Keynsham Town welcome Chichester City to Somerset this Sunday in the FAWNL Southern Premier Division.
Only way is up for K’s
Currently pointless and rooted to the foot of the table, Keynsham’s campaign to date has been a stark contrast to last season which saw them win the FAWNL Division One South West convincingly.
Following promotion to the FAWNL Southern Premier Division, the K’s experienced an exodus, with several of their title-winning side opting to ply their trade elsewhere, and began the season having to postpone their opening league fixture due to being unable to field a team.
They eventually kicked off their season the following week, coming from behind to beat Buckland Athletic 2-1 in the FAWNL Cup.
Since then they have lost seven games in a row including voluntarily withdrawing from the FAWNL Cup resulting in a home walkover win for Chesham United and most recently lost 0-5 against Yeovil Town at The AJN Stadium.
In the search for a silver lining, the K’s can take a little comfort in the fact they have a game in hand over Chi and that statistically, very little separates the sides at present – it really is anyone’s game.
Green Army on the road
Much like Sunday’s opposition, Chi also experienced a very turbulent close season that saw their manager and most of the squad that helped them secure a third-place finish last season depart the club.
Appointed shortly after Aaron Smith’s departure in May, former player Sadie Blakely undertook the considerable task of rebuilding the Green Army, signing more than 20 players with several members of the development squad stepping up in preparation of the new season.
Understandably, Blakely’s young side whose average age is just 23, experienced a difficult start to the season, losing six games before earning a point away from home against Gillingham; Megan Fox put the Green Army ahead before Gillingham equalised late on to rescue a point.
Chi lost the following game 1-4 to Portsmouth before winning their first game of the season in the FAWNL Plate, beating Swindon Town 4-2 to progress to the Second Round of the competition.
There’s no disguising the fact that both sides have experienced difficult seasons to date, and will view Sunday’s game as the perfect opportunity to register some vital points, and potentially kickstart their season.
In the FAWNL Division One North’s only game of the weekend, Bolton welcome Bradford to The Kensite Stadium this Sunday.
Whites looking to make it three on the bounce
Bolton began the season with victory at home against Norton & Stockton Ancients but have since experienced results indicative of a team that saw a considerable turnover of players in the summer, with Bolton’s Nicole Malpus recently stating:
“With nine new players this season it’s taken time but the players are starting to click, we are learning everyone’s strengths and weaknesses along with best suited positions. We can’t wait for Sundays game against Bradford. It can’t come quick enough.” – Nicole Malpus.
Currently seventh, with 7 points after five games, the Whites have played at least two games fewer than most others sides in the division, with the possibility of leapfrogging teams above them depending on results.
Bolton head into Sunday’s game hoping to build on their current momentum and extend their winning run to three after knocking Donny Belles out of the FAWNL Plate, and most recently beating Northern Premier’s Fylde 0-2 on the road in the County Cup.
Bantams looking to kickstart season
After more than two weeks without a game due to weather disruptions, Bradford head into Sunday’s game currently occupying eleventh place, though, like Bolton, the Bantams have played at least two games fewer than the teams above them presenting them with an opportunity to climb the table.
They began the season by beating Durham Cestria but lost their following four games before Steve Winterburn resigned as manager following a change in family circumstances.
Still yet to confirm a new manager, Charlotte Stuart stepped in to oversee first-team duties until a permanent replacement is appointed.
Since taking temporary charge, the Bantams have twice fallen to defeat, first bowing out of the FA Cup against high-flying Barnsley, followed by 4-0 defeat at the hands of promotion contenders, Brighouse Town.
After two weeks of work on the training ground, Bradford have plenty of time and opportunities to get their season back on track, starting this Sunday at Bolton.
With cup business handled, the focus returns to the league as two of the divisions heavyweights clash this Sunday in the Southern Premier Division.
Cardiff: the immovable object
Bolstered by the news that the rules involving promotion and league eligibility had sensibly been changed, the Wales side began the season hoping to go one better than last season and clinch promotion to the Championship.
