Spotlight on AFC Wimbledon Ladies – Numero 3…

‘Fergs’ in full flight – Photo @MikeyTheTowner

It’s Women’s Football Weekend so time to return to National League action. Matches have been coming thick and fast for the AFC Wimbledon ladies as Autumn heads into Winter. With cup matches filling up the schedule and inclement weather already putting paid to some fixtures, it’s been hectic for Kevin Foster and his squad – both on and off the pitch. There are seven games to get through here, so let’s get cracking…

Match Six: Enfield Town Ladies (H), W 3-1

FAWNL, Division One SE (D1SE) Colston Avenue, Carshalton

All the goals were scored in the first half of this top-half clash with the Dons moving above Enfield into fourth spot. 

Helen Ogle continued her excellent goalscoring patch, finishing off a fine run and cross from Becky Sargent to give the hosts a fifth minute lead.

Enfield were back on level terms just after the quarter hour with Lumsden putting away her first sight of goals, but Katie but Stanley restored the Dons advantage with a terrific 25-yard free-kick after Rebecca Sargent had been bundled over.

Goalkeeper Charlotte Ferguson then chalked up her first assist of the season, driving over the Enfield back line and finding Stanley best placed to make it 3-1.

In the second period ‘Fergs’ saw more action at the Wimbledon end. She was aided by defenders Kelly Highman and Rosie Russell who would both need to make goal line clearances to ensure the Dons held firm and protected their unbeaten league record.

‘Sarge’ got player of the match, while returning centre back Sarah Wentworth was awarded the best opposing player accolade by Enfield – something I’d quite like to see at Kingsmeadow.

“Great result yesterday with the squad all putting a huge effort for 90min. Looking forward to being part of the Women’s FA Cup this weekend.”

Kevin Foster, AFC Wimbledon Manager, via Twitter

Cup Match: Women’s FA Cup 2QR – Ashford Ladies FC, Kent (A) W 7-0

Charing Playing Fields, Ashford

Putting the grass in grass roots at Ashford Ladies FC…

In a sport where, even at Champions League knock out stages, some teams are beating others with double figure score lines, it shouldn’t be surprising that the qualifying rounds of the FA Women’s Cup also demonstrate some of this disparity between levels. Wimbledon – well established in the National League system – would visit Ashford Ladies who play in the Premier Division of the South East Counties Women League. Even with five key players rested the Dons had way too much for Kent’s #greenarmy.

Georgia Heasman would shine in this match causing all sorts of problems down the right flank. She set up Liz O’Callaghan inside quarter of an hour with a strong run and cross.

Three minutes later Hannah Billingham made it two, finding the top left corner from a corner routine.

Sophie Manzi got the third on 28 minutes getting onto Heasman’s through ball, riding a challenge and driving low inside the keeper’s left-hand post. Sophie would return the favour before half time playing ‘Cheesey’ in behind the defence and she made no mistake.

Young striker Charlotte Flood joined the action at the start of the second half, just missing with her first effort and seeing her second blocked by a defender. But she was added to the score sheet on 58 minutes, firing in for her first senior team goal.

Sophie Manzi thought she had made it six, but it was ruled out for offside. No VAR at this level but a small dog had run on to the pitch – not the first time this has happened at a Dons match this season. It’s not clear whether the dog was active, but apparently Sophie was. The dog would leave the field of play under its own volition. ‘Stanners’ was not required to intervene on this occasion.

Flood’s second goal arrived on 73 minutes with Heasman at the hub of its creation. And ‘Cheesey’ would continue her one-women quest for the single game assists world record, crossing for Katie Stanley to make it seven on, aptly 77 minutes.

At this point, the club tablet battery gave out, but team social media guru Karen Hardy was quick on her feet and finished the game on her mobile. The team cut her a break by not scoring any more goals.

Division One South East rivals, Enfield Town, would await in the next round…

Match Seven: Leyton Orient Women (H), W 1-0

FAWNL, Division One SE (D1SE) Colston Avenue, Carshalton

Raising money for Breast Cancer Awareness…

The Dons hosted Leyton Orient in this my first midweek evening next match; a mouth-watering 3rd versus 4th clash. It would be memorable for the Dons’ stout rear-guard action in the last twenty minutes, but more importantly for tying in a fundraising evening for Breast Cancer Awareness held in the bar.

I didn’t have the kids in tow at this one, so took the opportunity to sit with social media maestro Karen Hardy as she brought the game to life for the club’s 1,500+ Twitter followers. First job: cobble together the team sheet from the players out on the pitch. Although I’m familiar with most of the players now, one of the things that can be confusing is that a few of their squad numbers change week to week. I think midfielder Steph Mann, for example, has worn 2, 3, 10, 11 and 20 this season (and quite possibly others). Even goalkeeper ‘Fergs’ has had two numbers, although my suspicion is she prefers 21.

