ASHFORD TOWN LADIES' FA CUP RUN ENDS
Unfortunately Ashford Town (Middlesex) Ladies exited the Vitality Women’s FA Cup on Sunday last, 12th December but they should be pleased with their performance in that game and in their achievements so far this season. Sunday’s match was undoubtedly the most important in the club’s history and our roving team of Chris Benn (County photographer) and Jim Taylor (reporter) were there to witness it.
The Tangerines’ opponents in this 3rd Round match, at The Robert Parker Stadium, were the formidable London City Lionesses. The Lionesses currently play in the FA Women’s Championship, which is the second tier of domestic women’s football in England, three tiers above Ashford Town. They were formed in June 2019 and are a fully professional women’s club, with ambitions and a plan to gain promotion to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League. They are currently in second place to Liverpool in the Championship table.
This was Ashford Town’s first ever appearance in the Third Round of the FA Cup. They had entered the competition at the 2nd Qualifying Round stage this season and so far had beaten Highworth Town Ladies (Home 25-0), New London Lionesses (Away 2-1), Sutton United Women (Away 6-0) and Oxford United Women (Home 3-0). Lionesses are entering the competition at this stage.
The impressive brand of football played by the Lionesses right from the start demonstrated their quality, individually and as a team. They are a really classy outfit. I was particularly impressed by the speed of their breakouts from defence, often by speedy wing raids or long cross field passes or both.
The Tangerines also started well and provided strong opposition. The game was still in the balance at half time but in the latter stages the Lionesses professionalism and fitness were the telling factors.
The Lionesses dominated the possession at the start and Brook Nunn’s shot in the 3rd minute was only just wide. Then Kenni Thompson sped up the left and cut in but Sophie Shultz turned her shot for a corner.
Ashford’s Rozalia Sitartz relieved the pressure by bringing the ball out and setting up an attack, which ended with Ashley Cheatley shooting wide. However, the visitors took the lead in the 11th minute with a rocket shot into the top corner of the net by Rianna Jarrett.
The Tangerines fought their way back into the match and there was plenty of action at both ends. Alissa Down’s long range effort was taken under her cross bar by Lionesses’ keeper, Jessica Gray. Then Rozalia outpaced the defence and brought a low save from Jessica.
Then Sophie, who was kept very busy all afternoon and had a great game, made a very good save from Carly Girasoli’s header from a corner.
Jessica Gray parried a close range effort from Ashley. Brooke Nunn made a penetrating run but Anya Kinnane blocked her final shot. Sophie saved at close range from Brooke.
A trademark Alissa corner put the defence under pressure and was headed over the cross bar by a defender for safety. The repeat corner was cleared.
A dangerous ball across the Ashford goalmouth from Kenni Thompson evaded her incoming forwards.
In the 36th minute, Alissa broke clear but she was dispossessed. The ball ran to Ashley, whose low shot was deflected for a corner on the right. Alissa took the kick and sent over a devastating ball, which Lavana Neufville, positioned at the far post, bundled into the net for an equaliser.
Unfortunately, the scores remained level for less than 4 minutes before Lilly Pursey netted a rebound from close range, following a fine save by Sophie.
Ashley went on a run and shot narrowly wide before the first half ended with 2 attempts from the Lionesses. A long-range effort by Charlotte Fleming whistled over the bar and Sophie saved at Rianna Jarrett’s feet.
Half time score: Ashford Town (Middlesex) 1 London City Lionesses 2
The “killer” goal came 6 minutes after the break. Kenni Thompson made a run down the left and fired the ball in for Brooke Nunn to score.
The Lionesses kept pressing and looked very likely to add to their score. A drive from Rianna Jarrett brushed the far post. Kenni Thompson fired too high.
In an Ashford attack on the hour, Ashley played a good ball inside a defender for Lavana but she shot wide.
Sophie saved an awkward low shot from Kenni Thompson and made diving saves from Brooke Nunn and Rianna Jarrett. She then made a fingertip save from a cross shot before being beaten from close range by substitute Annie Rossiter, who had been on the field for less than 2 minutes. This goal came in the 69th minute and made the score 4-1 to the Lionesses.
Two more Lionesses’ substitutes combined for their 5th goal in the 78th minute, with Mollie Rouse volleying home Ali Palisch’s cross. The final goal, 3 minutes later was deflected in by a defender.
Ashford Town Manager, Will Boye will be very proud of his team and will not allow them to be downhearted by the final score. They still have a lot to play for this season and will have some great memories of the campaign so far.
Referee Elle Kaplicz had an excellent game. She was well supported by her Assistant Referees Sam Gregory and Paul Savva.
Final Score: Ashford Town (Middlesex) 1 London City Lionesses 6
ASHFORD TOWN (MIDDLESEX): Sophie Shults, Anya Kinnane, Ellen Clarabut, Charlotte Baker (Elle Butcher 56 min), Kalani Peart (Alise Frise 72), Chloe Farrell (Frances Cotter 75), Jade Johnson, Rozalia Sitarz (Laura Huse 75), Alissa Down (capt), Lavana Neufville and Ashley Cheatley.
Unused substitutes: Lucy Potter and Phoebe Head.
Manager: Will Boye.
LONDON CITY LIONESSES: Jessica Gray, Grace Neville (Alli Palisch 57), Melis Mehmet, Charlotte Fleming, Carly Girasoli, Rianna Jarrett (Karin Muya 67) Harley Bennett (capt), Wiktoria Fonc (Annie Rossiter 67), Lilley Pursey, Kenni Thompson and Brook Nunn (Mollie Rouse 67)
Unused substitutes: Amy Rodgers, Jamie Lee Napier, Lucy Fitzgerald, Anna Pedersen, Atlanta Primus
Head Coach: Mellisa Phillips.
REFEREE: Elle Kaplicz ASSISTANT REFEREES: Sam Gregory and Paul Savva.
As always we thank Chris & Jim for giving up their valuable time to cover this match, they have picked out their favourite shots of the match as shown throughout the report, alonside this there is a full album of photography available courtesy of Chris Benn.