Currently fifth, having conceded just two and scored seven, Blues have taken 13 from a possible 15 points in their last 5 outings. Evidence that while Lauren Smith’s side may not have been prolific in front of goal, their organisation and impressive backline has ensured they usually don’t have to be to come away from games with the results required to keep them within touching distance of teams above them. An efficient Cardiff side.
Last time out they welcomed MK Dons to Ystrad Mynach in the FAWNL Cup. Unable to be separated after extra-time the game was eventually decided by penalties; goalkeeping heroics of Dons’ Emma Kirby sending Cardiff out of the competition following two saves.
Plymouth: the unstoppable force
After finishing 6th last season, ending the campaign with three consecutive defeats, The Pilgrims had a good pre-season and began the season as divisional dark horses. But with lofty ambitions of their own, Argyle now look to push towards the very top places of the division in a season that has started brilliantly for the Devon side.
Spearheaded by the deadly Natasha Knapman – who has notched an impressive 13 goals in 7 games this season – Argyle head into Sunday as the most in-form side in the Southern Premier Division after taking maximum points from their last five outings, scoring 26 times in the process, and conceding just three.
Dave Leonard’s side is keenly poised, currently sitting third in the table, three points behind leaders Wasps with a game in hand.
Last time out they proved to be too much for Division One South West side Buckland Athletic in the FAWNL Cup, securing a sixth consecutive victory and progress into the next round following an impressive 1-7 victory on the road.
Last time they met
Cardiff came away with bragging rights last season following 3-2 victories both home and away to complete a league double over the Pilgrims.
The road to Wembley begins for Long Eaton and The New Saints this Sunday as the two Midland clubs face off in the Second Round Qualifying of the Women’s FA Cup.
The Magic of the FA Cup
Long Eaton enjoyed a rich vein of form at the start of the season, winning five on the bounce before falling to their first defeat. They quickly bounced back in their next game to win away 2-8 at Burton before last weekend’s draw against The New Saints
Similarly, TNS also enjoyed a 5-game winning streak, but have lost one more game than Sunday’s opposition.
Separated by three points, The Blues sit second in the table, while TNS occupy 4th, positions that represent a marked improvement on last season.
The teams met as recently as last weekend with the two sides unable to be separated after 90 minutes. On this occasion Laura Pennington gave The New Saints the lead before Kirsty Allen equalised in the second half to earn Long Eaton a point.
Nicola Emery has found the net 7 times this season for Long Eaton, while Kimberley Bebbington leads the way for The Green Army, scoring 5 times.
The nature of cup football means all that has happened so far this season can mean everything and absolutely nothing – the Magic of the FA Cup.
Coincidentally, both teams met the same stage of the competition last season, with Long Eaton progressing, before beating Sporting Khalsa and Nettleham to reach the Second Round where Northern Premier’s Hull City proved to be too strong for the Derbyshire side, bringing an end to their excellent cup run.
While The New Saints bowed out of the competition at the first hurdle, they managed to exact revenge by completing the league double over John Bennett’s side.
After the frustration of having their games postponed last weekend, both teams will look to bounce back from recent defeats when they meet on Sunday in the FAWNL Southern Premier Division.
Keynsham welcome Pompey to Somerset
Keynsham began the season in unusual fashion, unable to field a team their scheduled opening day fixture against Oxford United was postponed just days before the match was due to take place.
They eventually kicked off their season a week later, coming from behind to beat Division One South West side Buckland Athletic in the FAWNL Cup but have since suffered narrow losses against MK Dons, Cardiff, Crawley Wasps, and a heavy 6-1 defeat at the hands of early title contenders, Plymouth.
Further questions were also raised when Keynsham forfeited their scheduled cup game against Chesham United, opting to withdraw from the competition instead of completing the fixture.
With just two league goals to their credit so far this season, Fabiana Alborghetti and Justine Lorton the scorers, the departure of record goalscorer Kerry Bartlett is already proving to be a huge loss for the Somerset side.
Keynsham currently occupy 12th place at the foot of the Southern Premier Division. But despite their league position, The K’s can take some comfort in knowing two of those losses have come against two of the top three teams in the division, have games in hand and a much better goal difference than teams around them.
