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Norwich City completed a great escape this week as victories over Lowestoft Town and Luton Town ensured that they will finish outside of the bottom two in South East Division One.
We talked to Norwich goalkeeper Fiona Coombes, who admitted that things have been tough over recent weeks but is confident of better times ahead for the Norfolk club:
WSS: Well done on staying up this season, how tough has it been over the last few weeks for the team?
FC: Thank you, the past few weeks have been extremely tough for the ladies, mentally and physically. We knew what we had to do to stay up, but the results continued to go against us. It has been hard to pick ourselves up and go again, especially with the added pressure for us to get points.
WSS: With three wins in the last four matches, did the team do anything differently over those games?
FC: Scott Emmerson played a big part tactically in how we approached our final games, he changed our formation and gave clear instructions of how he wanted us to play. All of player's mind sets changed with so much riding on the final games. Every player played with so much passion, determination and grit along with pride of playing for Norwich City.
WSS: How determined were the team going to into a tough last game against a Luton side which has been in good form?
FC: Luton have always been a tough opposition and we knew they would give us a hard game, considering it was the second time they had travelled to us this season due to the first one being abandoned after 70 minutes. It was a must win for us as we needed three points to overtake Stevenage, we felt the pressure as soon as we picked up three points against Lowestoft in midweek. It was a great atmosphere as soon as we turned up to Plantation Park on Sunday, there were a lot of fans there which helped fuel our adrenaline for the game, we wanted to give them a great game to watch.
WSS: Was it nerve wracking when you were 2-1 up or were you always confident of holding on?
FC: I always get very nervous for every game I play in, and I've never felt nerves like it when we took the lead early in the second half. However, by that point in the game we were on top and playing some brilliant football, we continued to look dangerous going forward and had opportunities to extend the lead. Luton didn't settle though and changed their formation to three up top, which caused problems when they started an attack, however everyone dug deep and worked for each other to break up play. We were excellent all over the pitch, everyone knew how important it was to hold on.
WSS: You have had to play ten matches since the start of April, how difficult has it been catching up so many games?
FC: This is a typical season for us, unfortunately our pitch is known for not dealing particularly well with heavy rain downfall so we expected to be playing catch up. It worked in our favour in the end as we knew what results we had to get to stay up.
WSS: How confident are you that the team can build on this and do better next time around?
FC: I am really optimistic for next season, we have a lot of talented players who will be staying at the club and a few who will be coming back to play for us following finishing their degree. I am looking forward to pre-season already, hopefully seeing some new and old faces ready to rebuild for next year.
WSS: Just how important is it for Norwich City to keep their Premier League status?
FC: Norwich have been in this league for many seasons now, it's important for us to continue to be the highest level of football women can access within Norfolk and to give players the opportunity to play in the most competitive environment possible. We are also very grateful for the support we receive from Norwich City Football Club.
Our thanks to Fiona!
The U's finished top of the table by a margin of four points and Kevin told Women's Soccer Scene: "Our season started with a large number of last season's squad departing for pastures new, so what we achieved this season was done with a new, young and very talented group of players mixed with the experienced ones which remained with the club.
"Our first game was a huge disappointment for us, losing 2-1 to St Ives, this however proved the catalyst to go the rest of the season undefeated with just one game to go.
"Winning the treble was our target pre season but to actually achieve it wasn't easy. The Cambs County League has some very talented players and teams in it but with our mix of youth and experience we felt we had a great chance of doing something special.
"In the League Cup we faced Cambridge University in the quarter final and won 1-0 in a game that could've gone either way. We had a few players missing but our strength in depth showed and we won the game with a great goal from Lucy Gateson coupled with outstanding goalkeeping from Sarah Carroll. The semi final was against St Ives, where we gained revenge for our opening day defeat, then in the Final we overcome a very talented Netherton United side 3-0.
"It was Cambridge University again who stood before us when we clinched the League. This time, with a strong squad, we won 3-0. There were big games leading up to that though and an early win over Newmarket was a narrow one where again we were thankful to Lucy Gateson for two great strikes in a 2-1 win. The away fixtures at Netherton and again Newmarket were both tight games against strong opposition but on both occasions we ran out winners with a scoreline that flattered us. In the end, though, we won it with two games to go.
"The Junior Invitation Cup was our most routine win, overcoming Cambridge City Development 6-0 in the final with a solid, professional display with both our strikers bagging a brace each.
"Captained by one our experienced players in Emily Ingle and built on a solid foundation of only conceding nine goals all season and benefiting from 35 goals shared between our two strikers Lauren Gibson and Ebony Rule, everyone should feel rightly proud of what they have achieved."
Under the management of former first team manager Kevin Hoover and assisted by Craig Northfield, this season has been a huge success not only with the trophies won but also providing a pathway to first team football for the club's younger players wanting to progress. "Over half a dozen players from the squad have been called up and this can only bode well for ours and their futures," added Kevin.
Next season, they will be plying their trade at a higher level with new management in place. Kevin is standing down from all management duties after 12 years service to the club to move 'upstairs' and help drive the club forward as part of its ambitious committee. A new manager will be in place before pre-season.
Trials dates have been set already if anyone is interested in joining the U's next season. Simply find them on Facebook or see @CambridgeUtdWFC on Twitter for more details.
Morecambe started off the season in excellent form, starting up with a 2-1 win against Penwortham Town and going on to record victories in all of their opening seven matches of the campaign.
The title was eventually won with two matches remaining, with an unbeaten record at the time, when they defeated North Lancs & District 5-3, although Morecambe were narrowly beaten in their penultimate match.
"Mel Martin started off as manager but due to work commitments, she had to step down," explained secretary Sophie Fish, "and in her place were joint managers Nicky Clark and Ryan Greenwood. All have been equal in the success of the league with the guidance from Nick Barrett, the first team manager.
