The teams take the field


Jim Taylor

The Southern Counties Women’s Cup Competition commenced last Wednesday, 20th September with the Army ladies hosting Middlesex at The Robert Parker Stadium, home of Ashford Town (Middlesex) FC.   The Competition is being played on a league basis this season, with Kent, Essex and Jersey also taking part.

We were treated to an excellent match despite the efforts of the weather.   The game was played in heavy rain, which became torrential.   Middlesex were worthy winners, showing great team spirit and togetherness, especially considering that 7 of their players were making their debuts.   The Army team also demonstrated a high level of skill and determination.

Middlesex took the lead in the 5th minute and added a second goal in the 17th minute and although both teams created openings, the visitors were in a commanding position at the interval.   The Army continued to fight back strongly in the second half.   However, Middlesex matched them in an evenly contested period, in which both goalkeepers were busy and then scored a third goal in added time.

Striker Shakira Roberts got Middlesex off to a good start, when she cut in and netted with a low drive in the 5th minute. 

Shakira Roberts shoots and Middlesex go 1-0 ahead

The Army hit back and a shot from Ali Croucher hit the Middlesex crossbar and flew over.

Ali Croucher's shot hits the Middlesex bar

Middlesex went back onto the attack and a penetrating move in the 11th minute, involving Izzy Owens, Shakira and Lavana Neufville, ended with Lavana’s shot flying across goal.

Army skipper, Anna Birtwhistle’s low shot brought a good diving save from Middlesex keeper, Sophie Shults.

Middlesex doubled their lead in the 17th minute.   Shakira Roberts was again the scorer.   She fed the skilful Aimee Durn, picked up the return pass and netted.

Shakira nets Middlesex's second goal

Niamh Cashin put Shakira through again but Army keeper, Nicole Gair made a brave save at her feet.

Both sides created openings and the quality of football was high, despite the appalling conditions.   Sophie Shults saved an angled shot low down

At the other end, Jenny Nagle’s powerful header from a corner was saved by Nicole Gair.

Nicole Gair saves Jenny Nagle's (16) header from a corner

Then Sophie saved low down from Emma Hutton.

Sophie saves from Emma Hutton

The Middlesex defence was looking very solid with the central partnership of Anya Kinnane and Gabby Bishop particularly impressive.

Shakira Roberts’ cross shot was pushed for a corner.   A good Middlesex move ended with Nicole Gair saving low down from Ava Hobson.   A crucial tackle by Army defender, Tara Parker thwarted Niamh Cashin.

Nicole Gair pushes Shakira's shot for a corner

Emma Hutton fastened onto a good through ball but again Sophie saved at her feet.   Olivia Dixon made a run down the wing for the Army but her cross didn’t find a recipient.   Sophie dived to smother a dangerous diagonal ball from Krissy Wright.

Jenny Nagle fired fractionally wide following good approach work involving Milly Cutler, Ava Hobson and Aimee Durn.   Then Jenny’s long-range effort cleared the crossbar.

A deflected low shot by Izzy Crooks was pushed away by the diving Sophie Shults.

Score at half time: The Army 0   Middlesex 2

The Army began the second period on the offensive.  However, the Middlesex defence stood firm and contained them well.   Sophie Shults, who started the half by repelling a high shot from Olivia Dixon, was outstanding

A good back-header by Milly Cutler brought an equally good save from Nicole Gair.

The Army’s Lois Jacobs shot wide from a good position.

Laura Huse released Niamh Cashin with a fine through ball, but Niamh’s cross eluded Lavana Neufville at the far post.

Aimee Durn’s shot tested Nicole Gair.   Aimee was an inspiration, battling to defy the conditions and create openings.   She was felled by an opponent, who was booked but she carried on regardless and took the resulting freekick.

Aimee Durn is brought down and takes the resulting free kick as the rain intensifies

The torrential rain increased in its intensity, with around 15 minutes remaining and it really appeared that it would bring the proceedings to a halt.   However, the referee decided otherwise and the players responded and soldiered on (pardon the pun!). 

Sophie made a courageous double save from Holly Swann.   Then Anya Kinnane made a timely saving tackle on Holly.

Sophie completes a double save from Holly Swann (21)

Fittingly, Aimee Durn consolidated Middlesex’s victory by scoring their third goal with a well-judged lob from just inside the box. 

Aimee's lob makes it 3-0

This was a terrific all-round team performance by Middlesex.   There wasn’t a weakness anywhere in the team.   Everyone knew their role and performed it to perfection. 

Final Score:  The Army 0   Middlesex 3

All of the players were heroines but the match officials, who all did an excellent job in extremely difficult conditions, deserve our admiration as well.   Our thanks are due to the Ashford Town (Middlesex) officials for their hospitality and for the use of their fine facilities.   They must be commended on their pitch, which held up superbly, despite the deluge to which it was subjected.


The Army: Pte Nicole Gair, Capt Kristina Wright, SSgt Tara Parker, Spr Izzy Crooks, LCpl Courtney Jones, LCpl Heather Mearns, Cfn Emma Hutton, Cpl Alison Croucher, Olivia Dixon, Bdr Anna Birtwhistle (capt) and Cpl Lois Jacobs

Rolling Substitutes: Cpl Stephanie Carrick, Cpl Georgia Smith, LCpl Chantelle Dumbell, Gnr Holly Swann, SSgt Yvette Kemp

Head Coach: WO2 Ryan McDowell   Coach: WO2 Ashley Cunningham   Physio: Alex Rigby.

Middlesex: Sophie Shults (Ashford Town (Middlesex)), Zoe Cohen (QPR Women), Lavana Neufville (Ashford Town (Middlesex)),Brodie McKie (UCFB),  Gabby Bishop (Ashford Town (Middlesex)), Izzy Owens (QPR Women), Anya Kinnane (capt), Aimee Durn (both Ashford Town (Middlesex)), Shakira Roberts (Dulwich Hamlet), Jenny Nagle and Niamh Cashin (both Denham United)

Rolling Substitutes: Beckie Currivan (Denham United), Laura Huse (Ashford Town (Middlesex), Ava Hobson (UCFB) and Milly Cutler (QPR Women)

Manager: Craig Nicholson   Assistant Manager: George Wells   Coaches: Jacob Ballheimer and Alissa Down.  Physio: Scott Everley

Referee: Andrew Denikiewicz   Assistant Referees: Ryan Hetherington and Jon Marsh.  (All Army FA)

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