched on to the ball but hit her shot over, so at half time it was 2-0.

Above: Annie Laight (9) celebrates after scoring Pride Park’s opening goal. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

After the recent spell of wet and then dry weather the pitch was uneven, and the ball was not running true on the surface, the irregular bounce exacerbated by a ball that looked and sounded over-inflated. It meant that the first touch had to be perfect to keep the ball under control, and it was frequently bouncing away from the receiving player or bobbling when played on the floor. As a result, it was often frustrating the attempts of both teams to play the ball on the ground with good moves breaking down – and at the back, it demanded a safety-first approach when under pressure. 

Otty Baker had turned her ankle at the end of the first half, not seriously, but enough not to want to risk making it worse and didn’t come out for the second half. The second half opened with Wirksworth pushing in an attempt to pull a goal back, and they enjoyed a spell of good possession and pressure, during which they gradually got closer – with a shot off target, and a shot saved by Howell. Just before the hour, from a throw on the left, Wirksworth worked their way down the wing, before putting in a diagonal cross towards the near post with a Wirksworth player just getting a touch to divert the cross past Howell to get the home side back into the game at 1-2.

The goal gave Wirksworth encouragement and for a while, they enjoyed a good period of possession but without creating any further clear opportunities. Pride Park gradually reasserted themselves and responded with a series of good crosses, but were unable to fashion any clear chances from them.   

With twenty minutes to play, Pride Park’s Sophie Ayton came off with a tight hamstring, Laight dropping into the back four, and having started with three substitutes, Pride Park were now down to none. Fortunately, there were no further injuries and having rotated earlier, several players had benefitted from brief rests. 

Above: Summer Evans continued her impressive form on her return from injury and scored her 13th goal of the season. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

The Pride started to gain a degree of control again, and Kwiatek, Evans (twice), and Bryan were all foiled by the Wirksworth keeper. There was a half-chance when a Laight free-kick wasn’t held by the ‘keeper under pressure from Allderidge, but Bryan’s attempt was headed away.

Pride Park extended their lead with ten minutes left after good pressing and build-up play on the right, which resulted in Wirksworth being unable to get out or clear the ball, culminating in Sayavong winning the ball back just outside the area and hitting a shot that bounced in front of the keeper and kicked up wickedly, Bryan doing well to follow in and score from the rebound to re-establish the visitors two-goal lead at 3-1.

It was four only two minutes later, as Allderidge’s corner from the right was initially headed out but the clearance was met first time on the half-volley from the edge of the area by Weaver to send another unstoppable shot into the top corner for her second of the game.

The game was rounded off with two minutes to go with a fifth goal for Pride Park, as good patient build-up play down the right by Allderidge, Jones, Evans, Thompson, and Wilsoncroft finished with Bryan laying off for Evans to place a shot inside the post.

Above: Lottie Bryan closes in on goal for Pride Park at Wirksworth. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

It had been an enjoyable game played by two well-matched teams wanting to get the ball down and play attractive football, which they managed to do in spite of a surface that made it difficult. It was a good all-round team performance by Pride Park and although the scoreline may have been a little harsh on Wirksworth, it was another good display of efficient finishing, built on a solid defensive foundation, with the midfield providing the critical glue in the middle. 

The Pride Park squad displayed their versatility once again with enforced changes, meaning Annie Laight started the game upfront but finished at centre-back for the final twenty minutes. Left-back Rachel Weaver had an exceptional game, making countless well-timed interceptions to launch counterattacks and capped by two extremely well-taken goals. With a small squad, it’s a real bonus to have players that can contribute effectively at both ends of the pitch. 

Goalkeeper Howell continued her good form, once again showing good positioning, handling, and decision making – her recent confidence exemplified in the first half by coming out to collect a high lobbed ball into the box at the edge of her area to take the pressure off her defenders. 

There are no games in the Derbyshire Girls and Ladies League next week. Pride Park are back in action at home to League leaders Draycott Victoria at Moorways on Sunday 3rd April (1.30pm).  

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Top Of Table Clash Ends Honours Even

AFC Wimbledon 0-0 Hashtag United

By George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Ladies (21/3/22)

Above: Action from yesterday’s game between AFC Wimbledon and Hashtag United at Carshalton Athletic. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

Wimbledon went into Sunday’s game against FA Women’s National League Division One SE league leaders Hashtag United knowing realistically that a win was required to keep their chance of promotion alive but a draw would majorly derail the away team’s chances of promotion.

The Dons had less than ideal preparation for the game with a virus spreading through the camp in the days preceding the game meaning that several players went into the game at significantly less than 100%.

The hosts were also without star striker Ashlee Hincks who was ruled out with a hamstring injury sustained in last weeks victory against Enfield Town at Plough Lane.

Hashtag United got off to a great start with Faye Baker producing a fine save to prevent the visitors from taking an early lead. The rest of the first half was a very physical affair with Dons physio Steph Cantelo being called into action on several occasions.

The second half was much more open with Gloria Siber having a lot of success including one incredible run starting inside her own half beating several players before having her shot saved by the keeper.

Wimbledon kept building pressure and came close again when Rebecca Sargent’s header from a corner went agonizingly over. With an hour played, Hashtag were reduced to 10 players as Cairns was given her marching orders by referee Lucy Clark after kicking out at Megan Stow off the ball.

The Dons looked to keep building pressure with the visitors down to 10 players coming close to getting a deserved goal on several occasions with the best chance falling to Rebecca Carter whose chip landed on the roof of the net, with the game ending 0-0.

The result leaves AFC Wimbledon 16 points behind the current league leaders with four games in hand over Hashtag. The draw has opened the door for Billericay Town to overtake Hashtag if they win their own games in hand.

Speaking after the game, El Sueno Tequila player of the match Kelly Highman said: “It was a hard-fought game and it felt like it lasted forever but we battled through it. It has been a tough week for us in terms of players that are available and players that are not feeling so great, but we put in a performance today to make it a 0-0 and take two points off of the top of the league side.”

Dons Manager Kevin Foster reflected: “It was a good point. We are proud of the girls. We have had an interesting 24/48 hours with a lot going on in terms of sickness and bits and pieces. There are players playing at 60% health and fitness and they dug in deep and put in a shift and ultimately there is also the frustration of probably missing three or four clear-cut chances to win the game.”

Teams: AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Russell, Highman, Sargent (Fowler), Billingham, Mann (Childerhouse), Taylor, Stow, Siber, Lewry (Carter), Stanley (Pickett).

HASHTAG UNITED: Lynch, Thomas, Kelly, Gillard, Apindia, Cairns, Samways, Baker, West, Adams, Nutman. Substitutes: Riches (GK), Finneran, Adamson, Wealthall, Whinnett.

Dominant Chelsea Ease Through To Semis

Chelsea 5-0 Birmingham City

Words and EXCLUSIVE Photos From Ben Gilby at Kingsmeadow (20/3/22)

Above: Chelsea celebrate Magda Eriksson’s opening goal this afternoon. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

Chelsea gained a comprehensive victory over Birmingham City in the FA Cup Quarter-Finals, but it took a spell of four goals in seventeen second-half minutes to turn their dominance into a scoreboard lead.

The home side brought back talismanic captain Magda Eriksson for her first start after recovering from a long-term ankle injury. Sam Kerr was rested on the bench with an eye on the club’s midweek game in hand against Tottenham Hotspur which could send Emma Hayes’ team top of the FAWSL.

Chelsea dominated the first half and their one-touch passing football was a joy to behold, but 76% possession only led to one shot on target until the final minute of the half. That was Millie Bright’s sensational long-range effort which cannoned back off of the crossbar. The pressure finally told just before the break when Beth England’s ball was headed home by Eriksson to the relief of all inside Kingsmeadow.

The second half continued in a one-sided manner and Chelsea effectively made the game safe with 55 minutes played thanks to a superb long-range effort by Drew Spence. Within seven minutes a piece of genius from Spence, who backheeled delightfully to Beth England to sweep home from close range made it 3-0.

There were two further goals, a header from Niamh Charles and another low long-range effort from England which completed the scoring.

There was the welcome return to the Kingsmeadow turf of Maren Mjelde from the bench, who was back after a devastating injury in the 2021 Conti Cup Final almost 12 months and one week ago.

Birmingham had a few attacks towards the end, but Ann-Katrin Berger had only one shot to save on target all afternoon and Jess Carter put in some absolutely superb tackles to keep City at arms-length.

The final whistle saw the Blues into yet another FA Cup Semi-Final. With Arsenal, Manchester City, and West Ham United the potential opponents, it will be a tough path to another Wembley Final for Emma Hayes’ side.

To view Ben Gilby’s EXCLUSIVE photo gallery from Kingsmeadow, click on this link: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/03/20/dominant-chelsea-ease-through-to-semis/

Teams: CHELSEA (3-5-2): Berger, Bright, Eriksson, Carter, Charles, Spence, Ingle, Ji, Andersson, Fleming, England. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Nouwen, Reiten, Mjelde, James, Kerr, Cuthbert, Abdullina.Scorers: Eriksson 45′, Spence 55′, England 62′, 72′. Charles 65′.

BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-5-1): Hourihan, Cowie, Lawley, Quinn, Robertson, Ryan-Doyle, Finn, Murray, Sarri, Quinn, Smith. Substitutes: Simkin, Ramsey (GK), Jenner, Jones, Wildgoose, Cole.

Referee: Lauren Impey.

Attendance: 1,869.

Teams: CHELSEA (3-5-2): Berger, Bright, Eriksson, Carter, Charles, Spence, Ingle, Ji, Andersson, Fleming, England. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Nouwen, Reiten, Mjelde, James, Kerr, Cuthbert, Abdullina.Scorers: Eriksson 45′, Spence 55′, England 62′, 72′. Charles 65′.

BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-5-1): Hourihan, Cowie, Lawley, Quinn, Robertson, Ryan-Doyle, Finn, Murray, Sarri, Quinn, Smith. Substitutes: Simkin, Ramsey (GK), Jenner, Jones, Wildgoose, Cole.

Referee: Lauren Impey.

Attendance: 1,869.

Thorpe St. Andrew: Putting Side Before Self

Above: Thorpe St. Andrew FC. Photo: Thorpe St. Andrew FC.

In the first of a two-part interview, Thorpe St. Andrew defender Georgie Rumney and manager Tony Allen from the Tier Seven Norfolk Women & Girls Football League side spoke to Darrell Allen about their footballing backgrounds, philosophies, and the season to date (17/3/22).

Georgie Rumney is in just her second season of football, and already in her second different position.

“I’ve been playing for Thorpe St. Andrew Ladies for two seasons now, though this is my first full season due to all the COVID disruptions. I started as goalkeeper but, after breaking a finger in the line of duty, I found my true calling as a centre-back and my informal role as the ‘Colossus on the back line’.

In comparison, the club’s manager Tony Allen has had a lot of experience in the game. “It was Paul Neary at the University of East Anglia (UEA) who first got me into coaching. I owe him a great deal, it was a real education and I had a fantastic time doing all sorts of different things with both the men’s and women’s clubs there.

“I’ve been lucky enough to watch and learn from some fantastic coaches and managers like Paul Neary and Ray Harrison, Bex Burton and Harry Diggens at UEA and going back a bit further, Danny Wilson, Ian Butterworth, Chris Turner, and Colin West at Hartlepool United.

“I watch games back now that I originally watched from the Mill House as a fan when I was nine or 10 years old in a completely different way and understand a bit more the factors influencing their decisions.”

Tony also spoke to me about his coaching philosophy. “It is grounded by an unwavering belief in Billy Bremner’s idea of ‘side before self’ where the team is paramount and that is non-negotiable.

“I believe you can learn something from everyone, but I would like to list a few major influences for different reasons: John Beck, Neil Warnock, Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce, Dave Bassett, Johan Cruyff, Graham Westley, Brian Clough, and Ladislaz Lozano who took Calais to the Coupe de France final in 2000 – one day I’ll write a proper tactical analysis of how he did it, the man was a very, very astute football manager and to just call him pragmatic would be to do him and his team a gross disservice. “Not to mention Hope Powell, Gemma Davies, and Emma Hayes – top, top coaches who I sincerely hope I get the chance to meet and work with one day.”

Tony then went on to explain about his time so far with the club. “I joined Thorpe St. Andrew at the very end of last season, so I was able to use the summer to get to know everyone and let the new faces in the squad gel with the group. I see myself as more of an old-school manager. I love nothing more than being out on the grass, but we’ve also got great coaches at the club who are full of ideas, run engaging training sessions for the girls and feed into our decision making.”

Prior to the beginning of the season, there was a re-structure within the Norfolk Women and Girls League and Thorpe St. Andrew found themselves in Step Seven, something that was met with mixed emotions at the club as Georgie told me.

Above: Thorpe St. Andrew’s Georgie Rumney. Photo: Paul Langley.

“Being put into Division One certainly wasn’t something any of us were excited to hear, especially after we had been focusing our pre-season games on getting ready for Division Two, but the team overall was very optimistic. We saw it more as an opportunity to pit ourselves against some very good teams and players and see if we could rise to the challenge.

“In that way I certainly agree the season so far has been a massive success for us, we always turn up and play our best game no matter the opponent and we have improved exponentially as a result”

Tony revealed that he had aimed to field two teams this season, something that the jump up to Division One prevented. “Well, the original plan was to have two teams, one in Division One and one in Division Two. When it became apparent the club would not be able to sustain two teams, it was too late to just enter Division Two and so the lower team had to go.

“I had designed and delivered a really good pre-season to prepare us for Division Two, so naturally that was incredibly frustrating. Charles Dickens was correct: the law, sometimes, is an ass. Our case was a bit different to that of Thetford, Stalham, Beccles, and North Walsham, as by the time of the league restructuring we would have been in Division One regardless of whether it was a two or three league system.

“Therefore, at the SGM I voted for two divisions with gritted teeth and out of pure self-interest – it was made clear to us that there was no chance of us moving down, so having a larger division with teams originally in Division Two was the lesser of two evils for us.

“But at the end of the day what happened, happened. Running a league is a thankless task generally done very well by volunteers. And while there are still unanswered questions about the way our league placement was handled, we can’t change it now and the most impressive thing is how superbly well the likes of ourselves and North Walsham have done to carry on through what we knew would be a demoralizing season.