"The ladies' biggest win was away at Burnley Girls & Ladies Res, winning 8-1 with Layla Garrett scoring six goals!
"We have been stung in the league with a rule only allowing two players who have played 5+ games for the firsts to play for the reserves. This is totally fine, as we aren't there to play first team players, however the girls who step up to help the first team when short, or deserve to step up and develop, get stuck as then only two of those can play. It's punishing them for helping out their first team.
"In the end we had girls refusing to play for the first team, therefore they were struggling to field a side and some girls dropping out from playing because they weren't allowed to play - even after asking for special dispensation. It is the worst rule ever, preventing development and players - what's the point in having a reserve side? Anyway, despite this we somehow managed to remain unbeaten in all league games until winning the league. Hooray!
"Top goalscorer this season is Layla Garrett, the player that has probably progressed the most this season, even scoring seven goals in two games!"
This is the second time that St Agnes have been crowned Champions, having previously won the league in 2013-14, and they clinched the title with a game to spare with a 10-0 victory against St Breward.
St Agnes are managed by Mandy Kimmins, with Martyn Kimmins as Coach, and goalkeeper Julie Windram is the team captain. Lexi Riley is the team's top goalscorer with an impressive 43 goals to her name, including a hat-trick in the title clinching match. Debbie Duncan, Suzanne Hurrell, Mollie Dring and Zoe Arundell-Lethbridge have also got into double figures for the season.
"We are still going after fourteen years, one season of friendlies and the next 13 in the Cornwall Women's League," Mandy Kimmins told Women's Soccer Scene. "Our best achievement over the season was probably securing two wins over title favourites and new, ambitious, aiming for promotion team Helston Ladies.
"We won the league at our penultimate match but faced Bude Town in the final game of the season. Bude was our only draw of the season at home and in our last game, we went 2-0 down but pulled it around to win 4-2.
Following a players' vote and with a few players retiring or moving away, the team have not applied for promotion as the squad hasn't enough players able to commit to the extra travel etc involved in the South West Women's League."
After a few weeks down season break, St Agnes Ladies will resume training for the 2017-18 Season and ladies players (aged 16 and over) of any level of experience or none at all are welcome to contact manager Mandy Kimmins for more details on (07974) 370666 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the 2017 UEFA Women's Champions League (UWCL) final in Cardiff draws nearer, this year's attendance looks set to surpass previous finals.
Cardiff City Stadium will host European football's two best women's club teams when current champions Lyon face Paris Saint Germain on Thursday 1st June in what looks set to be a mouthwatering fixture, and a showcase for women's football.
Just over 15,000 spectators witnessed Lyon's penalty shootout win against Wolfsburg in Reggio Emilia, Italy, in the 2016 UEFA Women's Champions League Final and this year's attendance in Cardiff looks set to be even higher. With 15,000 tickets already sold and excitement building daily, the countdown to the game looks set to deliver a final surge in ticket sales.
As part of its commitment to ensure as many people as possible have an opportunity to witness a European club football final, ticket prices were kept as low as possible (Adults - £6/ Juniors - £3) along with further group booking discounts aimed at encouraging clubs and schools to feel part of Wales' biggest ever sporting event.
On the day of the UWCL Final, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) has also organised a women's and girls' National Football Festival in Cardiff. With over 1,500 female players already registered, it is the most popular female football competition ever held in Wales. Each participating club has also received a travel subsidy to encourage players from all parts of Wales to take part.
Alan Hamer, Cardiff 2017 Local Organising Committee Project Director, said: "A key part of the FAW's strategic plan is to grow the women's game - to increase participation and awareness of the player pathways.
"The UWCL Final gives us an incredible opportunity to proactively engage young women and girls and encourage them to take up football.
"The popularity of our football festival on 1st June demonstrates the positive strides being made to develop women's football in Wales. The impressive attendance at UWCL Final 2017 also shows the growing appetite for the sport and we're confident that anyone who attends the final will not only be impressed by the quality of football, but will also want to watch and play football again in the future."
Thursday 1st June also marks the opening of the UEFA Champions Festival in Cardiff Bay. The free of charge Festival, which is open to the public, has become an incredibly popular part of the UEFA Champions League experience in recent years.
This year, to encourage even more people to attend the UEFA Women's Champions League Final, the FAW has arranged free shuttle buses between the Festival and the Cardiff City Stadium for the UEFA Women's Champions League final.
With match tickets priced at just £6 adults and £3 juniors/concessions, the FAW hopes everyone has an opportunity to embrace the Cardiff 2017 experience by visiting the UEFA Champions Festival on Thursday 1st June followed by being part of an incredible atmosphere at the UWCL Final 2017.
Karen Espelund, chairwoman of the UEFA Women's Football Committee, said: "Anyone heading to the final will have an opportunity to witness two of the very best teams in women's football compete at the highest level. The atmosphere at the final is always family friendly.
"We're all excited about this year's final. Each year, the quality improves... last year's final in Italy was fantastic, but we never discuss whether last year's final was in principle, better because they get better year on year! It's a constant development.
"The UEFA Women's Champions League Final will bring an incredible atmosphere to the Cardiff City Stadium, and an opportunity for local people to see a European club final."
Tickets are currently available to purchase via www.uwclf2017.co.uk priced at £6 adults, £3 juniors and concessions.
Buckland Athletic 3 (Gough 35, Caunter 52, Butt 58)
Buckland Athletic completed a magnificent season for themselves by adding the Bristol Soccerworld Cup to their previous two trophies already won with a strong display at Bishop's Lydeard.
The Western Division Champions had too much firepower on the day for a valiant Alphington side who fell at the final hurdle in their attempts to retain the trophy.