Portsmouth on the road
Portsmouth are on the road for the first time this season as they embark on a considerable 240-mile round trip to face Keynsham this Sunday.
Having only managed to play three league and two cup games, it has been a season of scheduling frustration so far for Portsmouth.
Kicking off the season with a loss, Pompey responded well by winning three on the bounce, first quickly avenging their opening day defeat against Watford, followed by an emphatic 8-0 win against Hounslow and an extra time cup victory against Southern Premier rivals, Gillingham.
Last time out they welcomed a very strong Oxford United side to the south coast. The U’s proved to be too much for The Hampshire side who were outmuscled and outclassed on the day, with Jay Sadler admitting as much during a post match interview.
“We simply weren’t good enough all over the pitch. Individually and collectively. I felt there were large moments of the game where we were outmuscled.”
Jay Sadler, Portsmouth manager.
One postive that can be taken from the game against Oxford was 16-year-old Mia Adaway scoring her first senior goal.
In terms of selection, Portsmouth have to manage without ‘keeper Hannah Haughton and Katie James who were both selected for the inaugural World Beach Soccer Games in Doha, Qatar.
Tamsin de Bunsen, Becki Bath and Charmaine True are joint top scorers, each finding the net three times.
Sunday presents arguably the biggest head-to-head in Division One South East to date as the Tractor Girls welcome Billericay Town to The Goldstar Ground in a top of the table clash.
Ipswich welcome league leaders.
Ipswich, currently second, began the season a little shaky, first coming back to secure a point against Wimbledon, followed by a loss to Southampton FC in the FAWNL Cup. But since then the Tractor Girls have been in great form winning five consecutive games; four league victories coming against Kent, Norwich, Actonians, and Stevenage, and an emphatic 11-2 victory in the County Cup. AFC Sudbury the recipients of the heavy defeat.
Last time out Ipswich travelled to Stevenage off the back of an emphatic cup win and delivered a result that was just as impressive. A hat-trick from Sophie Peskett, brace from Amanda Crump, and a goal from substitute Abbie Lafayette rounded off a fantastic victory on the road.
New signing Sophie Peskett and Amanda Crump are the club’s top scorers having found the net six and seven times respectively.
The formation of a dedicated supporters group, Tractor Girls On Tour, and some stellar attendances both indicate that the women’s team is making strides off the pitch as well as on it.
Perfect on the road.
Last season’s runners-up currently sit top of the FA Women’s National League South East following a brilliant start to the season.
Ricay began the season by winning four on the bounce, with victories against Kent, Cheltenham, Cambridge City, and AFC Basildon before being held to a 1-1 draw against Enfield. However, it didn’t take long for the Blues to get back to winning ways, first inflicting a 5-0 defeat on Norwich, followed by victory against Cambridge United to summit the league table.
Last time out Ricay travelled to Cambridge United, goals from Danica Dougal and Therese Addison secured all three points for the visitors.
Last season’s top scorer Zoe Rushden and Karissa Rodney are joint top scorers with 5 goals.
Billericay travel to Ipswich with a perfect record on the road – three wins from three, ten goals scored and none conceded – full of confidence and a belief that this season could be their season.
“I think we’re playing really, really positively. The girls are really well-knit, and we’re playing some really good football at the minute, and I think we’ve got a really, really good chance of winning the league this year.”
Pompey go into the game in good form having not lost since the opening day of the season.
Since then they have beaten Watford, Hounslow and Gillingham scoring 13 goals in the process.
Pompey have no long term injury concerns going into the match and manager Jay Sadler has a competitive squad to pick from. Competition for places has been intense and all eyes will be on social media as the fans wait to see what his starting 11 will be.
Goals have come throughout the team this year but Tamsin de Bunsen, Becki Bath and Charmaine True currently lead the scoring charts with 3 each.
Pompey will not underestimate Oxford though and it’s expected to be hard fought game at the PMC. The sides shared two very close games last season but Oxford came out on top on both occasions.
Oxford United head to the south coast to face Portsmouth in what will be only their third competitive game of the season.