“We created our own achievable goals and took a long-term view. We could have approached the season with a massive chip on our shoulder and probably would have ended up folding, but we took the opposite approach, lifted all the pressure off the players, and their positive reaction to that says a lot about their attitude and desire to play. And adversity is great for finding out who your friends are in football. Certain managers in the league were incredibly magnanimous and encouraging especially in the early days – things like that stick with you.”

Tony then went on to tell me that expectations have been exceeded this season. “We have had ups and downs as every team does over the course of a season, but I would definitely agree. Of course in adult football you want to win games first and foremost, but the players have absolutely exceeded my expectations with the speed and level of improvement they have shown this season.

Above: Thorpe St. Andrew manager Tony Allen. Photo: Paul Langley.

“It has been a steep learning curve, they needed to adapt quickly, and they have done so, establishing a real team identity and core values, bringing pride back to the club.”

Thorpe St. Andrew’s head coach spoke of his huge pride in the team this season. “Every single player who has pulled on a pink and black shirt this season has been absolutely superb and given everything for the team. I feel like I could burst with pride every time I open my mouth to talk about them. Without going into detail, some of our players have overcome immense personal battles just to get on the pitch this season.

“If I’m going to name a few names, I’ve got to start with Emily Warnes. A true leader who has worked her way through the age groups at Thorpe, her effort and application is second to none – she’s a good communicator, has played all over the pitch, and not once have I ever seen her come off the pitch with anything left to give. She’s just as likely to come up with a goal-saving block or interception in minute 90 as minute one. At Christmas, she was deservedly voted Players’ Player of the half-season by her peers.

“I brought over Madison Wilson from UEA because she is coachable, intelligent, makes things happen, and drives us forward. Mads is another player who like Emily exemplifies ‘side before self’ – her non-stop effort and graft makes her a hugely respected figure in the dressing room.

“We have several girls who have come up from under 16 football into the adult game – that transition is never easy anyway, but our position made it even more challenging – Elizabeth Nichols is a constant threat and has scored some exceptional goals, and Tayla Woodhouse plays with the maturity of someone double her age. Also a huge shoutout to Helen Crook who had never played football before this season but has become a rock in goal, saving us on many occasions – she alone kept us in the game first half at home against North Walsham which we went on to win.

“Many players have got used to different positions, and I’ve challenged them with new formations and tweaks to their roles. Abi Langley’s attitude is superb and she also runs our brilliant team Instagram account. Tash Frankland has always been a classy ballplayer but has improved immensely in the gritty side of her game this season – she is also instrumental to the team’s chemistry off the pitch.

“Ellen Saw has played every position on the pitch without once complaining and has got a couple of excellent assists to show for it. Georgie Rumney, Ellen Boucher, and Abi Simmons are a manager’s dream, three great examples of how applying yourself in training pays off and gives you confidence to perform on a Sunday. Georgie has only been playing a couple of years and is now one of the first names on the teamsheet.

“Chloe Musson has shown great consistency and character, being put in a position she’s never played before, and has absolutely excelled every week, always putting herself on the line for the team and giving me lots of useful information from the perspective of the team. Grace Jackson often goes under the radar but we simply couldn’t play the way I want us to without her. When she has a good day, more often than not the team has a good day. She also volunteered to play in goal when Helen broke her finger which tells you everything you need to know about her character.”

Part Two will appear in the near future.

Pride For Park As They Hit Five

Belper Town 3-5 Pride Park

Above: Maja Znamirowska completes the scoring for Pride Park with her fourth goal of the afternoon at Belper Town. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

By Doug Outt (15/3/22).

Pride Park overcame the odds to end a run of five games without a win with victory at Belper Town on Sunday in the tier seven Derbyshire Ladies League Division One.

After another break of four weeks without a game, the Pride returned to action at Alton Manor. The two previous games between the sides this season were very close and entertaining encounters with honours shared at a win apiece. Another closely fought game was expected.

Park were missing several players through injury or unavailablity, leaving them a little short of the ideal matchday squad overall and in defence in particular – striker Annie Laight had to drop in at centre-back. Pride were therefore pleased to welcome another striker, Summer Evans, back for her first game in two months following injury, as well as Otty Baker and Izzy Wilsoncroft (making her 50th appearance) for their first games in three and two months respectively. 

The game was typical of the games between the sides this season, with both teams intent on attacking, resulting in an end-to-end game, with both Belper and Pride Park having brief periods where they appeared to be edging it, without ever being comfortable. 

It was tit-for-tat throughout the first half. Summer Evans opened the scoring for The Pride, meeting a cross from Tash Allderidge with an acrobatic scissor kick after nine minutes. This was followed by a period of Belper enjoying good possession, and having a couple of glimpses of goal, both foiled by Jade Howell, before they equalized after 21 minutes.

Above:  Summer Evans (centre) marked her return from injury for Pride Park with a goal and two assists at Belper Town on Sunday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

It looked like Evans had restored Park’s lead five minutes later, until Belper’s keeper got down to turn a goal-bound shot around the post, but after 27 minutes the visitors were back in front, when good build up play by Beth Thompson and Evans allowed Hannah Kwiatek to put Maja Znamirowska through to score.

Belper equalized again ten minutes later, but were only level for a minute this time, as Evans was first to a Belper goal kick and laid off a pass for Znamirowska for a first time right foot finish to make it 3-2. 

There were still eight minutes to half time, but Belper only needed two minutes to draw level again. It was almost a surprise there were no further goals and at half-time it was all square at 3-3.

Park made a couple of minor adjustments to their approach for the second half which seemed to work to an extent, as they enjoyed much better possession. Belper were proving difficult to break down, however, and the visitors had to remain wary of the threat on the counter-attack, but although Belper had slightly more sights of goal, it was The Pride who made theirs count, with a further two goals scored by Znamirowska – within two minutes of coming back on after being rotated off for a brief rest – with assists from Lottie Bryan and Evans respectively.

Although Belper attempted to recover, Park defended well and limited them to a couple of chances, a shot from distance saved by Howell and a shot that went wide. 

Above: Possession is contested at Belper Town on Sunday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Laight grew into her central defensive role as the game progressed, not only defensively solid but composed on the ball when in possession, forming an encouraging partnership with Sophie Ayton. 

Aside from a couple of occasions when shots had to be blocked, Howell had good protection but when called upon, did exceptionally well with a number of shots, showing good reactions, agility and handling. 

The work of the whole team out of possession has to be recognized as every player put in a shift and defended from the front when the visitors didn’t have the ball; the role of Eliot Sayavong – particularly in the second half – being a key factor as she screened the back four well, and together with Allderidge, made important blocks and interceptions to break up Belper attacks and The Pride’s counter-attacks.

Znamirowska and Evans were clinical with their chances with six shots between them, all on target, and five resulting in goals.

It was, once again, a closely fought and enjoyable game and Pride Park were pleased to come out on top. As always, there’s things that could be improved on but, overall, and in the circumstances, this was a good performance and result, particularly as it was the team’s first game in a month and with so many players returning from long layoffs. Next week Pride Park are at Wirksworth (kick-off 1.30pm).

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Dons Edge Enfield To Keep Title Dreams Alive

AFC Wimbledon 1-0 Enfield Town

Above: Hannah Billingham about to score AFC Wimbledon’s winning goal against Enfield Town yesterday. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

By George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Ladies (14/3/22)

Hannah Billingham produced a finish worthy of winning any game to earn a hard-fought victory for the Dons in the FA Women’s National League Division One SE on Sunday.

Billingham struck an absolute rocket into the top corner with her weaker right foot, and her 55th-minute goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win for a Wimbledon side who lost key striker Ashlee Hincks to injury after just 10 minutes. Kevin Foster’s side are third in the table with games in hand on leaders Hashtag United, so it’s still all to play for in the title chase for Wimbledon.

Yesterday’s match marked a welcome return to Plough Lane after a spell of playing home matches at Carshalton Athletic. After a scrappy first-half, it appeared that Wimbledon had got off to a perfect start in the second-half when Steph Mann’s deflected shot seemed to cross the line, but the referee thought otherwise. However, there was not long to wait before Billingham’s decisive strike, and the Dons prevented Enfield from conjuring up an equalizer in a second-half of few chances.

Above: Hannah Billingham receives the El Sueno Tequila Player of the Match Award after AFC Wimbledon’s win over Enfield Town at Plough Lane yesterday. Photo: AFC Wimbledon.

First-team coach Andy May said: “It was a game more about our character and our personality. We had to work hard and dig deep. We didn’t play the football we know we can, but once again we showed that character, hunger, and desire to win the game. There were pleasing elements, but also aspects that we need to look at to make sure the football is at the standard that we need.”

El Sueno Tequila player of the match Hannah Billingham said: “It was a difficult game, but credit to Enfield as they came at us and made it hard. Off the back of a good win last week, we are a bit disappointed with our performance, but three points is three points and that’s all that matters really.”

Next up for the Dons is Sunday’s vital clash at home to league leaders Hashtag United (2.00 pm kick-off at Carshalton Athletic FC).

Teams: AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Russell, Highman, Sargent, Billingham, Mann, Stow, Taylor (Childerhouse), Stanley, Hincks (Lewry then Sampson), Carter (Siber).

Scorer: Billingham 55′.

ENFIELD TOWN: Taylor, Slater, Powell, Carpanini, Fowle, O’Leary, Cooper, Kmita, Littlechild, Nash, Thomas. Substitutes: Romer, McKevitt, Smith, Darroux, Munro.

Despite Hampton Heroics Last Gasp Kerr Goal Takes Win

Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa

Above: Sam Kerr slides in to score Chelsea’s stoppage-time winner over Aston Villa at Kingsmeadow today. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

Words and EXCLUSIVE photos from Kingsmeadow by Ben Gilby (13/3/22)

Sam Kerr scored a dramatic winner two minutes into injury time at the end of 90 minutes to keep Chelsea firmly in the FAWSL title hunt.

Kerr benefited from a long goal kick forward from Zećira Mušović which bounced awkwardly among the Villa defence and allowed the Western Australian to slot home a goal which sparked wild scenes.

It was tough on Villa who produced a superb defensive display marshalled by Sarah Mayling. Indeed, their goalkeeper Hannah Hampton pulled off three world-class saves in the second half as part of a display that I would mark as the greatest goalkeeping display I have seen in the flesh at a women’s football match.

Above: Sam Kerr’s wild shirt-twirling celebrations after scoring Chelsea’s late winner. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

Such was her performance that every single Chelsea player went straight to the Villa goalkeeper as soon as the final whistle to congratulate her on her efforts and commiserate her on the result.

Hampton’s heroics surely now put her in the box-seat to be Lionesses number one choice ahead of the home Euros this summer.

Chelsea dominated the attacking stats (22 shots to seven, eight to one on target), but they never really found their flowing attacking game. The home side keenly felt the continued absence of Fran Kirby due to illness with Erin Cuthbert and Jessie Fleming only available as late second-half substitutes.

Guro Reiten put in an outstanding shift on the right-wing, but the Birmingham-based visitors would have argued that they deserved a point. Yet, come the hour, come the Matildas hero as Kerr struck.

Link to Ben Gilby’s photo gallery of over 60 pictures from the game: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/03/13/despite-hampton-heroics-last-gasp-kerr-goal-takes-win/

Teams: CHELSEA (4-4-2): Mušović, Charles, Bright, Nouwen, Carter, Reiten, Ji, Spence, Andersson, England, Kerr. Substitutes: Ingle, Fleming, James, Cuthbert, Abdullina, Berger (GK), Claypole, Thompson.

Scorer: Kerr 90+2′.

ASTON VILLA (4-3-3): Hampton, Mayling, Patten, Asante, Pacheco, Scott, Littlejohn, Allen, Arthur, Lehmann, Petzelberger. Substitutes: Gielnik, Boye-Hlorkah, Hutton, McLoughlin, Haywood, Hayles, Rogers, Corsie.

Referee: Abigail Byrne.

Attendance: 2,655.

Irish FA Mark International Women’s Day

Above: Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey with Northern Ireland international players Nadene Caldwell, Toni Leigh Finnegan, and Julie Nelson after announcing she has made £100,000 available to help promote female sport through football at Windsor Park today. Photo: Irish FA.

With thanks to Irish FA (8/3/22).

Northern Ireland’s Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has announced funding of £100,000 for the Irish Football Association to help promote female sport through football.

The announcement was made ahead of the Northern Ireland senior women’s team playing at their first major tournament – the European Championship finals – in England this summer.

After meeting with players from the team, the Minister said: “I am delighted that on International Women’s Day, I can announce financial support for women’s football.  

“This will help to ensure that initiatives are undertaken that will encourage young girls, the disabled and those from socially deprived areas to get involved in sport.

“The initiatives will provide access to players, coaching sessions and to games, all of which are recognised as important when it comes to encouraging those from under-represented groups to get active and to take up a sport, regardless of their ability.” 

The Minister said she was keen to ensure there is a lasting legacy from the Northern Ireland senior women’s team’s “fantastic achievement” in reaching UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 and competing against the best teams in Europe in England in July.

“Maximising exposure of women’s sport and the players, who are role models to our young girls, will help promote participation in the years to come,” she added.

Angela Platt, Director of Women’s Football at the Irish FA, said: “On behalf of the association, and every young girl, and boy, dreaming of pulling on that famous green jersey, I would like to thank the Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey, and the Department for Communities for their support. 

“We have an important job in encouraging more women and girls into participating in football, at all levels, right across the country. This funding will help us amplify this by widening out our ambassador programme of players visiting schools, clubs, grassroots and community settings, increase our fan engagement levels, plus further building our capacity of volunteers to support the delivery of programmes for girls’ and women’s football. 

“We all know how pivotal 2022 will be for the women’s and girls’ game and this partnership will help us maximise this real spike of interest in the women’s and girls’ game even further.”

DfC said the funding provided highlights the importance of recognising the progress that has been made in women’s sport and how success can act as a catalyst and be used to create greater opportunities for women and girls to get involved in football or other sports.

Recreational Women’s League Launched

The Irish FA Foundation is kicking off a women’s recreational football league for former players and those new to the game.

Aimed at women over 30, the 5-a-side league is set to run on the following dates: 20 March, 24 April, 29 May, 26 June, 31 July, 28 August

Solitude, home of Cliftonville FC in north Belfast, will host the matches.

Clare Carson, Girls’ Participation Officer at the Irish FA, said: “The aim of the over 30s league is to get females back in the game, to keep fit and active, be social with friends and meet new friends while looking after your health and wellbeing. 

“We know how important being active is and helping to create opportunities for women to participate in football is a big focus of ours.

