My 1st look at a women's League Cup Final in the Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Women's Football League (BHWFL). 28 teams competing across 3 divisions entered this years League Cup.
Road to the Final
Garston Ladies were awarded an away win in the 1st Round against Beds & Herts Women's Division Three side Bedmond Ladies. An interesting pair up in the 2nd Round as they were at home once again playing their Reserve side playing in Division Two, Garston Ladies FC 96, the 1st team ran out 7-0 winners on the day to set up a quarter final tie away to fellow Division One side Letchworth Garden City Eagles. Edged the tie beating them 3-2 to reach the semi-finals of the competition and another away tie against the side that would eventually go on to win the Beds & Herts Women's Division One title, Hertford Town Ladies. Garston Ladies won the game 4-2 to reach their second successive League Cup Final. Garston Ladies were in contention for the league themselves for much of the season but a fixture pile up at the end and unable to play the games eventually finished 6th. Garston Ladies run a large number of youth sides over 340 registered players across all age groups.
Sherrardswood Ladies were on the road in the early rounds of the League Cup facing tough opponents starting in the 1st Round with fellow Division One side Bishops Stortford Ladies, a narrow 2-1 win saw them into the 2nd Round away again to the then league leaders Harvesters FC the match went all the way ending 2-2 after extra time onto the penalty shootout Sherrardswood Ladies winning through to the quarter finals the shootout ending in their favour 5-3. At home in the quarter finals, new side Hitchin Belles riding high in Division Three. Sherrardswood Ladies won the game 3-0 to set up a home semi-final against Division Two side Watton Ladies. For the 2nd time in the competition Sherrardswood Ladies faced a penalty shootout after a 3-3 draw. Beat Watton Ladies 4-3 on penalties to reach the final for the second successive season and face Garston Ladies once again. Differed to Garston Ladies in terms of the league getting all their matches played before everyone else ended top of the table but could only watch as others caught up and overtook them eventually finishing in 3rd spot.
Last years Beds & Herts Women's League Cup Final was a close affair with Garston Ladies beating Sherrardswood 1-0, Vikki Duffy with the goal.
The venue for today's game AFC Kempston Rovers FC, hosting a day of girls & women's finals across the Beds & Herts Leagues 6 finals in all starting with the U12s at 9:00am then U13s, U14s, U15s & U18s. I arrived an hour before the Women's Open Age Final was due to kick off searched out the two sides warming up. A decent sized car park beside the ground with a large modern clubhouse and changing room block down one side with a seated stand and some terracing overlooking a large sized pitch that looked in good shape considering how much action it has seen of late. Lovely weather one of the hottest days of the year to date, bright abd sunny perhaps a little too hot for a finals day but with a scheduled 6:15pm KO it was starting to cool as the 2 sides walked out onto the pitch.
Garston Ladies starting XI - Jade Cook, Samantha Roads, Janine Rodgers, Stephanie Roads, Lauren Pinder, Gemma Curtis, Jane Hales, Emma Trill, Lucy Zecchin, Vikki Duffy & Jo Sharp.
subs - Linda Watt
Sherrardswood Ladies starting XI - Jennifer Mansfield, Ellen Jackson, Katie Rist, Abby Cardall, Kristie Donovan, Jade Ryan, Melissa Wright, Katy Jones (C), Frankie Novelli, Laura Cousins & Laurie Marris
subs - Jules Briars, Rhia Rose, Emily Gaskin, Natasha Little & Manjinder Atwal
(roll on roll off substitutes)
It's Sherrardswood to get the Cup Final underway 1st half wearing an all blue kit with white across the top of the shirt sleeves with Garston lined up opposite wearing purple shirts, black shorts and socks. Sherrardswood go down the left channel early on with Laura Cousins playing the ball on down the line with captain Katy Jones making the run getting the corner kick as she attempts to turn the ball into the area.
The corner comes to nothing, Garston get the ball up the other end winning a throw deep in Sherrardswood territory a long throw Vikki Duffy sending the ball into the area, Jo Sharp coming near post tries to head it on can only put the ball into the gloves of advancing Sherrardswood goalkeeper, Jennifer Mansfield. A cagey opening few minutes with both sides testing the other down the flank, another throw deep on the right for Garston as Lucy Zecchin tries to carry the ball down the right side again Sharp is picked out right corner of the area turns and shoots the ball blocked at point blank range.
