The plan had been to head south down into Bedfordshire to watch Luton Town Ladies v Cambridge WFC in the FAWPL South East Division One. To that end I was making great head way... that was until the turn off for the A421.. then road works... I hate road works! The diversion was along the A1 where a couple of miles up the road everything came to a grinding halt. Grid lock I wasn't going anywhere fast and the arrival time on the sat nav was going up and up. I wasn't going to get there on time for kick off.
But it's a Sunday and I've got to see a women's football match! Had spent a good chunk of Saturday updating the fixture lists on the website www.womensfootballeast.com so when the traffic jam crawled past the sign for Sandy I knew they were due to play Sharnbrook WFC at home today. Peeling off into town, it was a case of finding their ground at the Sandy Upper School and Community Sports College. Made it with just enough time to get my camera out before the match kicked off.
Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire FA's run a joint women's football league made up of three divisions. Sandy Ladies and Sharnbrook WFC are 2 of 8 teams that compete in Division One. At the start of play Sandy Ladies were in 6th place in the table have games in hand on everyone else having played just 6 league games so far with a mixed record of 3 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses with 13pts. Sharnbrook WFC are the team currently propping up the table, have played 8 games so far with 1 win and 1 draw to give them 4pts.
A recreation ground pitch was some what bumpy and exposed to the elements which were very familiar to last week with it having been bright and sunny to start, now cloud was sweeping in and with it a swirling wind that was blowing from one end of the pitch to the other, would be favouring Sandy Ladies in the 1st half.
Sandy Ladies starting XI - Amie Fage, Amber Willett, Amy Furlong, Chloe Reeves, Claire Ashwell, Faye Prout, Jade Anderson, Jemimah Green, Jenny Holt, Kayleigh Bennett (C) & Kirsty Fylling.
subs - Loren Ellard, Kizzy Hanson & Pearl Houghton.
Sharnbrook WFC starting XI - Claire Smith, Stephanie Strange, Gemma Franklin (C), Lauren Williams, Tracy Hutchinson, Zoe Wright, Laura Strange, Charlie Mullins, Amy Wesley & Sally Dayus.
(roll on, roll off substitutes)
It was Sharnbrook to kick off the match kitted out in red and blue vertical striped shirts, red shorts and socks, and the visitors were at a disadvantage right from the start as they only had 10 players available.
Getting hold of the ball Sandy wearing blue shirts, navy shorts and socks are on the attack taking the ball down the right of the pitch and winning an early corner. Played in low towards the near post area it's Sandy captain Kayleigh Bennett that meets the ball, tries to flick it on, too many bodies in the way Sharnbrook get it clear, early on the swirling wind is causing the ball to hang in the air.
Sandy break up a Sharnbrook attack with right back Kirsty Fylling bringing the ball out of defence, plays a long pass over the top as team mate Amber Willett makes a run across the Sharnbrook back line evading the offside flag she is through on goal bursting into the box chasing the ball down, right of goal she plays it 1st time pulls the shot wide of the post.
Sharnbrook are looking to keep it tight in the middle, very congested Sandy are having more joy down the flanks with space available for their attacking players to run into. Sharnbrook have the players back to defend the crosses put in.
Put through from a central position though it's Willett breaking beyond the Sharnbrook defence, the ball at her feet, she has Sharnbrook captain Gemma Franklin giving chase on her shoulder with the visitors goalkeeper Claire Smith rushing out the edge of her area to close her down, sandwiched between the two Willetts can't get a shot away, the ball is deflected behind for a corner. The ball coming in high inside the area Bennett tries an ambitious overhead shot which screws wide of the mark.
Sharnbrook's attacks are limited, when they get the ball they are trying to free up Sally Dayus in attack, peeling out to the left she has Lauren Williams in support, starting the move from deep though Sandy have plenty of players back to defend. Sandy are seeing a lot of the attack almost capitalise on a loose kick out from Smith, Sandy's Chloe Reeves gets hold of the ball and looks to send a shot in from 30 yards out, drags her effort wide of goal.
Sharnbrook win a free kick 10 yards inside the Sandy half to the left Zoe Wright plays it up the line as Williams makes herself available inside the box, taking the ball to the by line her cross is blocked giving the visitors a corner, coming in to the far post area, Sandy win it and are on the counter attack get it down the other end and win a corner of their own. This one is an in swinger the aim is good coming into the near post Smith has to be alert to palm it away from danger.
Sharnbrook's Williams gets on to the ball and sends over the Sandy defence with Dayus in the clear sprinting to get after it, Sandy goalkeeper Amie Fage races out of her area kicks the ball with Dayus closing her down, smashes it against her the ball is loose but play is stopped by an offside flag.
