At the start of the 2015/16 season, Norfolk Women's Division One looked like it would be highly competitive at the top of the table with up to 4 sides all looking like they could be title contenders, defending champions Alysham FC Ladies amongst those, currently lead the way with Thorpe United Ladies champions themselves the season before in 2nd place. Laying 3rd in the table going into today's game are Brandon Town Ladies moved across from the Suffolk Women's Division last season to join the Norfolk Women's leagues, won Division Two last season to earn promotion to the top tier of women's football in the county and have started strongly. In 4th place are Wymondham Town Ladies the only side in the league with a 100% record still intact going into today's game have played less league games than the 3 sides above them.
Part of the reason for Wymondham Town Ladies having played less league games than everyone else is their extended run in the FA Women's Cup back in 2015 so very nearly making it to the 1st Round Proper 3 of those matches featuring on the Supporting Women's Football Blog. Manager Alex Guy has a strong and stable squad to call upon, a few out with injury but will be keen to play having not seen any competitive football since 13th December 2015.
Brandon Town Ladies laying 3rd in the league table have lost just the once this season and that in their very 1st match of 2016 last Sunday going down 3-1 at home to Aylsham FC Ladies, having inflicted the 1st defeat on the defending champions themselves on their own patch in their last match of 2015. All very tight at the top 4 points separating the top four every game between any of them is huge.
The table has seen some readjustment at the start of 2016 with the unfortunate news that bottom side Mulbarton Belles has dropped out of the league, and both sides having beaten them earlier in the season saw 3 points lost.
Another weekend where postponements were to dominate, finding a game that was on was going to be tricky. Snow covered many parts of the country whilst elsewhere it was frozen or waterlogged pitches. The pitch at King's Head Meadow was frozen, but lays favourably towards the early morning sun which reached most of the pitch softening up the surface enough to make it playable. Looked a little cut up but has seen a lot of action if not women's football of late. Looked bobbly and running with the ball wouldn't be easy. It was dry at least if still bitterly cold the hat was on protecting the ears for the 1st time this season.
Wymondham Town Ladies starting XI - Gemma Hamilton-Rout, Brooke Cheal, Mary Cann, Polly Tarrant, Gemma Sanders, Rachel Cossey (C), Laura Hammerton, Kelly Ayers, Kayleigh Holloway, Laura Wiseman & Sally Hammerton.
subs - Gabby Stone, Louise Hamilton-Rout & Emily Anderson.
Brandon Town Ladies starting XI - Shannon Oderbrecht, Leanne Sloan, Melanie Talbot, Laura Grove, Eleanor Marshall, Chloe Slater, Frankie Torrance, Natasha Patten, Brooke Wickens, Nettie Stillinger & Tiffany Forshaw (C)
( roll on roll off substitutes )
Brandon are getting the ball forwards themselves enjoying some sustained possession in and around the Wymondham penalty box leading the line early on Nettie Stillinger is covering alot of ground and can hold it up to allow others to get up in support play is switched from the left side across the face of the box out to Brooke Wickens on the right before she puts it back into the feet of captain Tiffany Forshaw 20 yards out goes for goal, gets no pace on the shot rolls through to Gemma Hamilton-Rout in the Wymondham goal.
Midway through the 2nd half and Wymondham are pressing hard pushing the full backs on it looks as if Brandon are starting to tire a little, Wymondham respond by making changes with Laura Hammerton and Kelly Ayers returning to the action in place of Stone and Cann. Brandon's Patten wins the ball back from Cheal and surges forwards down the left flank, keeping hold of the ball in the corner gives a chance for players to get up in support, one of those is Slater who receives the ball on the edge of the box, takes on the shot, takes a knick of a Wymondham leg taking the pace off the ball rolls through into Hamilton-Rout's gloves.
A few out injured for Wymondham gave others a chance in the starting line up with Gemma Sanders and Brooke Cheal coming into the defence, named 3 on the bench in contrast to Brandon who had brought just the bare 11 with them, no substitutes. It's the home side, Wymondham to kick off the 1st half wearing red shirts, black shorts and socks against Brandon lined up in yellow shirts and socks with blue shorts.
Wymondham look to get the ball out to the left early on into the feet of Kayleigh Holloway, a player who likes to get on the ball and take on players, pushes down the wing before cutting inside sending a diagonal ball into the box with striker Laura Wiseman making the run for her, Brandon defender Laura Grove, gets across Wiseman and clears the ball for an early corner. Sent into the box from the left comes in central Brandon keeper, Shannon Oderbrecht calls for it and claims confidently.
Holloway with another strong run on the ball down the left sets up a Wymondham counter attack, her cross into the box is too heavy for Wiseman to get to coming towards the ball, rolls through the the right side of the area, Gemma Sanders has surged up the pitch from right back gets onto the ball looks to shift it inside a yard and pull the trigger, Natasha Patten having tracked back for Brandon puts her body in the way of the shot.