Garston are starting to press Zecchin on the right getting in behind puts two crosses into the Sherrardswood area both times it's defender Kristie Donovan who gets her head on the ball to clear. Garston keep the pressure on possession in and around the Sherrardswood area lift the ball into the area from the left side trying to pick out Sharp in the centre the ball is cleared comes through to Garston captain Gemma Curtis 25 yards out meeting the ball on the run hits it goal wards arrowing in flies over Mansfield smashing against the crossbar, down still in play...
GOAL! ... the ball isn't cleared very far is out on the left a free kick is given away, taken quickly the ball is rolled inside along the face of the area, coming onto it is Duffy closing in on the D takes on the shot hitting it low and hard across the area and into the goal 1-0 giving Garston the early lead inside 12 minutes.
|Vikki Duffy scores the opening goal for Garston Ladies|
Sherrardswood regroup get some joy down the left themselves striker Laurie Marris getting her side a corner kick. The ball is whipped in towards the near post area attacked Garston only succeed in knocking it into Cousins 5 yards out smashes the ball back in sending it over the top of the crossbar. Up the other end Sharp is put through by Duffy, a race to the byline with Sherrardswood's, Abby Cardall the central defender staying with her does enough to pressure Sharp into putting her cross behind the goal.
Marris is working hard across the front to make herself available for the ball coming to her right side of the area holds up well before turning and getting a ball into the six yards box near post area Cousins is in between 3 defenders the ball pinging around betwen them won;t fall favourably for the attacker as Garston get it clear of the area. Shouts for a penalty by Sherrardswood have a corner on the right the ball put in is headedc back out to taker Jade Ryan looks to carry the ball into the box, appears to be tripped but the protests are waved away.
Sherrardswood do get a penalty kick moments later as Marris breaking forwards right side closing on the area is with Garston defender Sam Roads on her shoulder, goalkeeper Jade Cook comes to close her down the pair colliding just inside the box the referee points to the spot. Up steps Cardall to take hits the penalty low through the middle, Cook gets down sharply with no adjustment needed to get behind the ball knocking it away to her right, Cardall is after the rebound trying to get her foot over the ball doesn't lifting it over the bar.
|Sherrardswood Ladies, Laurie Marris pointing to where she wants the ball delivered.|
Donovan is busy at the back for Sherrardswood, namely because she is reading the ball well getting in the right place to head away the attempted crosses lifted into the area, Trill does manage to get the ball into the area for Sharp, she tries to turn inside from the left runs straight into Donovan who tackles and clears. Sharp is almost through on goal chasing through the centre as Curtis puts the ball up to the edge of the box for her has a half yard on the Sherrardswood defence entering the box stretching for the ball prods the shot goalwards comes straight at Mansfield well placed to get down and hold onto the ball.
|Jane Hales gets up to head the ball for Garston Ladies|
Has been a hot day and although it is now cooling the referee calls for a drinks break a chance for both sides to rest take on fluids. When play resumes Sherrardswood make a double change Frankie Novelli and Rhia Rose on the pitch to attack left and right. Right from the restart Rose looks a danger the ball played on for her by Jones rolling into the area right corner Rose lunges for it sends the ball wide across the six yard box.
A free kick for Sherrardswood out on the left side 25 yards out Rose is over the ball, takes on the shot and it causes a good deal of confusion amongst the watching spectators on that side including myself as the high ball in looks to dip late and sail into the back of the net, however the ball actually dropped onto the roof of the net narrowly over. Sherrardswood are finishing the half strongly as they look to get a goal back. Have another free kick on halfway Ryan to launch it in towards the edge of the area, the ball is knocked on into the area, Sam Roads coming across on the cover for Garston gets to the ball 1st sending it away for a throw on the left. Novelli comes off for Sherrardswood with Manjinder Atwal coming on.
Ryan plays the ball down the left for Atwal who getting in behind looks to chase it down at the byline, Zecchin covers alot of ground tracking back to challenge Atwal then shield the ball out for a goal kick. Rose plays the ball on into the left channel with Marris making the run late the the half Stephanie Roads closes her down on the byline prevents the cross getting through.
Half-time Garston Ladies 1-0 Sherrardswood Ladies
An interesting 1st half both sides fairly evenly matched Garston with the better start getting themselves in front have had good possession in the wide areas have gotten the ball into the box but rarely picking out a team mate. Defending well for the large part Sherrardswood have gotten stronger as the half has gone on especially after the break for drinks and the introduction of Rose to the action. Leading 1-0 all to play for 2nd half. Almost 7:30pm when Garston get the 2nd half underway.