“The Irish FA Foundation hopes to make the league a regular fixture and we look forward to welcoming everyone.”

The cost per team to register for the monthly fixtures is a one-off payment of £30 per team. Registration and payment should be completed via the form below.

For further information contact clare.carson@irishfa.com

Dussindale Take Dominant Victory Over Stratton

Long Stratton 0-4 Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers

Above: Calista Tink one Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers’goalscorers at Long Stratton. Photo: Darrell Allen.

By Darrell Allen (8/3/22)

Bright and breezy conditions greeted both Long Stratton and Dussindale and Hellesdon for this Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One clash at Manor Road. 

Both teams represent good quality step seven outfits having both impressed in the league so far.

Long Stratton were without four key players including star striker Luci Middleton which meant captain Samantha Walker had to play in a more forward position than usual. 

It was the Long Stratton captain Walker that got the afternoon underway and a good start from Stratton saw a cross intercepted by Dussindale and Hellesdon keeper Tyla Cole.

Dussindale went on the attack and a good move saw Tallulah Bell spurn a chance into Jody Todd’s hands in the Long Stratton goal.

A feature of the afternoon was the long throws by Stratton’s number 11 Harriet Hunwicks-Rush. A real tool in the Long Stratton box and a threat all afternoon. 

Bell then had a half-chance for Dussindale who went on the attack but it was wide. Theycontinued to press hard, Megan Vincent and Jody Todd communicating well to prevent consequences. Bell then found Abby Hutchin who fired over the bar via a deflection as Dussindale continued to knock on the door.

Above: Long Stratton’s Samantha Walker (left) and Dussindale & Hellesdon Rovers’ Calista Tink. Photo: Darrell Allen.

Dussindale and Hellesdon then took the lead, a trademark finish as a corner came in and Calista Tink scored.  

Shanice Sutton doubled the visitors advantage when she rounded the keeper after a good move and slotted in.

Emma Allsopp was then put in the sin bin for alleged foul language which saw the hosts down to 10 players for the next 10 minutes. 

A Dussindale free-kick was then erratically saved by Todd, Chelsea Brister then delivered the ball back which hit the post but the danger was cleared, and Dussindale and Hellesdon led by two goals to nil at half time. 

The second half began with Dussindale and Hellesdon on the ascendancy, Bell played in Sutton but nothing came of the opportunity. 

A Shanice Sutton penalty was then superbly saved by the legs of Todd in the Stratton goal but unfortunately for the hosts, it was cleared away and then into the path of Sutton who finished well into the bottom corner for Dussindale’s third and her second of the game. 

Long Stratton grew into the game, a difficult afternoon up top for Samantha Walker but she conducted herself superbly all afternoon with a smile on her face and didn’t stop running and trying to make things happen for the hosts.

Above: Dussindale & Hellesdon Rovers’ hat-trick hero Shanice Sutton. Photo: Darren Gilham.

Bell then forced Todd into a good save shooting across the goal but the Stratton keeper did well.

A couple of positive Lomg Stratton balls forward were chased down by Walker but the Stratton captain continued to have a frustrating afternoon up top alone. Several cheap decisions were understandably causing Long Stratton to be annoyed but they continued to try and make things happen.

Todd was out to the feet of Bell quick enough to deny Dussindale another goal. Walker then had a chance for Stratton, beautifully turning Belton but hit the side netting. 

Stratton had their best spell of the match from an attacking sense and Walker spun the Dussindale defence superbly but shot wide.

Dussindale got the final goal of the game when Shanice Sutton completed her hat trick with a super shot and finish in and off the post. Bell continued to be a star for Dussindale as Todd had to superbly save with her legs again. 

The game finished with a Dussindale corner that captain Calista Tink fired over the bar before a chance was volleyed over.

It was Dussindale who claim the three points with a comfortable four-goal victory but Long Stratton deserve credit for their excellent attitude and effort and Adam Race’s team will be a match for anyone once they have all their players back.

Player of the match – Shanice Sutton (Dussindale)

Teams: LONG STRATTON: Todd, Farmer, Wilkinson  Cawcutt, Vincent, Bird, Stratton, Ransome, Allsopp, Walker, Hunwicks-Rush. Substitute: Harvey 

DUSSINDALE AND HELLESDON ROVERS: Cole, Belton, Humphries, Kennett, Leigh, Nobbs, Bell, Tink, Sutton, Hutchin, Brister. Substitutes: Rusted, Homes, Weatherall. 

Scorers: Tink, Sutton (3)

Hincks’ Hat-Trick Propels Dons To Final

Sporting Khalsa 1-4 AFC Wimbledon

Above: Hitting the target – AFC Wimbledon at Sporting Khalsa in the FAWNL National Plate Semi-Final yesterday. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

By George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Ladies (7/3/22)

AFC Wimbledon made history on Sunday by reaching their first national final since being reformed.

The journey in their FA Women’s National League Plate competition has been a long one with the Dons have already beaten Norwich City, Chesham United, Portishead Town and Portsmouth so far this season in the competition and went into Sunday’s game knowing only Sporting Khalsa stood in the way of reaching their first national final since 1994. 

With Plough Lane hosting the Continental Cup Final on Saturday, the Wimbledon players were guests at the game before making their way up to the team hotel just outside Wolverhampton. Despite the late arrival at the hotel, the team were in good spirits determined to make more history in what has already been a historic season for the Dons.

The game itself got off to a scrappy start with Sporting Khalsa having the first chance as they were carrying a real threat from set-pieces. On the 15th minute mark, there was a lengthy delay after a collision between the Dons ‘keeper Lauren Allen and a Sporting Khalsa forward which forced the hosts into making a substitution thankfully Lauren was able to carry on. The rest of the first half had few clear-cut chances for either side in what was a very scrappy and physical first half.

However, the second half was a different story, and less than 60 seconds into the second half the Dons found themselves in front after Ashlee Hincks headed the Dons in front after some brilliant play from Katie Stanley out wide.

Wimbledon doubled their lead on the hour mark as Katie Stanley finished from close range with Hincks claiming the assist. With a little over 20 minutes remaining, the Dons further extended their lead as Hincks got her second and the Dons’ third goal of the game.

With 15 minutes remaining the Dons went 4-0 up with Hincks completing her hattrick and in the process scoring her 35th goal in only 27 games this season. Sporting Khalsa was able to get a consolation goal with five minutes remaining.

The Dons stayed composed and ended up deserved 4-1 winners and booked their spot in the FAWNL Plate Final where they will face Nottingham Forest who beat Cheltenham Town 3-0 in the other semi-final.

Before that the Dons are back at Plough Lane tomorrow as they face Enfield Town with a 2pm kickoff. Tickets are now available via: https://tickets.afcwimbledon.ltd.uk/selection/event/seat?perfId=101585413271&ot=0&gtmStepTracking=true

Dons manager Kevin Foster said: “In the first half we were not at our best. We made it quite scrappy and didn’t pass the ball as well as we could. We spoke to the players at halftime and changed a few things in the way that we do this and to be fair in the second half they have taken on board a lot of what we said and that’s probably one of the best second-half displays I’ve seen from us.”

Ashlee Hincks said: “It was a game of two halves, how we started the second half just put the game to bed early doors and from there we could enjoy the game a little bit more.”

Teams: SPORTING KHALSA: Garnham, Gallagher, Cann, Anderson, Howard, Smith, Stirrup, Morley. C.Wright, Austin-Short, Hazell. Substitutes: Parsons, Tsiga, McQuilkin, Cooper.

Scorer: Smith 82′.

AFC WIMBLEDON: Allen, Russell, Highman, Sargent, Billingham, Mann (Fowler), Donovan (Sampson), Taylor (Lewry), Hincks, Stanley, Carter (Siber).

Scorers: Hincks 46′, 69′, 75′. Stanley 60′.

Second Half Blitz Sees City Lift Conti Cup

Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City

Above: Manchester City lift the Conti Cup at Plough Lane last night. Photo: FAWSL.

By Darrell Allen (6/3/22)

For the first time ever Chelsea and Manchester City went head to head in a major final. The 2022 Conti Cup final was played at a sold out Plough Lane, the home of AFC Wimbledon.

Both teams came into the game in form but Chelsea were without Fran Kirby who was ill and Jessie Fleming who tested positive for Covid. 

Chelsea started the game much the brighter with an early Harder cross missed by Kerr. The cup holders continued the pressure. Ji played the Australian in once more, but it was covered well in the Manchester City defence by Alex Greenwood.

Chelsea kept up their excellent press in search of an opener and it was Ellie Roebuck in the Manchester City goal who had to punch clear to further deny Kerr.

City then went on the attack, Jess Carter intercepted but played a ball back to Berger who took a big touch and almost played herself into trouble but it was just cleared away. 

Above: Lucy Bronze (left) battles with Guro Reiten at the Conti Cup Final last night. Photo: FAWSL.

That was a wake-up call Chelsea needed, as they then went up the other end. Again, there was great movement from Ji who found Pernille Harder, but the move was read well by Roebuck who dealt with the pressure. 

A Guro Reiten cross was cleared by Greenwood. Chelsea then had a penalty appeal turned down when Kennedy handled but the referee was unsighted. 

The game was end to end as Raso then found White but it came to nothing. Stanway had a half chance which fell to White who fired over the bar but the flag was up for offside.

City were getting in the groove, A Stanway ball in and it was Lauren Hemp who fired against the post. City then had their penalty appeal turned down as Hayley Raso’s shot hit the arm of Sophie Ingle but penalty appeals were waved away. 

Action then switched to the other end of the pitch. Greenwood and Roebuck were very causal. Harder intercepted but no finish. 

Chelsea then took the lead, an instinctive finish from Sam Kerr after a Reiten cross and mix-up between Roebuck and Demi Stokes allowed Kerr was to finish.

Above: Sam Kerr celebrates with Millie Bright after putting Chelsea ahead. Photo: FAWSL.

Niamh Charles had an opportunity to double Chelsea’s advantage with a great chest down and control but she fired over the bar. Half Time arrived with Chelsea deservedly leading 1-0.

An inspired half time team talk from Manchester City manager Gareth Taylor saw them come out for the second 45 minutes with their heads up.

The equalizer soon arrived, Georgia Stanway to Caroline Weir who was in acres of space following Charles being off the pitch after colliding with an advertising hoarding. Weir took a touch before firing into the corner.

It was a good reply from Chelsea, a strike from Charles but Roebuck saved. However, this would prove to be the last serious chance that Emma Hayes’ side would fashion.

City then took the lead, Hemp danced around the Chelsea defence before drilling the ball across, Berger spilled and Ellen White was there to finish.

Above: Ellen White’s delight after putting Manchester City in front. Photo: FAWSL.

A series of Manchester City corners by Stanway followed, the best of which saw Kennedy head wide.

City increased their lead after a Stanway corner was headed down by Bronze, Ingle cleared into the path of Caroline Weir who fired into the top corner to make it a personal brace and three goals in 20 minutes from City.

The Sky Blues continued to press. Stanway’s corner was played in, Bronze headed on but Raso couldn’t finish after Berger spilled. 

Chelsea were in a mess as Manchester City dominated. Gareth Taylor’s side were able to see the clock down with relative ease and without fear with a two-goal cushion. 

Chelsea did look brighter after Bethany England was introduced but they never really looked like getting back into it. It was Manchester City who take England’s first silverware of the domestic season. 

Teams: CHELSEA (4-4-2): Berger, Nouwen, Bright, Ingle, Andersson, Reiten, Ji, Kerr, Carter, Harder, Charles. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), England, Eriksson, Mjelde, James, Spence, Abdullina.

Scorers: Kerr 34’.

MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3): Roebuck, Bronze, Kennedy, Greenwood, Stokes, Raso, Walsh, Stanway, Weir, Raso, White, Hemp. Substitutes: Keating (GK), Coombs, Beckie, Angeldahl, Park, Shaw, Blakstad.

Scorers: Weir 49’, 70’. White 58’.

Referee: Lisa Benn.

Attendance: 8,004.

Hayes And Bright Keep Focused On The Football…And Winning

Above: Chelsea head coach Emma HayesPhoto: Sky Sports.

Ahead of tomorrow’s Conti Cup Final, Impetus’ Kieran Yap heard from Chelsea boss Emma Hayes and captain Millie Bright (4/3/22).

As Chelsea prepare to face Manchester City in Saturday’s Conti Cup Final, Emma Hayes and her players are remaining focused on football despite the changes involving the club.

High-profile Russian owner Roman Abramovic is selling the club and has stepped away from day-to-day operations. Hayes was reluctant to comment on any issue beyond her control and was at pains to point out that whatever turmoil might be engulfing Chelsea, it is nothing compared to what Ukrainians face.

Chelsea entered the Conti Cup at the quarter-final stage as a Champions League side and have beaten West Ham United and Manchester United en route to the final. They face constant rivals Manchester City in tomorrow’s decider at AFC Wimbledon’s Plough Lane Stadium. It is an encounter that Hayes always looks forward to.

“Honestly it don’t take me a lot to get excited anyway,” she said with a laugh.

“As long as I’ve had a good night’s sleep I’m always pretty cheery. I think, when it comes to playing City, I just love these games. I know every manager enjoys certain types of games. I particularly like the Man City games.

“I really believe that Man City particularly love the games against us. This is a game that both teams love to play. Because in the last six, seven years in particular its been so closely contested, there’s been zero to separate us.”

Above: Chelsea celebrate after lifting the Conti Cup last season having beaten Bristol City 6-0 in the Final at Watford FC’s Vicarage Road. Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images.

The Chelsea manager reaffirmed her respect for the City, and referred to the close relationship the clubs have formed in promoting the women’s game as relative newcomers.

Manchester City were runners-up in the FAWSL to Chelsea last season, and they started the current league campaign poorly. However, their form has improved greatly since January as injured players returned and Gareth Taylor’s squad reached something close to full strength.

Hayes said that although it is a cup final, she will not be treating the game in isolation.

“Always, I treat every opponent differently. I don’t repeat the same strategy. Even if we were playing a few weeks ago, I look at that game and what we can learn from that and take that forward.

“A lot of thinking time, a lot of work behind the scene analyzing but that’s the best part of the job.”

Above: Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes speaking at today’s media conference. Photo: Chelsea FC.

The Chelsea manager is on the verge of three consecutive Conti Cup wins. Midweek she was recognized at the London Football awards along with striker Sam Kerr.

As usual, Hayes was full of praise for her team’s best attacking weapon.