Buckland went into the match as hot favourites but Alphington competed well and restricted them to just one chance in the opening stages, a Laura Gough shot which was comfortably saved by Ashleigh Brown. The first twenty minutes were evenly contested with Alphington going close as a long range strike from Laura Burwood dipped narrowly over the bar.
A good passing move by Buckland ended up with Abigail Meyer having a shot saved by Brown, who was again well placed to keep out a strike on the turn by Kirsty Caunter. Hayley Chamberlain dragged a shot wide from the edge of the area as Buckland strove to break down a well organised Alphington back four in which Catherine Wright excelled all match.
The breakthrough was made ten minutes before half time as Buckland broke away after clearing an Alphington free kick. Maria Warman supplied a delightful through ball for Gough to outpace Karen Buck and bear down on goal before giving Brown no chance with a confident finish for the opener.
It could have two a minute later; this time Gough was the provider as she cut the ball back from the goal line for Caunter who shot over the bar with the goal at her mercy.
Alphington responded with their best move of the game, Burwood's pass releasing Molly Dineen down the right but her cross was too strong for the oncoming Mary Murphy at the far post. Back came Buckland with Gough shrugging off two challenges as she burst into the area but Jodie Millett came to Alphington's rescue with a fine block to keep her side one behind at the interval.
It took a good tackle from Carla Staddon to prevent Murphy from getting in on goal after being played in by Kirsty Brown as Alphington threatened an equaliser early in the second half but shortly after Gough had shot wide at the other end, Chamberlain's free kick into the area was headed home by Caunter at the far post to put Buckland two ahead.
Six minutes later it was three, the impressive Natalie Warman made a good run down the left and her low cross was buried emphatically past Brown by Courtney Butt.
The two-goal blast had effectively killed off Alphington's hopes of getting back into the game and although they fought hard to try and score, they found Staddon and Gabrielle Trays in fine form in the centre of the Buckland defence.
Buckland themselves looked for more goals with Gough, twice, and Caunter producing efforts which were off target, but Alphington dug in deep to make sure they did not concede any more.
Burwood tried her luck from distance at the other end but was unable to trouble Abbi Bond in the Buckland goal. As the game went into injury time, Buckland almost crowned their win with a fourth goal as Helen Kukor's cross picked out Natalie Warman at the far post where her powerful strike brought out a brilliant diving save from Brown to keep the ball out.
Abbi Bond, Kate Hine, Natalie Warman, Carla Staddon, Courtney Butt, Maria Warman, Kirsty Caunter, Gabrielle Trays, Hayley Chamberlain, Laura Gough, Abigail Meyer. Subs: Corinne Potts, Helen Kukor, Emily Hanniford, Marika Ghiglia.
Ashleigh Brown, Abigail Harris, Karen Buck, Jodie Millett, Jen Harris, Molly Dineen, Samantha Gray, Mary Murphy, Laura Burwood, Catherine Wright, Kirsty Brown. Subs: Sophie Simpson, Lydia Mann, Jodie Smith.
(top) Laura Gough scores the opening goal
(middle) Carla Staddon makes an important tackle on Mary Murphy
(bottom) Celebration time for Buckland Athletic
Marine Academy Plymouth 1 (N.Symons 53)>
Yeovil Town Intermediate 3 (Carpenter og 24, Cornwall 73, Tewkesbury 77)
Marine Academy Plymouth 1 (N.Symons 53)
Yeovil Town Intermediate made sure of the League and Cup double as two goals in a five minute spell during the second half proved to be the difference in an entertaining Pat Sowden Cup Final against Bishop's Lydeard.
The top two in the league came face to face in a highly anticipated encounter and the game lived up to its billing with runners-up Marine Academy Plymouth determined to prove a point against Champions Yeovil.
Marine carried the game to Yeovil in the early stages of a full blooded contest but apart from Hayley Ranachan drilling a shot just wide after doing well to work herself an opening, they were unable to pierce a strong Yeovil defence.
In fact it was Yeovil who went ahead midway through the first half with their first meaningful effort on goal, albeit with a touch of good fortune. After an initial good first touch by Poppy Smith, the young winger fed Jemma Tewkesbury who unleashed a firm shot from 25 yards which crashed against the post, the rebound hitting the unfortunate Aimie Carpenter in the back before bouncing back into the net.
Ranachan again threatened at the other end with a shot which was narrowly off target but it was nearly two for Yeovil as they were denied by a great piece of goalkeeping. Terri Trowbridge met a corner with a firm downward header which was brilliantly touched onto the bar by Carpenter before the Marine defence was able to clear.
Sam Drewery had been well shackled by the Yeovil defence for much of the first half but the prolific goalscorer did very well with a run into the area which took her past two challenges before her shot was well blocked by Naomi Binding. Kate Bowden fired a 30-yard shot inches over and an inswinging free kick from Drewery just evaded Nicky Lake in front of goal as Marine finished the first half strongly but Yeovil held their lead going into the break.
Eight minutes into the second half though, Marine were back on level terms in spectacular fashion. Rebekah Rose clipped a crossfield pass out to the left for Nicola Symons who crashed an unstoppable shot over a helpless Lindsay Rogers and into the far corner of the net to level the scores.
With Rose at the heart of most things, Marine were playing some great football at this stage and they pushed hard for a second goal. Nicola Symons was a having a fine match, her goal apart, and her cut back from the goal line was laid off by Drewery for the oncoming Jodie Chubb, whose shot shaved the outside of the post.
Yeovil needed to dig in against the increasing pressure but managed to ride out the storm and reply with Hannah Eglon driving a shot just wide. They were to have a great chance to go back in front as a miskick from Chelsea Easton allowed Tewkesbury through on goal but she was left with too acute an angle after rounding Carpenter and her shot hit the side netting.
