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This has undoubtedly been the most successful season in Crawley Wasps' 28-year history - winning the FA Women's National League Division One South East title by a margin of eleven points, reaching the FA Women's National League Cup Final in their first season at that level (losing 3-0 to Blackburn Rovers) and hosting Arsenal in front of 1,550 people in the Fourth Round of the SSE Women's FA Cup, going down by a very respectable four goals to the FA WSL Champions.
Not only that, but the reserves and Under-18s also won their respective league titles and the club continues to attract not only more players for their youth teams, but also additional sponsor partners, too.
Wasps came into the season, newly promoted into the FA Women's National League Division One South East, after dominating the London & South East Regional League the previous year. Incredibly, they were to stretch their unbeaten league run to two years (March 2017 to March 2019) and 32 matches, ending only when Billericay Town netted a winning penalty in a game played at Crawley Town's People's Pension Stadium.
Wasps won their first 19 matches in all competitions this season, including beating Coventry United, Chichester City, Oxford United and Plymouth Argyle from the league above - a positive sign ahead of next season when they will compete in the Southern Premier Division.
Overall, they scored 135 goals in 37 games in all competitions (averaging 3.65 per game) and conceded just 27 - four of those to Arsenal and three to Blackburn.
Guiding Wasps through an immensely successful season has been manager Paul Walker whilst former England Under-23 international Naomi Cole is captain, as well as top scorer in the league. Leading scorer in all competitions is Kemina Webber, with 20 goals to her name.
Photo - www.bendavidsonphotography.com
QPR Women will undergo an exciting restructure this summer, led by QPR in the Community Trust.
The Trust, who have a thriving female community programme, will oversee the competitive team from the 2019-20 season in a bid to enable a stronger female player pathway.
The overhaul will see the current QPR Women side continue to play independently under a different name, while a new look QPR Women will operate under the club's charitable arm - providing a direct pathway from the successful QPR Girls setup.
It follows discussions between the Trust and long serving QPR Women manager Martino Chevannes and coaches Miguel De'Souza and Tony Smith.
"We are hugely indebted to Martino and his team, who have worked tirelessly over the years and enjoyed many successes along the way," QPR in the Community Trust CEO, Andy Evans, told www.qpr.co.uk. "Their dedication and passion for QPR Women has been unwavering and I can't thank them enough for everything they have done.
"Now starts a new chapter alongside QPR in the Community Trust whereby we will provide the opportunity for girls in the local community to make the journey from community football through to women's elite football providing a clear female football development pathway."
QPR have long been associated with female football, running numerous teams and hosting international games at Loftus Road whilst the ongoing development of the grassroots women and girls game is hugely important to the Trust.
QPR CEO, Lee Hoos, said: "The club is still very much committed to supporting the new-look QPR Women and will continue to aid the team financially going forwards.
"We're excited about the Trust's vision for girls and women's football and believe this restructure will only enhance this in the future."
Charlotte Edwards, Women & Girls Football Development Manager, added: "QPR in the Community Trust have a proud association in serving their local community and have the best interests of our participants and supporters at heart.
"With the Trust overseeing the development of our entire female football programme, we are confident that the alignment of our girls and women's recreational and competitive pathway will go from strength to strength."
Further details will be announced in due course.
The last of the GLWFL finals saw Crystal Palace Development complete a League and Cup double.
The Division Two South Champions beat Bromley 4-2 to win the John Greenacre Memorial Trophy after a hard fought encounter.
Bromley led for much of the first half but their resistance was broken by four unanswered Palace goals either side of the break. A brave rally saw Bromley reduce the deficit and press for further goals but the talented young Palace team were worthy winners, adding to their 100 per cent record in the league.
Kira Curtis-Howard gave Bromley the lead with a well hit cross-shot in the opening minutes and Palace took a while to get their passing game going. Aaliyeah Weise-Forbes had their first clear sight of goal on 28 minutes but shot just wide. However the increasing pressure eventually told as a perfect one-two between Iesha Swaby and Elle Johnson allowed the latter to shoot past Deborah Tasker on 35 minutes.
Palace took the lead right on the break through Johnson again and she completed her hat-trick three minutes after the restart with another cool finish from close range. Just before the hour, Chenille Smith added a fourth as Bromley were cut open again.
However Bromley, who had finished third in the league which Palace won, did not give in at all, taking the game to their opponents and getting a quick response from a corner on 61 minutes, Eloise Bovill heading home Lauren Thatcher's flick on.
Hard as they tried, Bromley's attacks were well handled by Palace defence. One good save by Charlotte Greenwood from Paige Bradley in added time was the nearest Bromley came to forcing a nervous finale for the deserved winners.
Once again the Greater London Women's Football League laid on a superbly organised and well supported event. One unique feature of this season's JGMT competition, which is open to all the 63 clubs in the GLWFL, was that NONE of the 19 Premier and First Division teams made the final, the first time in a 47-year history that this has happened.
As the fine event programme stated: "If ever any evidence was needed of the strength and depth of the GLWFL then that is surely it!"
Crystal Palace Development: Charlotte Greenwood, Emily Treacy, Okasia Brown, Lacey Spriggs, Lily Price, Olivia Ward, Elisabeth Heyndrickx, Ellie Paris, Hope Mumford, Iesha Swaby, Aaliyeah Weise-Forbes. Subs: Elle Johnson, Chenille Smith, Emily Jacobs, Shakira Waithe, Kadelia Wilkins.
