A clash between 2nd and 3rd in the league both with 4 games left to play in the season and both in a position to challenge leaders C&K Basildon Ladies at the top of the table. The end of season has been set up for an intriguing finish as the top 3 have to face each other more than once in the run in. I covered this in greater detail in my previous blog entry, refer to the link below
Milton Keynes Dons Ladies started the season well and have been up in the top 2 places for much of the campaign, going top as C&K Basildon Ladies were involved in cup competitions. Have to face the leaders just 2 points ahead of them home & away in their last 4 games. 1st though a tough match against 3rd placed Crystal Palace Ladies.
Crystal Palace Ladies are newly promoted to the division this season and hit the ground running picking up wins and have kept pace with the top 2 to lay in 3rd place 3 points behind Milton Keynes Dons Ladies and 5 points behind C&K Basildon Ladies. Outsiders for a title charge they play both in their last 4 matches.
The 2 sides met early on in the season with Milton Keynes Dons Ladies claiming a 2-0 away victory. Crystal Palace Ladies were victorious when the 2 sides met again in the 1st Rd of the FA Women's Cup recording a 2-0 win.
This is my 1st chance to look at both sides this season, have tried earlier but like so many fixtures over the past 3 months the weather has had a say. Is my 1st trip too to Newport Pagnell FC, where Milton Keynes Dons Ladies play their home matches. A decent non league ground with a nice clubhouse before you enter the ground which has 2 small seated stands on either side of the pitch. The pitch itself is a good size with a good covering of grass. Bright and sunny although there was a strong wind blowing across the pitch.
Milton Keynes Dons Ladies starting XI - Emma Kirby, Louise Naylor, Kara Howes, Claire Hollingsworth, Leanna Doyle, Lauren Goodier, Charley Wright, Charley Clarke, Heather McDonnell (C), Leah Cudone & Kelly Bingham
subs - Andie Dickens, Sophie Watson & Elena Lancaster.
Crystal Palace Ladies starting XI - Samantha Saint, Charlotte Cavanagh, Kelsey Zalimeni, Alex Elson, Katy Morris (C), Sarah Jones, Mary Onianwai, Angela Kiobel, Nicha Dyett, Emma Whitter & Abigail Igbavboa.
subs - Jade Davenport, Freya Holdaway, Shephanie Mann & Alma Donohoe.
It's Crystal Palace in their away kit, yellow shirts with sky blue shorts and socks to kick off the match with Milton Keynes lied up in their all red kit. Milton Keynes are the side that start the brighter winning the ball off the visitors in the own half and playing a long ball up field into the right channel, where Lauren Goodier is making the run to get onto the end of the ball, bursting into the box she looks to put her foot through the ball send it goal wards the ball flies into the side netting.
Milton Keynes are enjoying some possession around the Crystal Palace box early on, the visitors launch a quick counter attack as Sarah Jones wins the ball back and plays it forwards into the run of Emma Whitter, strong on the ball she pushes forwards has strike partner Nicha Dyett to her left looks to set her up, Dyett looks to hit the ball 1st time from outside the area, powers her low shot wide of goal.
Is a good sized pitch both sides are looking to exploit the space, both defences though are flowing back and forth keeping a solid line that isn't offering much space for either sides attacking players to exploit.
Crystal Palace win a corner on the right out of nothing, is a good delivery put into the box, Milton Keynes goalkeeper Emma Kirby jumps but fails to claim the ball, falling the loose ball drops kindly into her gloves. Getting up she sets up a break playing the ball out to stand in captain Heather McDonnell with regular captain Hannah Barratt out injured. McDonnell plays the ball out wide right with Goodier providing another great run, sprinting into the area she only has one option to shoot, looks to put the ball across Crystal Palace keeper Samantha Saint, too close though Saint drops to claim the ball at her near post.
Two evenly matched sides with a similar set up, Whitter and Dyett are pushing forwards as their midfield try to thread the ball into them, the Milton Keynes defence is happy to concede territory to deny them the space to run in behind. Whitter peeling wide into the right channel sends a low cross into the box looking to pick out Dyett, it's Kirby though who comes to intercept the ball in front of her.
Crystal Palace break down the right with Mary Onianwa on the ball, has Whitter in front of her plays the ball into her run the striker takes the ball into the box, holding it up looks to turn and play the ball to Dyett 12 yards on, Dyett's shot is blocked by the Milton Keynes defence before they clear the danger.
Whitter on the ball again drives forwards has Milton Keynes defender Claire Hollingsworth with her shoulder to shoulder they go into the box Hollingsworth pushing Whitter wide before making the tackle conceding a corner. The ball is played in at an inviting height across the six yard line, Kirby comes through the crowd to punch the ball away.