Back came Marine with Drewery shooting wide from Ranachan's pass but, pushed on by Trowbridge and Laura Wensley in midfield, Yeovil were starting to get on top and ought to have regained their lead when a Tewkesbury free kick was spilled by Carpenter but Eglon lifted her shot over the empty net.
Another free kick three minutes later was to lead to Yeovil going back in front. Tewkesbury's ball into the area was picked up by Jodi Cornwall and despite having two efforts blocked by a combination of goalkeeper and defence, Cornwall was finally able to bundle the ball in at the third attempt.
Before Marine could recover from the setback, Carpenter miscued her clearance when coming out of goal to deal with a long ball forward and this allowed Tewkesbury to walk the ball into the empty net.
Marine did not give up and tried to find a way back into the game but could not break through a determined back four. The closest they came was when Rogers, whose handling was otherwise faultless, misjudged a ball into the area and Jamey Symons headed goalwards but Becky Wakely well placed to block and avert the danger.
Yeovil were able to close the game out and give a winning send off to full back Emma Brazell, who was making her last appearance for the club she joined in 1999.
Yeovil Town Intermediate:
Lindsay Rogers, Emma Brazell, Georgia Mann, Becky Wakely, Naomi Binding, Laura Wensley, Hannah Eglon, Terri Trowbridge, Colette Martin, Jemma Tewkesbury, Poppy Smith. Subs: Jodi Cornwall, Imogen Fisher, Olivia Watts, Charlie Lilley, Phoebe Oreshko, Lucie Nurse.
Marine Academy Plymouth:
Aimie Carpenter, Chelsea Easton, Kate Bowden, Nicky Lake, Eden May, Jamey Symons, Sam Drewery, Jodie Chubb, Nicola Symons, Hayley Ranachan, Emily Eaton. Subs: Louise Chaves, Rebekah Rose, Ellie Bishop, Jade Bryan, Hannah Prisk, Jade Beeny.
(top) Nicola Symons takes on Emma Brazell
(middle) Rebekah Rose tries to escape the attentions of Imogen Fisher
(bottom) Yeovil Town Intermediate with the trophy
Queen's Park Rangers Development 3 AFC Phoenix 2
The last match of the GLWFL Finals day saw the top two from the Premier Division battle for the John Greenacre Memorial Trophy.
AFC Phoenix had edged the league battle whilst QPR Development came into the match as Trophy holders. As expected, this was a high quality contest settled in the 90th minute in favour of QPR with an Emily Hill goal for a 3-2 win.
QPR troubled the Phoenix defence all afternoon with crosses and set pieces and it was an early corner which gave them the lead, Nancy Gilmartin's flick carrying just over the line before being cleared. The lead was doubled on 16 minutes when a free kick was helped back into the goalmouth and Kristal Clarke rose highest to head the ball home.
Phoenix's response was quick and worthy of Champions. Player of the match Elizabeth Wicks took the ball through the heart of the QPR defence before shooting. Keeper Harriet Whitaker did well to parry the low strike but Saskia Philp was on hand to turn in the loose ball.
Phoenix levelled just after the half hour. Brittany Saylor released Christy Haragan down the left and her cross went met on the volley by Philp 15 yards from goal, the ball flying high beyond Whitaker for a superb goal.
QPR nearly retook the lead before the break, Erin Pope guiding a header just wide from a right wing corner but the match remained evenly poised. Phoenix went agonisingly close to going in front on two occasions early in the second half. Both chances fell to Saylor arriving in the box from midfield, the first a header inches wide, the second a snap volley which grazed the upright with Whitaker beaten.
However, QPR were always dangerous themselves, sending several crosses through the Phoenix area with no one able to apply the finishing touch. Haragan had a great chance to win the tie for Phoenix when Saylor's persistence saw her free in front of goal, but an awkward bounce saw the shot fly high over the bar. Just when it seemed that a penalty shootout would be necessary to divide two excellent teams, Hill found the solution, shooting low past Phoenix keeper Marie Louis when sent clear on the right side to spark lengthy celebrations.
As always, GLWFL Finals day was showcase of all the best that grassroots football in the capital has to offer. Superbly organised with an excellent venue and very informative programme, the day represented the rich cultural diversity of the teams and the huge commitment of players, coaching staff and league organisers.
Harriet Whitaker, Emily Hill, Nancy Gilmartin, Ailish Straver, Erin Pope, Paige Laider, Chloe Sampson, Sophia Amanor, Kristal Clarke, Melanie Hall, Rebecca Fisher. Subs: Natasha Hammond, Georgia Allen, Beth Smith, Gillian Kasirye, Jessica Painter.
Marie Louis, Catherine Ennis, Gabriella Romero, Michealla Williams, Zoe Bergeal, Elizabeth Wicks, Christy Haragan, Zoe Elmore, Saskia Philp, Brittany Saylor, Lucy Monkman. Subs: Katharine Mamy, Courtney Gallagher, Olivia Bennett, Elizabeth Kerins, Elizabeth Donnelly.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Melanie Hall hurdles a challenge from Michaela Williams
(middle) Elizabeth Donnelly tries to get past Nancy Gilmartin
(bottom) Celebration time for QPR Development
Ashford Town (Middx) 3 Battersea & Hammersmith 2
Ashford Town (Middx) added the GLWFL Trophy to their Division Two South title by staging a thrilling comeback win over Battersea & Hammersmith in the second match of Finals day.
Trailing to two early goals from the Division Two North runners up, Ashford pulled one back before the break before turning the tie around by midway through the second period.
Battersea started the stronger and had gone close before Anty Cole headed home a half cleared corner on 13 minutes. Ashford skipper Vicky James had been inches wide from 30 yards but Battersea doubled their lead with a sublime piece of skill from Gisella Cuasnicu , flicking the ball over a defender before driving a half volley past Lauren Restel on 16 minutes.