Attacking down the right side early on the ball into Zecchin the shot is taken early put over the bar from distance. Sherrardswood get the ball into Atwal 25 yards out looks to drive with the ball towards the area is bundled over the referee thinks there's an advantage the ball coming to Rose, looks to take players on Garston close the ball down edge of the box.Game is stretched early on 2nd half both sides going long for a spell both wanting the next goal but rushing the final ball defences on top.
|Garston Ladies captain Gemma Curtis on the ball|
Garston are starting to get more of the ball pressing Sherrardswood defence on the ball are turning play around attacking their box. A penalty shout for Garston this time goes begging as they put the ball through into the feet of Jane Hales looks to be nudged off the ball but again play is waived away. With more players available on the bench than Garston, Sherrardswood are ringing the changes Emily Gaskin, Natasha Little and Jules Briars are all on. Linda Watt is on for Curtis for Garston. Free kick wide right in a deep position, Rose to deliver aims for the far post area the ball bouncing in front of goal, runs through and out for a goal kick no one attacking it.
Hales on the drive through the middle for Garston hits the shot outside the box blocked at close range the ball is deflected behind for the corner, put in from the right side Sherrardswood head behind for a 2nd corner. Coming in again Sharp comes to meet it before the near post, connecting on the volley turns it back in across goal but to high over the crossbar. Play is stopped for another drinks break.
Garston attack straight from the resumption of play a powerful run on the ball by Trill on their left flank closing in on the byline cutting the cross back across the Sherrardswood area Duffy is on the penalty spot, can't quite get anything on the ball to turn it back towards goal. Sherrardswood have ridden out a spell of pressure from Garston now bring the ball on put into Marris wide on the right in the corner beside the area holds the ball up well before bringing in on two yards and squaring it into the area, Rose lets the ball run across her before going for the shot, slips as she does so the ball runs tamely through to Cook in the Garston goal. Novelli returns to the action for Sherrardswood with a little over a quarter hour to find an equaliser force the Final into extra-time.
|Laurie Marris holds up the ball for Sherrardswood|
Sherrardswood have a corner kick on the right, the ball whipped into the six yard box by Rose is headed clear by Watts, the counter attack is on the ball played on with Zecchin stealing through clear inside the Sherrardswood half, Mansfield comes rushing out of her area has to get to the ball 1st, Zecchin has Duffy free on her left, the keeper just gets there 1st to kick the ball high and away from danger. Needing the goal Sherrardswood have intensified the temp have Garston pushed back all their attackers are on the pitch with Cousins back on as the game goes into the final 10 minutes.
Hales back in defence does well challenging Marris then Atwal as both try to get a shot away. A chance for Sherrardswood to deliver the ball into the box a free kick on the right. Is send in by Rose to the far post area, Hales rises highest to head the ball away for Garston. The ball coming into the area up the left side finds Rose inside the area, looks to take the ball past Stephanie Roads the defender puts the challenge in blocking the shot and brings the ball out of the area.
All Sherrardswood as the minutes tick down, Garston defending for their lives, a corner is conceded on the right the ball sent long to the edge of the area left of the D, Jones comes onto it meeting it with her head drills the ball wide. A rare break late on for Garston get the ball down the other end of the pitch, Watts playing it out into space for Janine Rodgers on the right puts it down the line for Zecchin who looks to hit the shot on the turn from outside the box runs straight into Mansfield across at her near post.
|Lucy Zecchin after the ball for Garston Ladies|
Garston a pinned back inside their box Sherrardswood have a throw deep on the right Novelli lifting the ball up to Marris she wins a corner kick. Another good delivery from Rose going long aiming for Cardall at the far post is put out for a corner kick on the opposite flank Rose runs across to take, Is put in long from the left this time, Hales gets her head on the ball sending the ball high into the air, Cardall attacks it trying to knock it down into the six yard box Garston rush it away...
GOAL! ... the game is already in injury time as the cleared ball is retained by Sherrardswood played out to Rose still out on the left coming to the edge of the area left corner hits the shot hard sending it flying through the area burying it into the back of the net to cues wild celebrations as Sherrardswood get the equalising goal at the death and force extra-time. 1-1.
