With Swindon Town made to play the role of spectators due to an uneven number of teams in the league, it was up to the other ten teams to attempt to make their mark on the new season in the FAWNL Division One South West.
It was an opening day that had just about everything, so let’s review the action as it unfolded.
Brislington Ladies vs Southampton Women’s FC
In a meeting that had just about everything, Brislington welcomed Division One South West contenders, Southampton Women’s FC, to Somerset for the season opener.
It took a matter of minutes for Southampton’s McKeever to put the ball in the back of the net, before having it ruled out due to an infringement.
They wouldn’t have to wait long to break the deadlock though, Yeates heading home after 18 minutes to give the visitors the lead.
On 30 minutes they doubled their lead through Lauren Clark.
Just before the break, Yeates made history for the wrong reasons by getting herself booked, and then subsequently sent to the sin bin. Southampton down to ten for the time being.
47 minutes into the contest and the drama continued: a penalty awarded to Southampton for handling the ball in the box. Warren made no mistake. 0-3.
Southampton, now back to eleven players with Yeates returning to the pitch, found the net for the fourth time in the 60th minute. And it was Yeates once again involved in the action, scoring her second of the game.
In a potential twist Brislington pulled two back within a matter of minutes. The first through Baber, shortly followed by Pritchard. 2-4 and the game not looking like quite the formality the visitors had hoped.
Any notion of a comeback was quickly quashed as Yeates completed her hat-trick. The visitors had 5 and now, with fewer than 10 minutes remaining, almost certainly the points.
But it wasn’t over quite yet, Yeates again the topic of conversation, picked up a second yellow card and was sent walking.
Write a checklist of events that could take place in a game and this likely had it covered. Incredible.
Cheltenham Town Ladies vs Poole Town Ladies
Poole Town made the considerable 250 miles round trip to Gloucester to face Cheltenham Town.
The two sides – both with very different ambitions this season – started the game evenly, but after the opening few minutes had passed, Cheltenham began to exert their quality on Steve Butcher’s side.
Cheltenham created several good opportunities, but a series of fantastic saves from Sam Chrippes, and the woodwork, kept the scores level at half-time.
Cheltenham restarted the game brightly, and the breakthrough came in the 51st minute when a corner somehow evaded everyone except Sally Butterfield at the back post, who managed to put it dangerously across the face of goal for the debutant, Mai Butler, to finish.
Cheltenham doubled their lead less than 15 minutes later. Selfless play and good awareness from Stewart saw her lay the ball off to Abby Bevan, who blasted home to make it 2-0 to the home side.
Poole tried their hardest to influence the game and create chances, but outside of a few half-chances and the occasional break, found themselves repeatedly shut down by an efficient Cheltenham side.
Cheltenham had a few more chances to extend their lead further, but Chrippes was equal to the Robins’ efforts.
Chesham United Ladies vs Southampton FC Women
Newly promoted Southampton FC began their season with a trip to Chesham. The Buckinghamshire side looking to build on their impressive fifth-place finish last season, while Southampton, backed by the Premier League side of the same name, hoped to continue their rise.
In what would turn out to be another goal-fest, it took the visitors 11 minutes to take the lead. A flowing move finished by Shannon Sievwright giving the Saints the lead.
Southampton would find the net again just 8 minutes later, Pusey with a fine first-time finish to make the score 0-2.
The third and fourth goals of the game would come shortly before the break, this time Chesham putting the ball into the back of the net. Becky Bloor scored Chesham’s first, before being awarded a penalty for handball. Bowers would make no mistake in drawing the hosts level.
The referee brought the half to an end with the scores level. 2-2.
The game restarted and it was Chesham who had the opportunity to reverse their fortunes and take the lead after being awarded a second penalty. Bowers failed to capitalise, hitting the woodwork.
Chesham were made to pay for their miss shortly after the hour mark when Sievwright completed her brace. Saints re-taking the lead.
Southampton would score twice more, the fourth courtesy of Shannon Albuery 14 minutes from the end, and the fifth as the game was reaching its conclusion, Lambert conceding an own goal to make it five goals, and more importantly, three points for the Saints.
Exeter City Women vs Larkhall Athletic Women
Exwick Sports Hub played host to the meeting between newly promoted Exeter City and Larkhall Athletic.
Larkhall experienced a solid 2018/19 campaign, and while you never know how a newly promoted team will perform, it took just 18 minutes for Exeter to adapt to their new surroundings and put any doubts to bed, when Midfielder Anthea Kaptein, gave the hosts the lead.
Neither side was able to find the net in the remaining 27 minutes of the half.
The game resumed, and it was City who started the brightest, doubling their lead after 50 minutes. Exeter forward, Sophie Gillies, finding the net.
In the 88th minute City were awarded a penalty. Watkins stepped up and made no mistake, slotting home to give Exeter a 3-goal advantage, and effectively ending the game as a contest.
Three points and a clean sheet: the perfect start for Britton and Watts’ side!
Maidenhead United Women vs Buckland Athletic Women
Buckland Athletic began their season by heading to the historic York Road stadium to face Maidenhead United. Maidenhead, who had shown great character and resilience towards the end of last season, hoped to begin the campaign in the same vein. For a strong Buckland side, who will look to be challenging to for the top spots again this season, it meant hoping to continue business as usual.
Buckland broke the deadlock after 15 minutes when some loose defending saw Stacey pounce opportunistically to slot into an empty net.
Play resumed, and it was Stacey once again who threatened Maidenhead’s goal, this time Parker equal to the forward’s effort.
Undeterred by Maidenhead’s formidable stopper, Stacey would finally double Buckland’s lead and grab her second of the game, five minutes before the break.
With Buckland two goals to the good, the referee brought the half to an end.
If ever there were five minutes to forget, it would be the five minutes proceeding the interval. Ellie Parker was able to deny Buckland a third goal, saving well, but Warman was present to extend their lead further.
Within minutes of the restart, Stacey completed her hat-trick, scoring her third and Buckland’s fourth, in the 49th minute.
Maidenhead’s misery was compounded when Ellie Parker received a red card for handling the ball outside the box. Bloor replaced her between the sticks.
At 50 minutes, with 10 players and 4 goal deficit the game was effectively over. To Maidenhead’s credit though, they showed great resilience in not conceding further, and were able to create a few chances of their own, Modak and Thompson both having opportunities.
A disappointing opening day for Maidenhead, but the second half was full of the same character that served them so well at the end of last season. Buckland travelled home happy, with all three points and opening day bragging rights as they sit at the top of the FAWNL Division One South West table.