Abingdon United made a winning start to the 2020/21 campaign as they knocked local rivals Abingdon Town out of the FA Cup.
After nearly six months without a competitive fixture, there was a sense of inevitability that when the balls were drawn for the Extra Preliminary Round of the FA Cup, the Abingdon sides were matched up.
Whether it was fate or coincidence, the draw had produced an intriguing contest: the first-ever competitive Abingdon derby.
The game was met with anticipation having quickly sold out the initial allocation of tickets – could the Abbots upset their higher-ranked rivals?
In the end, the answer was no as first-half goals from Megan Crawford, Nell Boxall, Abbie Smith, and Lauren May saw United run out comfortable 0-4 winners to claim local bragging rights and secure a place in the next round of the FA Cup.
We caught up with Adam Wood, the manager and Head of Women’s Football at Abingdon United, in the wake of yesterday’s cup win to reflect on all the action.
First of all, congratulations on the win today, what are your thoughts on the game?
Thank you, I think it was very much a job done performance. We weren’t at our best, had to make a few changes but still – I feel – controlled the majority of the game. It was a good game for the neutrals. Our best period was the final 25 minutes of the first half that period won us the game. But we did extremely well not to concede against a side who are used to scoring goals.
Four-nil up at the break and looking comfortable – what was the message in the dressing room? Did you feel it a case of just managing the game at that point?
That would be telling…. ok… We spoke to the team about managing the game. I said the first 10 to 15 minutes of the second half were important and we did ask the team to try and get another goal just to cement control. But most importantly, we told the team not to get complacent. We had scored four goals in 45 minutes didn’t mean Town couldn’t do the same and I think that was the defensive talk done. We also changed the formation at half time.
It was the first-ever competitive meeting between the two sides, though it’s a team you’re obviously familiar with, did anything surprise you [about Town or the game] at all?
Town’s record in competitive football cannot go unnoticed really and we know a few of their players. I was surprised that considering they were only able to name one sub and haven’t had a preseason as full as ours at how fit they were. They are a good side who should be in our league. Then again if the season hadn’t curtailed they would be.
Four goals, four goalscorers – how pleasing is it to have goals coming from all areas of the pitch?
We have a team that loves to score goals which is very pleasing, for me the big difference is during this preseason and today we have been scoring from corners something we weren’t known for previously.
If you’re brave enough, can you pick a favourite from the four? And why?
That would be hard as all goals had moments of technical brilliance but I think it has to be Megan’s [Megan Crawford] header. Playing against her old club, she was rightly a bit nervous before the game (especially as it was her first competitive game for us) but it really relaxed her nerves. But to cop out of that, every goal meant so much to the individuals who scored, Nell [Nell Boxall] loves scoring in the big games and it was a great goal. Lauren’s [Lauren May] technique was brilliant for her outside of the box finish and to see Abbie [Abbie Smith] score a header from a corner is a rare occurrence in the near 6 years I have coached her but it was a great header.
Were there any standout performances for you today?
In terms of consistency throughout the game, [Amy] Chivers was probably a notable player of the match, due to injury and player availability we had to move her to the back today and she was composed as ever. I thought Rosie Cullen (who is 16) was also superb when she came on.
It’s cliché, but there is just something special about the FA Cup – what was feeling amongst the group today? Especially as you haven’t played a competitive fixture since March.
You couldn’t write it, the return of real competitive football and it was the FA Cup in a local derby. The team were excited this morning and leading up to the game this week but I think confident after a good preseason.
You’ve enjoyed a strong pre-season – beating teams in the tier above you – just how pleasing is it to see your team replicate that kind of form when it matters the most?
Definitely, although the performance may not have been our best throughout the last six weeks that winning mentality carried through.
The timing of today’s game is a little bit strange in that you’re effectively playing competitive games in between friendly matches as you prepare for the league season. Does that present any challenges to you as a manager, or to the team in general?
To be honest, for a while we thought the league may start on 13th/20th September along with others so we did plan for that knowing that FA Cup early stages are always before the league starts.
We have a couple of tough friendlies booked in this week, we will play Southampton Women on Thursday which will likely be behind closed doors followed by Leyton Orient next Sunday. It’s important for the side to stay focussed and motivated, footballers just want to play at the end of the day. We did have to move our preseason team build though to 26th September!
You’re set to welcome Newbury to The Northcourt in the next round. A fellow SRWFL side. What are your thoughts heading into the game?
We have had good results against them in the past but our preparations will be no different. FA Cup brings in money and is a huge motivation, I haven’t really seen much of Newbury preseason so not sure how their recruitment or friendlies have gone so it will be treated as if we were playing any other team.
Finally, a lot is said about the prize money in the FA Cup, what are your thoughts on it? And how beneficial to the club is the £300 prize money today, and potentially another £360 if you win against Newbury?
The income that can be generated is great if you go on a good run it can be season-changing in terms of helping pay for training etc. However, I think it is still too low. The ‘losers’ fee for the first couple of rounds won’t even cover referee fees so therefore forcing clubs to charge for entry. Whilst I appreciate the revenue generated for the men’s game I don’t see the logic that the men’s side could get knocked out in the extra prelim and get £750 but we wouldn’t earn that for winning a game until the first round proper (5 rounds in).
Our thanks to Adam for his time, and best wishes for the 2020/21 season.