“What I know with Sam is she’s just built for these games. She’s built for these moments she enjoys them. She thrives on responsibility for the team and I think that any player that gets off a plane, coming from India, and having played for her country (then) makes herself available in a day and a half, her body might be hanging off… I always say Sam Kerr is the ultimate team player. She give will give anything so the team is successful.”

Along with their high-profile attack, Chelsea has another not-so-secret weapon.

Defender, Millie Bright won the Golden Boot for England at the Arnold Cup and joked that Hayes wondered where that scoring ability was while at Chelsea.

“I did actually come back and she was like ‘if only you could do that for us.’

Above: Chelsea captain Millie Bright – looking to replicate international goalscoring form for her club. Photo: Ben Gilby

“It’s a running joke. It’s something that I’ve wanted to add to my game for a while, to be ruthless in the opposition box. For me, I want to bring that form back to club, and I’m not fussed who scores.”

For Bright and her teammates, the Conti Cup is no less important than any other opportunity to lift a trophy. The game is set to be a sold-out event with almost 10,000 tickets sold.

“For us, we value every trophy. No matter what the preparation it’s the same. It’s about nailing the game plan, making sure we’re all switched on and ready for tomorrow which we are. We’re in a good position and everyone’s prepared.

“It’s massive, for us it’s another chance to win silverware and continue our development and the journey we’ve been on. It’s a big one, but it’s one that we’re ready for.”

Hayes expects to win against City but acknowledges it will be a tightly contested match. She reiterated that she is a football manager and that remains her focus.

Although there are fast-approaching changes at the top level at the club, Chelsea’s head coach is confident some things will stay the same.

“This is a successful organization and will remain a successful organization. You won’t do that by breaking it up or going backwards. This football club is invested in this women’s team and I expect that to remain long and strong into the future.”

The Conti Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester City at Plough Lane kicks off at 5:15pm and is live on BBC-2.

Thetford Run Out Winners In Nine Goal Thriller

Above: Thetford Town’s Chloe Richardson and Chloe Webb (maroon shirts) in defensive action at North Walsham on Sunday. Photo: Darrell Allen.

North Walsham Angels 4-5 Thetford Town

By Darrell Allen (1/3/22)

After two weeks without a game, Thetford Town returned to Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One action with a tricky trip to North Walsham Angels who may be bottom of the table but they were certainly up for the fight. 

Thetford came into the game with a squad of 12, with Melissa Boulton the only absentee as Thetford manager David Skipp had a strong team for the challenge ahead. 

It was a proud day for North Walsham Angels with three U16 players making their debuts for the Senior women’s team in the form of Maddy Welton, Amber Roper, and Tanisha Grayling. 

The sunshine was beating down on Greens Road. It was a little windy but a beautiful setting for the afternoon ahead.

Prior to kick-off, both teams stood united in support of Ukraine and respective captains Sophie Hall and Sausha Levy-Twomey held up a Ukraine scarf.

The game began and it was Thetford Town who started brightest. Shannon Richardson darting inside and her cross hit the bar and bounced down but Chelsea Page couldn’t finish. 

Amy Skipp then fired over the bar before Thetford took the lead courtesy of an unfortunate own goal in the seventh minute from an Angels perspective. 

Thetford tried to capitalize on an early lead as Shannon Richardson put in another excellent cross but Becky White was unable to do anything with it.

Becky White then played a wonderful ball over to Shannon Richardson but she couldn’t finish. 

North Walsham had withstood the early pressure and turned the game around with two goals in three minutes, the first from Stella Fletcher Helps and the second from Maddy Welton as their confidence and belief grew.

Thetford Town were quick to reply with a Becky White strike from distance as a remarkable start to the game saw four goals shared in the first 16 minutes. 

Thetford upped the pressure with a series of corners, Dayna Howard fired over, Becky White unable to finish a stunning Shannon Richardson Cross and North Walsham again saw a tough period through with togetherness and team spirit which was at the forefront of everything they did all afternoon. 

Above: Thetford Town captain Sausha Levy-Twomey (with the ball) at North Walsham on Sunday. Photo: Darrell Allen.

North Walsham were in the ascendancy, a good spell of pressure saw them go closest with a free-kick. 

Thetford then had more chances, Becky White and Abbie Corbyn both going close. The latter’s chance went just wide on an afternoon of restricted opportunities for the talented Town winger as North Walsham kept Corbyn very quiet.

Becky White put in an incredible cross but a lacklustre header from Chelsea Page drifted wide.

The half ended with a piece of traditional route one football as the ball was played forward by North Walsham to Keira Brown who rounded Thetford goalkeeper Ellie Prentice and put the ball in to give North Walsham Angels the lead 3-2 at the break.

After the re-start, Becky White pressurized Maddy Welton but the chance was punched away by keeper Nicky Reynolds. 

Amber Roper had a shot but it was scuffed and easily dealt with by Ellie Prentice in the Town goal.

Thetford upped the anti, but were unable to get level, Chelsea Page missing a sitter before Becky White put another golden chance wide.

Half-time Thetford substitute Courtney Musgrove, who came on for Rachel Lynch looked lively and put a cross into the path of goalkeeper Nicky Reynolds who spilled it into the path of Abbie Corbyn who couldn’t reach to get her foot on it.

A Shannon Richardson Cross evaded everyone before Mia Bambury put a great ball through but nobody was on the end of it.

Dayna Howard the star of the show on the afternoon for Thetford ran in behind well but couldn’t finish. 

A further Thetford chance was then spilled by Nicky Reynolds but no one in a Thetford shirt was anywhere to be seen for an easy finish and North Walsham saw the danger away. 

Finally, Thetford were to equalize, Chelsea Page getting her head on a corner to make it 3-3 but collided with the post at the same time and received a badly cut nose for her troubles.

The play was stopped while Page received treatment and credit to North Walsham who allowed Thetford use of some of their own medical facilities.

Above: Thetford Town’s Amy Skipp. Photo: Darrell Allen.

Page had been patched up by manager David Skipp and returned to the pitch shortly before Thetford took the lead with a stunning Shannon Richardson free-kick from around 25 yards out. Thetford had turned the game around and led once again. 

Now it was all about game management, but that went out of the window within minutes as North Walsham went straight up the other end of the pitch and scored a 25-yard stunner themselves as Stella Fletcher-Helps made it a personal brace for the afternoon and levelled the scores at 4-4.

Even periods of play followed with not many clear-cut chances in the final stages. 

Just as it looked like the points were going to be shared, Chelsea Page fired a shot into the goal from distance to win the game in the 96th minute for Thetford Town. 

If ever you needed proof that league tables mean nothing this was it. A truly wonderful game of Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One Football that twisted and turned. The hosts pushed Thetford all the way and can be mighty proud of their efforts.

From Thetford’s perspective to come from a losing position twice to win shows remarkable team spirit and determination. This was demonstrated in abundance from Chelsea Page who scored twice, collided with the post, and left the pitch at full time with blood pouring from her injured nose, to Danya Howard who was here, there, and everywhere. A massive win for Thetford Town but that was very hard work and fair play to Josh Roper and his North Walsham Angels team.

Player of the Match: Dayna Howard (Thetford)

Teams: NORTH WALSHAM ANGELS: Reynolds, East, Hall, Welton, Moore, Roper, Dobbie, Lewis, Carrol, May-Swanson, Fletcher Helps. Subs: Brown, Wittrick Riley, Grayling.

Scorers: Fletcher-Helps (2), Welton, Brown 

THETFORD TOWN: Prentice, Webb, Levy-Twomey, Howard, Lynch, Bambury, Skipp, Bentick, White, Page, Corbyn. Sub: Musgrove 

Scorers: Page (2), White, Richardson, Own Goal 

Long Stratton: Looking For A Successful End To The Season

Above: Luci Middleton in action for Long Stratton. Photo: Darren Gilham.

Long Stratton attackers Samantha Walker and Luci Middleton speak to Darrell Allen about (27/2/22).

Sam wears the number 10 shirt and joined Long Stratton from Bungay Town in 2018, she began our chat by introducing herself. “I’ve been with Long Stratton for four seasons now, but always knew of them prior to that as a decent up and coming team in the area.

I took over as captain from the famous Jenny Head (now Nichols) when she retired her at the end of the 2018/2019 season. Adam Race took over as coach for the 2019/2020 season and as they say, the rest is history.”

Luci’s football career is one of over 20 years and has an impressive CV. “I have played football for 21 years. I was involved with Norwich City from the age of four until 14 when I moved to Hethersett to begin playing ladies’ football. I moved to Norwich after a County Cup Final at 16 then followed my manager to a newly formed North Walsham before retiring at 24 with a head injury that I had suffered with since 16. Three years later and I went to watch Long Stratton in a friendly, ended up playing and signing that day! I only became a striker when I was 16, playing on the right side of midfield for 12 years.”

The pair agreed that, on the whole it has been a successful campaign for the club so far. “I think it’s fair to say we’ve had a​ good share of success this season, but we’ve also had a few knockbacks in fixtures we would have liked to have won to secure a more solid position in the top half of the table.

As a squad, I think we are working hard to cement a winning mentality in order to finish the season on a high. I think we have some really fabulous players and a group of ladies who can grind out some tough results when we face difficult fixtures so I have high expectations for the team going forward.”

Luci agreed.”‘We train hard regularly with good numbers and a fantastic management team. We’re challenging technically with some of the top teams in the league but have had some unfortunate results. At the beginning of the season, I was just happy to be back on the pitch and told myself I wouldn’t let results or performances bother me but, after playing one game, I could see I was surrounded by determined, talented players and I wanted to win. I think with the talent within our squad, we should be challenging amongst the top half of the league but results haven’t gone our way at times.”

Back in January, Long Stratton controversially exited the Norfolk Women and Girls League Cup on penalties after a 3-3 draw at Fakenham Town but the cup rules were not followed as the tie went straight to penalties when extra time should have taken place.

Above: Sam Walker scores for Long Stratton. Photo: Darren Gilham.

Luci revealed that the situation has been remedied. “The match is being replayed on Sunday 27th February. We had a few players out with injuries and some carrying some so I’m excited for the replay. It’s anyone’s game as both teams will be determined to win and will be really up for it. I love a gritty, leave everything out there kind of game, it suits me perfectly so I am really buzzing to get out there and do the club proud. We are of course really happy with the decision to replay and hopefully, we get the result we want.”

Sam also gave her thoughts on what has been a really difficult situation for all involved. “This was a really difficult situation, but as a squad and with the backing of the wider club we fought and campaigned for what was right. We went toe to toe with Fakenham in the original fixture, and I don’t think anyone can say what would have happened if the game went to extra time, obviously, there was a lot of controversy around the rules being broken and what the right course of action should be, but fortunately, the league and the FA worked together to decide a replay would be the most fair option.

“Obviously, both sides will be going out for a win, and I think it’s ​anyone’s game at the moment, but we’ll leave everything out there and we’re just thankful that a replay in line with the rules of the league cup has been granted’

Sam then went on to talk about stars of the season so far. “Special mentions have to go firstly to Jody Todd, our goalkeeper, she broke her radius in pre-season and was out of action for a large part of the season. However, she has come back fighting, works harder than ever in training, and has pulled out some incredible saves to keep us in some big fixtures since her return.

“Secondly to Luci Middleton, although she is a Rangers fan which is shocking from her, she really has come on leaps and bounds with the team this season. From missing about 15 sitters in her first game to hitting the back of the net nearly every week, she’s a real asset to the squad. Finally, to Kayleigh Gallant, who is just a top-tier club person, she washes the kit every week, she runs the bar on home games, always the first in and the last out.

“On top of that, she’s an NHS nurse and has had a couple of the roughest years, but throughout, she has remained the most kind-hearted and cheerful person. In all honesty though, I could say something exceptional about all the girls I share a pitch with, they really are a fantastic bunch.”

Luci also acknowledged some of the club’s heroes. “Kate Ransome-Farmer for me has been excellent. She is consistent, strong, creative and has been a key asset for us. Also our captain, Sam Walker. Sam has scored 30 goals so far this season and assisted most of mine! She causes opposition defences issues each game, I’d say she’s the most clinical striker in the league, the stats speak for itself.

Above: Kate Ransome-Farmer – a key part of the Long Stratton team this season. Photo: Darren Gilham.

“We also have Kayleigh Gallant and Harriet Hunwicks Rush who contribute so much on and off the pitch. They do so much behind the scenes and ensure the successful running of the club from working behind the bar on match days to fundraisers to putting in a shift on the pitch. They’re incredible!”

Luci identified her stand-out moments of the season so far starting with “…our 15-1 cup win in December. It was the best we’ve played as a team and the scoreline reflects how dominant and clinical we were. Nothing can top Milly Cawcutt’s bullet header against Thorpe though. Highlight of the season for me. I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated a goal quite like that! I honestly just love every second. Training is always so much fun and I’m grateful for every minute I get on the pitch, especially with my injury.”

Sam didn’t have a specific moment but just wanted to emphasize her love of the game. “I’ve just enjoyed being back out playing normal football. I’m a fan of all things football so I’m so happy to see it back and thriving. Long may it continue.”

One of the highlights all round is the ethos at Long Stratton. Sam said: “I think all football clubs are finally seeing a shift in the way their ​women’s teams are viewed, however at Long Stratton we have always had the backing of the club and the support of our club committee.”

Above: Sam Walker tries to get away from a defender for Long Stratton. Photo: Darren Gilham.

Luci agreed. “Long Stratton is one club. Something I really love is how united all the teams are. Everyone supports everyone. We have some of the youth team players regularly attending our matches which is so lovely to see.”

Luci also highlighted her connections to Norfolk’s most famous women’s football product, Lauren Hemp. “I’ve been fortunate enough to know Lauren since she was an academy player at Norwich alongside my sister, Hope and I also played with Lauren’s sister, Amy, when I was at North Walsham so I know how much hard work and dedication Lauren has put into her career and it’s amazing to watch her play professionally and see her succeed.”

The pair concluded our conversation by outlining targets for the campaign. “I want to see us finish strong in the top half of the table,” said Sam. “I’d also like to see us progress to the next round of the cup after our replayed fixture. On a personal note, as a striker I just love to score goals, so I’d like to finish in the top five of the Division One’s top goal scorers chart.”

Luci is also aiming high and gunning for goals. “I’d like to score 30 goals. My Year Five class set me a target of 20 goals this season so I’m happy to have reached that, however, I think I’ve got a few more in me! I’d like to assist more too. I’ve always been that typical number nine, but not sure how many more years of pace I have left so I’m definitely looking to improve my creativity and assist a lot more.

