The First Round of the FAWNL was due to have been completed weeks ago, with teams confirmed, the Second Round drawn, and the final 16 sides dreaming of glory.
But it was a case of another weekend, another Sunday where clubs found themselves battling the elements to ensure they, and the tournament, could finally progress to the next stage. Thankfully, all three scheduled games were successfully played, leaving just one place in the last 16 to be confirmed when Leafield Athletic travel to Leicester United next weekend.
After bowing out at the first hurdle of the FAWNL Cup, all six teams were given a bye in the Preliminary Round of the FAWNL Plate competition setting up the weekend’s ties. AFC wimbledon travelled to Brislington, Oxford welcomed Norwich to Court Place Farm, and Leeds faced local rivals Bradford City.
Dons make it six on the bounce
With potential weather disruptions looking likely, Brislington made arrangements for the game to be played at The AJN Stadium, home of Keynsham Town Ladies.
It has been a tough season to date for the Bristol side who are still without a win in the league, however they’d enjoyed their two most positives results of the season in recent weeks, first beating Bishops Lydeard Ladies in the County Cup, followed by a 1-1 draw with Buckland Athletic to earn their first point of the season.
Their opposition, AFC Wimbledon, travelled to Keynsham with their tails up having enjoyed a rich vein of form that sees them currently sitting third in the table after winning their last three league games to make it five on the bounce in all competitions.
Charlotte Flood almost opened the scoring for the visitors after 25 minutes when she connected with an O’Callaghan cross, but her headed effort was well saved by Vicky Powell.
The Dons came closer still shortly after, this time through Sian Wylie, before making the breakthrough five minutes before the interval. Wylie, involved once again, played Georgia Heasman through to score a tap-in and give Wimbledon the lead heading into the break.
After a more purposeful start to the second half, the hosts restored parity after 56 minutes through Paige Sawyer. The Brislington striker netting for the seventh time this season.
The score remained all square until Katie Stanley started and finished a move from midfield to regain the lead, and eventual winner, for the visitors just over 10 minutes from time.
Full-time: Brislington 1-2 AFC Wimbledon
The victory sees Wimbledon extend their winning run to six games in all competitions. And with recent results of 1-2, 1-2, 3-1, and 1-0, while they aren’t necessarily big wins in terms of numbers, a solid backline that has only conceded more than one goal on two occasions this season (out of 12 games) ensured they don’t have to be. They have developed a winning habit that should serve them well going forward.
AFC Wimbledon’s reward for progressing to the next round of the FAWNL Plate is a trip to Devon where they will face one of the favourites of the competition, Plymouth Argyle.
Clinical U’s progress to Second Round
The U’s welcomed Division One South East side Norwich to Court Place Farm in a game that provided both sides with the opportunity to bounce back following losses last time out.
Oxford has enjoyed a mostly positive campaign that sees them three points and 12 goals better off than the same state last season in the league. However, in their most recent outing against Gillingham, the clinical U’s that had scored 27 times in their previous three games were nowhere to be found, failing to take chances against a Gillingham side who applied their game plan effectively to secure the points.
Currently ninth, with two wins from a possible nine, Norwich’s season has largely mirrored that of last season which saw them finish in tenth place. With a divisional gap and several absentees that included current top scorer Aimee Durrant, the young canaries side travelled to Oxfordshire with nothing to lose; experience and a potential cupset to gain.
After an initial effort for the visitors, Oxford opened the scoring within the opening seven minutes, Sophie Baker’s effort somehow evading Hope Armstrong’s grasp to find the back of the net.
United struck again less than ten minutes later to double their lead when Carly Johns worked space down the right and crossed to provide a perfect opportunity for Cheryl Williams, Williams making no mistake from close range to score her fifth goal of the season.
Captain Millie Daviss halved the deficit for the visitors after 20 minutes, showing great vision and technique to lob Paris Sercombe from distance.
Unphased by the setback, the U’s restored their 2-goal lead shortly after from 12 yards. Johns committed and wrong-footed a defender who brought the Oxford winger down in the area, prompting the referee to point to the spot. Williams stepped up and converted the opportunity to make it 3-1.
Provider turned goalscorer when lively winger Carly Johns found herself in acres of space and the composure to finish, slotting home to extend the U’s lead to 4-1 heading into the break.
The visitors experienced a good few moments during the opening 45 minutes, finding space in promising areas, but were unable to create anything clear cut for the likes of Chelsea Garrett to really test the United goal.
Second-half underway, and it was the home side who struck again when Williams completed her hat-trick in the 56th minute an audacious finish. Through on goal, Oxford’s number ten opted to scoop the ball over an on-rushing Armstrong to give the U’s their fifth goal of the afternoon.
Hope Armstrong performed several very good saves to deny Williams and Allen, before Sims uncharacteristically missed a header from close range.
United grabbed their sixth through Moore following a flowing move, before substitute Georgia Timms added a seventh for the home side within minutes of her introduction to the game. Armstrong pulled off a spectacular save to deny McLachlan, but was unable to prevent Immy Lancaster from adding an eighth following a corner.
Full-time: Oxford United 8-1 Norwich City
Coming off the back of a disappointing performance, the U’s were back to their clinical best and must now look to take that forward with them into their next games, knowing that complacency and inconsistency in a competitive league will mean they fail to match their ambitions. United now face a familiar opposition, Watford, in the next round.
Norwich showed good spirit, never gave up and never let their heads drop. They applied themselves fully and conducted themselves well throughout the entire 90 minutes. Some teams may have become visibly frustrated, but to their credit, that didn’t happen. It was always going to be a tough task for the Tier 4 side, and injuries coupled with the divisional gap proved to be too much for the Canaries on this occasion.
Hunt brace sinks rivals Bradford City
Currently fifth, with a game in hand that could potentially lift them as high as third, The Whites welcomed local rivals Bradford City Thorp Arch looking to bounce back from recent league and cup defeats against Barnsley.
It has been a difficult season for Bradford, with their solitary win coming on the opening day of the season against Durham Cestria, and the weather wreaking havoc on their schedule, it had been 3 weeks since City last played a competitive fixture heading into Sunday’s game.
After a series of chances that saw Leeds hit the woodwork and Bradford’s Aimee Routledge produce a good save to deny the home side, the breakthrough finally came after half an hour when a superb Cath Hamill cross was met by Abbie Brown at the back post to slot home.
Ten minutes later and Bradford were on level terms through an unfortunate Jodie Hunter own goal.
Two quickfire goals gave Leeds a 2-goal cushion less than ten minutes after the restart. The first courtesy of top scorer Rebecca Hunt from close range after 53 minutes, before Cassidy struck an effort low from 25 yards two minutes after the restart to make it 3-1 to the home side.
Brown was fouled in the area in the 63rd minute prompting the referee to point to the spot. Up stepped Hunt who fired past Routledge to score her eighth of the season, and Leeds’ fourth of the game, to effectively put the tie to bed.
There were further efforts on goal for the Whites and the introduction of Bradford’s top scorer Falone Sumaili added some impetus going forward for the visitors, but the scores remained unchanged, finishing 4-1.
Full-Time: Leeds United 4-1 Bradford City
A pleasing win for the Whites sees them rebound after back-to-back defeats against Barnsley. Leeds have been drawn against Northern Premier side Nottingham Forest in the Second Round of the FAWNL Plate. But before that, they travel to Stockport County in the league next weekend, followed by another meeting with Sunday’s opponents, and an exciting game in prospect against inform Durham Cestria.
Bradford must down themselves down as they head to Bolton on Sunday, before welcoming Leeds to Eccleshill United Sports Club in league action.