Southern Counties Cup match photo


Jim Taylor

Middlesex Ladies played their fourth match in this season’s Southern Counties Cup Competition on Wednesday last, 13th March at the County’s Rectory Park HQ. The competition was played in a league format also involving teams representing the Army, Kent and Jersey. This was the concluding match, with the result deciding the title winners. Before the game, Middlesex led the table with 7 points from their 3 matches, with the Army, who had completed their programme, in second place on 6 points and Essex third on 4 points. The competition rules decree that, if teams are equal on points in the final table, the match between the relevant teams shall decide precedence. Therefore, a win for Essex would have given them the title, with any other result giving it to Middlesex.   

In their previous matches this season, Middlesex beat the Army 3-0 (away) and Kent 3-1 (at home) and then drew with Jersey 0-0 (at home). Essex also won against the Army, 5-0 (away), drew with Kent 2-2 (at home) and lost 2-1 (at home) against Jersey.

Middlesex FA fielded their first women’s representative team on 10th March 1998. This evening’s match was their 96th. They had won 51 of the previous 95, drawn 16 and lost 28. They had scored 249 goals and conceded 154.

However, Middlesex and Essex had only clashed 3 times previously, all in recent seasons, in the Southern Counties Competition. Middlesex won 4-1 at Rectory Park in December 2018, Essex won 3-2 at Aveley FC’s Parkside ground in February 2020 and then Middlesex finished 2-0 winners at Bedfont Sports FC last season.

The game lived up to expectations and provided a memorable finish to the competition. Both sides played good passing football, building their attacks from the back. Middlesex went ahead in the first minute and despite Essex having more possession, had increased their lead to 3-0 before the interval. Middlesex survived a spell of Essex pressure and then added 2 more goals, in quick succession, to lead 5-0 ten minutes into the second half. The Essex pressure then paid off and they started to reel in Middlesex’s lead, eventually making the final scoreline 5-3. It is open to conjecture what might have happened if time hadn’t run out.

Middlesex went ahead inside the first minute. The ball was played deep into their half from the kick off but was swiftly transferred to the other end, where Ashley Cheatley hit it high into the Essex net, from wide on the left.

Ashley Cheatley shoots to give Middlesex the lead

Play moved rapidly from end to end. Middlesex keeper, Nicole Melling saved at Millie Isherwood’s feet. Essex custodian, Emily Mackler saved at Lauren Cox’s feet. Then Emily turned Aimee Durn’s shot over her crossbar.

Emily Mackler saves at Lauren Cox's feet

Middlesex doubled their lead in the 10th minute. Ashley Cheatley fed Courtnay Ward-Chambers, who sped up the right, took the ball through the defence and crossed low for Shakira Roberts to convert.

Courtnay Ward-Chambers takes the ball through the Essex defence

... for Shakira to score.

Ashley shot straight at Emily Mackler. Then she netted Middlesex’s 3rd goal, in the 15th minute, converting Shakira’s pass, following a strong run by Courtnay.

Ashley Cheatley scores Middlesex's third goal

Emily then saved low down from Ashley, who had been released by Alissa Down. Aimee Durn then set up Lauren Cox, whose cross evaded Shakira.

Nicole Melling held an awkwardly bouncing, long range effort from Essex captain, Nicole Farmer.

Courtnay’s drive hit the Essex crossbar and went over.

In a spell of Essex pressure, Cate Jackson won possession, made ground and hit a left footed drive narrowly ouside the Middlesex post. Millie Isherwood crashed a shot against an upright from 25 yards, after good approach work by Laura Bunton and Chloe Woolaway. Chloe then fired wide, after an incisive run by Laura.

Just before the interval, Ashley showed good control and worked herself into a shooting position but hit her shot wide.

Score at half time: Middlesex 3 Essex 0

Emily Mackler left her penalty area to kick clear from Rebekah Higgins and then saved from Amelia. Nicole Melling was also kept busy at the other end of the field. She dived bravely at Daisy Canny’s feet and fielded a low drive from Whitney Locke.

Emily saved low down from Ashley.

Middlesex then scored twice, in quick succession. In the 54th minute, Rebekah challenged Emily, who had possession of the ball, won it and netted. Then, less than a minute later, Ashley cut in and netted to complete her hattrick.

Rebekah Higgins (6) scores the fourth Middlesex goal

Ashley Cheatley completes her hat-trick

Undeterred, Essex continued to press forward. Nicole saved Maya Lane’s shot. Laura Bunton shot wide from close range. Daisy Canny just missed with a lob, then took the ball through the defence and rounded the keeper, before netting in the 66th minute.

Daisy Canny takes the ball through the Middlesex defence...

...and places the ball home for Essex's first goal

Amelia Halawi collected a loose ball and took it on but Emily Mackler saved low down. Almost immediately afterwards, Emily made a diving save from Aimee Durn.

Nicole leapt high to keep out a dangerous in-swinging corner. Then Alissa Down blocked Laura Bunton’s shot at the expense of another corner.

Courtnay was put clear through the middle by Lauren Cox but she shot over the Essex crossbar.

Essex scored a 2nd goal in the 85th minute. Nicole saved low down from Maya Lane but Laura Bunton netted the rebound.

Laura Bunton hits Essex's second goal

Daisy Canny further reduced the Essex deficit, with a well-judged chip, in the 90th minute.

During added time, Daisy breached the Middlesex defence again but Mara Bramwell raced back to clear her shot off of the goal-line.

Final Score: Middlesex 5 Essex 3

The winners with the trophy

Referee Gemma Day controlled the proceedings in her usual efficient manner. She was well supported by her assistant referees.

John Taylor, the Chairman of the Southern Counties Competition presented the trophy and winners’ medals. He also presented the runners up medals to WO2 Ash Cunningham, representing the Army FA.


Middlesex: Nicole Melling, Emma Petrie (both QPR), Daisy Baranowski (Denham United), Mara Bramwell (Actonians), Anya Kinnane (capt), Ashley Cheatley (both Ashford Town), Lauren Cox (Denham United), Aimee Durn (Ashford Town), Shakira Kafero Roberts (Dulwich Hamlet), Alissa Down (Ashford Town) and Courtnay Ward-Chambers (QPR).

Rolling Substitutes: Amani Salin, Mya Francis-Pownall, Amelia Halawi (all QPR), Beckie Currivan (Denham United) and Rebekah Higgins (Headstone Manor).

Manager: Craig Nicholson   

Coach: Sue Kumaning   

GK Coach: Jacob Ballheimer   

Physio: Scott Everley.

Essex: Emily Mackler (Southminster United), Lucy Ogden, Charlotte Collins-Blaise (both Billericay Town), Jamie Newstead (Colchester United), Nicole Farmer (Bowers & Pitsea) (capt), Charlotte Bryant (Lawford), Whitney Locke (Bowers & Pitsea), Lindsey Morgan (Colchester United), Laura Bunton (Barking), Chloe Woolaway (Southend United CSC) and Millie Isherwood (Bowers & Pitsea).

Rolling Substitutes: Daisy Canny, Abigail Fry (both Hutton), Maya Lane, Lucy Jones (both Billericay Town) and Cate Jackson (Lawford).

Referee: Gemma Day   

Assistant Referees: Sarah Day and Ahmad Rafique (all Middlesex FA).

We are delighted that Chipotle, the fast casual, healthy eating brand will sponsor our ladies’ representative team until the end of next season. We thank them for their support. Our Girls wore the Chipotle logo on their shirts for the first time in this match.     

Report: Jim Taylor

Photography: Chris Benn