Milton Keynes are contesting the ball well enough are struggling though to get it into their strikers long enough for anyone from midfield to get up in support. Right back Louise Naylor plays a great long field ball up to McDonnell, holding it up she looks to pass it to Leah Cudone beside her the pass is a little too heavy allows Saint to rush out to the edge of her area and gather before Cudone can latch onto it.
|Milton Keynes Dons Ladies Louise Naylor|
At the other end Crystal Palace are starting to build up some pressure around the Milton Keynes box with wide players Onianwa and Abigail Igbavboa pushing further forwards actually get the ball in behind the centre backs on a couple of occasions but left back Kara Howes is alert and round on the cover to defend.
Half-time Milton Keynes Dons Ladies 0-0 Crystal Palace Ladies.
Been a keenly fought contest 1st half but chances have been few and far between neither keeper really tested, defences on top, Crystal Palace were starting to build pressure, Milton Keynes need the ball to stick up top better.
Make a change at the break with Andie Dickens coming on for Charley Clarke, the substitution sees McDonnell drop into midfield with Dickens joining Cudone up front as the home side kick off the 2nd half.
McDonnell immediately finds space to run into with the ball on the right fires a cross in towards the area, Crystal Palace captain Katy Morris slides in to intercept the ball before either Cudone or Dickens can get onto it.
Cudone is putting herself about harrying the Crystal Palace defence, links up well with Goodier on the right, she bursts forwards puts in a fierce cross/shot that flies across the face of goal and out of play.
The visitors win a free kick inside the Milton Keynes half on the left, it's Kelsey Zalimeni who plays the ball in high towards the edge of the area inside the D the ball is met by the head of Dyett, she turns the ball towards goal, but looping up is an easy catch for Kirby.
From a throw on the right Crystal Palace's the ball is put in to Whitter, she headers it on towards the edge of the area where Sarah Jones comes to meet it, miscues her volley sending it wide of goal. Milton Keynes make their 2nd change with Dickens who looks to have picked up a knock coming off for Sophie Watson who joins Cudone up top.
Good work from Sarah Jones in the middle for Crystal Palace winning the ball and pushing forwards looks to send a pass through to Onianwa making ground up to get into the box, gets to the ball has company her cross is blocked, put behind for a corner. Another good delivery the corner is met by Zalimeni, places her header from 15 yards out into the ground bouncing up the ball is blocked and kicked away.
Cudone and Crystal Palace's right back Charlotte Cavanagh tussle for the ball, Cavanagh ending up thrown to the ground, a few players take exception a bit of pushing and shoving ensues the referee doesn't need to get involved as both captains are quick to break it up. The incident has rattled Crystal Palace though a few heavy challenges are coming in but both sides are giving as good as they get.
|Crystal Palace Ladies Charlotte Cavanagh|
Change for Crystal Palace with Whitter leaving the pitch and Jade Davenport coming on going into midfield with Onianwa pushing up to support Dyett. More good link up play between Cudone and Goodier, the right sided midfielder getting the pass back from Cudone back to goal as she turns and looks to get into the box, Goodier gets her cross into Cudone, with Morris in close company she can't turn to get her shot away.
2nd change for Crystal Palace with Jones coming off and Freya Holdaway coming onto the field. Dyett slides in to win a ball inside the Milton Keynes half manages to set up Onianwa as she sprints to gather the ball looks to square it across the six yard box, Hollingsworth slides into intercept the ball, only gets it out to sub Holdaway she pulls the trigger her shot is blocked at close range as both defences continue to stand firm.
Both sides are trying to make something happen try and get the 1 goal that will probably win the game, the play is stretched. Watson heads the ball down into the run of midfielder Charley Wright, she looks to hit the ball on the half volley 40 yards out, bounces before it reaches Saint in the Crystal Palace goal an easy claim.
Neither side can break the deadlock as the final whistle blows up and the match ends 0-0. Looked like a draw two sides keeping a good defensive shape cancelling each other out, neither keeper really troubled. The points shared doesn't really help either side as they look to top of the table.
It's status quo however as leaders C&K Basildon failed to capitalise either despite going 2-0 up at home to Cambridge WFC were pegged back to 2-2 to pick up another point. In the other match in FAWPL South East Division One it was yet another draw 1-1 this time between Ipswich Town Ladies & Luton Town Ladies.
Still all to play for at the top of the league with 3 games to go. Next up for Milton Keynes is an away trip to leaders C&K Basildon on the 19th April. Next up for Crystal Palace an away trip to Norwich City Ladies on the 26th April. My thanks to both clubs for their help with the teams today.