“As a team, I want to keep winning. We’re currently undefeated in 2022 and it would be incredible to keep that good form up. We also recently managed back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since February 2019 which just shows you how solid our defence is. Regular clean sheets are definitely something we’d like to aim for as a whole team.”

Leah Embley & Brighouse Town: Rising To The Challenge

Above: Leah Embley (far right) in action for Brighouse Town this season. Photo supplied by: Leah Embley

Impetus are exceptionally proud to sponsor Leah Embley, midfielder for FA Women’s National League Northern Premier side Brighouse Town. Leah caught up with Ben Gilby recently to discuss how the season has gone since Christmas (24/2/22).

Leah was last featured on Impetus towards the end of last year playing a prominent role in raising awareness for the work of our charity partner Moriarty Foundation’s Indigenous Football Week.

The Brighouse Town midfielder joined her head coach Rob Mitchell and myself on a discussion programme with the charity which was broadcast on SBS television in Australia and on Facebook globally.

Leah highlighted why she was so keen to participate in the event. “I wanted to learn more about the Moriarty Foundation and what they did. I was impressed by how successful they’d been. It’s a really beneficial charity, not just for young people but also for their families too. It was very interesting to speak with the workers there and get more insight on the good work they do.”

Above: Leah (in Brighouse’s away kit) on the charge against Newcastle United. Photo supplied by: Leah Embley.

The half-hour programme can be watched by clicking here: fb.me/e/1VL81dlkg

Turning to on-field matters, after a spell with Blackburn Rovers in the FA Women’s Championship last season, Leah joined Brighouse Town for this campaign. She had previously played in the division for Burnley and has noticed some real increases in quality in tier three in her absence.

“I think the league has definitely improved since the last time I was in it. More money has gone into it and there’s a good group of teams wanting to gain promotion so it’s been tough.

“Every team is challenging in their own way really, Huddersfield is always a big test as they’ve got some good players, and obviously with it being a local derby for us, there’s that as well, which adds a bit of a buzz in the lead up to the game.” 

On a personal level, the midfielder has hit top form scoring some outstanding goals as her team continues to impress in their debut season in the FAWNL Northern Premier.

Above: Leah Embley looks to get away from a Leeds United challenger. Photo supplied by: Leah Embley.

“Things have been good. We’ve had a few games called off with the bad weather, but I’ve continued my goal-scoring form which is what I wanted to do to help the team succeed. Off the pitch, I’ve been keeping busy and been doing my own training. 

“I went through a spell of scoring some good goals! I’ve been buzzing with it because I’ve been working hard and it feels good to see some results come from that. I’ll keep working hard to make sure it continues.”

Leah sees nothing but positivity in the club’s progression in tier three, but still room for continued improvement.

“I think we took a few teams by surprise at the start of the season, obviously being new into the league nobody really knows what to expect from you. The second half of the season is a bit more challenging as most teams have already played you so know a bit more about us as a team.

“I think it’s been a solid season so far and we’ve taken points off teams nobody probably expected us to, but we’ve also dropped points against teams we wanted to beat so it’s had its ups and downs but it’s been enjoyable.”

Above: Leah Embley looks to escape from the close attentions of her marker against Stoke City. Photo supplied by: Leah Embley.

Now that she has been at Brighouse for a fair few months, Leah is loving life at the Yorkshire Payments Stadium and recognizes that she is becoming a better player for making the move there.

“This is probably the best goal-scoring form of my career so far that I’ve been in. I think it comes down to confidence and the coaches believing in me, I don’t think I’d have scored the kind of goals I have without that.

Obviously, being in the Championship with Blackburn was a great experience for me and was a very intense, high standard of football and I’d love to get back to that level again, but I’d like to stay here for a few more seasons as I’ve been enjoying it.”

With the season now entering the final stages, Leah identified her aims between now and the end of April.

“I want to keep scoring, but really as long as we win I’m not bothered who scores. I’ve set myself some personal targets which I want to reach before the end of the season but also as a team I think we can just keep pushing and try to win as many games as possible from now until the end of the season.”

Artwork supplied by: Brighouse Town.

More Tangerine Dreams As Dons Defeated

AFC Wimbledon 1-2 Ashford Town (Middx)

Above: The view behind the goal as AFC Wimbledon go ahead from Ashlee Hincks’ corner yesterday. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

From George Jones – AFC Wimbledon Ladies (21/2/22)

AFC Wimbledon suffered a rare defeat yesterday after lower league Ashford Town (Middx) gained another impressive win in the Capital Women’s Cup Quarter-Final.

Kevin Foster’s side had their 13-match unbeaten run ended by the London and South-East Regional Premier leaders.

The Dons went into the game knowing it was going to be a tough fixture with Ashford unbeaten in the league all season and having beaten sides from the same level as Wimbledon and higher in other cup competitions this season.

And so it proved as Ashford started well, forcing Dons keeper Lauren Allen to make a fantastic save. The Dons took the lead though in the 19th minute when Ashlee Hincks scored direct from a corner. In the match played at Carshalton, visitors Ashford stormed back and earned a deserved equaliser from Impetus sponsored striker Ashley Cheatley, before their goalkeeper Sophie Shults made a fine save to stop Hincks from putting the Dons back in front.

Ashford had a dream start to the second-half as they took the lead with less than five minutes gone after the restart through Kalani Peart. The Dons responded by exerting more pressure, but Allen was required to made another superb save to keep the hosts in it. Though a free-kick by Hincks was well saved by the Shults, the visitors held on for an impressive victory.

El Sueno Tequila Player of the Match Lauren Allen said: “Fair play to Ashford. We knew it was going to be a difficult game, and a real challenge for us. They deserved it, but from our perspective, it was not good enough. We will go into training on Tuesday and we’ll work hard to bounce back from it.”

Above: The Ashford Town (Middx) team who claimed another higher division cup scalp yesterday. Photo: Ashford Town (Middx).

Teams: AFC WIMBLEDON: Allen, Oliver, Fowler, Highman, Billingham, Childerhouse (Mann), Taylor (Sargent), Stow, Pickett (Rebecca Carter), Hincks, Sampson.

Scorer: Hincks 19′.

ASHFORD TOWN (MIDDX): Shuls, Sitarz, Keart, Kinnane, Neufville, Down, Linton, Johnson, Cheatley, Clarabut, Hoesli-Atkins.

Scorers: Cheatley 30′, Peart 48′

Caister FC: Reviewing The Debut Season To Date

Above: Caister FC 2021/22. Photo: Caister FC.

In this concluding part of Darrell Allen‘s chat with Caister manager Sophie Gillett and captain Hayley Muir, the pair reflect in detail on Caister’s first season so far and look ahead to today’s big England v Spain match just up the road from them in Norwich (20/2/22).

Caister currently sit top of the Norfolk Women and Girls League Division Two and manager Sophie Gillett recognizes that it has been a positive campaign so far.

“Yes in terms of results and currently being top of the league. But the grand scheme of things is that we as a collective are enjoying our football so much, the training and attitudes have been spot on and that’s reflected in not just the results but the performances too.

“The football played at times has been great to watch and we really don’t look the same team we were a year ago. Looking at the depth and quality in our squad I’d have been disappointed not to be in or at least around the position we are now, but it’s not been easy,  Gorleston has in a short space of time got a young good squad, Shrublands, although we haven’t played them in the league yet, are contenders. UEA is a very good young side and we lost to King’s Lynn away.

“For me personally, the togetherness, friendship, and cohesion is our biggest success and as long as we have that off the pitch we will carry that onto the field too. It’s been a great year so far and nothing would make me more proud to gain promotion and obviously, if we won it in our first season as Caister that would be amazing.”

Back in January, Caister went toe to toe with Step five King’s Lynn Town, and despite losing 6-0 and being three leagues below, the Caister squad can be very proud of their performance. Sophie spoke in detail about that game.

“We knew what we were up against and how good technically King’s Lynn are and how much fitter they’d be. I said to the girls before we won’t see much of the ball in terms of possession and may not create many chances but lets at least let them know we are there.

“The girls ran their socks off, battled all over, I think even King’s Lynn would say that they felt they had played us and we made them work a bit. Yes, the scoreline was 6-0, yes, they were great on the ball, created a lot of chances, particularly long-range shots, but from a coaching perspective, I learned a lot more about my team that game than I have over the rest of the season. 

Above: Sophie Gillett pictured in the home dugout with Caister chairman Alan Peace at the Allendale launching the ladies team for the new season. Photo: Caisyter FC.

“The defensive element of our game that hasn’t really been tested too much this season, showed what we as a collective were capable of. Our work rate was something that really impressed me, it showed that we were able to do the nitty-gritty stuff and would dig in deep to try and compete.”

It was also an extremely proud day for captain Hayley Muir as she explained. “King’s Lynn were tough, you know the term ‘make or break?’ I can honestly say, although we lost that match 6-0, it made Caister stronger than ever. I was an extremely proud captain that day – the girls gave everything they had and more. Never did they stop fighting, never did they give up. We go on as a team, we come off as a team as always.”

In terms of the key components of the Caister squad, Sophie highlighted: “I think looking at our goal tally I could easily highlight any attacking players. Three of our strikers are in the top five positions for goal scorers in the league, with Beth Turner and Ellie Hills first and second which is incredible. 

“We have attracted some quality players this year who have really made a difference,  Maria Jardim in goal has been fantastic on and off the pitch and her character is one that provides so much laughter and energy it’s great to have her back. For me though Hayley Muir and Chantelle King, my captain, and vice-captain are just inspirational.

“Hayley is such a valued member of not only our team but is a role model across the women’s game in Norfolk, people still can’t believe her age. She is inspirational, her work ethic, attitude, dedication, and commitment is one of or if not the best I have ever come across, you haven’t had an inspirational team talk unless you have had one from Hayley! She is my go-to person through anything and everything, for words of advice, support, pick me ups, I dread the day I get told she’s retiring. It doesn’t bear thinking about!

“Chantelle King is another person I look up to a lot, again like Hayley is always there for support. She has given up her own playing time when I’ve not been available to manage the team and has just taken on board the role of the ladies fitness coach, she is an absolute legend and someone I rate very highly.  As a whole though, all the girls are great, it’s just such a happy camp at the moment and it’s a blessing to lead this team.”

Hayley stressed the importance of all team members. “Each and every player is a well respected, highly thought of, important cog in the Caister wheel. Beth Turner has matured both mentally and physically. Her work rate and attitude towards being a team player is for me, a highlight of this season.

“Nic Sheldrake is playing her best football to date. She is a very strong dominant player in the middle of the park. Maria our goalkeeper, came for one match to help us out, after loving the team atmosphere. She signed at the start of the season and has been solid every game. Chantelle King our vice-captain, the most unselfish player you ever met, puts everyone before herself, does anything and everything she possibly can for this team. She is a diamond.”

Above: Caister Captain Hayley Muir receives a player of the match award from club sponsor and number one fan Dave Roots. Photo: Caister FC.

The pair highlighted their favourite moments of the season so far and Sophie pointed to the local Derby vs Gorleston.

“I think everyone had eyes on the Gorleston game because of the occasion and obviously as a team us leaving Gorleston to join Caister. There were a lot of nerves that day but to win that at the Allendale was special.

“However, for me personally, the UEA game was a turning point, in terms of character, we were losing had lost a player to injury and one played injured and couldn’t even run at one point. To be losing with 10 minutes to go, I said I’d happily take a point if we can get it, but to score two goals late on and to see players being helped off and emotionally and physically drained, was the point where I realized how far we have come as individuals and as a unit.” 

Hayley’s was a very personal one. “My favourite moment so far was putting that red kit on for the first time and walking out on that pitch at the Allendale with my teammates. My manager standing proud having led us to this point in time, after all her hard work, effort, stress, and worrying months she endured for her team and for us to be there”

Both Sophie and Hayley then wanted to highlight the one club ethos that comes through at The Allendale.

“It’s easily the best set up I’ve ever been at,” enthused Sophie. “The support we get from the club as a whole is fantastic. We are treated exactly like everyone else, the Allendale is always full of spectators and representatives from the club watching. The management group chat always passes on their best wishes and congratulations before and after games and the publicity on social media is amazing.

“I know I speak as a whole when I say this, this has been the most any of us have enjoyed playing or coaching football in years and a big part of that is from the foundation of the club and that community feel it brings with it.”

Hayley backed that up and confirmed that Caister involves their ladies team in everything they do. “We have the full backing of the club and they involve the ladies in everything. Communication is fantastic and nothing is too much trouble. We are respected, thought of, and valued. The team has never been happier, we are very lucky!”

Today is a momentous day in Norfolk as England face Spain in the Arnold Clark Cup at Carrow Road, Sophie is excited that both her teams will be attending.

Above: Caister FC in the dressing room. Photo: Caister FC.

“Yes in fact both my ladies and my u15s sides are taken the short trip up to support,  some of my youth have never been to a live game before so I’m excited that their first will be the Lionesses!

“Women’s football is growing massively and you see it locally how many teams we have playing, so for us all to be able to cheer our nation on locally is incredible! There are a lot of the team I am excited to see. Lucy Bronze is a big favourite amongst most of the ladies, but obviously, Lauren Hemp is a local girl who played for Norwich, so it will be great to see her too! As I support United, I’m looking forward to seeing Ella Toone. What a player. I love the whole squad, they are such an inspiration.”

Hayley is looking forward to seeing her first international match. “Yes, there are many of us attending the match at Carrow Road, it’s the first time I have ever seen an international match. I particularly like Steph Houghton. I think she’s a class leader, calm under pressure, a true workhorse with bags full of grit and determination.

“It is fantastic that the women’s game has evolved so much over the years. From me being a youngster with no opportunities until 13, to girls now having endless opportunities from young ages to progress , be supported and natured in a sport they love.” 

Sophie and Hayley concluded by identifying their aims for the rest of the season.

“I think I’d be disappointed if we weren’t still challenging for top spot,” Sophie revealed. “My main goal is to obviously get promoted and see how we match up in Division One. We’ve had some friendlies against some Division One teams and competed in all three so it shows how far we have come.

“I’d be lying if I said I don’t want to win the league and would obviously be gutted if we didn’t. However this year has been about rebuilding and gaining confidence again . Enjoyment is as equally as important as success so as long as the team continues to develop and enjoy it I’d be happy.”