Bromley LFC: Deborah Tasker, Phoebe Ralph, Chelsie Billings, Stacey Taylor, Eloise Bovill, Kira Curtis-Howard, Demi King, Lauren Thatcher, Tanya Holley, Darcy Wells, Terri-Ann Warren. Subs: Ella Simons, Charlotte Rafferty, Sophie Pourou, Paige Bradley.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
(Photo by Will Cheshire)
Headstone Manor recorded a historic win in the GLWFL Trophy final, the second match on Finals day.
As the only representatives on the day from 'North of the River', the Harrow-based team beat Comets by two goals to one in a really well fought encounter and win their first silverware in a twelve year run in the GLWFL.
Whilst both sides contributed fully to an entertaining match, the battle hinged on the efforts of the outstanding player on each team. Player of the match Sinead Walsh for Headstone scored two goals, went close on numerous other occasions and was a constant threat with her all action style of committing defenders and opening up space. For Comets, Courtney Bell weaved her magic from further out, scoring arguably the best goal of Finals day and going close to equalising late on.
It was Walsh who opened the scoring on seven minutes after a superb team passing move left her clear on goal for a precise low shot. Bell fired a shot just wide on 15 minutes but Walsh doubled the advantage on 26 minutes, again bursting clear before this time rounding the keeper for a close range finish.
Comets were always dangerous and Bell reduced the arrears on 37 minutes by beating two defenders as she ran across the edge of the area before firing a 20-yard effort high into the net for a stunning goal.
Headstone started the second half strongly and Walsh twice went close to restoring a two-goal cushion, firing over the bar on both occasions.
Both teams continued to battle hard but extremely fairly, with a very low foul count despite the competitive edge. Bell fired another long range effort just over and it was skipper Jade Doherty who lifted the Trophy after an enjoyable contest.
Comets, winners of this season's Capital Junior Cup for the first time a few weeks ago and runners-up in Division Two South behind all conquering Crystal Palace Development, have had a tremendous season but, on this occasion, they had to give way to another first time victor, Headstone Manor.
Headstone Manor: Elena Torroni, Lauren Gettey, Ujevara Breznica, Natalie Carter, Chantelle Dixon, Jade Doherty, Jemma Forey, Sydney Goodwin, Ruth Paterson, Samantha Read, Sinead Walsh. Subs: Katherine Tuohy, Hannah Windsor, Katy Ruddock.
Comets: Megan Wood, Adriane Bianchin, Ellie Crossley, Whitney Duvall, Michelle Keating, Kariel Parian, Rachel Soares, Jennifer Stuart, Tori Teeple, Elsa Wu, Courtney Bell. Subs: Siobhan Lavelle, Shona Power, Tina Smith, Jocelyn Soares, Ana Pirtac.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
(Photo by Will Cheshire)
Walton Casuals Reserves lifted the Sue Sharples Memorial Trophy in the opening match of the Greater London League Finals day at Bedfont Sports Club with a 5-1 victory over Godalming Town Development.
Both teams compete in Division Three South, with Casuals having finished higher in the table and their greater firepower and clinical finishing took the match away from Godalming.
Walton opened the scoring within three minutes through Kaitlyn Lewis and always looked likely to add to their tally. Chloe Mackay twice went close to a second before Lewis lobbed in a beauty from fully 30 yards on 28 minutes.
Town went very close to halving the arrears through Rebecca Munro on 33 minutes but Walton keeper Ashleigh McGuigan was out quickly to block her low shot. Just before the break, Walton's Sabrina McCann had a shot well saved by Kaja Jacob but from the resulting corner skipper Holly Looseley powered home a fine header for the third goal.
On the restart, play flew from end to end. Jacob saved a Sophia Williams free kick, Looseley denied Jo Harfield with a well timed tackle, then McGuigan made a superb double save from a Godalming corner. Munro had another chance to open Godalming's account but the Walton keeper saved low to her left on 57 minutes.
It was Walton who found the net just after the hour when Jacob tipped another long range Lewis effort on to the bar but McCann was on hand to turn in the rebound. The same player added a fifth on 77 minutes, this time with a good low finish.
Godalming finally got the consolation goal their efforts deserved on 81 minutes with Harfield beating the defence to a through ball and rounding McGuigan to score the first goal conceded by Casuals in their run to the final.
There were no further alarms and Looseley was able to lift the magnificent Sue Sharples Memorial Trophy after a very good team performance by Walton Casuals Reserves. Kaitlyn Lewis was awarded Player of the Match for her two goals and all round contribution in attack.
Walton Casuals Res: Ashleigh McGuigan, Holly Looseley, Holly Drage, Ella Meehan, Sabrina McCann, Kaitlin Lewis, Sophia Williams, Emma McLoughlin, Mia Dennis, Chloe Mackay, Sophie McNeill. Subs: Sophie Gorman, Megan Price, Kina Ayoub, MacKenzie Dalton, Jennifer Lumby.
Godalming Town Development: Kaja Jacobs, Taylor Newcombe, Ingrid Broderson, Jodie Mitchell, Mairead Cheeseman, Jo Harfield, Natalia Jurga, Carla Mitchell, Malorie Short, Rebecca Munro, Lisa Patursson. Subs: Cerys Hambly, Alice Ribeiro, Charlotte Cockram, Kaia Inwood, Trin James.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
(Photo by Will Cheshire)
A bright future has been predicted for Essex's Under 14s Girls Schools Team as they won 4-3 on penalties against Lancashire after a gripping 3-3 draw on Friday 10th May at Stoke City FC in the English Schools FA Under 14s Girls PlayStation Inter-County Trophy Final.
