MIDDLESEX LADIES MAKE A TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO REPRESENTATIVE FOOTBALL
The Southern Counties Women’s Cup Competition is making a welcome return this season, after the break initiated by the covid pandemic. The Middlesex Ladies team were involved in the opening match on Wednesday, 18th January, against the Royal Navy at HMS Temeraire (also known as The Victory Stadium) in Portsmouth.
The Competition came to a halt in March 2020, with the final between the two group winners, Kent and Essex, still outstanding. After several frustratingly unsuccessful attempts to play that game, it was decided to declare the finalists as joint holders. Eight associations took part in the competition that season. Middlesex were the last outright winners, beating Sussex 4-1, in the 2018/19 final. Four associations, the Royal Navy, Middlesex, Essex and Kent are competing this season, in a league format.
Wednesday’s match got off to a flying start. Middlesex went ahead in the 4th minute. The Royal Navy equalised almost immediately but Middlesex reclaimed the lead in the 11th minute. There was no further scoring until the interval but the home side had the most possession and pressed hard for another equaliser. An outstanding display by the Middlesex goalkeeper helped to ensure that they were not successful. Manager, Craig Nicholson reorganised his team’s formation at half time and they took the attack to the Navy. Within 10 minutes of the restart, they had increased their lead by 2 further goals. They added a fifth goal with 15 minutes remaining, to finish 5-1 winners.
Before the kick off a minute’s silence was observed in memory of the recently deceased Pip Axtell, a much respected and dedicated Middlesex FA councillor, who together with many other roles, was Secretary of the County’s Representative sides for many years. Pip’s granddaughter, Ellen Wardlaw was playing for Middlesex in the match.
Ami Martins put Middlesex ahead in the 4th minute, with a low shot into the corner of the net.
The Navy hit back and Middlesex goalkeeper, Sophie Shults comfortably saved a long range shot from Anthea Kaptien. However, Jade Widdows lobbed an equaliser in the 6th minute.
Ami Martins continued to extend the Navy defence and was thwarted by a timely tackle by Grace O’Leary.
In the 11th minute, another promising run by Ami produced a corner. Alissa Down’s superb in-swinging kick was headed off of the goal-line to Ashley Cheatley, who restored Middlesex’s lead.
The hosts pushed hard for another equaliser. Sophie Shults saved with her legs at close range from Jade Widdows. Anthea Kaptien bounced a shot onto the Middlesex bar following Ciara Boylan’s long free kick into the box. Katie Shorter’s long-range effort cleared the crossbar. Sophie again used her legs to foil Anthea. Ciara shot narrowly wide.
Laura Huse made a good interception, at the expense of a corner, on Jade Widdows, who had broken clear. Ellie Bishop set up Katie Shorter but Sophie saved well, low down. Sophie then made another good save, this time from Ellie.
Middlesex hit back as the interval approached. The hard-working Aimee Durn’s shot took a deflection, which was saved by Navy custodian, Eilish Brogan. Then Ellen Wardlaw tricked her way into the Navy penalty area but ran into heavy traffic and was dispossessed.
Score at half time: Royal Navy 1 Middlesex 2
Middlesex resumed the attack after the interval and Eilish Brogan saved Alissa Down’s curving free kick, taken from just outside the penalty area.
Substitute, Jenny Nagle was proving a handful for the home defence and had a shot cleared off of the goal-line. She then scored Middlesex’s third goal with a well-judged lob, in the 55th minute.
Jenny immediately added another. A defence splitting long ball by Laura Huse found Ami Martins, who squared for Jenny to net.
Sophie took a difficult cross from Anthea Kaptian. Then Jade Widdows ran onto a through ball but was intercepted.
The Navy changed goalkeepers in the 65th minute with Lauren Watson taking over.
Lauren was soon in action, leaving her line to thwart Jenny Nagle, who had been released by Alice Curr.
Ami Martins added Middlesex’s 5th goal and her own 2nd in the 75th minute. She took possession of a through ball and ran 40 yards before netting with considerable aplomb.
The Royal Navy didn’t give up easily and fought hard to reduce the arrears. Sophie Shults turned a well struck free kick by Anthea Kaptian, over her crossbar. Jenny Nagle got back to head a shot by Nat Bavister off of the goal- line. Jenny Driver wasted a good chance by blazing a close range shot over the bar. Then, Ellie Bishop fired narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
This was a very good performance by Middlesex. Every player contributed to a superb team effort. Congratulations are also due to manager, Craig Nicholson, who overcame availability problems and a shortage of opportunity for preparation to get the very best out of his players.
Final Score: Royal Navy 1 Middlesex 5
TEAM LINE UPS:
Royal Navy: Eilish Brogan, Nat Bavister, Clara Boylan, Grace O’Leary, Jodie Goodhall, Nadina Green, Thia Haynes-Wright, Katie Shorter, Ellie Bishop, Anthea Kaptien and Jade Widdows.
Substitutes (rolling substitutes were used): Anne Unsworth, Jenny Driver, Jasmine Hindon and Lauren Watsonj (goalkeeper).
Manager: Glenn Long.
Middlesex: Sophie Shults (Ashford Town (Middlesex)), Ailish Carolan (QPR), Sarah Coomson (Actonians), Laura Huse, Ashley Cheatley, Kayleigh Currivan (all Ashford Town (Middlesex)), Alice Curr (QPR), Alissa Down (Ashford Town (Middlesex)), Ami Martins (QPR), Aimee Durn (Ashford Town (Middlesex) and Ciara Purdue (UCFB).
Substitutes: Jenny Nagle (Denham United), Ellen Wardlaw (QPR) and Megan Allaway (UCFB).
Manager: Craig Nicholson Assistant Manager: Jacob Ballheimer Physio: Scott Everley.
Referee: Jules Cook Assistant Referees: Michelle Garrett and Gareth Davies.
Our thanks are given to the match officials. They controlled the proceedings very well.
As always we thank Chris and Jim for their time, travelling to cover the match in Portsmouth on a bitterly cold Wednesday night. As ever they have selected their favourite images of the game which can be found throughout the report. Chris has also very kindly provided a full album of imagery from the match.