Momentum Building: AFC Wimbledon Ladies, Winter 2021/22

We’re back (sort of) and focusing on the excellent AFC Wimbledon Ladies. D2B has had to become more, er, sporadic these days. Sometimes the ‘day job’ crashes in and turns things on their head. Hey-ho… Anyhoo, we didn’t want any more grass growing beneath our feet before updating on the progress of Kevin Fosters’ squad – particularly given that they’ve only lost once since the end of last September..! This post is a longer draft of a an article posted in the Jan/Feb issue of the WDSA Newsletter. Produced by Rob Smith, the newsletter focuses on all facets of AFC Wimbledon and has been in publication for over thirty years. It’s collated and distributed worldwide from Rob’s home in Australia...

Following a three-game streak towards the back end of September that saw the Dons beat Stevenage (9-1), QPR (5-2) and Kent Football United (3-0), the team started to fall behind their main rivals in Division One South East of the FA Women’s National League. But if you’re a passing Womble reading this, fear not, it was largely due to commitments in several cup competitions…

Vitality FA Women’s Cup

Hot-shot Ashley Hincks scores for the Dons at Plough Lane… (Photo: Glyn Roberts, @rabidbarfly)

So we’ll start with the FA Cup where AFC Wimbledon entered at the 3rd Qualifying Round stage. You may not have heard of Kelly Highman, but keep her name in the back of your mind for any future Womble-related quizzes on Zoom.

Not only is Kelly a very effective, consistent and experienced centre back for the team, but she now occupies a unique place in our club history as the first goal scorer for the Ladies’ set-up back at Plough Lane.

Kelly got the ball rolling with some neat control and a close range finish against Walton Casuals in front of 1,404 supporters. The Dons would wind up 7-1 winners with Ashlee Hincks securing a hat-trick, Rebecca “Chewy” Carter bagging a brace and Megan Stow half-volleying in from the edge of the penalty box. You can view the goals from that match if you click on this link

Megan Stow in action at Plough Lane versus Walton Casuals…

Wimbledon dispatched the Millwall Lionesses in the next round 2-0 with late goals from Katie Stanley and Emily Donovan, before travelling to divisional rivals Hashtag United – one of two Essex clubs setting the pace in the league.

A hard fought encounter at Park Lane looked to be heading for extra time and penalties when Ashlee Hincks stepped up to convert the only goal of the game from a stoppage time free-kick that the keeper should really have saved. Check out the winning goal by clicking this link

Ipswich town would be the visitors to Plough Lane for R3 with the possible reward of a Women’s Super League team in the next round. The Tractor Girls had been tearing it up in the Southern Premier Division (one level up from AFCW) so arrived as hot favourites.

In front of a crowd of around 400 the Dons battled well and had some promising moments, but were ultimately eliminated on the back of two Natasha Thomas strikes, one in each half.

Other Cups

Midfielder Megan Stow has eight goals for the Dons this season. She doesn’t do tap-ins… (Photo: Glyn Roberts, @rabidbarfly)

At the time of writing Kevin Foster’s Dons side are still in the FAWNL ‘Plate’ (a kind of parallel competition for those teams eliminated during the Determining Round of the League Cup).

Back in October they travelled up to D1SE rival Norwich City and got themselves a three-goal lead by the break with Megan Stow scoring either side of Ashlee Hincks’ 36th minute strike.

“Chewy” Carter was subbed off with a knock around the half hour mark but her replacement, Katie Stanley, completed a 4-0 rout with her goal eight minutes from the end.

Their reward was a tie with Chesham United in the next round, a club at the same level as Wimbledon – but in the South West section. It was the team’s second fixture at Plough Lane and all seemed to be going swimmingly for 75 minutes.

Megan Stow robbed a defender in the 10th minute and thumped a low 25-yarder drive past the keeper. Rebecca Sargent headed in Hincks’ 51st minute corner and Katie Stanley finished off a well-worked move just after the hour.

But Gemma Fraser conjured up a 30-yard firecracker in the 79th minute and Chesham tails were up. Anneka Nuttall found the keeper’s top-left corner just two minutes later and now it really was game on. Mercifully for the home fans the Dons held on to squeak a 3-2 win. There were some really good goals in this one. You can see them by clicking this link

Another South West side, Portishead, awaited the Dons in the next round. Young defender Abby Delves made her first start for the senior team (her debut was as a sub versus Chesham) with several other U23 players on the bench.