Ashford responded in champion style, player of the match Lavana Neufville, heading home a James corner on 24 minutes, the scorer then nearly notching a second with a volley from a left wing cross. Battersea continued to threaten however, with Cuasnicu, then Chiara Bellodi going very close to adding a third before the break.
Neufville, with a neat finish past advancing keeper Scotty Murray, gave Ashford the perfect start to the second half on 47 minutes. At the other end, Cuasnicu brought a fine save from Restel, turning away a low shot at full stretch on the hour. It was Beth Sheehan who found the winning goal on 72 minutes, breaking down the right before lofting a shot over Murray from the tightest of angles.
Battersea & Hammersmith were still finding plenty of chances, Rachel Brown bring denied by a superb tackle by Tyra Banks on 74 minutes. Neufville could have settled the match and completed her hat-trick but fired over the bar when through on goal in the final minutes, but Ashford saw out added time in some comfort for a hard earned victory.
Battersea & Hammersmith lost just once in the league and finished runners-up and now suffered a similar fate in the Trophy despite a very good effort, especially as they had not played since early April. Ashford eventually found the way to overcome worthy opposition to conclude a prolific season.
Ashford Town (Middx):
Lauren Restel, Jess Boyd, Nicole Jacobs, Laura Huse, Tyra Banks, Charmaine Benham, Samara Phillips, Vicky James, Holly Isaacs, Beth Sheehan, Lavana Neufville. Subs: Lauren Richardson, Amy O'Sullivan, Chloe Dalrymple.
Battersea & Hammersmith:
Scotty Murray, Holly Newton, Chelsea Osinchuk, Lumiere Chieh, Tara Dyerson, Ange McPhee, Kat Jaques, Rosanne Ellis, Gisella Cuasnicu, Anty Cole, Tayla MacPherson. Subs: Rachel Brown, Kathryn Riley, Chiara Bellodi, Francine Goncalves, Florrie Maxwell.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Chiara Bellodi holds off Laura Huse
(middle) Holly Newton battles with Holly Isaacs
(bottom) Ashford Town (Middx) pose with the trophy
(Academicals won 4-3 on penalties)>
London Academicals 2 AFC Stoke Newington 2
(Academicals won 4-3 on penalties)
The opening match of the Greater London Women's League Finals day at Hampton & Richmond Borough's Beveree Stadium saw London Academicals, runners-up in Division Three South, edging out Division Three North champions AFC Stoke Newington after a penalty shootout to lift the Sue Sharples Memorial Trophy.
Accies, in their first season, created primarily as a club for graduates of various universities in the capital to continue playing, were twice behind to very competitive AFC Stoke team. In fact, they started the better, forcing three fine saves from Stoke keeper Alice Nutman in the opening two minutes, from efforts by skipper Diede Fennema and player of the match Ellie Lock on two occasions.
AFC Stoke took the lead on 14 minutes when Ruby Marlow ran clear to finish past Ffion Roberts. Nutman did well to turn away a shot by Shannon Chell but AFC Stoke nearly doubled their lead when, from a corner, Aneequa Presspod had a shot cleared off the line by Abi Cartwright.
The equaliser came just after the half hour. Lock, 25 yards from goal, placed a powerful lofted shot beyond Nutman. Tara Mathias, who had a fine first half, then provided another perfect right wing cross for Lock to fire a shot which clipped the top of the bar.
Stoke Newington started the second half well, pinning Accies back in their own half. However, Fennema was always a threat on the counter, having one effort cleared off the line and forcing another good save from Nutman. Stoke Newington retook the lead on 78 minutes when defensive hesitation let in Marlow for her second and it seemed the trophy was headed north.
Accies had other ideas, pressed forward and when Fennema had a shot pushed away on 83 minutes, Lock was on hand to force the ball home. Despite the best efforts of both teams, the scores remained level at the final whistle and penalties would settle the destination of the trophy.
Nutman saved the first Academicals spot kick, but Roberts topped this by stopping the third and crucially the fifth AFC Stoke effort for a London Academicals win.
The match was played in an exemplary spirit throughout and both teams did the league and themselves proud. AFC Stoke Newington had the consolation of receiving their league winners medals but London Academicals celebrated winning the prestigious Sue Sharples trophy.
Ffion Roberts, Clara Ross-Benham, Emily Sprake, Becky Gray, Abi Cartwight, Rebecca Fickling, Elliie Lock, Tara Mathias, Fareeha Khan, Diede Fennema, Shannon Chell. Subs: Fiona Figueroa, Hannah Sargeant, Iona O'Brien, Judi McCulloch, Laura Avila Egido.
AFC Stoke Newington:
Alice Nutman, Rose Sharples, Chelsie Osborne, Annie Quartey, Eve Orange, Katee Hui, Aneequa Presspod, Ciara Monahan, Chloe Kraemer, Ruby Marlow, Stedika Perkins. Subs: Violet Williams, Shelly Dawson, Oluwakemi Fagbohun.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Oluwakemi Fagbohun tries to hold off Clara Ross-Benham
(middle) Eve Orange slides in to challenge Diede Fennema
(bottom) London Academicals with the trophy
The final match of the season was played in the Southern Division on Sunday and it resulted in a 6-1 victory for C & K Basildon against title winners Tottenham Hotspur. Therese Addison, Amy Nash, Zoe Rushen, Sophie Rhodes, Paige Wakefield and Lacie Winsor-Claydon all scored a goal apiece for C & K.