The home side win a fortunate free kick after Brandon's Frankie Torrance slips over. With the ball in the centre circle Brooke Cheal sends the ball long towards the edge of the area, Wiseman stepping forwards controls the ball on her chest looks to bring it down and hit on the turn, gets in up and over the players around her but drops short of goal into the arms of Oderbrecht. Lively opening to the match.
|Brandon Town Ladies, Nettie Stillinger attempting|
to hold the ball up against Wymondham captain
The corner count is rising for Wymondham are looking to take the ball down the flanks, Brandon though are getting plenty back when they lose the ball, tracking the runners not finding a way in behind the cross is often cut out deflected away for the corner kick and when the ball does come into the box it is usually a yellow shirted player that gets it away. The game is being played at a brisk tempo both sides getting it out from the back quickly and possession is fairly even.
|Wymondham Tow Ladies, Laura Hammerton looking to get past Brandon Town Ladies attackers|
Laura Hammerton pushes over the halfway line with the ball for Wymondham sends a great ball straight through the middle into the box for Wiseman back to goal around the penalty spot, with a turn and hit she blasts her shot goalwards is straight at Oderbrecht who going down saves at close range, the ball is loose inside the six yard box, one of her defenders gets to the ball to clear even as Wiseman swoops for it.
|Wymondham Town Ladies, Laura Wiseman|
Holloway is held back by Wickens on the left, wins the free kick, from the wide position the ball is swept into the box, Forshaw back to defend for Brandon gets her head to the ball 1st puts it out for the corner. The set piece played in from the left falls to the edge of the box, Wiseman latches onto it her shot is blocked the loose ball is picked up by Forshaw plays it long for Stillinger 25 yards out she controls it well looking to spin to her left drive at goal, a last ditch lunge from Cheal to put her toe on the ball takes it away from the attacker.
Patten having to keep an eye on Sanders bombing forwards, has the opportunity to bring the ball up the pitch, has Torrance making a run through the middle wanting the ball lays it into her path, Wymondham captain Rachel Cossey has gone back with her makes the challenge to win the ball as the pair enter the area.
|Brandon Town Ladies captain, Tiffany Forshaw|
On the counter attack Brandon pile players forwards with Torrance on the ball putting it through into the run of Forshaw ahead of her 20 yards out right of the area Forshaw sends the ball out to Wickens wide right and continues her run into the box, Wickens gives her the ball back, Hamilton-Rout comes racing out to try and put her off sliding in, Forshaw gets her shot past her looking for the far corner the ball rolls narrowly wide across the goal.
Wymondham make their 1st change bringing off Kelly Ayers who has just hurt herself going in for the ball Emily Anderson is the player coming on. Brandon win a free kick just inside their own half the ball is put long towards the Wymondham area Cheal rises to head the ball away miscues knocking it down into the ground straight at Stillinger who takes two strides then pulls the trigger looking to shoot across the keeper, Hamilton-Rout is down sharply pushes the ball wide out to the left, Patten out there senses a chance races in to get onto the loose ball, a Wymondham defender just beats her to the ball smashing it against her to go out for a goal kick.
Forshaw battles her way through the Wymondham midfield then knocking the ball on finds the extra yards in her legs to get after it catch the defenders in front of her flat footed with Hamilton-Rout already on her way Forshaw shoots 20 yards out leaving the keeper stranded turns to see the ball is off target. Louise Hamilton-Rout is the next to come on for Wymondham with Laura Hammerton coming off.
Late in the half and Sanders is racing up the right wing the ball sticking to her foot Marshall comes across and going shoulder to shoulder makes the sliding challenge to put the ball out for a corner. Initially cleared from the area back out to the right, the ball is with Sanders again right corner of the area she drives inside looking for an opening none available smashes her shot into the Brandon defenders in front of the her.
Half-time Wymondham Town Ladies 0-0 Brandon Town Ladies
An entertaining and competitive 1st 45 minutes the game has been fairly even in terms of possession with neither side able to find the break through. Wymondham playing at a high temp are looking to make joy with their wide players but Brandon are dropping everyone deep to defend when they do meaning there is no way in round the back, crosses getting cut out before they can reach the attackers in front of goal. Both keepers have made a vital save, Brandon have worked had created a few openings themselves but with just the bare 11 would they be able to match Wymondham's tempo 2nd half?
It's Brandon to kick off the 2nd half, Wymondham have made a change during half time with Sanders now on the bench with Gabby Stone on. Brandon attack right at the start, with Stillinger linking up with Forshaw sending her through into the box, Tarrant comes across timing her challenge perfectly to slide in on the ball take it away from Forshaw and out for a corner, the ball is sent in low towards the near post from the corner gets a touch the ball ends up in the side netting.