For Hayley, it is all about enjoyment. “My manager Gillie has all the time and patience in the world for me and continues to teach and advise me and courage and support me. My team mates are the reason I can still be a part of all this too, without them and their continued hark work and their non judgemental attitude towards my age, I wouldn’t still be enjoying the game I love after all these years.

“I want to win the league. For Gillie, for Matthew (coach), for the team. I would love for this squad to continue going from strength to strength and compete in Division One next season, because we most certainly can.”

To read Part One of this feature, click here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/02/17/caister-fc-togetherness-and-enjoyment-breeding-success/

Caister FC: Togetherness and Enjoyment Breeding Success

Above: Caister FC 2021/22. Photo: Caister FC.

In this first of a two-part feature, Caister manager Sophie Gillett and captain Hayley Muirspeak to Darrell Allen (17/2/22).

Caister FC manager Sophie Gillett has been involved in the sport since the age of four, and has had some truly memorable experiences she takes up the story.

“I then went on and played youth football at the age of eight. I was scouted by Norwich City and from the age of nine to 16 I played for the Norwich City Centre of excellence girls programme. At the time if I’m honest I didn’t really appreciate what I had but looking back now the opportunities to travel the country and parts of Europe on tour was fantastic we had a quality side and beat everyone.

“My favourite memory was going to Manchester and playing at United’s old training ground, and as a United fan respectively scoring against Liverpool in a tournament was up there as my favourite goal! With my time as a youth player I represented Gorleston Girls for eight years and also played for Norfolk girls for four.

“I gained many sport coaching badges and now because of that I am coach and manager of not only Caister Ladies, but also Gorleston Rangers u15s girls too.

Captain Hayley Muir is a legend of the local game in Norfolk with a career which began over 40 years ago.

“At the age of about nine, I got my first ever minutes playing in a proper match for the team my brother played for as there were no opportunities for girls wanting to play and the ‘no girls allowed in football’ was in those days ‘normal’. In order to be on that pitch I had to pretend to be a boy and my team mates were told to call me ‘Harry’. I loved it and as I ran on to that pitch my Dads’ words of “Get Stuck in!” rang loud and clear and I certainly did just that!

“When I was almost 13 (Back in the day women’s team did exist, but you needed to be 13 years old to join), my mum saw an advert in the local paper , an Ex Women’s  England footballer was starting a new team called Norwich Ladies and trials were being held in Earlham Norwich, for any girls 13 and over and women looking to play.

“My dad took me and I got offered a place, I had four-five seasons with Norwich, we were very successful. We won all our local leagues, before joining the Chiltern League (lots of traveling) and if my memory serves me right we won that too! Our team was extremely strong.  I played alongside three England internationals and one Welsh. We played our way into the W.F.A Cup Final, our opponents were Doncaster Belles.

“It’s such a long time ago, I missed out on the final due to illness, but I am sure we won! (They did, 4-3, and below is the photo to prove it!) I do remember our team being invited to the City Hall to collect our medals. I won league honours at U16, but can’t remember many games concerning that.

Above: Linda Curl lifts the FA Cup for Norwich City after their 4-3 win over Doncaster Belles in 1986 at Carrow Road. Hayley was part of the Norwich team that season but missed out on the Final due to illness. Photo: Women’s FA Cup.

“Illness, two operations for a swollen kidney saw me stop playing at the age of 18/19. I didn’t then return to football for some 20 years, I joined the newly started Sprowston Ladies. I enjoyed several seasons there before moving to Gorleston Ladies and finally now onto Caister Ladies, for whom I’m very proud to be captain of”

After incredible careers, both now find themselves spearheading operations at the newly formed Caister, The Step eight club are in their first season. Sophie was quick to praise the work of her assistant coach Matthew.

“It is our first season at Caister and although many outside the club may see me as the Manager, I lead and am the head coach for the ladies too. So I do everything from match preparation, admin after the game, to training and wouldn’t want any part of my role to change. Matthew assists with the running of the team and has been a great coach in leading sessions to support the goalkeepers” 

Hayley’s role is very much one of leadership. “It’s our very first season as Caister Ladies, my role as captain is to lead by example and to support our management and squad in all they need or do”

In the Norfolk scene much a much talked about story is how the bulk of the former Gorleston squad are now at Caister just a few miles up the road, whilst Gorleston now have a new team and are going well in Step eight themselves to, Sophie told me her group are very happy to have made the move.

“I think it’s fair to say that publicly its been brought to people’s attention that we weren’t happy at our previous club, as a team lots had said they wanted to leave or were looking elsewhere and despite what some may say, this team is built on a foundation of friendship and to keep that together was more important than anything else.

“There were a few things mentioned from a third party on social media and at the time I was approached by four different clubs about going over as a team. However, the one thing that stood out for me with Caister was the one club motto, how approachable they were, how, yes football is about success but it’s the foundation of the club from youth through to the first team.

Above: Hayley Muir (left) and Sophie Gillett (right). Photo: Caister FC.

“We would be treated as part of the Caister ‘family’, on board with all decisions and given the same opportunities as the men. It was also lockdown and had club representatives checking in on players they’ve never met to check they were OK, that to me spoke volumes, being at a club who genuinely cares about the club as a whole and the interests of their players.

“So with all this in mind and a meeting with myself, Matthew and Hayley and a tour of the facilities we spoke to the girls about wanting to keep together and it went from there and I’d go as far to say best decision we’ve ever made.”

Hayley was also quick to support Gillie in confirming the right decision to join Caister was made. “Caister happened because of 21 squad players feeling frustrated, let down, dictated to and filled with false promises at Gorleston. Our manager Gillie, a green since a child whose life was Gorleston and who’s family have been involved in the club all her life had the strength of character and the guts to listen to her players and take the appropriate steps to keep her well established squad together by moving us to Caister.

“Had she not have done that the team would have folded, of that I am sure. Gillie, myself and Matthew were invited for a tour at Caister and within seconds I felt at home. Gillie put all the blood sweat and toil in!”

The Norfolk Women’s Football scene was going to include divisions at Steps seven to nine of the pyramid system, but this was reduced to eight close to the start of the season, I asked Gillie if she was happy with the decision.

“Personally, I’m pleased about if I am honest, People and teams moaned that we should be in Division One let alone Division Three. I think being in Division Three would have been hard. It would mean two seasons of promotions back to back before we got to the stage of Division One.

“Division Two was where the league respectively placed us despite other options and from the lack of of confidence, results from the previous year I think it was the right call. Others may disagree and looking at the results I wouldn’t blame them. However they’ve not walked in our shoes or been through the experiences we have had as a team, set back, knock backs, lack of respect for us individually and as a team and comments on social media.

“For me the fresh start, rebuilding, re grouping and attracting new players has been a blessing and I am so proud of our journey to get to this point, so yeah Division Two for me was the right call. At the end of the day you have to enjoy what you do, we don’t get paid for this, and to be enjoying our football again and growing as a team in confidence is more important than others opinions.”

Hayley also supported the decision to play at step eight. “Personally, I was very pleased on finding out we were to start in Division Two, the girls are more than worthy at competing at this level, although I know their confidence took a knock at Gorleston. The season so far for this squad has been brilliant, not only because of results but because of the team atmosphere, the improvement in players’ confidence, all working to better themselves, individually for the sake of their team. Couple that with brilliant, well organised training sessions from Gillie and Matthew working with our goalkeepers too and the easiness of Caister Football Club as a whole, things are going really well.”

Part Two of the article will be published on Sunday morning when Sophie and Hayley reflect in detail on Caister’s first season so far and look ahead to the day’s big England v Spain match just up the road from them in Norwich.

Dons Delight In The Final Ten

AFC Wimbledon 2-0 Queen’s Park Rangers (17/2/22)

Above: Action from Plough Lane last night. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

From George Jones, AFC Wimbledon Ladies

AFC Wimbledon extended their unbeaten run to 13 games with an incredible win under the lights at Plough Lane against a very well-drilled QPR side in the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East last night.

The Dons went into the game against a Rangers side who were unbeaten in 2022 knowing a win was required to stay within touching distance of the top two as Hashtag and Billericay both had winnable games against London Seaward and Kent Football United respectively.

Wimbledon had the best of the early exchanges with Chloe Sampson and Katie Stanley linking up well either side of Ashlee Hincks who went into the game having scored her 30th goal of the season on Sunday. However despite some good build up play from the Dons a lack of quality in the final third, lead to a scrappy first half and the half-time scoreline of 0-0 was a fair reflection of that.

The second half however was a different story with the Dons growing into the game and building more and more pressure in search of the opening goal. The feel of the game was very much of if the Dons got the first goal the game would open up allowing the hosts to increase their lead.

The first clear chance of the second half fell to Chloe Sampson but her shot went just wide of the keeper’s left hand post. With 25 minutes remaining, Molly Childerhouse replaced Chloe Sampson to add more steel into midfield to allow Megan Stow to play a more advanced role.

The Dons kept applying the pressure and came agonizing close with 15 minutes remaining as Rebecca Sargent got onto the end of an Ashlee Hincks corner however the header was just wide. With 10 minutes remaining it was looking like the Dons would not get the goal they so deserved.

Then, the ball fell to centre-back Kelly Highman just outside the QPR penalty area, and what followed can only be described as a goal of the season contender as the ball flew into the keeper’s top right-hand corner.

After the Dons took the lead the game did open up and sure enough this favoured the hosts as Ashlee Hincks finished off a brilliant solo counter-attack to double the lead by scoring her 31st goal of the season in only 25 games.

Results elsewhere did not go the Dons way as Hashtag United and Billericay both won their games meaning that AFC Wimbledon still need them to slip up between now and the end of the season to have a chance of claiming the sole promotion spot to enter the third tier of women’s football.

With the FAWNL Plate Semi-Final still to come, it is sure to be an incredible end to the season for the Dons. Before all of that though the Dons are back in Capital County Cup action on Sunday when they face Ashford Town (Middx) at Carshalton Athletic FC.

Speaking after the match, El Sueno Tequila Player of the Match Megan Stow said “It was a tough game, the first 45 we were forcing a lot, didn’t take our time and they sat in and moved side to side but in the second half we picked up some momentum were more patient and ground out two goals, unbelievable finish from Kelly Highman it was goal of the season for me already and nice little one from Ashlee (Hincks) one on one with the goalkeeper so class all round that we kept going and were patient and got the win.” 

AFC Wimbledon manager Kevin Foster said “We were slow to start, to be fair to QPR they set up in a way to make it difficult for us to break them down and they did it really well. We had to stay patient and in the second half we started putting things a bit better and patterns started coming in a bit more and we started growing into the game and fortunately out of nowhere Kelly Highman has put one in the top corner which is unbelievable from her.”

Teams: AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Russell, Highman, Sargent, Billingham, Mann, Donovan (Taylor), Stow, Sampson (Childerhouse), Hincks, Stanley (Pickett). Unused Subs: Fowler, Oliver.

Scorers: Highman 81′, Hincks 90+2′.

QUEEN’S PARK RANGERS: McLean, Petit, Searle, Blodgett, Grieve, Jordinson, Kumaning, Hennessey, Edwards, Moore, Hall. Substitutes: Akerman, Wardlaw, Curr, Nygaard-Parsons, Redhead-Ling.

Attendance: 425.

Mulbarton Take The Points & Thetford The Plaudits

Mulbarton Belles 7-0 Thetford Town

Above: Thetford Town’s Abbie Corbyn (7) faces the action at Mulbarton’s Mulberry Park on Sunday. Photo: Darrell Allen.

By Darrell Allen (15/2/22)

Blustery conditions welcomed both Mulbarton Belles and Thetford Town at Mulberry Park for this latest Step Seven encounter in the Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One.

Mulbarton came into the game full of confidence as they have had 10 wins from their opening 10 in the league and are clear favourites to take the title. 

Thetford arrived on the back of an abandonment last weekend at Bungay but was encouraged by recent performances despite losing three games before that.

Thetford travelled with a depleted side missing several key players in defence. A squad of 12 assembled with Amy Skipp the sole substitute for David Skipp’s team.

The pitch at Mulberry Park was in good condition considering the Mulbarton men’s team had played on it the day before.

Mulbarton as expected started the game on the front foot, but early pressure was comfortably dealt with by Thetford Town keeper Lydia Ward.

Ellie Hunter then tested Thetford with a close-range shot but this was also comfortably dealt with by Ward.

After dealing with the early pressure, Thetford then began to believe in themselves with Melissa Boulton and Chelsea Page linking up well but no end product for their efforts. 

Mulbarton then ramped up the pressure, Melissa Boulton having to tackle and clear the ball from the feet of Sophie Jermy and out for a corner. 

Above: Mulberry Park, Mulbarton. Photo: Darrell Allen.

The corners were cleared, but Mulbarton got the second ball in and Annie Smith backheeled it towards goal but Lydia Ward was there to deal with comfortably. 

After an action-packed start, Mulbarton took the lead. A wonderful ball through to Rebekah Lake who produced a brilliant floated finish over the top of Lydia Ward.

Mulbarton knew there were more goals here for the taking, but Thetford Town stood firm with Dayna Howard and Abbie Corbyn tracking back superbly getting in the way of some key Mulbarton attacks.

Further Mulbarton chances came and went, a corner was headed over the bar, Vicky McNorton lashed a shot against the advertising boards.

Sophie Jermy then doubled Mulbarton’s lead after good play and finished well into the bottom corner.

Mia Bambury and Sausha Levy-Twomey in the Thetford defence were doing a great job rallying everyone together as the visitors dug deep for each other in what was always going to be a difficult game.

That was demonstrated in abundance by Lydia Ward who soldiered on for the cause with a bad back and superbly denied Rebekah Lake from the left-hand side.

The third goal came when Sophie Jermy was denied by Lydia Ward, but Vicky McNorton was on hand to finish well.

Sophie Jermy continued to have many chances cruelly denied twice in quick succession by the post and Lydia Ward.

Abbie Corbyn did her best down the Thetford wing, but this was always going to be an afternoon when the visitors were restricted from an attacking perspective, but none more so than with the depleted defence Thetford had who were working so hard to keep Mulbarton out.

Rebekah Lake fired a golden chance wide, one that nine times out of 10 she would usually find the net with. 

Above: Thetford Town’s Rachel Lynch (left) on the touchline. Photo: Darrell Allen.

Sophie Jermy also had another chance but that was cleared by Dayna Howard. Ellie-Mae Davies also cleared a chance off the line.

Vicky McNorton was on hand to make it 4-0 shortly after.

