Middlesex FA hosted the final of the Southern Counties Women’s Cup Competition last Wednesday evening (20 March) at their Rectory Park headquarters.
Middlesex had qualified for the final by winning a very competitive North group containing Essex, the Army and Hertfordshire. They were up against Sussex, who had completely dominated the South group by overwhelming the Royal Navy, Kent and Jersey, with a tally of 16 goals scored to just one conceded.
However, Middlesex came out on top in an entertaining match, which was a credit to the competition. Both teams played high-quality attractive football in a very good competitive spirit. This victory was a culmination of the astute team building that manager Craig Nicholson has performed over a number of years.
Middlesex set off at a tremendous pace and went ahead in the third minute through Chloe Sampson, who netted from close range, following good approach work from skipper, Kasha Petit.
Sussex hit back. Striker Sara Tubby collected a loose ball and set off at pace for our goal. However, advancing goalkeeper, Lizzie Rose, stood up and parried the shot.
Prolific home striker Ashley Cheatley cleverly worked her way through the defence but she was foiled by ‘keeper, Lauren Graves. Then a long ball by Sheryce Slater started a scramble in the Sussex penalty area before it was eventually hacked away.
Middlesex scored a second goal in the 24th minute. Kasha was again the instigator, releasing Alessandra Barreca, whose cross was clinically converted by Ashley.
Alessandra then tested Lauren Graves with a well-hit low drive before Sussex came close to pulling a goal back. A fierce drive by Lauren Amerena crashed against Lizzie Rose’s left-hand post before seeming to bounce all around the goal framework before hitting the other post and remarkably coming back out onto the pitch.
Lizzie, who was excellent throughout the match, then saved from Lauren Amerena, following an incisive run by Jess Lewry and punched away an awkward cross from Meghann Wingsutton.
A last-ditch tackle on the goal-bound Ashley Cheatley resulted in a corner. Chloe Sampson’s resultant corner kick was met by Paige Laidler but her header was cleared off of the goal-line. Then the Sussex ‘keeper scrambled to prevent an in-swinging corner from Chloe entering her net.
Half Time Score: Middlesex 2 Sussex 0
Sussex reduced the arrears almost immediately after the break. Jess Lewry was tripped in the Middlesex penalty area by advancing ‘keeper Lizzie Rose and then placed the subsequent spot-kick spectacularly into the roof of the net.
Middlesex restored their two goal lead in the 55th minute. Firstly Lavana Neufville, who manager Craig Nicholson had introduced immediately after the interval, and then Ashley Cheatley demonstrated great ball control before Ashley placed the ball wide of the ‘keeper’s left hand.
Play continued to switch from end to end but Middlesex comfortably held onto their lead. Sussex were not often able to get in behind the home defence and were shooting from a range that didn’t cause Lizzie Rose very much trouble. The nearest that they came to scoring again was a long dipping shot from Danielle Rowe, which Lizzie brilliantly turned over her crossbar for a corner.
At the other end of the pitch, Lauren Graves saved an awkward long shot from Sue Kummaning and Alissa Down’s drive just skimmed the bar. Ashley worked her way through again but her shot was straight at the ‘keeper. Ashley crossed from the right for Lavana to try an unsuccessful overhead kick. Then Lauren Graves saved at Lavana’s feet from Alissa’s cross.
Anya Kinnane scored the fourth Middlesex goal in added-time. She hit the ball home from close range, past the luckless Sussex substitute goalkeeper, who had entered the fray just previously for a token appearance.
Final Score: Middlesex 4 Sussex 1
Referee Bdr Lucas Bomela enjoyed an excellent game. He was well supported by his Army FA colleagues, Capt Richard O’Halloran and Pte Ian Oswald. Paul Mitchell (Middlesex FA) was an efficient fourth official.
The trophy and individual mementoes were presented on the pitch by Southern Counties Cup Competition Vice President, Len Cordell, assisted by Chairman David Richbell.
Lizzie Rose (Denham United Ladies), Sheryce Slater (Enfield Town Ladies), Micaela Lopes (Actonians Ladies), Page Laidler (QPR Development), Anya Kinnane (QPR Women), Rachel Keightley (Denham United Ladies), Kasha Petit (QPR Women) (capt), Sue Kumanning (QPR Women), Ashley Cheatley (Ashford Town (Middlesex)), Chloe Sampson (QPR Development) and Alessandra Barreca (Actonians Ladies)
Substitutes (repeat substitutions were used): Lavana Neufville, Mara DeLuca and Alissa Down (all Ashford Town (Middlesex)), Anna Maria Dyzadyk (QPR Development) and Paige Horsnell (Actonians Ladies) (gkpr)
Manager: Craig Nicholson
Assistant Manager: Daniel May
Physio: Katy Bignell
Lauren Graves (Crawley Wasps), Jess Burke (Chichester City), Michelle Ward (Crawley Wasps) (capt), Danielle Rowe, Jazz Younger (both Portsmouth),Tiffany Taylor (Chichester City), Teagan Ashley (Crystal Palace), Lauren Amerena (Saltdean United), Sara Tubby, Jess Lewry both (Chichester City) and Skye Bacon (Lewes)
Substitutes: Abbie Measures, Amy Woolard (both Crawley Wasps), Sophie Phelps (Chichester City), Meghann Wingsutton and Feitang Wilde (gkpr) (both Lewes)
Manager: Karl Davy
Coaches: Carly Farrell and Lee Hayes
Our thanks are given to the Rectory Park centre staff, who hosted the event superbly. Also a special thank you is due to all of the Middlesex FA councillors who assisted on the night.
During the after-match ceremonies, Middlesex FA Chairman, John Taylor, presented Middlesex players Paige Laidler and Chloe Sampson with county caps to mark their respective sixth representative team appearances. He also made a special presentation to Alissa Down, who had made an all-time record 34th appearance that evening.
PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR A FULL SELECTION OF PHOTOS FROM THE NIGHT, COURTESY OF CHRIS BENN