A new season can often mean a new start for a lot of football teams and this is very much the case for both today's teams. For the league too as it is restored to it's full capacity of 12 sides having lost 2 sides very early on last campaign reducing it to just 10. C&K Basildon Ladies won the league and promotion to the FAWPL Southern Division, coming out on top as both Milton Keynes Dons Ladies and Crystal Palace Ladies pushed them all the way.
Relegated from the FAWPL Southern Division last season were Gillingham Ladies. Two newly promoted sides from the regional leagues below the FAWPL make up the 12, Lowestoft Town Ladies and Old Actonians Ladies. Looks to be a competitive league with no clear favourite for the title, will be 3 or 4 in contention at the top, and everyone is capable of taking points off the other.
Focus on today's sides and Norwich City Ladies will be hoping to have a much better season than the one they endured last campaign. Finished bottom of the league with a negative points tally after suffering deductions for failing to meet fixtures and their Reserve side dropped out of the regional league set up. With 2 sides having already dropped out of the league beforehand they were spared relegation.
Have a new manager in charge of the team for the start of this season, James Buhlemann, who comes to the club having recently completed his UEFA B license, whilst spending the last 4/5 years coaching at Kings Lynn college and academies in the area. It is through knowing a couple players from the Norwich Girls Centre of Excellence that he became aware of the opportunity to manage the ladies 1st team. Norwich Ladies lost several key players last season but have gotten 3 of them back on board for the new season, captain Kate Parsons along with Paige Shorten and Anna Larkins who both played a large role in helping Lowestoft Town Ladies achieve success last season and Buhlemann feels the club has a good depth of squad with experienced and exciting young players to once again challenge at the right end of the league.
A new beginning too for Cambridge United WFC. The new part being the United in their name as they begin a new era having formed a merger with Football League Two side Cambridge United FC to take them forwards as a club. Covered this merger in greater detail in an earlier blog entry if you want to know more click on the link below
A United Future for Cambridge WFC
Last season was manager Steve Edwards 1st in charge of the club having come to the club from coaching at Watford Ladies. The club had a strong 1st half to the season winning more points than the previous campaign, eventually finished in 7th place and Edwards is keen to see the club push on this season, the merger with the mens side showing the clubs ambition they too want to be amongst the challengers at the top. Have brought in attacker Becky Taylor form local rivals Gt Shelford as well as full back Lucy Du Plooy who played for Ipswich Town Ladies last season. Today though the club were without a few experienced players in captain Laura Bright, Laura Baker and Verity Crook who were all unavailable.
Were a few dark clouds around as I travelled up the A47 to Plantation Park the home venue Norwich City Ladies share with Norwich United FC. The sun was to win the day however as kick off approached the pitch looking if anything a little hard and dry as the two sides walked out of the dressing rooms.
Norwich City Ladies starting XI - Fiona Coombes, Bryony Radley, Erin Wilson, Jordan Arnoup, Kate Parsons (C), Ellen Fewkes-Woodrow, Zavarnah Smith, Chelsea Garrett, Anna Larkins, Ebony Wiseman & Natasha Snelling.
subs - Jade Nicholson, Ellen Swift, Brooke Osborne & Katie Knights.
Cambridge United WFC starting XI - Liz Pamplin, Robyn Phillips, Lucy Du Plooy, Kayleigh Anne Burt (C), Nicola Geoghan, Hannah Bodily, Hannah Goodchild, Nuala Wayne, Emma Jenkins, Laura Mills & Becky Taylor.
subs - Becca Fay, Emily Reed & Isabella Simmons.
It's Norwich to kick off the match in their traditional home colours of yellow and green with Cambridge lined up opposite in what was before their home coloured kit of sky blue. This now though is their away colours having adopted the amber and black colours for Cambridge United for their home kit.
The home side are on the attack early on taking the ball to Cambridge, keep the ball inside their opponents half without finding a way past their defence. Cambridge eventually get hold of the ball create the first chance with the ball slotted through from the middle of the park into the run of Emma Jenkins playing on the left three in attack entering the area looks to shoot, doesn't get good contact with the ball as it rolls towards the near post Norwich goalkeeper Fiona Coombes is across to gather.
