Sunday, 10 November 2013

Champions League & Closer To Home

    The advantage of not having a club to support is that there are just so many other games of women's football out there to go and see and dare I say I quite like being a neutral spectator (well I try and stay neutral) This weekend saw me attending two very different matches in terms of the women's football spectrum 1st up on Saturday (9th) the UEFA Women's Champions League tie Arsenal Ladies v Glasgow City and then on Sunday (10th) a game much closer to home back in my native Norfolk in the Norfolk Division One between Thorpe United Ladies and Wymondham Town Ladies.

    Best start with that Champions League tie a Battle of Britain so to speak. An intruging encounter it would be interesting to see the up until this year, regular title winners of England match up against Scotland's reigning champions. Arsenal have a formidable squad of players let alone 1st 11. Glasgow's players I knew very little about except they had captured everyone's attention by bringing in Jess Fishlock from Seattle Reign FC. The Welsh playmaker was someone I was keen to see in action again after her time at Bristol as were my fellow travelling companion's, 2 of us interested neutrals, the other very much flying the Scottish flag with pride.
    The venue The Hive home of Barnet FC same venue as the recent Coninental Cup Final was played as Arsenal were unable to use there usual home at Borehamwood. The Hive is a nice, new, modern stadium but one of the most disorganised places I have ever been too. On the two occasions I've been there far too much is channeled through the bar, carpark tokens, food orders (we were sent there to buy tickets too) these though require minor tweaks and I'm sure when the men are in town and everywhere is open it runs much better. Their burgers however are superb meaty cooked to order affairs that go down a treat when you haven't eaten anything since 5:30 in the morning.
     Game time, Arsenal wouldn't change anything so it was a question of how Glasgow would line up and early on it looked very much a 4,5,1 formation with Jess Fishlock playing out wide on the right. Looked a defensive set up and as Arsenal were allowed to pass it around there back 4 with ease it proved the case. Pressure was building from the start took the home side just 14 minutes to register the 1st goal from a corner a header from Steph Houghton. Just what the home team needed too having watched Arsenal several times if they score early they settle which is not what the opposition want.
     Playing 4,5,1 the wide players need to get to the lone striker quickly if she can hold up the ball but Glasgow couldn't get out were tentative in doing so too for fear of being caught on the break. Mid way through the 1st half came an amusing moment most of you will know by now women's football had it's own 'ghost goal' as Jordan Nobbs took a shot from the edge of the box that flashed wide of the post at least that's what the as yet undetermined number of supporters saw. The Glasgow keeper took the goal kick and play carried on then the PA announcer came on and said, "With Arsenal's 2nd goal it's Ellen White!" now I know it's a partizan crowd but everyone was bemused by that one if he's the regualar guy I think the FA need to look into just how many goals Barnet have 'really' scored this season.
     He'd given the 1st goal to White too. The 2nd goal did come as half time approached through Danielle Carter and going in at 2-0 at the break Arsenal were comfortable for their lead. Glasgow were battling hard but couldn't get either flank player free to support there striker were keeping a solid shape in defence it was however too deep.
      The 2nd half started pretty much as the 1st had left off Lee Alexander the Glasgow keeper pulled of some fantastic saves to deny Arsenal. The game got a little heated with some poor tackling from both sides. On 63 minutes a good move from Arsenal saw an Ellen White header looping towards goal in a vain attempt to clear the final touch came off a Glasgow head but the goal was accredited to White, her 1st of the game (or hat-trick depending on who you were listening too).
     Now 3-0 Arsenal brought on Gemma Davison for White, she was soon followed by the long awaited return to action for Kelly Smith it was good to see her back on the pitch. Jess Fishlock was doing her utmost the bring Glasgow back into the tie but chances were few a Fishlock header wide of the post being the Scottish teams best chance. The game ended 3-0 to Arsenal a comfortable lead going into the 2nd leg this coming Wednesday in Glasgow they will be confident of progressing. It will so I've been told and believe a different game in Scotland to have a chance Glasgow have to score early will have to take chances huge ask against Arsenal who will rightly so fancy their chances in this competition. It was a pleasure to watch.