Georgia Heasman’s cup exploits had not been quite enough to displace any of Kevin Foster’s regular starters so Liz O’Callaghan, Rebecca Sargent, Helen Ogle and Katie Stanley would take the front four roles with Ogle as the lone striker.

The Dons started the stronger with ‘Sarge’ going closest, heading wide from Katie Stanley’s corner on the right. But Leyton came into the contest and ‘Fergs’ had to be at her best to stop Sophie Le Marchand’s shot at point-blank range.

The rain started to fall which gave the all-weather pitch a bit more zip. While the players attempted to get to grips with the greasier surface, I tried to get my head round the phrase “man coming, Rosie,” in a women’s football match.

Stanley and O’Callaghan both tried their luck from distance but didn’t trouble the keeper. ‘Sarge’ then drove in a great cross that no one gambled on and, moments later, Liz O’Callaghan saw the same outcome with her centre as it whisked off the pitch.

The memo eventually arrived on 35 minutes. Helen Ogle had been quiet as the lone striker up to this point, but she was in the right place to meet Rosie Russell’s cross from the right and loop a header over the keeper for 1-0.  Good chances were coming at a premium and improvement in the weather conditions wasn’t looking likely. So, even on a night where she was struggling to get in the game, Helen demonstrated that bit of quality to still get her goal.

Into the second half and the visitors were better. MUCH better. This turn of events may have been abetted in some way by Rebecca Sargent receiving the Dons’ second sin binning of the season. Ten minutes down to ten players in difficult conditions and the extra defensive effort would eventually start to take its toll.

In the meantime, Helen Ogle went close from a Katie Stanley dead ball delivery. Then captain ‘Stanners’ struck a clean volley but straight at the keeper.  volleyed one

Levi Chambers-Cook, playing her last match for the Dons made a brilliant last-ditch tackle in the box on Otesha Charles and, from the subsequent out-swinging corner, the visitors headed over.

‘Sarge’ returned to the fray just as more Orient subs were coming on to liven up the attack. The midfielder was straight into the action heading a Stanley cross into the keeper’s midriff.

Another Leyton effort was blazed over before Fergs needed to be at her athletic best to parry a crisp drive from inside the box.

Pressure was increasing on the Wimbledon back line, but the Orient coach cracked first, getting himself sent to the stands by the match official.

The game resumed and Ferguson was back in the thick of the action making a fine double save from Ellie Stenning to safeguard the result. The Orient coach, meanwhile, loitered behind the dugouts for the remainder.

Steph Mann was awarded player of the match for a hard working and industrious shift in midfield. Manager Kevin Foster stated at the season start she would bring a new energy and he’s been proved right. Rosie Russell, Charlotte Ferguson, Kelly Highman and Levi Chambers-Cook would have been in the POTM reckoning, demonstrating how important a strong, resilient defence is when the attackers aren’t quite firing.  

On social media ‘Talking Woso’ acknowledged that, of 71 FAWNL teams, only seven remained unbeaten in League competition: Ipswich; Barnsley; Sunderland; Burnley; Southampton; Brighouse Town, and one AFC Wimbledon. Up to third…

Match Eight: Norwich City Women (H), W 3-1

FAWNL, Division One SE (D1SE) Colston Avenue, Carshalton

Liz O’Callaghan – A brace for Wimbledon’s speedy attacker v Norwich…

League action resumed at Colston Avenue the following weekend with the visit of Norwich City.  The Canaries conjure up images of a big club that should be able to support a competitive National League side, but they have struggled to make an impression this season, while their East Anglian rivals Ipswich Town have been tearing up the division.

Both sides had early chances but Dons attacking midfielder Liz O’Callaghan opened the scoring on 31 minutes from a Katie Stanley cross. Helen Ogle had a nibble on the way, but Liz finished off.

Norwich, it turns out, have a ‘Stanners’ of their own and five minutes before the break Kathryn Stanley equalised when she drove low inside Ferguson’s right-hand post.

Undeterred, the Dons would still take a lead into the break with O’Callaghan scoring her second – an audacious lob over the keeper just three minutes later.

Our ‘Stanners’ then turned provider on 59 minutes finding Hannah Billingham in the box with a corner that Rosie Russell had done well to earn.

AFC Wimbledon saw out the last half an hour with little drama so there were opportunities to give Georgia Heasman and Charlotte Flood a good spell of game time off the bench.

“Extremely proud of the @afcw_ladies group, a tough couple weeks and to come out unbeaten shows the character of the group.”