Wymondham have set up slightly differently 2nd half with Cossey dropping into the back line allowing the full backs to push higher up the pitch. In an advanced role Cheal on the left bombs forwards as Wiseman having had the ball played into her feet holds it up Cheal runs across her Wiseman sends the ball into her run, driving into the area Cheal shoots early aiming near post, Oderbrecht is across has the angle covered holds onto the shot. The 2nd half has started at the same high tempo as seen in the 1st half. Forshaw is leading the line for Brandon now with Stillinger in a deeper role in midfield.
|Brooke Cheal found herself able to get forwards more 2nd half here the defender is looking to stop |
Brandon Town Ladies, Brooke Wickens doing the same.
Attacking down the right Wymondham win a corner, Forshaw is back to defend head the ball out for another corner. This one is played out to the edge of the area is fizzed back into the box and comes out again just as quick heading straight for Wiseman 20 yards out right of the D, only one thing on her mind meet the ball on the volley, hits it hard, but sends it wide.
Melanie Talbot brings the ball out from left back for Brandon before laying it out to Forshaw peeling out to the left herself makes good progress with the ball as Wickens makes a run towards the near post with Stillinger behind her as Forshaw crosses the ball in too high for Wickens it goes wide across the six yard box is retrieved by Stillinger on the right, looks to drive into the six yard box and shoot Wymondham block it the ball comes out to Anderson she travels along way with the ball, Brandon find themselves stretched at the back for once as she almost over runs the ball but slides in to prod it into Wiseman's run peeling out to the right of the area, Grove gets a last ditch lunging tackle in take the ball off her toes.
|Kayleigh Holloway always a threat for Wymondham|
Town Ladies when she has the ball at her feet
The game is beautifully poised could go either way, Holloway driving with the ball at her feet down the right this time having worked her way across the pitch, fires her cross in low into the feet of Wiseman, just inside the box looks to swivel and shoot, comes in fast at Oderbrecht and a yard either side of her the keeper would have been in trouble as it is she drops to her knees and just about holds onto the ball.
|16 year old Chloe Slater has come all the way|
through the youth ranks at Brandon Town Ladies
Cheal bringing the ball into the Brandon half again passes it out to the left with Wiseman seeing space onto the ball she pushes on to the byline before whipping a high cross looping up into the area, a difficult one of the keeper to deal with in danger of dropping under her crossbar Oderbrecht has Sally Hammerton bearing down on her by keeps her eyes on the ball is distracted firmly claiming the ball. The final ball isn't going Wymondham's way this afternoon, Brandon finding a 2nd wind have plenty back to read and intercept. Wymondham put Sanders back on the pitch in an attacking role with Sally Hammerton coming off.
Forshaw picking up the ball in the centre takes it forwards looking to push for the box over runs the ball, Stillinger racing to help her goes after it even as Tarrant comes the other way to clear it a 50/50 both sliding in the ball pops out to the left, Stillinger is up quicker shifts the ball between her feet but slices the shot swinging it away from goal.
Cheal with the space to run into offers the attackers in front of her an extra option is put on the ball as she races into the area wide left of goal Marshall throws herself into the sliding tackle to try and stop her, Cheal jumps to get out of the way goes over Marshall the ball runs out of play, shouts for a penalty the referee waves them away.
As Forshaw gets hold of the ball wide left again everyone is drawn across to the half of the pitch all except Wickens who is in acres of space on the right, Forshaw wraps her foot around the ball attempting to get it over to her, Hamilton-Rout has to get to the ball first does so conceding the corner. Swept in from the right Hamilton-Rout with bodies around her gets a fist up to punch the ball wide across the six yard box, drops favourably for Patten who hits the ball towards goal, Ayers covering the far post clears off the line.
5 minutes left to play Talbot plays the ball up the line for Patten, a rapid turn around of the ball Patten places it neatly into the run of Forshaw inside the box left of goal, takes on the shot the keeper is beaten the ball runs across goal wide of the far post. In the closing stages of the match and it could still go either way. Holloway and Cheal link up down the left for Wymondham Holloway squaring the ball into Cheal left corner of the box squeezes a shot through the two defenders converging on her, Oderbrecht is down early and makes the save.
Injury time being played and Brandon find time for another quick counter attack the ball played into Torrance central out to Patten on her left send forwards for Forshaw breaking into the box whips the early shot across goal keeper beat is it in? No another narrow one rolling is wide of the post, the referee blows the final whistle and it ends goalless a fair result on the balance of play both sides would certainly have felt hard done by had they lost it by a single goal. Wymondham played with a high tempo throughout, Brandon did well to match it.
As competitive and compelling a game I've watched to date even though it ended in a goalless draw both sides taking a point Brandon move into 2nd on goal difference 2 points behind leaders Aylsham FC Ladies, whilst Wymondham still unbeaten this season though dropping their 1st points stay 4th 3 points back on the leaders but crucially with 2 games in hand on them all. Looks like it'll be a title race that will go all the way with all 4 sides fancying their chances of becoming champions.
My thanks to both clubs for their help with the teams today.