    Well then onto part 2 of this footballing weekend and a game I was very much looking forwards too. Dropping several tiers down the league ladder to counties level the Norfolk Division One meeting between Thorpe United LFC & Wymondham Town Ladies. It was a clash between the top 2 sides in the league both sitting on 18pts having played 8 & 7 respectfully. Before I'd even got to the ground however the 1st battle was won between me & my sat nav. I'm a Norfolk boy I know Thorpe St Andrew is on the 'other' side of Norwich so when the sat nav wanted me to peel off the A47 and go through the city I ignored it until I got to where I wanted to turn off, saved 8 mins on the journey time thank you very much most of the time she's right so I have to savour these moments, the sat nav has after all got me out of a few muddles.
     Back to the football my 1st proper taste of football at this level I'd seen Thorpe United LFC play before against Norwich in the Norfolk Women's Cup they were formed back in 2008 and had had quite alot of success as a team reaching the Eastern Premier League set up. Now back in the Norfolk league set up they had started the season very well having played 8 won 6 & lost 2. However their opponents today had played 7 won 6 & lost once, both 6pts clear of their nearest rivals. Thorpe United LFC play at Dussindale Park a sporting complex on the outskirts of Norwich. At this level of football the FA provides a referee the clubs their linespersons. The pitch on a playing field open to the public (and their dogs) Roll on roll off subs too.
       With all these in place it would be interesting to see what type of game we would have. Women's football is perhaps with the exception of International level played at a high tempo and this game was no different Thorpe playing in there kit of pink shirts & socks with black shorts & Wymondham in there red shirts & black shorts and socks got the game under way. It was the visitors who created the early pressure with a clutch of half chances and on 9 mins from a well delivered corner Wymondham scored the opening goal through Laura Hammerton. Thorpe were looking to play the ball over the top to their strikers however Wymondham's defenders recovered well to stifle any threat when Thorpe did break through Wymondham's vocal keeper was quick off her line to clear the danger.
     At half time it was 1-0 and a pretty even contest. The changing area far removed from the pitch the players stayed out during the half time interval. It was Wymondham who came out attacking the stronger creating 2 clear chances both going wide of the post. It was 2-0 soon though as a Thorpe failed to clear the ball from the edge of the box then the keeper failed to gather as Wymondham's attacker Georgina Knight was on hand to bundle the ball over the line. Thorpe struggled to retain pocession with Wymondham keeping 1 up front and dominating midfield.
    Out of nothing Thorpe won a penalty however the referee indicating a handball/high foot in the box and Thorpe's No 11 Becky Russell netted her team a life line. Both teams had chances blaze wide then before the game was stopped by an unusual incident a player went down and everyone thought she was injured the first-aid bag and water were rushed onto the pitch but just a plastic bag was needed to remove an recently discovered dog poo! (one word dog owners "responsibility").
     2-1 game one Thorpe were pushing hard to get the equalizer the 4th goal was Wymondham's though as a cross/shot was fizzed in from the right of the box, going in the final touch was off a Thorpe body. Wymondham held on to claim the points worked hard and looked an organized tidy side too as they move above Thorpe into top spot in the league these 2 teams will I think be challenging for the title all the way and it will be fasinating to see who comes out on top.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Women's FA Cup 3rd round qualifier Cambridge v Lowestoft

   This week ends action saw me take in a match from the Women's FA Cup 3rd qualifying round. Some 44 ties in total and some interesting match ups too. My game of choice was Cambridge WFC v Lowestoft Town Ladies (South East Combination v Eastern Premier League). An intriguing game on paper the teams a league a part, would the teams be closely matched? Could there be an upset? Or would the higher league team and favourite prove too strong for their opponents? This is the beauty of a cup tie you just never know.
    I've seen Cambridge play a handful of times this season and so far in the South East Combination league they have blown hot and cold in games a young squad with plenty of talent their problem at times has been getting their strikers on the ball. Lowestoft actually have a pedigree in the FA Cup, winners of the competition back in 1982. This Lowestoft team however is far removed from that history having been formed just 3 years ago the team has enjoyed successive promotions to reach the Eastern Premier League one tier behind todays opponents.
   Sunshine and black clouds, taking cover or needing sunglasses were the questions before kick-off as the teams came out onto the pitch Cambridge in their usual sky blue kit and Lowestoft kitted out in vibrant pink shirts and socks with purple shorts. The last thing the 'underdog' wants to do is concede an early goal, but that was exactly what Lowestoft did as the ball was played through to Cambridge striker Laura Baker and she duly slotted the ball past the keeper to make it 1-0 after just a minutes play. A massive boost for the home team.
    Lowestoft didn't let this early setback affect them as they set about trying to restore parity have a young and talented squad of their own who worked hard to win the ball. With Amber Rowland playing in midfield and wide player Natasha Thomas being two stand out players, it was to the latter on the right flank they tried to get the ball to as often as possible her crosses however coming to nothing. Cambridge had a couple of shots off target but it was pretty even Cambridge were however getting there strikers onto the ball an on 32 mins Laura Baker was in again to make it 2-0. The home side had a couple of opportunities to put the game out of sight in the 1st half but both opportunities went wide.
   Credit to Lowestoft there heads didn't drop they keep going and got a piece of luck on the stroke of half time as Cambridge keeper Liz Pamplin rushed out of her box to clear the ball and struck it against the on rushing Lowestoft player the ball could have gone anywhere but it looped up back over the keeper and dropped into the empty net and as the ref blew for half time it was still very much game on.
   The 2nd half started off pretty much where the 1st left off both teams had shot's off the mark before Cambridge had a player tripped in the box, a penalty was given and on 57 mins Laura Baker completed her hat-trick as she slid the penalty home. The home side were in control now Lowestoft had to take risks push forwards tackles were flying in Lowestoft had a chance through Amber Rowland but a goal line scramble saw Cambridge clear their lines. The 4th goal came on the 70 min this time the scorer was Sophie Thompson.
   The game continued to be hotly contested despite the scoreline with Cambridge not letting their foot off the pedal nor Lowestoft letting their heads drop they had to push on however and space was appearing at the back Cambridge won the ball deep on the left and the ball was fed across the six yard box evading everyone on 90 mins except Hannah Bodily who slotted the ball into the net to seal a 5-1 victory and with in progress into the FA Cup 1st round proper. An entertaining game to watch involving two commited sides.