Kevin Foster, via Twitter, 21/10/2019

Cup Match: Enfield Town LFC (A) Women’s FA Cup, W 2-1

QE Stadium, Donkey Lane EN1 3PL

Helen Ogle and Sophie Manzi – key to the AFC Wimbledon strike force…

League matches would cease for a couple of weeks, but opponents would look the same even heading into some cup treacle. A trip to Enfield in the FA Cup looked tricky with the Towners having sat just behind the Dons in Division One South East from the get-go.

Both teams traded early chances but returning striker Sophie Manzi put the Dons in front on 24 minutes.

A bit of controversy surrounded the hosts’ equalizer on 37 minutes. Ferguson managed to get enough on an Enfield free-kick delivery to divert it on to the bar, but the ball rebounded to Rachel Kosky who put it in from close range. The assistant referee’s flag went up for offside and that seemed to be that. But not so. A short consultation between ref and linesman and the goal stood.

The Dons responded well and didn’t let the decision affect them. Helen Ogle and Liz Berkeley had presentable opportunities for the Dons. At the other end Ferguson made two terrific saves.  Ogle would then hit a thunderbolt which had the keeper scrambling but whisked just past the post.

With extra time looming the Dons were then on the right end of controversy being awarded a penalty for hand ball. Sophie Manzi stepped up and converted her second. It would set up an away tie at another D1SE rival: cup-bogey-team-elect Actonians.

Cup Match: Brislington LFC (A) FAWNL Plate Competition, W 2-1

Keynsham Town AJN Stadium, Bristol Road, Keynsham BS31 2BE

Having been knocked out of the League Cup at the Determining Round stage by Actonians, the Dons now shuffled into a grass roots “Europa League” equivalent – The Plate. A longish trip west to Brislington awaited. This game had been called off once already, so in order to get it on, the venue was changed.

Kevin Foster brought in a number of players on the fringes of the first team to give them a chance to impress and they didn’t let him down. Sian Wylie, Becky McLaren-Johnson, Georgia Heasman and Charlotte Flood all slotted back in seamlessly to give the manager some future selection headaches.

And teen striker Flood it was that had the first chance. Helen Ogle was then denied by a smart stop, before Flood arrived to convert Liz O’Callaghan’s cross from the right but couldn’t get enough on her header to beat the Brislington keeper.

The Dons were getting closer. Full back Sian Wiley hit the crossbar following a short corner and then turned provider on 40’ minutes when Georgia Heasman got on to her threaded pass finishing neatly to give the Dons a half time lead.

Flood’s shot early in the second half was well saved and it looked like profligacy may cost the Dons on 57 minutes when the hosts equalised.

Dons boss Kevin Foster rang the changes bringing Katie Stanley and Sophie Manzi into the game. Fortunately for the travelling supporters, Brislington’s goal plus the subs galvanised the Dons who rediscovered their rhythm.

Hannah Billingham hooked wide from close range after Sarah Wentworth had won a header in the box. Then, on 78 minutes Stanley wove a path through midfield, played a one-two off Georgia Heasman and rifled in the winner.

Helen Ogle could have wrapped it up with a third before the end but the home sides keeper, having a great game, denied the attacker with another smart save. The Dons will be heading even further west in the next round to take on Plymouth Argyle Ladies on the 24th November.

Match: Actonians Ladies (A) Women’s FA Cup, L 1-2

Rectory Park, Ealing

Back in FA Cup action…

Following the Brislington game, it was announced on the AFC Wimbledon ladies twitter feed that Kevin Foster and his partner Kelly had delivered another big result. Emilia-Rae Whelan Foster was born on 3rd November 2019 at 12.25pm weighing 8lb5oz.

On the pitch, well, all unbeaten runs come to an end and AFC Wimbledon’s win streak ended at the very same place they were last defeated– again in a cup competition. The Dons were ejected from the Women’s FA Cup by knock-out nemeses Actonians; who’d already put paid to the Dons’ League Cup aspirations in September.

All the goals in this full-blooded, end-to-end encounter were scored by half time.  Alessandra Barreca gave the hosts the lead on 17 minutes, but Hannah Billingham responded almost immediately getting on the end of Katie Stanley’s corner and volleying in from close range.

Jess Byrne would be brightest to Meila D’Santos’s through ball, beating the offside trap, rounding the keeper and finishing at the second attempt.

The Dons pushed for an equaliser in the second period. Firstly, a goalmouth scramble went Actonians way; then Katie Stanley saw a powerful effort well saved. Rebecca Sargent could have extended the tie but was denied by the keeper, having forged her way the defence.

“We are home! 40+ hrs of labour and a perseverance to do this naturally with no drugs or gas and air I have learnt a valuable lesson! Don’t mess with @KJWhelan10 what a hero! Welcome to the world Emilia-Rae xxx”

Kevin Foster, 4/11/2019
As it stands – FAWNL, D1SE

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