Coach Georgia Maxwell-Jones' side lifted the national silverware thanks to goals from Amy Taylor on 16 and 18 minutes, followed up by Leonnie Bezant's 50th minute strike as momentum swung between the two talented sides. "The world is their oyster!" was the reaction of thrilled Essex County FA Football Development Officer, Emma Burden.
It was Essex' third penalty shootout in their quest for the title. The early rounds saw a tightly-contested fixture against Surrey and Essex ended up going to penalties in that game. The semi-final against Kent was also a nailbiting affair which culminated in Essex scoring in the last ten minutes to equalise in extra time and then win on spot kicks.
Emma also explained the significance of finally beating Lancashire, another county who traditionally have a wealth of female football talent: "Historically we've met Lancashire in either the Under 16s or the Under 14s finals every year since 2012. We always have fantastic matches against very talented sides from Lancashire."
"We spoke about the history behind the competition in the changing room and the players who have worn the Essex shirt in earlier years. We haven't lifted this trophy since 2012 at Carrow Road! We did feel really hard done by after the fixture against Lancashire when we played at Birmingham in 2016, but these things happen. Hopefully the 2016 squad will take some comfort in the win this season."
According to Emma, this victory demonstrates the strength and depth of girls from both the Essex County FA Regional Talent Club and grassroots clubs. "This season we had ten girls from the RTC and six players from grassroots clubs," she detailed. "We also involved an additional four players from grassroots clubs when we suffered from concussions and England Camps.
"Every player was a great ambassador and role model for both their school and their club. The victory reflects the work going on in the background from coaches, as well as the time everyone's families are giving to get these players to all their commitments. Plus the Essex County Schools FA and PE staff who continue to offer football within schools and access to further competitions.
"What a time it is to be involved in the female game! With the FA Women's Super League thriving, sponsorship from Barclays offering prize money and a WSL club on our doorstep who made it to the FA Women's Cup Final in their first season, the future is bright!"
Essex: Alicia Garwood, Megan Wearing, Leonie Telford, Leonnie Bezant, Katie McClean, Kelsey Morgan, Elle Moore, Jessica Wright, Amy Taylor, Mia Filipiak, Ruby Sealey, Lucy Ogden, Carlie Dinham, Chloe Brand, Isabella Darby, Ruby Barnes.
East Midlands League
After having clinched the Premier Division title seven days earlier, Leicester City Women Development completed the double with a 7-1 victory over Woodlands Ladies in the League Cup Final.
Jade Benford led the scoring for the Champions with a hat-trick and she was joined on the scoresheet by Georgia Gibson, Natalie Hurst, Megan Kenney and Courtney Cropper.
Meanwhile, the League Plate went the way of Boston Utd who also secured themselves a League and Cup double, the Division One North title winners beating Notts County 3-2. After a goalless first half, Lauren Carter netted twice to put Boston in control and Toni McHamilton added a third, before County staged a late fightback with strikes from Bella Reed and Nya Chambers.
Northampton Town rounded off their successful season in Division One South by winning 3-1 against Lutterworth Athletic. Olivia Bowles had given Lutterworth a first half lead but after the break, Emma Dunmore netted twice in a three minute spell and Leah Stacey wrapped up the win with the third goal. Naomi Myhill and Laura Owen were on target for Loughborough Foxes Vixens as they battled out a 2-2 draw with Corby Town, who replied through Nicole Coull and Jasmine Sawyer.
Eastern Region League
Cambridge City completed an unbeaten league campaign when they won 3-0 away to Bedford Ladies. The two teams had met in the League Cup Final seven days earlier, City winning on penalties on that occasion, and goals from Hannah Bodily, Shannon Shaw and Lauren Tomlinson gave them the points this time around. Peterborough Northern Star moved up into fifth after beating AFC Dunstable 4-0, courtesy of doubles from Chanade Henderson and Katie Steward.
Division One title winners St Ives Town were unable to finish off their unbeaten run in their final match, instead going down to a 4-3 defeat at the hands of King's Lynn Town. Tiffany Forshaw hit a hat-trick for King's Lynn and Rachel Skinner added the other, with St Ives replying through a Georgia Stancombe brace and Katie Stancombe. There was also a repeat of the League Plate Final in the league and this one turned out to be even closer that the week before, Sophie Lanham and Alsion Wright scoring for Histon as they shared a 2-2 draw with Newmarket Town.
North West League
The top two teams in the Premier Division came face to face in the Argyle Sports Cup Final and it was FC United of Manchester who ran out 5-2 winners over Champions Stockport County after extra time at Runcorn. Olivia Greenhalgh headed FC United in front early on, with Stockport responding moments later to level through Chloe Mapp who then powered in a long range shot to put County ahead at half time. It looked as though this would be enough to give Stockport the double but Kate O'Gara equalised deep into injury time, to send the match into the extra period. O'Gara then repeated the feat in the first minute of extra time, before Cara Fields and Jess Battle scored further goals to complete a hat-trick of Cup wins for FC United, who have won it every season they have been in the league.
Meanwhile the Argyle Sports Plate went the way of Wigan Athletic, the Premier Division side running out 3-0 winners over Stockport County Blues.
Southern Region League
Southampton FC Ladies completed an excellent season for themselves with the League and Cup double, as they defeated Oxford City 2-0 in the League Cup Final. The first half was goalless but both goals came in a seven minute spell just after the hour mark, Phoebe Williams giving Southampton the lead and Ella Pusey sealing victory with the second goal.
AFC Bournemouth CST narrowly got the better of Moneyfields by the odd goal in nine in a thrilling Chairman's Cup Final. Chloe Tape hit a hat-trick for the Cherries and Emma Davis was also on target, before Hannah Bennett scored the winning goal. Paige Seeley (2), Ciara Boylan and Sophie Kingsley-Smith replied for the Moneys who narrowly missed out on a second trophy in the campaign.