Thetford ended the half extremely well forcing a good scramble from a Hannah Rogers corner but this was cleared by Mulbarton who then went on a three-pronged attack but Vicky McNorton fired it over the bar.

At halftime, David Skipp rallied the Thetford troops and reminded them just how well they were doing, and told the girls to enjoy the second half with a smile on their face. They absolutely listened to this, each and every one of them.

Thetford started the second half in wonderful fashion Chelsea Page and Abbie Corbyn linking up well but there was no end product and Mulbarton saw a good move out for a goal kick.

Thetford continued the excellent pressure, and Abbie Corbyn was next to fire over the bar. For the first 10 minutes of the second half, Thetford was on fire and had their illustrious hosts firmly on the back foot. 

There was to be no panic from Martin Francis and his team who remained calm and made it 5-0 when Rebekah Lake finished well and fired across Lydia Ward and in. Meat and drink for a striker of her talents. 

Thetford remained confident and continued to play for each other and the shirt. Melissa Boulton fired over the bar.

This was replicated at the other end of the pitch when Rebekah Lake fired over in similar fashion. 

Dayna Howard had to come off injured for Thetford and it was wonderfully kind to see Mulbarton physio Grace Barley come straight over and into the Thetford bench to volunteer and provide Dayna with the medical attention she needed on an injured arm and helped make her as comfortable as possible. A superb gesture and one that should be rightfully applauded.

The final stages of the game saw Mulbarton add two more goals. Meg Anderton shot wide before Lants Griffith finished well for 6-0.

Laura Hedtke rounded off the scoring making it 7-0.

Sophie Jermy was to miss two further chances. First, a sitter from close range before Lydia Ward saved well from another opportunity. 

There was time for Laura Hedtke to head wide before a late Thetford half chance from Chelsea Page. 

Despite the scoreline, Thetford Town can take so many positives from this match/ Twelve players came to Mulberry Park and played their hearts out and David Skipp can be very proud of his team.

Teams: MULBARTON BELLES: Anderson, Smith, Belsey, Lincoln, Belsey, Hedtke, McNorton, Hunter, Griffith, Lake, Jermy. Substitutes: Smith, Jenkins, Mungham-Grey, Anderton, Cursons.

Scorers: Lake 2, McNorton 2, Jermy, Griffiths, Hedtke.

THETFORD TOWN: Ward, Bullett, Mae-Davies, Howard, Levy-Twomey, Bambury, Corbyn, Rogers, Boulton, Page, Howard, Substitute: Skipp. 

Hannah Gets The Nod

Pride Park 1-1 Sandiacre Town

Above: Pride Park goalscorer Hannah Kwiatek in action. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

By Boot Room (15/2/22).

For the second successive League game, Pride Park hosted Sandiacre Town at the newly named Moorways Sports Village, welcoming back several players that missed the previous encounter. There was, however, another casualty to add to the list of those missing with Hannah Roberts sitting this one out, joining Summer Evans, and long-term absentees Jess Page and Janine Wardman. 

Although the pitch was in very good condition, considering the recent rainfall, it was inevitably very soft underfoot which would be energy-sapping so, because of that and the cold wind, the hosts made full use of their rolling subs with regular changes to ensure the players stayed as fresh as possible, and didn’t hang around too long on the touchline. There was a risk this might prove disruptive, but the squad is flexible and adaptable and it was preferable to risking players getting cold and incurring muscle injuries. 

Pride Park were playing into the wind in the first half and made a good start, almost taking the lead within the first minute, as Lottie Bryan fed the ball to Hannah Kwiatek in an advanced position on the left. Kwiatek hit a square pass across goal behind the defence and along the six-yard line, which was turned onto the post by a defender with the goalkeeper stranded. The ball rebounded across goal and just needed turning in at the far post – but a defender reacted quickest and was able to put the ball out for a corner. 

After that initial chance, both teams had a few glimpses of goal – for Park, there was some good combination play down the right involving Annie Laight, and the pace of Lottie Bryan and Maja Znamirowska was a constant threat, but for the most part, both defences held out well. Just after the half-hour the ball broke to Hannah Kwiatek about eight yards out from goal and on the angle, but her instinctive left-foot shot was hit straight at the keeper. 

Three minutes later Park were awarded a free kick on the left, about midway in the Sandiacre half. Tash Allderidge took the kick and lofted the ball into the area just outside the far post. Her kick eluded the defensive line and was met by Hannah Kwiatek, drifting in behind the defence to head home from around five yards out. 

Above: Tash Allderidge fires in a pass for Pride Park. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

It was a collector’s item – The Pride don’t score many headers and it was Kwiatek’s first goal in the League this season.

At half-time, it remained 1-0 to Pride Park. The wind seemed to drop, at least initially, at the start of the second half. As the game wore on Park were finding it hard to get and hold on to the ball, making it difficult to build up periods of possession to give the defence a breather, and we were opting to hit the ‘out’ ball for strikers to chase a little more than we’d have liked. 

Whilst this was at times effective and did lead to some decent opportunities, Lottie Bryan, Maja Znamirowska, and Annie Laight with shots wide or at the keeper, it also resulted in possession being given away when the ball was overhit or the pass forward lacked accuracy. At the same time, Sandiacre started to have more possession and were building promising attacks, but Pride Park’s back five defended well throughout, showing resilience and providing very little in the way of clear cut chances – Jade Howell in the Pride Park goal had a few shots to deal with but those on target were within reach and her positioning and handling in difficult conditions was really good. 

It was doubly disappointing, therefore for the home side to concede an equalizer from a corner in the final minute. Having defended corners well throughout the game, Park failed to cut out a waist height corner from the left – it was missed by the front defender, and an attempted clearance was sliced in by the second defender for an own goal. It was one of those that can happen, but frustrating for everyone, after being so close to a clean sheet and three points. 

It shouldn’t overshadow what had been a battling performance in difficult conditions, however. It was also good to end a run of four defeats for The Pride and, on balance, a draw was probably a fair result. 

Next week Pride Park travel to Mickleover (ko 1.30pm).

Artwork: Graphics by PW

Dons Close Gap Further At Top

AFC Wimbledon 2-0 Stevenage (14/2/22)

From George Jones, AFC Wimbledon Ladies

Above: AFC Wimbledon celebrate yesterday at Carshalton. Photo: Glyn Roberts.

The Dons ran out eventual winners at Carshalton Athletic on Sunday in a game that was overshadowed by a serious injury sustained by the Stevenage keeper in the first 10 minutes.

Wimbledon went into the game after last Sunday’s incredible penalty shoot-out victory away to Portsmouth to secure their place in the semi-final of the FAWNL Plate. With second place Billericay Town not playing, the Dons knew a victory would further close the gap to the top two. 

The hosts got off to a perfect start when Katie Stanley opened the scoring after only nine minutes. However whilst the Dons were celebrating the Stevenage keeper stayed down having sustained a shoulder injury in the process of attempting a save. There was then a 30-minute break in play whilst she received treatment before being transferred to hospital. When play restarted the rest of the first half was a scrappy affair with neither team having any clear-cut chances.

In the second half, the Dons started in a much stronger fashion and doubled their lead just before the hour mark as Ashlee Hincks continued her scoring streak. Wimbledon continued their dominance and kept searching for more goals. However, a well-disciplined Stevenage side dug in and made life difficult for the Dons and prevented them from extending their advantage.

El Sueno Tequila Player of The Match Angel Fowler said “The main thing was we got the win today, it was not our best performance either but we certainly played our game and did what we needed to do to get three points”

First-team coach Andy May reviewed the game saying: “It was a difficult one to be fair looking back at it, we didn’t set our standards and the intensity we wanted to work at but at the end of the day it’s three points so it’s a pleasing thing but I think there is more from us than that performance today.”

Next up, AFC Wimbledon are back at Plough Lane on Wednesday night against Queen’s Park Rangers with tickets now available via: https://tickets.afcwimbledon.ltd.uk/selection/event/seat?perfId=101594902329&ot=0&gtmStepTracking=true

Teams: AFC WIMBLEDON: Baker, Childerhouse, Fowler, Sargent, 20. Billingham, Mann (Russell), Donovan, Stow (Oliver), Pickett (Sampson), Hincks, Stanley (Taylor).

Scorers: Stanley 9′, Hincks 57′.

STEVENAGE: Brooks, Webster, Gunn, Neal, Nebbitt, Straver, Sharos, French, Bellinger, Schofield, Makewell. Substitutes: Southby, Greenwood, Manning, Bennett, Swarres.

Maja Znamirowska: Aiming To Be Pride Park’s First To A Hundred

Above: In full flight – Maja Znamirowska in action for Pride Park. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Pride Park FC’s all-time record goalscorer talked to Ben Gilby about her footballing journey from Gdynia in Poland to the Derbyshire Ladies League Division One (10/2/22).

Maja Znamirowska made her debut for Pride Park almost six years ago, and since then has gone on to score 95 goals in 77 games. The Poland-born striker has remained with the club despite moving to Liverpool, over 93 miles away, over two years ago.

Znamirowska has her PE teacher at school to thank for introducing her to the sport at the highest level.

“My footballing journey started in my childhood. I used to play with my friends – always upfront. My brothers’ friends used to ask me if I could play instead of him.

Above: Always smiling – Pride Park’s Maja Znamirowska. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

“I continued playing till college when my PE teacher said ‘Maja, do you know there’s a ladies football club in Gdynia?’. I was so happy when I found that out. In those times with poor internet and old-style phones, there was no chance for me to find it. So I was more than happy and I joined Checz Gdynia in Poland and started my amateur football career at the age of 19.

We used to play in the Polish Premier League, then were relegated. It was the best time in my life. Playing in the snow, travelling to the furthest places in Poland. We had no money for that but pleasure guaranteed.

“When I moved to the UK six years ago, I thought: ‘I can’t give up playing just like that, I need to do something about it. So I did. I’ve found Dave. The kindest and nicest coach I’ve ever had and…with Polish roots – advantage!

“I was a bit shy, didn’t know how I’d fit into this community but it wasn’t as hard as I thought. I have met incredible people. I love to make them laugh and to continue to do what I love.”

Above: A familiar sight at Pride Park, Maja Znamirowska smiling after scoring yet another goal. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Growing up, Maja did not really have sporting role models as such. “It was hard enough to convince my family in conservative Poland that I’d decided to play football. Even now my grandma keeps saying ‘and you still play this… this… football.. oh my God. You are too old for this!”

“To be honest I never had one specific person in football that was my footballing model. I used to like Zinedine Zidane for his intelligence. Well… his last game didn’t show it but…! I used to admire Ronaldinho for his speed and skills. Now and then I watch videos to see how great he was. Maybe Roberto Carlos. The fastest Brazilian player I’ve ever seen. But I never thought ‘Yes, I want to be like you’.

In her career that has taken her from the top tier of Polish women’s football to the seventh level of the game in England, Maja has faced many challenges, from the very start.

“The biggest challenge I had was to compromise College when I was younger. Training sessions twice a week, away games every weekend, and music school every day. It was very exhausting but as you can see if someone wants something there are no limits and you can achieve anything.

Above: Maja Znamirowska (11, centre) being congratulated by teammates after scoring one of her two goals against Borrowash Victoria in January. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

“Every single thing used to give me so much pleasure that I think I didn’t even have time thinking about overcoming it. But now I feel proud of myself, that I could do everything I wanted (football and music school) to, and had to (college).

“Now the biggest challenge for me is to stay fit – because I live so far away from Derby (I moved to Liverpool two years ago) – which excludes me from training sessions, and not to hurt myself too much. At 35-years-old I need to be more careful and take care of myself. But even though I’m ‘dying’ after Sunday’s game I wouldn’t give it away for anything. Not yet. I need to score 100 goals before that!”

As Maja points out, she lives a long way from Pride Park’s Derby-based set-up, so there must be something very special about the team for her to remain there.

“It’s simple. Pride Park is like family. Everybody is kind, polite, nice to each other. There are friendships there, support, kindness, cooperation, and everything you’ll find in a good, healthy relation. How could I swap it for something else? I think I’m a really good example that atmosphere matters – would you travel 90 miles just to play for your team? They mean a lot to me and I hope I mean a lot to them. Well, even if not I won’t stop coming for games!”

Above: Always ready to play the joker at Pride Park. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

The Derbyshire Ladies League remains a challenging competition as Maja recognises. “From my perspective, Borrowash was a tough opponent, but our girls showed we can play on a really high level, and staying focused on the pitch we almost beat them. Thanks to them and especially Tash, my Captain, and Jade our goalkeeper, we’ve scored two goals and were catching up. I felt, and I think everybody felt, that this game was challenging but also very satisfying, no matter the result.”

The striker is absolutely clear in her aim for the campaign. “David motivated me last time saying I have only five more goals to score to 100 in my whole career with Pride Park, which I’ve started in April 2016. It’s something that I would like to achieve!”

With all Maja’s experience, I couldn’t help wondering if she still harboured desires to play at a higher level. It’s fair to say she is torn.

“It’s a hard question. I think I’m in this moment in my life that even If I wanted to play on a higher level I wouldn’t be able to. My heart says ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ and my brain says…’oh maybe it’s better not…’ Anyway, I aspire to stay fit and support my team as long as I can to just enjoy what we are doing here at Pride Park.”

There are plenty more things that Maja wants to achieve before she finishes her career. “There are certain things like more skills or game intelligence on the pitch that you gain with age. I would like to see more (I wear contact lenses!), keep my speed, and surprise opponents with new tricks like Ronaldinho!

“I don’t know whether I will still be playing in five year’s time, but whenever I hang up my boots, I will look back on my time as a footballer with some great memories, enjoyment, friends and, I hope, 100 goals (at least!) for Pride Park.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW

Talking Thetford Town With The Captain & Manager

Above: Thetford Town captain Sausha Levy-Twomey in action. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

Thetford Town captain Sausha Levy-Twomey and manager David Skipp speak to Darrell Allen about how the club has come such a long way in a short period of time (8/2/22).

Captain Sausha Levy-Twomey and manager David Skipp have both have been involved with Thetford Town from its foundation.

Sausha joined the team in the summer of 2018 and was awarded the manager’s player of the season at the end of that first season. She is also on Thetford Town’s committee to represent the ladies and to help progress the team.

David has been a loyal servant to Thetford Town with his role now seeing him with the ladies. “I’ve been involved at Thetford Town for around 10 years now. Having started as U18 manager, then first-team assistant, a small stint as interim first-team manager then onto the ladies” 

Sausha recalled the team’s first-ever match.