Sandy's throw ins are causing some problems one on the right is tossed long the Sharnbrook defence let it bounce, scurrying in behind them, Willetts is onto the ball takes two touches then shoots, smashes it against Smith who has her near post covered, a corner is given.
Half-time Sandy Ladies 0-0 Sharnbrook WFC
So far so good for Sharnbrook with just 10 players they have been on the defensive for much of the 1st 45 minutes have defended well for the most part, but in turn struggled to get it up the pitch for any length of time allowing Sandy to keep coming at them. Sandy have had a lot of the ball, have found gaps in the Sharnbrook defence have created several half chances but as yet not really tested Smith in goal.
It's Sandy to kick off the 2nd 45, this time it's Sharnbrook with the wind at their backs. Early on though it's Sharnbrook who press the home side and get hold of the ball with Wright making a determined run down the left channel, she wins a throw level with the 18 yard line, the ball is played into the feet of Dayus on the corner of the area she looks to hit the ball on the turn, sends her shot over the cross bar.
Keeping the pressure on Sharnbrook win a corner on the right played into the six yard box it lands at Williams feet, she can't dig the ball out for a shot on goal before the Sandy converge on her and clear the ball.
Pushed up the Sharnbrook defence is caught out as Sandy get on the ball and launch it up the pitch, bursting through into space is Willett to the right of the goal she is a long way out as Smith comes racing out of her box in an attempt to close her down, Willetts takes the shot on getting it past Smith she can only turn and watch like everyone else as the ball rolls narrowly wide at the near post.
The home side think they have finally broken the dead lock as once again Willett has the ball at her feet is pushed wide by the Sharnbrook defence have left plenty of spece behind that Sandy's Chloe Reeves exploits is free inside the six yard box can place her shot either side of Smith as Willetts gets her cross away. The ball is in the back of the net Sandy celebrate, only the joy is cut sort by a raised flag... offside.
Sharnbrook are pressing the ball higher up the pitch with Wright especially looking to give Williams and Dayus support, they are starting to leave more space at the back as they tire, with Willetts looking the most likely to make something happen when she has the ball at her feet, get's another cross in from the right level with the 18 yard line with reeves meeting it central to goal, hits her shot over the bar.
GOAL! Sandy do finally open the scoring with Bennett winning the ball in the middle to set up an attack she passes it out to Reeves on the left. Looking to take players on she rides two challenges for the ball the second just inside the box is a strong clip of the ankle she gets her shot away, slipping it past Smith and into the back of the net 1-0.
Sharnbrook's Wright tries another shot from distance with the wind at her back looks to catch Fage unawares, the keeper is surprised but saves with her legs as the ball doesn't get the carry on it to whip past her.
An error in the Sandy defence sees a clearance looped high into the air outside their box the ball dropping for Williams the Sharnbrook attacker looks to strike the ball on the half volley, doesn't get any power behind the ball, allowing Fage to gather. Fage then makes a good save to deny Wright as she attempts another blast at goal from well outside the box, Fage putting it behind for a corner.
Sharnbrook are taking risks feel they might get a goal with Franklin coming out from the back to offer support going forwards, win a couple of corners which the home side defend well. Have Willett, Reeve now joined by Loren Ellard up front looking to be ready to break. Willett is put through twice more sending her shots both times wide across the goal.
Late into the game just a couple of minutes left Sharnbrook have a corner, everyone including the keeper is sent forwards 1-0 down it is worth a gamble... the ball comes in Sandy get hold of it and break.
GOAL! It's Sandy's Jemimah Green who gets on the ball she has three quarters of the pitch to run into is a long way from goal, Sharnbrook's Stephanie Strange is the one giving chase finding the energy to catch up with Green and take her out into the wide right channel, is pushed all the way with William's racing back to try and cover the exposed goal, Green has barely anything to aim for just the far post gets the ball away towards the goal past Williams it bounces once against the far post and rolls over the line 2-0.
Last action of the match as Sandy Ladies add a 2nd goal to win the match 2-0 and take the three points and climb a place into 5th in the table. A hard fought victory in the end Sandy had created enough chances to get the goal they needed to claim the points and with subs to bring on took advantage of Sharnbrook as they tired in the 2nd half. Sharnbrook remain at the foot of the table, a determined effort from their 10 players, did well to keep the score at 0-0 for so long.
Thanks to both teams for accommodating me at such short notice and I am grateful for the help with the squads and the hospitality today.