West Midlands League
Champions Leafield Athletic rounded off their season in style with a 7-0 victory over Stockingford AA Pavilion. Daisy-May Clements led the scoring with a four-goal haul, Alice Rogers added a brace and Georgia Harris was also on target.
In Division One South, runners-up Kidderminster Harriers won 6-2 at Rugby Town with a goal apiece from Bethan Dutton, Amber Lawrence, Molly Maguire, Amy Plimmer, Sophie Richards and Amie Savva, whilst Chloe Debaes and Helen Wood replied for the home side.
Newly crowned FA WSL Champions Arsenal have wasted no time in strengthening their squad for next season, with the arrivals of Jill Roord and Manuela Zinsberger from Bayern Munich.
22-year-old Netherlands international Roord has already won nine major honours, including the Women's European Championships in 2017, and can't wait to get started in north London.
"I'm really proud that I'm going to be an Arsenal player," she told Arsenal.com. "Arsenal is an amazing club and they're also champions now, so I'm really happy and proud to join the club.
"Arsenal is one of the clubs in England that I really like. In women's football, they've always been one of the top clubs. Of course there are some Dutch friends of mine who play there, so I've always followed them. I'm really looking forward to it.
"What type of player am I? I'm really technical. I can play offensive and also defensive midfield. I'm really technical and like to have the ball at my feet. I can also score a lot, so hopefully I can make some goals too.
23-year-old goalkeeper Zinsberger started her career with OFB-Frauenliga club SV Neulengbach, where she won the top Austrian league in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. She also won the OFB Ladies Cup in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
The Austria international's impressive performances earned her a move to Germany in 2014, where she helped Bayern win the Bundesliga in both 2015 and 2016.
"It's such an amazing feeling," said Zinsbeger. "I know a lot of the players here. We have a really good team here with really good quality and impressive performances, so I'm looking forward to being part of it!"
Glasgow City went into the mid-season break in SWPL 1 with a five point lead following their 10-1 victory over Forfar Farmington on Sunday.
After Jenna Clark had given City the lead, Kirsty Howat hit a first half brace with Murron Cunningham and Hayley Sinclair also getting on the scoresheet before half time. Natalie Cromar pulled one back for Forfar in the opening minute of the second half, before City hit back as Clare Shine and Nicola Docherty each netted twice and Leanne Ross rounded off the scoring.
Hibernian stay in second after scoring six times without reply away to Rangers. Six different players got on the scoresheet for Hibs with Kirsty Morrison, Siobhan Hunter, Cailin Michie, Shannon Leishman, Amy Gallacher and Jamie-Lee Napier all finding the net.
Celtic won 2-1 away to Motherwell to keep themselves level on points with Hibernian. Kirsty McLaughlin gave Celtic a first half lead which was cancelled out by Katie Rice, before Kathleen McGovern netted the decisive goal on the hour.
Spartans got back to winning ways with a 4-0 success against Stirling University. Ronaigh Douglas scored a goal in each half, with Michaela McAlonie and Sarah Clelland adding the others.
The next round of fixtures in the top flight will now be played on 4th August.
It was a good day for the top two teams in SWPL 2 as they picked up victories to open up a small gap on their nearest rivals.
Hamilton Academical stay on top following a seventeen goal blast against struggling Hutchison Vale. Dionne Brown led the scoring with a four-goal haul whilst Marie Gardiner, Kirstie McIntosh, Megan Quigley, Nichola Sturrock and Amy Bulloch all bagged braces, and there was one apiece from Danielle Connolly, Ellie Kane and Leigan McCann.
Hearts remained in second place by winning 2-0 away to St Johnstone. The game was goalless at the interval, before Lauren Evans netted a second half brace to keep her side on the Accies' heels.
Dundee Utd hold on to third place despite going down to a 2-0 defeat at home to Partick Thistle in a meeting between the two promoted teams. Emma Lawton gave Thistle the lead midway through the first half, with Sara Paterson adding the second goal just before half time.
Glasgow Girls were beaten for the second match in a row, FC Kilmarnock winning 3-2 to complete a clean sweep of away victories in the division on Sunday. Dana Baird, Lisa Swanson and Clare Docherty scored the goals for Killie, with Glasgow Girls replying through Lucy McEwan and an own goal.
Wales manager Jayne Ludlow has named a 20-player squad to face New Zealand on Tuesday 4th June, the side's final match before the UEFA Women's Euro 2021 qualification campaign gets underway.
Ludlow has made five changes to the side that played out a goalless draw against the Czech Republic in April. Key players Jessica Fishlock and Angharad James are being rested after an intense season for both club and country, which gives an opportunity to several of the squad's younger players.
Georgia Evans returns to Wales duty for the first time since 2017, whilst Ludlow has also selected the uncapped Lily Woodham. The Reading FC Women defender started in all three of the Under-19s' 2019 European qualifying round matches last October.
The match will be taking place at Leckwith Stadium in Cardiff with the hopes of again surpassing the 2,168-attendance record for a friendly match set in April's match against the Czech Republic.
Ludlow's side will be facing a strong New Zealand team who will be competing in this year's Women's World Cup, which kicks off three days after the match. The Football Ferns, who are playing a friendly against England three days before they take on Wales, have been drawn in the same group as Canada, the Netherlands and Cameroon. Their squad includes the likes of Ria Percival, Ali Riley and Olivia Chance of West Ham Utd, Chelsea and Everton respectively, as well as Anna Green, Sarah Gregorius, Betsy Hassett and Rosie White who have all previously played in the FA WSL.