After a delayed start to the season, Oxford kicked things off against Crawley Wasps in the FAWNL Cup. It was a hard fought contest between two sides likely to be pushing for the top places in the table come next May, with Crawley coming out on top thanks to a late Naomi Cole goal.
The following game saw manager Liam Gilbert ring several changes with Allen, Sims, Watson, McLachlan, and Williams all coming into the starting eleven. The result was a dominant display that saw the U’s comfortably dispatch of a young Chichester side.
While the players and management have dealt with the frustration of the stop-start-stop nature of the season very privately, it inevitably exists. How could it not? Players want to play, and the management will know there’s no way to replicate the benefits of competitive matches; it puts Oxford at a disadvantage in that regard, so it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s a factor on Sunday.
There are no new injury concerns that we’re aware of, while Evie Gane continues to near full fitness.
Last time out.
After multiple postponements both home and away games took place within weeks of one another, and on both occasions they were close, hard fought matches with goals from Timms and Allen earning the U’s all six points.
The Robins open the gates of the County Ground as they welcome Poole to Swindon this Sunday
For the first time since May 2017 Swindon Town Women have the opportunity to play at their male counterparts home stadium when they host Poole Town in FA Women’s National League Division One South West.
The Robins kicked off their season a little later than most teams after having to wait an additional week, an unfortunate consequence of having an uneven number of teams in a division.
Town began with a 0-4 loss to MK Dons in the FAWNL Cup, a result not to be too disheartened about against a team from a higher division.
Since then they have experienced four league defeats in a row, three of which was against teams currently occupying the division’s top five places.
While results have not been favourable, manager Jamie Lloyd Davies recently spoke of his team’s development, and how pleased he is that the players are buying into his style of play. Speaking to BBC Wiltshire he said: “(his season aims are) to implement a clear style of play, and we are already starting to embed that at that moment, which is fantastic and a pleasure to see. And to improve on last season’s points tally.”
Sunday’s game presents a fantastic opportunity to progress further in front of a good crowd of home fans.
Dolphins back on the road… again
Following last week’s postponement against Brislington Poole are back on the road again – the fourth time in five matches – as they head to Wiltshire.
Three losses from three league outings finds the Dorset side pointless in 9th place, but in games against Cheltenham, Exeter, and a hard-fought bottom-of-the-table clash against Maidenhead, Poole’s start to the season couldn’t have been much tougher.
And with the exception of a heavy defeat courtesy of Exeter, margins of defeat have been quite narrow, with only a 2-goal margin deciding games – a combination of resolute defending and serial Opposition Player of the Match Sam Chrippes limiting teams.
Poole’s biggest struggle has been finding the net at the other end, with just a single Danielle Maidment goal to the Dolphins’ credit so far this season. Something that must change if they are to progress and start earning those all valuable points.
How things stand
Is it too early to consider this contest an early season six-pointer? Possibly. But when you look at last season’s Division One South West table, it was extremely close at the bottom. Two teams – Poole and Maidenhead – finished with 8 points. Swindon finished above them in 9th place with 15. Compounded by the fact that the season is even shorter in Division One South West than any other in Tiers 3 and 4, there are fewer opportunities to earn points, especially against teams currently around them in the league table.
In a meeting between two teams with similar records – just one point separates the sides – it’s a game that depending on results elsewhere, could see Cestria top the table, or Feds climb as high as second place come Sunday afternoon.
Feds welcome newcomers Durham Cestria to Jericho Lane.
Feds experienced mixed fortunes in their opening few games: a loss to Leeds on the opening day of the season, followed by a narrow 1-0 win against Bradford in the Cup, and then a second league defeat hands of Brighouse in as many games found the Fed Army marching in the wrong direction.
However, it has been a bit of a resurgence for Leanne Duffy’s side over the last 10 days, with back-to-back wins over Stockport and Newcastle respectively – the latter a convincing 0-4 victory on the road – they now find themselves sitting more comfortably in 6th position, hoping to make it three wins in a row this Sunday.
Cestria back on the road following 0-5 win last time out.