Bristol City produced a powerful first half display to beat Arsenal 4-0 in the FA WSL Development League Cup Final at St George's Park and lift the trophy for the first time. All four goals came in the first half, a long range strike from Aimee Palmer giving City a tenth minute lead and Katie Jones headed in the second from a corner midway through the first half. Paige Sawyer further extended their lead a minute later when she finished off a good move and Lauren Hemp drilled a 20-yard shot home for the fourth on the stroke of half time.
Liverpool meanwhile captured the Northern Division title when they defeated Durham Women 4-1. A point would have sufficed for the Reds to move above Birmingham City and be crowned as Champions but they suffered an early setback when the Wildcats took a fourth minute lead through Anna Young, which they held until half time. Cassia Pike levelled the scores early in the second half and she then netted her second to put them ahead, before Lizzie Earle and Meg Taylor went on to add further goals and crown the victory for Liverpool.
Anna Signeul has named a 20-player squad for a double header of challenge matches against Romania and Sweden with three more expected to be named in due course.
A number of experienced players have returned to the squad after missing out on April's match against Belgium through injury with players such as Jenny Beattie, Rachel Corsie, Joanne Love and Caroline Weir back involved.
Erin Cuthbert is also named having captained Scotland Under-19s to the European Championships which will take place in August.
Cuthbert signed for Chelsea at the end of last year and on Sunday scored two goals in a 7-0 win over Sunderland.
Kirsty Smith and Rachel McLauchlan are also included fresh from helping Hibernian to a 4-1 win over Celtic to lift the SWPL Cup for the second successive year with both defenders hitting the back of the net.
If Leanne Crichton makes an appearance in one of the two games, she will reach 50 appearances for her country.
Lizzie Arnot has been ruled out of the two games with an ACL injury.
The two matches will give the players one last chance to impress ahead of the SWNT Euro 2017 squad announcement in June.
The first match of the double header will take place the night before Scotland's match against England on Friday 9th June and tickets will be priced £5 for adults and £2 for concessions, with entry free for SSC members and the match will not be broadcast live.
They will then travel to Sweden to take on the sixth best team in the world on Tuesday 13th June.
The following month Scotland will play Republic of Ireland on Friday 7th July with the venue and kick off time still to be confirmed.
Next Gen head coach Marieanne Spacey has selected her England Under-23 squad for the annual Nordic Tournament which takes place in Norway next month.
SSE Women's FA Cup Finalists Birmingham City provide eight of the 20-strong squad. Cup winners Manchester City will be represented by Melissa Lawley and Keira Walsh, who was named player of the match at Wembley.
Everton duo Gabby George and Claudia Walker are also included after helping the Toffees win the FA WSL 2 Spring Series.
The Young Lionesses will take on Sweden (on Tuesday 6th June), USA (Friday 9th June) and the host nation (Monday 12th June) in the round-robin competition.
England Under-23 squad:
South East Division One
Norwich City completed a remarkable escape from the bottom two and are guaranteed Premier League football again next season after they won 2-1 against Luton Town in their final match. The Canaries needed to win both of their final two matches to stand any chance of moving out of the bottom two at the expense of Stevenage Ladies and after defeating Lowestoft Town in midweek, two goals early in the second half from Ebony Wiseman gave them the result and the points they needed against fifth placed Luton, whose reply came from Jess McKay.
South West Division One
Plymouth Argyle have had an excellent season which has seen them finish in second place in the table, having won every match they have played except those against Champions Chichester City. They rounded off their campaign with a 6-0 victory away to Basingstoke Town, which takes them past the 100-goal mark for the season. Amber Pollock hit a hat-trick for Argyle and she was joined on the scoresheet by Becky Dandridge, Zoe Cunningham and Jessie Boston.
Brent Hills, head of the FA's women's elite performance unit, is to leave the Football Association after 15 years at the organisation.
Hills, who has been overseeing the elite women's pathway, was previously assistant coach to former England Women's boss Hope Powell, winning a silver medal at the 2009 UEFA Women's Euros.
He worked across more than 250 internationals including two World Cups and three Euros and he was part of the Team GB coaching staff at London 2012.
Hills took over as interim manager of the England Women's team in September 2013, guiding them to four wins out of four in their 2015 World Cup qualifying camp, before Mark Sampson was appointed on a permanent basis.
He was then named head of The FA's women's elite performance unit and under his leadership the programme of youth international teams has been doubled and there has been a comprehensive restructure of the elite talent pathway, with the introduction of new Regional Talent Clubs.
Hills spent a decade as the head coach of the England Women's U23 team and spent many years working in FA Coach Education, from the UEFA A Licence down.
Hills said: "I have been most fortunate to have worked in women's and girls' international football for 15 years.
"As well as all the wonderful and challenging players, during that time I have also worked with many staff I consider to be real experts in their field, and I have gained so much from them in terms of my own learning.
"As well as the many current expert members of staff, those former staff include Hope Powell, Dawn Scott, Dick Bate, John Peacock, Steve Rutter, John Allpress, John McDermott, and many others besides.
"With continued leadership, support and investment from The FA, the future of women's football in England looks increasingly bright and I fully intend to stay involved in some capacity."
FA technical director Dan Ashworth said: "On behalf of everyone at The FA, I'd like to thank Brent for his 15 years of service.
"Brent has worked in many roles and capacities during his time at The FA, from coaching to development. Women's football has improved massively in the past 10 years and Brent is one of the main reasons this has happened.
"His lifelong commitment to the game has been incredible and I'd like to thank him for his hard work and dedication and wish him the very best for the future."
Celtic 1 (Littlejohn 6)>
Hibernian 4 (Smith 5, Graham 36, McLauchlan 47, Small 78)
Celtic 1 (Littlejohn 6)
Hibernian retained the Scottish Women's Premier League Cup after a 4-1 victory over Celtic in the Final at Broadwood Stadium.