Alanna Torrington’s wonder strike on the half hour gave the hosts a half time lead but Rebecca Sargent equalised for Wimbledon with 13 minutes left.

The Dons laboured to get a winner before an additional 30 minutes was needed, but to no avail.

The ‘Football Gods’ are not without a sense of humour, though. Megan Stow scored 1 minute into extra time! The Dons’ quest to see out the remaining 29 minutes was aided by Chelsea Heal’s red card reducing Portishead to 10 players and the team got back on the bus home with a 2-1 victory. A trip to Southern Premier side Portsmouth is scheduled for the 6th February, that’s a very tough proposition…

Dons boss Kevin Foster reflects on an extra time win at Portishead in the Plate…

Before we finally get to a league round-up there is the ‘small’ matter of Wimbledon knocking Tier 3 side London Bees out of the County Cup.

Ashlee Hincks had the ball in the net inside 10 minutes, turning provider eight minutes later for centre back Sarah Wentworth to nod home at the near post. When Hincks converted a trademark free-kick on half time from around 30-yards the game was up for a side one level above the Wombles.

Jade Bell got one back for the Bees in second half stoppage time but a 3-1 win earned the Dons a home tie in the next round against Ashford Town (Middlesex). You can view highlights of the game by clicking this link

FAWNL, Division One South East

“Chewy” Carter puts Wimbledon ahead at Colston Avenue versus Cambridge City… (Photo: Glyn Roberts, @rabidbarfly)

So to the league. Wimbledon have played six league games since October, drawing 0-0 with perennial nemesis Actonians and then holding promotion pacesetter Billericay Town 0-0 at Plough Lane, which was a better game than the score line suggests – and included a fine penalty save from Dons keeper Faye Baker. Highlights can be found by clicking this link

The following weekend the Ladies travelled to Enfield Town and forged themselves a two-goal lead by the break, courtesy of a Hincks penalty and then Stow’s ‘was-it-a-cross-or-was-it-a-shot?’

The hosts were better in the second period and TV, er, celebrity (with a small ‘c’) Mollie Kmita got one back in the 69th minute. Fosters’ Dons squad have a good blend of experience and resilience, though, and these characteristics were in full effect as they held out for a 2-1 victory.

They made it back-to-back wins the following Wednesday, beating London Seaward 2-0.

Ashlee Hincks slotted a 16th minute penalty and then doubled her tally three minutes into the second half from Hannah Billingham’s cross.

And three road games in eight days were completed with a terrific 2-1 victory over league leaders Hashtag United.

Hincks gave Wimbledon a first half lead with a low, long range effort that the keeper spilled in the 27th minute. Substitute Rebecca Carter arrived in the 62nd minute and had extended the Dons lead by the 63rd with a good finish following another keeping error. Sasha Adamson got one back for the hosts with 12 minutes left but the Essex side couldn’t force an equaliser.

“After an intense week I’m so happy to say that we came away with maximum points. I’m so proud of all the girls for the fight in every game, and the determination to see every game through to the last minute, that feeling at the end of the week was incredible – the reason we all play football.”

Hannah Billingham, AFC Wimbledon Captain, via match day programme

A week’s ‘rest’ followed before the arrival of Cambridge City to Colston Avenue – a venue change due to fixture congestion at Plough Lane.

“Chewy” Carter put the Dons in front inside seven minutes with an angled shot that cannoned of the cross bar on its way in. Hincks made it two with a sumptuous 35-yard free-kick and the Dons number nine scored again ten minutes later with a shot that Sarah Hudson will feel she should have saved.

There would be nothing the City stopper could do about Katie Stanley’s curling 25-yarder just past the half hour, however.

Hincks then sealed her hat-trick on the stroke of half time, running through the right-wing channel and smashing the ball into the keeper’s top right-hand corner for her 24th goal of the campaign to date. You can view all the goals by clicking on this link

As it stands – Division One South East.

That 5-0 result took the Wombelles’ win streak to four and pushed them up to 3rd in the D1SE table at the time of writing. They also have a couple of games in hand on the league leaders…

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You can visit the Wimbledon Downunder Supporters Association (WDSA) by clicking on the link. Issue #250 of the Newsletter will be available from the start of February 2022.

You can view the AFC Wimbledon Ladies You Tube Channel here.

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