Tickets for the game are still available and can be purchased at www.bit.ly/WalNzlTICKETS.
Coventry Utd 0
att: 539; at Bradford City F.C.>
Blackburn Rovers 3 (Jordan 41, Flint 54, Fenton 71)
Coventry Utd 0
att: 539; at Bradford City F.C.
Blackburn Rovers completed a memorable season for themselves when they defeated Coventry Utd 3-0 in the FA Women's National League Championship play-off at Valley Parade.
The match is an annual event between the winners of the Northern Premier and Southern Premier Divisions and the victory secured a quadruple for Gemma Donnelly's side, adding to the league, League Cup and Lancashire County Cup.
Rovers had been beaten in the last two play-offs by Tottenham Hotspur and Charlton Athletic but this time, the added prize of a place in the second tier was not on offer as both teams have already been promoted to the Championship next season.
Both sides went into the game having been beaten only once in the league all season and it was Coventry who almost opened the scoring early on but Beth Merrick's shot came back off the bar. At the other end, a curling shot from the edge of the area by Jess Holbrook was narrowly off target.
Coventry had had the better of things early on but Blackburn came more into the game and four minutes before half time, they took the lead. Natasha Fenton and Natasha Flint combined to play in Saffron Jordan who fired a shot past Sue Wood from just inside the area.
Coventry reacted well to the setback of going behind as Natasha Merritt's header from a free kick was saved by Danielle Gibbons, who also saved an Amber Hughes effort from the edge of the area to ensure that Blackburn took their one-goal advantage into the interval.
Wood pulled off a good save from Flint early in the second half but the striker was not to be denied as she latched on to Holbrook's pass and lifted the ball over the oncoming goalkeeper to double her side's lead.
Helen Dermody was unlucky not to reduce the arrears when her 25-yard shot crashed against the bar, but Blackburn continued to look dangerous going forward at the other end with Flint firing just over and Lagan Makin clipping the bar following a good move.
The game was put beyond doubt when Fenton rose highest to plant home a firm header from a Holbrook corner, to put Rovers three ahead with nineteen minutes remaining.
The match was Blackburn captain Lynda Shepherd's last before retiring and it almost had the perfect ending as a Kayleigh McDonald header was blocked on the line and Shepherd was foiled by Wood as she tried to force home the rebound. Makin headed wide from a Holbrook cross as Rovers completed a good all round display with a strong finish.
Blackburn Rovers: Danielle Gibbons, Serena Fletcher (sub Hannah Walsh 84mins), Lynda Shepherd, Jess Holbrook, Lauren Davies (sub Alex Taylor 80mins), Natasha Fenton, Saffron Jordan, Natasha Flint, Kayleigh McDonald, Lagan Makin. Subs not used: Amelia Size, Ellie Stewart, Sophie Charlton.
Coventry Utd: Sue Wood, Chenise Austin, Nikki Miles (sub Yasmine Klucis 62mins), Rosie McDonnell, Natasha Merritt (sub Erin Riden 62mins), Beth Merrick, Jade Brook, Helen Dermody, Amber Hughes, Lois Jefferies, Amy Wathan. Subs not used: Sophie Roberts, Maz Gauntlett, Ellie White.
In a special edition of our We Talk To feature, our interviewee is Nicki O'Connell, who recently announced her retirement from football after a long career with Larkhall Athletic.
We ask her about her career and the reaction to the news with the popular player affectionately known as ‘Ginge':
WSS: Nicki, when was it that you decided that this would be your last season?
NO: I have been thinking about it for a number of seasons now and that it was time for me to hand the gloves to someone else, but it was only in January of this year that I decided it would be my last season and spoke with the manager to let him know.
WSS: How long is it that you have been playing women's football, and how long have you been at Larkhall?
NO: I've been playing football since I was seven, but specifically in women's football since the age of 12. I have been at Larkhall for 19 seasons, so a long old time!
WSS: Larkhall ended the season with a six-match unbeaten run and finished in sixth place, do you think that the team will be in good shape for next season?
NO: We had as you say a really good end to the season, showing what we really are about and how good we can be. I think that if the girls can continue to play like that then they will definitely be in good shape for next season. We played a number of games this year without players being available and suffering long term injuries, so I am really proud of how we all stuck together and got the results.
WSS: Can you believe the reaction to the news that you are retiring, for example being given a guard of honour by Cheltenham in your last match?
NO: I have been surprised at the reaction and the people that have contacted me wishing me well, but I think they also understand why I am doing it now. As for the Iast game, I was really overwhelmed by the whole day from being asked to be captain through to having the guard of honour and I can only thank Cheltenham for doing that. It was all extremely appreciated and definitely gave me a game and occasion to remember.
WSS: So what were the main highlights from your career?
NO: In all honesty there are probably too many to mention as I have been at this club for so long, but definitely up there would be winning the FA Award last year, winning the league and being promoted to where we are now, winning the Somerset County Cup and of course beating Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup [in the Fourth Round on penalties in 2012].
WSS: Who would you say were among the best players that you played alongside?
NO: There are so many that I couldn't possibly list them all, each and every player that has been at the club whilst I have has had an impact and contributed in their own way.
WSS: The club responded to your announcement by arranging a testimonial match a few weeks ago when a lot of your old team mates came back to play, some even coming out of retirement. How much did you enjoy that occasion - and dare we mention a certain penalty?