The teams had met in midweek in the league with Hibs winning 2-1 on that occasion and within five minutes of the start, they had gone ahead. After receiving the ball on the left from Siobhan Hunter, Kirsty Smith cut inside before unleashing a shot which sailed over Megan Cunningham and into the net.
Hibs' joy only lasted for a minute though, Cailin Michie misjudged her clearance and this allowed in Ruesha Littlejohn and she finished clinically with a left foot shot into the far corner to bring Celtic back on level terms.
Katie Turner twice went close to putting Hibernian back in front, first with a shot on the turn which hit the side netting and then getting in behind the Celtic defence before her shot brought out a fine save from Cunningham. Celtic responded with a Littlejohn effort which flew straight at Jenna Fife but a minute later, Hibs did restore their lead.
After a scramble in the Celtic area, the defence were unable to clear and the ball was touched on by Chelsea Cornet for Lucy Graham to tuck the ball home from eight yards and put the holders in front once again.
Celtic almost hit back again as a cross was not dealt with by the Hibs defence and Natalie Ross fired the loose ball goalwards, but Michie was well positioned to clear from in front of goal.
Hibs took their lead into the break but within two minutes of the restart, they put themselves in a very strong position. Turner pounced on a loose ball in the area and crossed for Rachel McLauchlan to sidefoot home on the volley from six yards.
Celtic were now committed to attack in an attempt to get themselves back into the game and almost grabbed themselves a lifeline when Kelly Clark struck the post direct from a corner, but Hibs always looked dangerous on the counter attack and it took a fine tackle from Courtney Whyte to prevent McLauchlan from getting in on goal once again.
The victory was wrapped up with twelve minutes remaining as Hibs netted their fourth. Lia Tweedie tricked her way to the goal line after receiving the ball from a throw and although Abigail Harrison's initial shot was charged down, Rachael Small latched onto the rebound and her shot, which took a deflection, could not be kept out by Cunningham.
Harrison fired over the bar as Hibs looked for a fifth and there was no way back for Celtic now, meaning they could celebrate keeping their hands on the Cup and lifting their third major trophy in 12 months.
Jenna Fife, Siobhan Hunter, Cailin Michie (sub Shannon Leishman 90mins), Kirsty Smith, Rachel McLauchlan, Lucy Graham, Katie Turner (sub Lia Tweedie 64mins), Chelsea Cornet (sub Amy Gallacher 77mins), Abigail Harrison (sub Joelle Murray 89mins), Rachael Small, Emma Brownlie. Subs: Lisa Robertson, Hannah Reid.
Megan Cunningham, Natalie Ross, Jamie Lee Napier, Sarah Crilly (sub Kirsty Howat 75mins), Kerry Montgomery, Courtney Whyte, Suzanne Mulvey (sub Sarah Ewens 70mins), Kelly Clark, Jaclyn Poucel (sub Heather Richards 64mins), Ruesha Littlejohn, Darcy McFarlane (sub Mairead Fulton 75mins). Subs not used: Ellis Dalgliesh, Kiera Gibson, Georgie Rafferty.
Liverpool's lead at the top of the WSL 1 table was checked as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Bristol City on Saturday night.
The Reds went into the game in fine goalscoring form but found it difficult to break down the home defence who stood firm against their free scoring opponents. Natasha Harding went close with a header which was well saved by Caitlin Leach but with nine minutes remaining, Liverpool made the breakthrough when Katie Zelem converted Shanice van de Sanden's low cross. City then hit back with Chloe Arthur and Claire Emslie forcing good saves from Siobhan Chamberlain before Lily Agg earned them a share of the spoils with a looping header from Emslie's cross.
Chelsea continue to head the chasing teams and are four points behind, with two games in hand, after powering to a 7-0 victory away to Sunderland. After Gemma Davison had missed an early penalty, Erin Cuthbert opened the scoring just after the quarter hour before Chelsea added four more in a fourteen minute spell. Karen Carney made it two and she was joined on the scoresheet by Maren Mjelde and Ramona Bachmann, before Cuthbert netted her second on the stroke of half time. Sunderland tightened up after the break and did not concede again until the final fifteen minutes, when substitute Fran Kirby bagged a late brace to complete the scoring.
Manchester City have the same number of points from the same number of games as Chelsea, following their 5-1 win against Yeovil Town. An own goal from Ann Marie Heatherson put them ahead with ten minutes on the clock and Jill Scott added a second shortly afterwards. Yeovil brought themselves back into the game when Lucy Quinn pulled a goal back but the two-goal advantage was restored before half time through Jane Ross. Just after the hour, Ross netted her second when following up after Steph Houghton had headed against the post and Kosovare Asllani bundled home the fifth six minutes later. Yeovil were denied a late consolation goal when Sarah Wiltshire's penalty was saved by Ellie Roebuck.
Arsenal had kicked off the weekend by defeating Birmingham City 4-2 at The Hive. It was the Blues who got off to a fantastic start when Rachel Williams headed them in front in the opening minute and both teams struck the woodwork before the Gunners got themselves back on terms just before half time through Heather O'Reilly. Danielle van de Donk gave Arsenal the lead for the first time after the break but it lasted for just three minutes, Williams scoring her second. It was substitute Louise Quinn who was to be the difference between the two sides as she scored twice in the final twelve minutes to crown the win for her team.
Everton clinched the WSL 2 Spring Series title in style when they won 4-0 against London Bees.
Needing a point going into the game, there was a scare early on when Sophie Fogarty hit the bar for the Bees but the Toffees went on to open the scoring via a deflected shot from Mollie Green and Michelle Hinnigan headed in the second. Claudia Walker extended Everton's lead from the penalty spot midway through the second half and the leading scorer rounded off her side's day by drilling home a 20-yard shot in injury time.