After the disappointment of the opening day, Cestria has been in fine form; a victory in the FA Women’s National League Cup against Middlesbrough, followed by a draw against Bolton and back-to-back wins has seen them propel up the league table into 3rd place.
In their most recent outing, Durham Cestria were comfortable 0-5 winners against division strugglers Stockport County, two late first-half goals from Nelson and Purdham, followed by three late second-half goals from Robson, Ryan, and Crosthwaite secured victory on the road for the division newcomers.
By the numbers.
Form: Feds: LWLWW Cestria: LWDWW
Top scorer: Feds: Carla Lee (3) Cestria: Erin Nelson, Dannika Purdham (3)
Goals for: Feds: 8 (ave. 2 per game) Cestria: 13 (ave. 3.25 per game)
Goals first / second half: Feds: 4 / 4 Cestria: 3 / 10
The Fed Army look to halt Town’s perfect start when they welcome them to Jericho Lane this Sunday.
The hosts kicked off the season with a narrow 0-1 loss to Leeds United, debutant Molly Harvad’s goal in the 73rd minute was enough to secure all 3 points for Dan O’Hearne’s side.
The following game Feds hosted Bradford City in the Determining Round of the FAWNL Cup, which saw Leanne Duffy make several changes with Natalie Clark, Emily Douglas, Helen Griffiths, and Jennifer Rogers – who would prove to be the difference-maker – coming into the side.
It proved to be another close encounter for Feds, in a contest that was once again decided by a single goal. This time it would be Feds who secured the victory, courtesy of Jennifer Rogers’ – last season’s top scorer (15) – lob following a quick break shortly after half-time.
In a game that saw them create a number of chances and manage the game well in difficult conditions, it was a good response from the Fed Army after the opening weekend’s loss; securing progress into the next round of the competition, and potentially a platform to kick start their league campaign.
Town are on the road for the first time this season as they travel down the M62 to face Liverpool Feds.
After back-to-back victories on home soil, last season’s runners-up currently sit at the top of the table having enjoyed a perfect start to the new campaign.
The season began with Town welcoming Chorley to The Yorkshire Payments Stadium, and it didn’t take long for the home side to make their mark when debutant Laura Bartup introduced herself with a stunning 20-yard strike after 11 minutes. Cass then doubled the lead 10 minutes later, before Charlotte Proud made it 3-0 in the 68th minute, securing the 3 points and early bragging rights as league leaders.
Their attention then turned to the FAWNL Cup. In a game that pitted early Northern Premier leaders, Loughborough Foxes, against Division One North table toppers, it was the Tier 4 side that earned a place in the next round.
Mitchell named a mostly unchanged side and was rewarded with a similar performance, with Brighouse coming close on a number occasions before breaking the deadlock from 12 yards. Foxes would restore parity before Bartup would complete her brace, once against scoring from the penalty spot.
Town travel to Liverpool hoping to continue their perfect start, while knowing they won’t have it all their own way against a team Rob Mitchell described as the best footballing side in the league last season.
The corresponding fixture last season saw Town rescue a draw shortly before the death. Frustration for Feds, but an impressive point when you consider they played 60 minutes with 10 players against one of the best teams in the league.
The reverse fixture saw the Fed Army secure a 0-2 win. A handling error gifted Rosie Kinvig the opener, Town’s Beresford was later sent off in the 36th minute, and Lynsey Longhurst secured the win 6 minutes after the restart.
It has been 3 months since the whistle blew on last season, but the #FAWNLBigKickOff is nearly upon us – new memories will be made. Dreams will be realised. Tears of agony and ecstasy will fall. The beautiful game means so much to so many – it isn’t just part of our lives – it dictates our lives. We love it. We occasionally even hate it. But after months of waiting, we inevitably miss it and are ready to board the emotional roller coaster that is football once again.
Life is a little different for football managers, though. For the decision-makers the season never really ends and preparations for the following season begin almost immediately; long before players put on a training bib, begin those dreaded lung-burning sprints and start to wonder ‘I’m a centre-back, how often do I make 50 yard runs, gaffer?’, you can rest assured the managers have already put in many hard yards to reach that moment.