The game at this level is always played at a frantic pace and today is no exception both sides wanting to get the ball into their attackers quickly, on the attack Norwich get the ball into Natasha Snelling making a run into space out on the right channel, she squares the ball picking out her fellow attacker Ebony Wiseman making up the ground to support her, is able to take the ball in her stride and burst into the box right of goal, Lucy Du Plooy makes the lunging challenge to try and prevent the shot as Wiseman lifts it over her but can only put the ball into the side netting from the acute angle.
Norwich are looking to exploit the flanks with Anna Larkins on the left and Chelsea Garrett out on the right in the next attack Garrett springs the offside trap is played in beyond the Cambridge defence is a one on one situation with Cambridge goalkeeper Liz Pamplin, Garrett opts to take on the shot early outside the area puts the ball straight into Pamplin for a comfortable save.
GOAL! Norwich have started the brighter and 10 minute played open the scoring as Snelling controls a high ball inside the Cambridge half bringing it down and sending the ball out to the right this time with Wiseman the one giving chase, is strong as she battles with Cambridge central defender Nicola Geoghan as she runs into the area closing in on the near post inside the six yard box manages to hold Geoghan off long enough to send the ball across the goal face towards the far post where Larkins is waiting unmarked to pop the ball into the back of the net 1-0.
Once more Garrett is through on goal again beyond the Cambridge defence as Snelling provides the pass another one on one goes for the shot as she approaches the area again this time lifts the ball over Pamplin, too high though flies over the cross bar too. Pamplin is called into action to save smartly from her own player as Kayleigh Anne Burt the Cambridge captain slides in near post to try and keep out another Norwich cross from the right a sharp save from Pamplin dropping and throwing a glove out to turn the ball around the post prevents an OG. From the corner the ball comes to Snelling on the edge of the area, Burt closes her down quickly blocking her shot at close range.
|Norwich City Ladies Zavarnah Smith|
Cambridge opportunities are rare are finding it tough getting their own wide players on the ball, Laura Mills out on the left manages to skip past a challenge and take the ball deeper into the Norwich half only has Becky Taylor in the centre to aim for as she plays in the ball. Taylor comes to meet the ball gets her head to it but a long way out can't turn the ball towards goal out for a goal kick.
Norwich's attackers Snelling and Wiseman along with Garrett and Larkins on the wings are causing all sorts of problems in the centre of midfield for the home side Ellen Fewkes-Woodrow and Zavarnah Smith are putting themselves about working hard to retain the ball frustrating Cambridge preventing them from getting any attacking moves going. Wiseman gets the ball out to Garrett on the right cuts the cross back into the area picking out Snelling near post her back to goal she can't get away from Geoghan to make room for a shot lays it to her left Cambridge intercept break with purpose playing the ball up to Mills she wins her team a corner. Mills to play the corner in from the left is a good delivery picking out Taylor rising at the far post sends her header wide of goal.
|Norwich's Ellen Fewkes-Woodrow battles with Cambridge's Hannah Goodchild|
Trying to drive forwards with the ball out on the left Larkins is fouled by Cambridge's Hannah Goodchild. A good position 25 yards from goal sees Jordan Arnoup playing centre back today come up to take, gets her low effort past the wall lacks the power or width to trouble Pamplin beyond.
In the centre her back to goal Mills receives the ball with a good turn and touch is past her marker and sets up Taylor to her left for a run into the area, closing in on goal Taylor shoots aiming for the near post, Coombes is across to make the save puts the ball behind for a corner. The first corner from the left is put behind for another corner the 2nd one is played deep into the D where Taylor leaps to head the ball down falls to Burt outside the area left of the goal her shot is instinctive and wide of the goal.
Cambridge are caught out by the diagonal ball from the left with Wiseman the player bursting clear of the defence to get onto the end of it looks to send her shot across Pamplin, catches the keeper flat footed, turning she is almost resigned to picked the ball out of the back of the net is saved as the ball comes back off the post and gets it safely into her gloves.
|Cambridge United WFC's Lucy Du Plooy|
Mills late into the half gets the ball into Jenkins coming in from the left to a central position looking to attack the ball has Norwich right back Bryony Radley for company tracking across with her to put in the block as she pulls the trigger outside the D. Final action of the half and it's a vital interception from Du Plooy to prevent Garrett from getting onto the end of another left right pass.