NO: That was a brilliant occasion and I have to thank Amy Scrivens for arranging the match as she did. Having so many people from past and present all come together for it was amazing. I also had no idea what was happening and only found out on arriving at the ground so again it was another overwhelming night which I will never forget. As for the penalty - I think I felt guilty for the way it was awarded so couldn't possibly have scored it!!
WSS: Looking to the future, will you be staying in the women's game in any capacity?
NO: At the moment I haven't really thought about that. Although I have retired from Larkhall, the option of playing would still be tempting but perhaps at a lower, more local level.
WSS: When you look at the women's game now, and when you started playing in the senior game, just how different is it these days?
NO: The game and whole set up of women's football is so different with the level of professionalism and opportunities for females wanting to play. I wish I was a few years younger so that I could have had the opportunities that are available now.
Happy retirement to our great friend Nicki (Ginge)!
Photo - Will Cheshire
Despite finishing the 2017-18 League season unbeaten, Aberystwyth failed to secure promotion back to the top tier at the first attempt, the Mid-Wales side missing out by just one point.
Ahead of the new campaign, the club were determined to go one better than the previous season. With a good mixture of youth and experience the club were hopeful of a strong start.
On Sunday 16th September 2018, after winning the two opening fixtures, Aberystwyth were up against promotion rivals Barry Town United, Aber's first home match of the season. In an entertaining game that had pretty much everything including goals, a penalty and a red card it was the visitors that came out victorious. A first defeat since joining the league for the Black and Greens.
It was going to be interesting to see how Aber responded to this defeat. Considering they went the previous season unbeaten and still didn't go up it felt like they couldn't afford to drop any more points.
Jump forward to 9th December 2018. Aber were out of the Welsh Cup after a defeat to top tier side Llandudno but things were going well in the league. Despite not being at their best, the team showed hunger, fight and determination to win all six league games. Their next fixture was away to Barry at Jenner Park. Maybe it was too early to call it a ‘must win' game but it did feel like that. The Ceredigion side dominated the first half and went into the break ahead, but the hosts levelled in the 59th minute. With eight minutes remaining Aber showed that fight and never-say-die attitude as they grabbed a much celebrated winner. Not a bad way to end 2018.
Aber made a very impressive start to the new year with four straight victories including a 7-0 away win at Merthyr and a 6-0 home win against Penybont as well as beating reigning CWFA Cup Champions Llanfair United 2-0 away to go through to the semi finals and eventually the Final due to Felinfach being unable to field a team.
Town's other promotion rivals Caldicot Town were deducted a huge 29 points but their quality was still there and when they faced each other on 3rd March it was going to be a very tough game. Aberystwyth ended as 3-2 winners in what was a nerve wracking second half after leading 3-0 at the break. But three points was the target and that's what they got.
On 31st March, Caldicot knocked a depleted Aber squad out of the League Cup thanks to a late winner for the hosts but just a week later on the same pitch, the Black and Greens took a huge step closer to promotion after a fantastic 2-0 victory. This was followed by a 2-1 win against Splott Albion which included a dramatic 92nd minute winner, giving Aber the chance to seal promotion at Park Avenue against Cascade YC the following week. On 21st April promotion was confirmed! A 4-1 victory against Cascade sealed the title. A historic day for the club.
Aber went on to win all their remaining fixtures including the Central Wales Cup Final (8-0 vs Aber Uni) and the last match of the season which made it 17 consecutive league victories!
In their time in the Welsh Women's League, Aber played 34 games, Won 29, Drew 4, Lost 1, Scored 131 goals, had a total goal difference of +107 and picked up 91 out of a possible 102 points. During that time the club won the 2017-18 SWWGL Alun Evans Cup (Welsh Women's League sides did not compete in the 2018-19 competition), 2018-19 CWFA Cup and 2018-19 Welsh Women's League.
Aberystwyth are managed by Ray Hughes, with Gwynfor Edwards as his assistant. Ffiona Evans is captain whilst Tania Wylde has netted 34 goals in 25 games and Caroline Cooper has also made a huge contribution with 20 assists.
Next up for the club... the Welsh Premier Women's League! It's going to be a tough challenge but one this side thoroughly deserves.
They have won the Greater London League Division Two South title at a canter, winning 17 matches out of 17 as this goes to press and have conceded just four league goals so far.
Palace opened up the season with a 3-0 victory over Peckham Town and never looked back from that moment. Indeed, they have won every game they played except one, losing only to Walton Casuals in the County Cup during the entire campaign so far.
In the John Greenacre Memorial Trophy, the team have had a fantastic cup run, beating three Premier Division teams along the way, as well as Walton Casuals. The standout performance for the team in this cup was when they played the eventual League Champions, Ashford Town (Middx) in the quarter finals and pulled off a great 6-4 win, playing some of the best football they have played this season.
They then went on to beat the Premier Division runners-up New London Lionesses 7-2 in the semi finals and they will take on Bromley in the Final, which will be played at Bedfont Sports Club on 19th May.
The squad are a very young team with most of the players aged around 16/17. This season, the Development team have seen five players progress into the reserves, with a few of them making first team debuts as well, whilst six players have moved from the U18s/U16s into the Development set up, either training regularly or playing for the team.
The squad is run by Manager/Coach Rick Lockett and Coach Dean Lock, and the team is also well supported by Paul Treacy (admin etc). Captain of the team is Ellie Paris, who has done a fantastic job leading the younger players through their first year in senior football as well as having a superb season herself on the pitch. Top goalscorer is Aaliyeah Weise-Forbes, with 30 goals to her name this season, closely followed by her fellow forward Iesha Swaby who has contributed a further 23. Elisabeth Heyndrickx (18) and Ellie Johnson (17) are also in double figures, whilst Mia Lockett and Shakira Waithe have also been regulars on the scoresheet.