So, as we approach the opening day of the season, which sees Poole Town make a considerable 250 mile round trip to face Gloucestershire side Cheltenham Town, we reflect on their pre-seasons and the hard graft undertaken to prepare for the moment the ball gets rolling.
Cheltenham Town Ladies
For Cheltenham, 2018/19 was a season of milestones: a fourth-place finish – the highest in their history – and a record crowd of 375 fans attending their game at Jonny-Rocks Stadium among season highlights.
Alex Cheal had a solid foundation to build upon from last season, so retaining the core of his squad while strengthening in key areas was naturally his approach during close season. Cheltenham recruited well, securing the services of Mai Butler and Charlotte Criddle both joined from Wolves Women, while Sarah King (Swindon Town) and Sammy Hallsworth (Watford) also committed to the Robins for the 2019/20 season. Their most notable signing though is undoubtedly Kerry Bartlett. Bartlett, formally of Keynsham Town, won the FAWNL Division One South West Golden Boot last season, scoring an incredible 63 times and helping Keynsham win the league title in the process.
As expected there were some departures: Briscoe, Walters, and Purvis were among those to leave the club for pastures new.
The biggest absence for Cheltenham this Sunday is last season’s top scorer, Annie Martin, who misses out due to an injury she sustained during pre-season. Not only will she be a huge miss, it means that the exciting prospect of a Bartlett-Martin partnership – likely to strike fear into the hearts of defenders and delight Robins’ fans in tandem – will have to wait.
Poole Town Ladies
After back-to-back promotions which led Poole to the FAWNL Division One South West, the 2017/18 saw them secure a very respectable fifth-place finish, but rather than progressing the following year, they experienced a very tough 2018/19 season, finishing bottom (on goal difference) with just eight points.
The majority of last season’s first-team regulars remain: Paynter, Chrippes, Hawkins, Ellwood, Marshallsay and club captain, Becca Witherington, have all re-signed for the upcoming season. Steve Butcher has made a considerable number of new additions to freshen up his squad, too, as Katelyn Wyatt returns, while Danielle Maidment, Hannah Varney, Georgia Kemp, and Georgia Lowe, among others, have signed for the Dolphins. In total Poole have recruited over 10 new players in a bid to climb the table.
Amid a number of exciting signings, there have also been a number several departures as well, with Poole’s biggest loss arguably being last season’s top scorer, Hollie Agombar, who instead opted to drop down a division and join Winchester City Flyers.
A Results Business?
Friendly games can be viewed in many ways: an exercise in building familiarity between squad members, the opportunity to experiment with the knowledge of knowing that the outcome holds little weight, a chance to gain fitness, momentum and so on.
Regardless of how you perceive friendlies though, there is one constant: when the whistle blows on the opening day of the season, the only thing that matters is those 90 minutes. History has shown that a successful pre-season, while could be considered an indicator of performance and good confidence builder – not to mention a way of keeping some fans from tail spinning into an online frenzy – doesn’t always translate into success when it matters the most.
Cheltenham Town manager, Alex Cheal, expressed similar sentiments recently saying: “It has been up and down but for us, it is about finding a settled group of players and a new coaching philosophy that’s coming together really nicely. Ultimately August 18 is the key one for us.
Having said that, both teams have experienced somewhat mixed results during pre-season. Cheltenham bested Wolves, Redditch United, and Birmingham & WMLFC, but lost to Cardiff City and Oxford United. While Poole drew against Winchester City Flyers, beat Torquay and Dorset FA Rep squad, and lost to Yeovil, Plymouth, Eastleigh and Moneyfields.
In a game which saw the corresponding fixture finish 6-2 to Cheltenham last season, it could be considered a tough task for Poole. Youngster Georgia Brown was their main tormentor that day, scoring four times.
But regardless of the result, one game does not a season make. This is a new season, with new teams and one common goal: build on the previous year. For Cheltenham, that will mean finishing above fourth and pushing towards the very top places in the division. And for Poole, who seem to be going through a transitional period, it means surviving relegation, turning back the clock a little to take inspiration from their impressive fifth-place finish the year before last and pushing up the table as much as possible.