Half time Norwich City Ladies 1-0 Cambridge United WFC
Has been a high tempo 1st half with Norwich starting strongly putting Cambridge on the back foot for large periods of the half getting the ball across the park into the space on either wing haven't allowed Cambridge to get any meaningful possession inside their half have created several chances the only down side perhaps that they have only converted one of them. Half time giving Cambridge a chance to regroup a single goal down were still very much in the match as they kicked off the 2nd half.
GOAL! Not the start Cambridge wanted to the 2nd half but perfect for Norwich as they double their lead barely 2 minutes into the half. The ball won in midfield is slid through the centre picking out Garrett on the right of the area this time clear on goal makes no mistake hit her shot low and hard across Pamplin and into the goal at the far post 2-0.
Cambridge look for an immediate response taking the ball up the other end win a corner on the right is played short between Mills and Du Plooy the cross cut out put behind for another corner played into the box Norwich clear and break with Fewkes-Woodrow on the ball taking it on down the right, has Garrett on the overlap plays her in, she looks to flash the cross in looking for Larkins at the far post attempting to turn the ball towards goal places it across the face allowing Cambridge to clear.
GOAL! Norwich add a 3rd goal as they win another free kick outside the Cambridge box in a dangerous position 20 yards out to the right of goal. Jordan Arnoup has had a couple of free kicks 1st half gathered and placed wide with a purposeful run up she hits this one hard sending it low across the area past the diving Pamplin and into the back of the net to gove Norwich a 3-0 lead.
|Scorer of Norwich's 3rd goal Jordan Arnoup|
|Cambridge defender Robyn Phillips with Natasha Snelling going for the ball|
Not long after a free kick in the centre goes their way from inside their half Geoghan plays the ball up into the area is knocked down before falling to Taylor outside the D, she gets her foot under the ball fires the shot in can only pick out Coombes well placed to make the save in goal. 20 minutes to go Norwich make a change with Zavarnah Smith the player coming off, Ellen Swift coming on. Fewkes-Woodrow has been getting further forwards as the game progresses receiving the ball from a corner on the right outside the box places her shot wide of goal.
Cambridge make their 2nd change with Emily Reed coming on for Hannah Bodily. Play is stopped for several minutes as Wayne catches Arnoup in the knee with her foot as the defender looks to get the ball up the pitch, she goes down, is clear she is in alot of pain. Can't carry on is helped off the pitch not putting any weight on her leg, Brooke Osborne comes on.
|Emma Jenkins looks to bring the ball forwards for Cambridge|
Swift looks to set up Wiseman as she controls the ball played into her on the left plays the past into Wiseman outside the area she flicks it up attempts the volley too much on the ball sends it over the bar.
Taylor hasn't had much chance to break beyond the Norwich defence during the match but is still looking for the opportunity is put through burst into the area, Coombes comes towards her goes down to block Taylor's shot saves with her legs, the ball is loose Mills is the player who is after it. Coombes is very quick to get back up goes to block the shot again makes the saves looked very close to being outside the box, Norwich counter attack Garrett on the right with the shot puts it straight at Pamplin.
GOAL! Cambridge do find a goal as the have a throw deep in their left they win a free kick as the ball is handled 25 yards from goal on the left it's Mills standing over the ball, hits a flighted ball with plenty of pace on it towards the near post flies over Coombes and into the back of the net 3-1.
Little time left in the match Cambridge play it long have both Taylor and Jenkins racing after it as Coombes comes is almost caught out by the bounce but manages to stretch up an arm to pluck the ball down before it can evade her.
The final whistle blows and it's Norwich City Ladies celebrating an opening day win beating Cambridge United WFC 3-1. Just the start the side were looking for after last season. Played well pressing the ball and looking to expose Cambridge on the flanks whenever they could.
A result that Cambridge will want to get out of their system quickly not the start they were hoping for. Both sides are in action again next Sunday 23rd August with Norwich City Ladies away to Milton Keynes Dons Ladies and Cambridge United WFC at home to Ipswich Town Ladies.
Thanks to both managers James Buhlemann and Steve Edwards for helping me out today, will no doubt see both clubs again over the coming season.