The Development side are generously sponsored by Sydenham Scrap Metals Ltd, which is very much appreciated by the players and coaching staff in the Team.
"We have the small matter of a cup final against AFC Bournemouth still to come but the league was always our priority," manager Karl Watson told Women's Soccer Scene. "We have an ambitious project here and work is already underway to grow again next season and push for promotion again.
"We have been blessed in this squad with a mixture of good young players that have been with me for some years, plus the top class more experienced players that have bought into our project. With huge players such as Kim Stenning and Becky Bath moving onto dual signings with Chichester and Portsmouth, both in the National League, it shows the calibre of players we've had in. Happily it also shows the quality of player we still have as even with those losses, we've managed to complete the perfect league season. Kim Whitcombe has really picked up the mantle since those girls left with top performances, showing why she's been at top clubs for many years including Brighton and Southampton. Sheree Bell-Jack came in as we started to look thin up top and scored 15 goals in 10 games which made such an impact.
"Katie Shorter has probably - and I know she'll be embarrassed by this - but for me, been the standout midfielder in the league all season and thank goodness she is in the Navy, or we'd never have seen her at this club. Player wise I could go on all night as we've been so lucky and really have quality all the way through.
"It's great the season finished the way it did, with tough games against Wycombe Wanderers and Abingdon Utd at the end to keep it exciting. Our two games with Abingdon were absolute wars but wars played out correctly by both sides. Fortunately for us we edged both results but certainly can't take them for granted next season. I do however believe our most important result and probably the most nerve racking was away to Wycombe, where we battled out a 1-0 win. We travelled light that day with several players missing but the girls were superb to earn those three points.
"Staff wise, things have grown this year which has helped massively to keep things running smoothly. Ben Grist has established a great bond with Sally Ann-Thompson, our keeper who has been outstanding especially when called upon in the cup games against bigger clubs. Tom Lynn and Young Harry Houston have been a huge help assisting our first team coach Luciana Jonson (Lil), who is hugely important to what we are doing and I believe having a strong female coach is so important in the women's game. Lil is certainly strong and a fiery character who really gets the players to buy in which is evident in each session she leads.
"Behind the scenes, secretary Brandon Parker is always on hand when I'm badgering him on the phone (which is quite often), his amazing mum Sue is always busy at 72 years young, cleaning changing rooms, making teas and many other things, plus the club has really got behind this infant of a new and exciting project. Whether it's men's, women's or youth football, this club is striving forwards and we're certainly enjoying being part of it so keep your eyes on things because we're only going to grow!"
Photo - www.jamesprickett.co.uk
After last season's runners-up finish, securing the South West Women's League Eastern Division title and promotion was always the aim this year. However, Bassett suffered a setback in their second league game at home against Swindon Spitfires as they lost 2-1.
They went on to win their next fourteen games after that, a run which included a vital 2-1 win at home against Frampton Rangers, who had emerged as their most likely challengers for the title, in December. Goals from the team's top scorers Emily Arrell and Hayley Huckin secured that win.
Bassett drew their return fixture with Frampton, 1-1 at the start of March and with Frampton winning their games in hand, that meant Bassett needed seven points from their final three games to seal the title.
After a convincing 10-1 win at home against Laverstock & Ford, Bassett travelled to third placed Cheltenham Town Development in their penultimate game. A dramatic match saw Bassett held to a 1-1 draw as Cheltenham scored a last minute equaliser, having earlier missed a penalty.
As a result, Bassett needed to win their final game away against Swindon Town Development to make certain of top spot. Hayley Huckin gave them a 1-0 lead, but Swindon proved tricky opponents and hit the bar late on. A goal from Amber Egerton - one of the team's longest-serving players alongside captain Laura Jefferies - then made sure of the win and the title.
Bassett finished top by virtue of goal difference from Frampton. Bassett were the division's leading scorers with 66 goals, and, importantly, had the best defence as they only conceded ten times in the league all season.
Last season, Bassett finished level on points with Portishead Town, but finished second on goal difference. So, it was quite remarkable that they were involved in a similar situation again - however, this time they emerged as Champions.
The team is managed by Jonny House and James Goddard - both of whom are in their first season with the club. Captain Laura Jefferies has been with the club since at least the 2011-12 season and won this year's Players' Player and Manager's Player of the Year awards. Emily Arrell top the scoring charts with 27 goals (21 in the league) and Hayley Huckin contributed a further 20 (16 in the league).
A core set of players re-signed and with a couple of new additions, the team was strengthened in key areas who set about improving on their previous league position. Charlotte Peters retained the captain's armband as her experience and leadership within the team was invaluable.
Terry White joined the coaching staff alongside manager Laurence Jack, with Jason Slade assisting. With a tough season ahead, Laurence made a change in the playing formation with focus on a more attacking strategy to meet the strengths of the playing squad and also to meet the aims for the season: more points than the season before, promotion, improve on previous County Cup and League Cup runs.
Pre-season friendlies against higher league opposition were arranged and played to cement knowledge the players had gained in training translated into match day. Some really good positive play in these matches gave confidence to the players that they could achieve the season long aims.
As for the season, with a depleted squad for the first match, Hitchin Belles secured their first point of the campaign away at Royston Town Development after being 2-0 down, a result which gave the Ladies a lot of confidence and belief. Where they were lucky to get a point against Royston in the first match, the second was the polar opposite as Belles squandered numerous chances against local rivals Hitchin Town Ladies and succumbed to their only defeat of the season when they lost 1-0.