“It was away to Horsford at the Nest in Norwich, I was playing in defence and we won 5-1. There was such a great atmosphere and feel to the team. Having only been together a number of weeks, it was great to start the season with a win.

“My role has definitely changed since joining the club, originally, I joined because of how much I missed playing football regularly as I was just about to finish the first year of my degree, I thought it would be the best time to start up again.

“Since then, my involvement within the team has grown significantly. I have become captain, a committee member for Thetford Town, I helped run Thetford Town U16 girls alongside Melissa Boulton, run plenty of training sessions, and have arranged many different social events for the team. I love the team, each and every player brings so much, all with such different attributes. It’s great to see the development of younger players too.”

Above: Thetford Town manager David Skipp. Photo: Darrell Allen.

David also remembers how proud he was of that first game. “It was literally our first game. We had no friendlies, just went straight into the league games. We came away 5-1 winners. I was so proud of the ladies. Some hadn’t kicked a ball before and some had played at all ages. We still have five of those players in today’s squad. It was a tough first season playing some games with only eight players but they never gave up.”

Sausha revealed how positive the experience has been this season after an unexpected promotion to the top flight of the Norfolk Women’s and Girl’s League (NWGFL).

“Having been promoted after our first season to the NWGFL Division One, I had some apprehension when we were told we were to be promoted. However, I had full confidence in the team and the coaching staff and knew we would be able to compete.

“I felt like with the new additions we gained in the summer and the development of the already existing squad, this was a move which we needed in order to progress further, which is evident from our first seven results in the league. Six wins and one draw and currently sitting in third place, closely behind Fakenham. 

“I think it’s safe to say that as a team, we have exceeded the expectations we set for ourselves and also the expectations our opponents set for us. I don’t believe that our fellow teams thought we would compete as well as we have, it’s great to see and I think we have a great chance to finish the season in a high position within this league.”

David also spoke of a mix of apprehension ahead of the start of the campaign, but pride at how things have gone.

“We didn’t know how strong we would be. We had a brief encounter in Division One in our second season which was halted by COVID and we did struggle. So the move up again was going to be hard but I knew the ladies would give it their all. 

“We have started well and it was not what we expected but knew we were capable of. We have exceeded expectations, if we finished midway in the table then that’s a successful season especially coming up from Division Two. After the start we’ve had I can’t see why we cannot finish in the top four and that would be an exceptional season for us.”

Above: Sausha Levy-Twomey makes a pass for Thetford Town. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

One of this season’s proudest moments was the Norfolk Women’s Cup tie against top of tier five side Wymondham Town.

Sausha said: “I for one am incredibly proud of the performance, effort, and determination of all 13 players and coaching staff for what we knew would be an incredibly tough game against a brilliant Wymondham team. To hold these very talented players to 1-1 until the 55th minute was a great achievement! We raised the bar on our standard yet again and showed just how far we have come over such a short period of time. It was a pleasure to play against them, they are a great group of women”

David was also full of praise for the cup tie.

“I said to my assistant if we come out of this game conceding less than eight we’ve done well. All I can say is that the ladies left everything on the pitch that day. Every one of them can be proud of that game. For me, it was one of the best performances I’ve had from a team in all my 30 years years’ managing.

“The energy and work ethic those ladies put in that day was exceptional. Yes, we lost 6-1 but Wymondham knew they had been in a game. Experience and fitness was the difference in the end. I can’t see anyone beating Wymondham for the cup this season, they are going well at present.

“That game was my favourite moment so far. The league games we’ve played have all been eventful and there is a long way to go. All I know is this team will compete in every game they play in.”

Sausha identified a league game with Long Stratton as her favourite moment of the campaign. “We have had a great start to the season, I think for me, my stand-out game was definitely beating a good Long Stratton away, it’s always a great game to be involved with and I think to do the double on them was great.”

Above: Thetford Town boss David Skipp looks on from the sidelines. Photo: Darrell Allen.

The Thetford captain also highlighted some of the key players this season in the team.

“I think for me, there is a very clear stand-out player for the season. She has consistently performed at an exceptional standard this season and is one of our youngest too, Abbie Corbyn. However, the whole squad has come on leaps and bounds, I could say something positive about every member of the team. A special mention to Melissa Boulton and Rachel Lynch for stepping in and helping run training sessions when the coaching staff have needed a hand.”

As well as those fine words for Abbie, Sausha was also full of praise for David Skipp and Stuart Terry the management duo at Thetford:

“David Skipp has been my manager since starting the club in 2018. He founded the team and has developed the team to what we are now. Without his continued efforts, commitment, countless hours planning, prepping, and nagging us, we wouldn’t be the team we are.

Stuart Terry joined the coaching team last summer. He has brought a huge network and an abundance of knowledge to the team. They both provide such fantastic support for all of us, we couldn’t thank them enough.”

David on the other hand was quick to point out this is very much a team effort “Every player has played their part this season from goalkeeper to forwards I couldn’t single out any individual. These ladies enter the pitch as a team and everyone gives their all, win lose or draw I cannot fault their commitment.”

Sausha then told me about the team’s recent partnership with Her Game Too.

“#HerGameToo is a great campaign to help promote inclusivity in sport on a whole and football specifically. It is a great honour for our club to be in partnership with this campaign.

Above: Sausha Levy-Twomey. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

“Assistant coach Stuart Terry originally reached out to encourage the team to be involved with the campaign. We thought it would be great publicity for the team and to also show what the team stands for. It’s a great example to show our fellow teams. I hope other teams will get involved too”

David was also full of praise for the Her Game Too initiative. 

“Her Game Too is something we thought we should be involved in. As a ladies team we feel we should help get the message across that ladies in any form of football have the right to be there. It’s a strong message to get across to the minority who think football is a man’s game that should be played by and watched by men. If our small club can get the message across then we have done the right thing. It’s sad in this day and age that this movement is needed, women’s football is growing, female officials are ever increasing which is a wonderful thing to see.”

David also spoke about how much the squad is looking forward to the upcoming Lionnesses match at Carrow Road.

“We will be going to the game and we have to thank Bungay Ladies for this who were willing to have an early kick-off so we can attend. It’s great for females of all ages to see the England team in their area and hopefully, it will give them an incentive to push on with their football. They are all role models within the side, not just the players, the manager, and all the backroom staff.”

The conversation closed with by discussing what the rest of the season holds.

“I think the target for the team should be to continue to work hard and to continue to develop! It would be great to finish in one the top positions in our league this year,” said Sausha.

“On a personal level, I want to continue my involvement with the squad and club and to use my existing roles within the club to promote inclusivity and to help develop and progress the team as much as possible.”

Dave confirmed the team are aiming for the top four. “Our target for this season is to keep progressing and to keep competing in the league. As I said previously if we could finish in the top four, then I would be immensely proud. It would all be down to the squad they are the ones who play week in week out. I have the easy job of picking the team knowing whatever 11 I pick they will give it their all. So top four, then build again to push on next season is our target.”

Melissa Boulton: On The Thetford Journey From The Start

Above: Melissa Boulton (left) in possession for Thetford Town this season. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

Thetford Town’s Melissa Boulton spoke to Darrell Allen about being on the journey at the club since it formed in 2018 and described the whole club ethos into the present success in Step Seven (6/2/22).

Thetford Town midfielder Melissa Boulton, although aged only 21 is an important and founding member of the club’s squad.

“I have been with the team since it began, when we started with only four or five girls at training, to where we are now with over 20 signings to our team. I have played football since the age of eight, and have played ever since.

“I first played at Brandon FC, and moved from there to more local teams in Thetford. I have always been a midfielder, and whilst being at Thetford Town, have grown into the position of being either a right winger or a centre-midfielder. I love playing for the team, and feel we have come an extremely long way since our first season together.

“Last year, I took on the role of being a Manager at the club, of an under 16s girls team, as I have a passion for supporting girls into football. The team was very successful, and some of the team have now moved up into our ladies squad, and are valid members of the squad. I have also been a coach for the Ladies team, often completing training sessions and warm-ups before games.

“I have played for Thetford Town Ladies since the very start of the team, back in 2018. We have lost and also gained lots of players through the team’s journey, but my biggest memory is going from playing games with eight or nine players, to now fielding a full squad almost every week.

Above: Melissa Boulton (centre) looking to get free for Thetford Town. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

“Our players have developed massively, improving in fitness, footwork, and overall ability. We have some talented players, and as a team, have a really strong side, competing with the top teams in league one. As mentioned above, I have gone from being a player at the club, to managing my own team, and coaching alongside Dave Skipp, to run training sessions for the team.”

This season saw Thetford moved up into the top tier of the Norfolk Women and Girls League due to restructuring. Although not expecting the promotion to Step 7, Melissa feels that the team have embraced it with both hands.

 “At the start of this season, being promoted into Division One was a big shock for the team, as we were not meant to be moving up. However, we took this as an opportunity, and we were excited to try our luck at the bigger, stronger teams. As proven, we have gone and shown our quality as a team in Division One.

“We are competing with the top teams, and are showing that Thetford Town Ladies is a Division One side that must be feared when playing. I believe this opportunity has allowed other teams to recognize our talent and ability as a club and a squad.”

Thetford has certainly shown their ability in the division, losing only once so far. Melissa reviewed how things have gone from her perspective.

“I do agree that our season so far has been a success. We have had the longest-running time of being unbeaten that our team has ever achieved, and we have competed, and if not beaten teams in which we did not even believe we would even match in terms of ability prior to this season. We have shown this consistently so far.”

One of Thetford’s proudest moments of the season was the Norfolk Women’s Cup tie against Step Five Wymondham Town, where they held their illustrious opposition, who are bound for the FA Women’s National League on current form for 55 minutes. Melissa spoke about her pride in Thetford’s achievements that day.

Above: Melissa Boulton (left) challenges in Thetford Town’s huge Norfolk Women’s Cup tie against Wymondham Town, from two divisions above them. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

“The match against Wymondham Town was one I felt nervous about playing. The entire squad was ready to show what ability we had to offer, but at the same time, we did have doubt in our heads of how the game would go.

“To finish halftime at a draw, and to have put a goal away against Wymondham was a huge achievement. This was seen in our celebration and excitement to have scored a goal. We have worked hard as a team, training twice a week, and alongside that, keeping fit, to ensure we could compete with teams like Wymondham.

“Though the second half caught us by surprise as we began to tire, it is fair to say it is a massive accomplishment for our squad. We have shown that with more improvement, in future seasons we may be able to close the gap between ourselves and the top teams in the county.”

Melissa highlighted the fact that the club’s success is far from just about the first team. The pathway development for young players is a real strength of the club.

“I believe a big mention has to go to our U16 girls who have come up this season, and stepping into a Tier Seven division. The step from youth football to ladies is already a huge jump, and they have made it unknown, that they haven’t played in ladies before.

“A name that comes to mind, especially, is Abbie Corbyn. Week after week she runs full length and width of the pitch, ensuring she is putting in her all to push for a win for the team. At the age of only 16-years-old, taking on women older and double her size, with no fear, is a huge accomplishment.

“Another player who I feel has shown immense improvement this season is keeper Lydia Ward. Lydia is a huge part of our team, and often keeps us in matches that could be going a different way. She is an amazing keeper, who makes some saves which would be seen in men’s Premier League football. She is the best keeper I have seen in this league, and the best I have played with.”

Above: Melissa Boulton challenging in the air for Thetford Town. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

In a season full of memorable moments for the club, Melissa highlighted one particular away day.

“My favourite moment from the league so far is the game against Beccles FC. This may seem odd to most, as we had an awful game as a team. However, it was a game in which, sadly to say, many of us were feeling ill/hungover from a great football night, the night before.

“Regardless of feeling rotten and horrid, and not to mention the horrific state of the pitch, the team still managed to pull through and show our skill and class as a team, and come away with a win. I believe this one game alone shows our capability as a squad.”

Melissa also wanted to acknowledge the contribution manager David Skipp and Stuart Terry bring to the team. “Dave Skipp has been manager of our squad since the beginning. He has put immense time and effort into our squad, and without this effort, we would not be where we are now.

“He stuck to the team in times which many wouldn’t, with only five girls at training, or seven girls at an 11-a-side match, and still motivated us to carry on. His efforts do not go unseen, however, I feel his efforts are not appreciated as much as they should be. As a squad, we are thankful for all his effort and achievements for our team since the beginning.

“This year we have been lucky enough to gain the additional support of Stuart Terry, who has not only brought laughter and care into the team, but has gained us social media presence, and partnerships with HerGameToo, which is a huge stepping stone for our team. We are beginning to become more known for our talent, and believe we are now being recognized as a top contender in Division One.”

Melissa then spoke in more detail about that recent partnership launch with Her Game Too.

Above: Battling it out against Wymondham Town. Photo: Hannah Parnell.

“HerGameToo is a campaign against Sexism in Football, to welcome women into the game with respect and equality. I know the team is extremely excited to have gained this partnership, and for myself I am extremely glad to be part of this partnership, as it is something I have been very passionate about ever since starting football.

“This was my main reason for starting the U16s team, to encourage more girls to get involved in the game. We feel it is an excellent opportunity for us as a club, to support the movement of the campaign, as we very much believe and support the ethos and morals it supports, and hope to get more girls and women involved in the game.”

In two weeks’ time, the Lionesses visit Carrow Road and Melissa is looking forward to the occasion ahead. “I will hopefully be attending the Lionesses game later this month, as it is an excellent opportunity for us as a team, and as women, to support them in the thing that we are all so passionate about.

“I have never been much of a fan of watching football, however, I have attended many of the Womens Cup Finals, and enjoy watching the talent in which these players show. It is also excellent to see the fan base for Womens football grow. A huge inspiration is player Lauren Hemp, who is from Norfolk herself, and debuted for the England squad in 2019. She is the same age as myself, and to have achieved as much as she has at her age is amazing. It is also great for our county to have had someone go that far in her footballing career.”

Melissa’s conversation with us concluded with her revealing her targets both personally and as a team for the rest of the season.

“My personal targets for the rest of this season is to continue to build on my fitness and footwork with dribbling. One of my known qualities as a young player was to run the entirety of the game non-stop, and I would love to be able to maintain a full 90 minutes as a 21-year-old, and get back to the level of fitness I had as a teen.

“As a squad, our goal is to continue growing in this league, taking our losses as lessons, and building on them, and also taking our wins as motivation and drive to continue to show our quality. We have shown a lot as a team so far this season, but we still have more to show.”

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