Doncaster Rovers Belles have taken the runners-up spot after also winning 4-0 at Oxford Utd. Christie Murray finished off a good move to give the Belles the lead and Kirsty Hanson lobbed home the second on the stroke of half time. Sophie Barker made it three early in the second half, with Rebecca Rayner completing the victory late on.
Millwall Lionesses complete the top three following their 2-1 success away to Watford on Saturday. After a goalless first half, Billie Brooks headed Millwall in front but Watford battled back strongly and equalised through Merrick Will with fifteen minutes remaining. Olesha Charles then hit the post for Watford but it was Millwall who were to have the final say and Ashlee Hincks grabbed a last minute winner to ensure that the Lionesses ended their season with five straight wins.
Durham Women had started the day in second place and looked to be on course for runners-up before a stunning comeback from Aston Villa gave them a 5-1 victory. It was Villa who took the lead through a Jade Richards goal but Durham replied with a Zoe Ness hat-trick which put them in front at the break. Beth Hepple then made it 4-1 from the penalty spot, with Richards heading in her second to give Villa hope. With six minutes remaining, Lucy Shepherd pulled another one back and Maddy Cusack equalised but Villa were not finished there - substitute Alys Hinchcliffe netted an injury time winner to round off a remarkable recovery and secure a result which means that Villa finish above the Wildcats in fourth.
Brighton & Hove Albion meanwhile ended their campaign on a winning note, beating Sheffield FC 3-1 at the Amex Stadium. Kate Natkiel scored the opening goal for the Seagulls midway through the first half and a Kenedy Owen own goal doubled their advantage on the half hour. Alessia Russo sealed the points with a late long range strike, before Carla Ward netted a late consolation from the penalty spot for Sheffield.
Milton Keynes Dons claimed the runners-up position in South East Division One this week with two victories over their main rivals for the spot, Cambridge Utd.
We talked to MK defender Leanna Doyle, who was very pleased with the team's achievement this season and looking forward to what she feels is a very bright future at the club:
WSS: Well done on finishing as runners-up, are you happy with second place or disappointed it couldn't be better?
LD: This season has been very successful and a second place finish with the highest points tally we have ever had has been a massive achievement.
WSS: You had to do it the hard way by playing rivals Cambridge Utd twice in a week, how well did the team play to win both games?
LD: We played Cambridge twice this week, coming out as winner both times. The first one at Stadium MK was a fantastic occasion and one we rose to. We played the best we had all season and a sense of how good this team could go on to be was being realised. A great 4-1 win was followed by a professional 2-0 victory on the weekend - there were some tired legs from playing three times in a week but we worked hard and clinched another deserved victory.
WSS: Overall, has the team improved and progressed over the course of the season?
LD: Overall I believe the team is progressing week in week out and with the manager James Honeyman's football philosophy being imbedded, I feel the team will continue to develop and get stronger. There are a lot of talented young girls coming through the youth teams, which are helping to boost our current experienced team.
WSS: What would you say have been the highlights of your season?
LD: The biggest highlight is definitely beating Cambridge United at Stadium MK. We had a large crowd, who got behind us the whole way and helped us secure a fantastic 4-1 victory.
WSS: Have there been any unsung heroes in the team this season, players who have played well every week but don't receive the credit they deserve?
LD: There has been a lot of great consistent performance throughout the season including Hannah Barrett, Vicky Holland and Charley Clarke to name a few. But for me a player that is always consistent and does her job without the shining recognition is our full back Sammy Gillings. She is always reliable and has put some tremendous performances in this year. I also believe she has played every game of what has been a long season.
WSS: Do you feel confident that you are ready to go one better next season?
LD: As I have already mentioned, I believe the team is getting stronger every week and I have all the confidence we will go on to progress and I think we could challenge for the title next year.
WSS: MK Dons have improved year on year and this is the club's highest ever finishing position, how much potential to do you think there is at the club to keep this going in the future?
LD: The potential at MK Dons is huge and I'm very excited to be part of it. I think promotion is imminent in the next couple of years and with the brilliant support we are getting from the club, I think the future is very bright for MK Dons ladies.
Our thanks to Leanna!
Only a was point needed to claim the title, with FC United of Manchester three points adrift of them coming into the final game but with a better goal difference.
However, the league's top goalscorer Sophie Perry was intent on the trophy being on Merseyside and she fired four goals to bring her total of the season to an outstanding 50 goals. With goals also from Alicia Hardacre (2) and Sheree Thompson, the party began in earnest in what has been a remarkable rise for the Merseyside club.
Two promotions in three years now sees Merseyrail Bootle into Step W3 of the Women's football pyramid and this club has further ambitions to continue.
Manager Dave Miley was full of pride for his team's exploits this season, saying: "I'm so happy for everyone involved with the club. It's great to see all the preparation, work, plans and organisation come to fruition.
"We have worked so hard this season - the players have been magnificent. We had a little blip in January, mainly due to games being called off but they didn't complain and their determination is what makes them winners."
Next season, the ladies will compete in the Premier Division and their home games will be on a Sunday at Bootle FC.
Club captain Gemma Lancaster commented: "I am delighted with what we have achieved. Hard work and perseverance goes a long way. I am immensely proud of every girl that's dedicated themselves to the club this season.
"A special mention goes to our coaches; they pushed and motivated us to perform at a high quality and devoted a vast amount of time to help us get over the line to become champions this season."
Team captain Kaisha Sohl, who joined the club last summer, added: "Words can't describe what it means to me and how happy I am with what we have achieved. It hasn't been an easy season but I am delighted that all of the hard work has paid off.
"I am so proud of every one of the girls and coaching staff for their ongoing commitment and hard work, which is the reason we ended the season as champions. It has been an absolute pleasure playing for and with them all for my first season at Merseyrail Bootle."
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