Comprehensive wins against Watton, Welwyn Pegasus and Bedford Ladies Development in the league were interspersed with wins in the League and County Cup.
A real test came in November when a visit to FA Women's National League side Stevenage FC Ladies was reward for their previous endeavours in the County Cup. Although a lesson in how to play football, Belles gave it a real go against opposition who play five levels above them and were praised for their efforts and, unlike many teams, turning up. After the exertions of the County Cup, it was back to League action and by Christmas, Belles were under the radar being in fifth position, having played less matches.
The first game back after the festive break saw the Ladies travel to Watton and a poor first half performance gave rise to what manager Laurence Jack considered the turning point of the season. He did not have to say anything to motivate them for the second half as the ladies knew what was wrong and went out and scored four before a late reply right at the death. A draw against Evergreen Ladies at the end of January were the only points dropped since September and which, coupled with the winning streak, saw Belles start to challenge the leaders for the Division Two title.
Each week, focus was on about playing the Belles' brand of football, the team spirit and togetherness and it was this that when games were tough especially versus Letchworth, they pulled through. Belles Ladies climbed the table and after defeating Letchworth, took over at the top, a position they kept until the end. The League Cup run came to a shuddering halt in the semi finals as the Ladies visited Division One side and Champions elect, Hemel Hempstead Town Ladies. Although the ladies gave their all it was not to be and they bowed out of the competition.
The season highlight was the last match, when Hitchin Belles travelled to face local rivals Hitchin Town who, at the time, could still catch them for the title. The match was hosted at Hitchin Town FC, with the match broadcast on local radio. A crowd of 150+, some made up from Hitchin Belles Youth players, created a fantastic atmosphere. Both teams enjoyed the occasion and although a 0-0 draw ensued, were treated to two sides trying to play football. A brilliant advert for women's football in the local area.
A fantastic season overall with the playing philosophy based on an attacking formation, cemented by a solid defensive back line led superbly by Bonni Woodward. It is a remarkable turnaround for a team that struggled the previous year, to work so hard and to prove so many doubters wrong, to go on and win the title.
The statistics will show that Belles Ladies had four players (Katie White (21), Amy Jack (18), Charlotte Peters (15) and Keira How (14)) in the top five goalscoring positions, scoring a mammoth 68 goals between them. At the League awards, Katie White, who scored five hat-tricks during the campaign, picked up the Division Two top goalscorer, Orlagh Daly picked up best goalkeeper and Amy Jack picked up the player with the highest statistics.
It is now a rest for the players for a couple of weeks before preparations ramp up for next season when the jump in quality of opposition will be a real test.
Blyth are managed by Courtney Vacher and Stephen Gibbard whilst the captain is Henry and top goalscorer is Donnelly (19) but closely followed by Jeffels (18). The team collectively have scored 94 goals in 10 games as four of the league games were home or away walkovers due to the opposition either not wanting to play or them being unable to field a team.
They began the season with a 6-0 victory over Blakelaw Ladies and never really looked back from that point, winning all of their opening four matches including another 6-0 win against eventual runners-up West Allotment Celtic. After being held to a 1-1 draw by Wallsend Boys Club Res, Blyth then embarked on a five match winning run which took them away from their nearest rivals and they have finished a comfortable eight points clear of the second placed team.
"The team is newly reformed, which meant that we had to start from the bottom of the pyramid and aspire to work our way up," manager Courtney Vacher told Women's Soccer Scene.
"After one season together, the team have finished the season unbeaten and were league Champions with games still to play.
"They were all important results for us as we knew we needed to make an impact this season with the team being brought back to its rightful club under new management. The best performances were against West Allotment Celtic, where we won 9-1 and our striker Hyndman scored seven goals. It was an outstanding performance from the whole team against a young and upcoming side.
"We are looking forward to hopefully being promoted to the North East League Northern Division for the upcoming season and the girls are already working hard to prepare for this set up.
"I am exceptionally proud of what the team has accomplished this season and I am looking forward to seeing them grow further as a team."
Shelley Kerr has named her Scotland squad for this summer's Women's World Cup in France.
Since taking over after Euro 2017, the national coach has called upon over 30 players, but had the task of naming just 23 for next month's tournament.
Lee Alexander has been an ever present between the sticks since Kerr's appointment in 2017. The stopper will face stiff competition from Jenna Fife and Shannon Lynn for the number one jersey as she has done already this year, with both goalkeepers impressing when they've played.
The experienced Rachel Corsie has valuable leadership qualities, having captained her country under Kerr. The centre back is joined by Jennifer Beattie, fresh off the back of lifting the FA Women's Cup with Manchester City, and Kirsty Smith, who enjoyed a successful campaign sealing promotion with Manchester United.
Glasgow City duo Nicola Docherty and Hayley Lauder are among the defensive options, with the former getting a well earned call up having been on the brink of one for some time.
Arsenal's Kim Little scored her 53rd Scotland goal in style, bagging the winner against Brazil earlier this month. She is joined in the midfield department by Liverpool's Christie Murray, and another FA Women's Cup winner in the form of Caroline Weir.
Glasgow City's strong contingent is present in midfield too, with Leanne Crichton and Joanne Love included in Kerr's final squad.
One of the Women's Super League's brightest prospects, Erin Cuthbert, is an unsurprising inclusion in the forward department. The Chelsea striker bagged eight goals and provided five assists, and at just 20 years of age, is one to watch.
Fiona Brown, plying her trade in Sweden with FC Rosengård, and Lana Clelland, in Italy with Fiorentina, also make the 23. Jane Ross is the highest scorer in the squad, with 58 goals in 126 Scotland appearances.
Scotland World Cup squad:
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