The floodlights come on as the extra half hour begins Sherrardswood to get us underway. Cardall defends well against Rodgers as Garston look to go long. Up the other end the ball is played over the top right of the area for Rose to attack running onto the ball hits it on the half volley the shot bouncing wide across goal.
Penalty! Sherrardswood win another penalty in extra-time attacking down the right Rose on the ball has Atwal making a run inside the area free on the left side, tries to pick her out, the ball doesn't reach her, cries for hand ball and t's given the foul committed Sherrardswood have a chance to take the lead from the spot. Cardall to step up again isn't a great penalty hit through the middle again Cook doesn't need to move gets down to claim it.
Hales is off for Garston with Curtis back on. Sharp is played through on the right by Zecchin taking the ball to the edge of the area pulls the trigger gets too much behind the ball the effort flies over the bar. The 1st period of extra-time ends with the score still 1-1
Garston get the 2nd period of extra-time underway will either side find a winning goal. Novelli with an early opportunity to have a strike on goal hits the ball on the half volley inside the Garston box fires her shot over.
GOAL! Thought Rose had scored from a free-kick in the 1st half. This time she does! A free kick is won pretty much in the middle of the Garston half. Rose over the ball takes on the shot hits the ball perfectly, plenty of power and pace behind it arrowing in on target dipping late as it flies over Cook and into the back of the net 1-2. Advantage Sherrardswood.
|Rhia Rose after the ball with both goals for Sherrardswood Ladies|
Garston's Trill plays the ball on for Sharp stealing through into the Sherrardswood box right of goal shoots a low effort coming at pace towards Trill quick reactions saving with her foot at her near post. Free kick on halfway for Garston Roads to put in the ball is headed clear by Cardall. Hales returns to the pitch for Garston with Watts coming off as they push forwards to find a goal. Marris is off for Sherrardswood for Melissa Wright as they look to defend their advantage.
GOAL! Barely a minute left to play Garston pile forwards get themselves a corner everyone bar the goalkeeper rushes to get into the area the delivery whipped in at a good height is attacked by purple shirts, Sam Roads rising highest of them all near side to header the ball into the back of the net 2-2. Roads is buried under her team mates as their is barely anything time left to restart and the Final goes to penalties.
For the 3rd time this season Sherrardswood see a League Cup game go to a penalty shootout. A lottery, keepers can do no wrong who will keep their composure longest.
Garston to take the 1st penalty kick, up steps Trill, lifts the ball high through the middle hits the crossbar, Mansfield stretching may have got a touch. MISS.
Sherrardswood's 1st penalty taker is Rose no mistake as she smashes it low to the keepers right into the goals side netting. GOAL.
Sharp is up next for Garston to take their 2nd penalty again the ball is lifted high up onto the crossbar and goes away from target. MISS.
Cardall is up next for Sherrardswood having seen 2 penalties saved in normal and extra-time lifts this one high to the keepers right and into the back of the net GOAL.
2-0 down the pressure is on Duffy to score for Garston as she takes their 3rd spot kick, no messing hit hard and low through the middle the keeper diving away to her right. GOAL.
Jones up next for Sherrardswood taking their 3rd spot kick gets it all wrong ballooning the ball wide of goal. MISS.
Penalty taker no 4 for Garston is Zecchin composed hits it low with power into the bottom right corner of the goal to level it all up at 2-2. GOAL!
4th penalty taker for Sherrardswood is Ryan goes to put the ball through the middle getting height on the ball Cook jumps and makes the save. MISS.
Curtis comes forwards to take Garston's 5th penalty plays the ball to the keepers right, Mansfield gets down sharply but the ball squirms under her and in giving Garston a 3-2 lead in the shootout. GOAL.
Wright up last for Sherrardswood, heartbreak as she sends her spot kick wide. MISS.
Garston Ladies race forwards towards Cook in celebration as they come back from 2-0 down in the penalty shootout to win it 3-2 and retain the Beds & Herts Women's League Cup. A Final that had it all late drama in the 90 minutes, even more in extra-time and a penalty shootout always a heartbreaking way to lose a Final, ecstasy if you win. Garston took the early lead but Sherrardswood came back strongly had them on the ropes, missed two penalties along the way an entertaining final.
|Garston Ladies celebrate winning the Beds & Herts Women's League Cup|
Congratulations to Garston Ladies on winning the Beds & Herts Women's League Cup today. My thanks to both sides for their help with the team details and the BHWGFL staff for their help at the ground. Enjoyed my 1st trip to AFC Kempston Rovers.