Mansfield Road Women completed a resounding 5-0 victory over Worcester Women in their Saturday afternoon clash at the University Club grounds. It marked an impressive start to the season for Road as they look to build on their league winning campaign last year.
Mansfield certainly got the better of the opening exchanges, and took a two goal lead within the first ten minutes. Skillful play from Road’s number ten Katie Warnaby saw her play in her namesake Katie Wright, who completed a neat finish to the bottom right of goal.
The Warnaby-Wright partnership, which linked up well all afternoon, combined again not long after to force an own goal from the unfortunate Worcester centre-back.
Worcester responded by bringing on two substitutes, which did seem to make a difference, settling them down into a better rhythm. Despite this, they struggled to clear their defensive lines throughout the first half and suffered for it, giving the ball away too cheaply in the middle of the park. On the rare occasion that they were able to break, a lack of forward support saw their attacks swiftly break down against a well-organised Mansfield back line.
Worcester’s best moment of the half came from a speculative effort from Zara Pollard, driving in a shot from five yards outside the penalty area which was saved comfortably by the Road keeper. Unfortunately for Worcester, the end of the first half was a mirror image of the opening, as Mansfield saw their pressure rewarded with two goals in quick succession. Clare Allsop scrambled the ball in after a smart interchange of play from Kat Coyte and Kim Cowan, then Katie Wright saw her shot from just inside the area deflected into the back of the net.
Despite the intimidating first half deficit, Worcester’s second half response gave them something to be proud of. Careful to sharpen up defensively, they made sure they committed numbers on the break and in the end probably deserved better than the final result.
In truth, however, Mansfield Road’s organisation, structure of play and familiarity of their team mates game made them deserving victors. Road seemed a yard faster and a lot stronger than Worcester during much of the game, and their formidable attacking presence caused their opponents constant problems.
There were glimpses of what Worcester could be capable of, particularly in the final quarter of the match, but a late resurgence could do nothing about the final outcome, which was topped off by Katie Wright, Road’s best player of the match. Driving a shot from just outside the area, it was too much for the Worcester keeper to handle, making the final 5-0 scoreline an improvement on the last time the two teams met in November last year, where Mansfield Road ran out 4-0 winners.
On the strength of this performance Mansfield Road look like strong contenders for the Women’s First Division, while Worcester, despite their second half rejuvenation, have plenty of work to do.
St Catherine’s 6
Fresh from Cuppers victory in Trinity term, but with a new-look team, St Catz looked to the fixture against Jesus with optimism, on the back of an unbroken run of victories that stretches as far back as last November. The match promised to be a lively affair from kick-off, with Catz dominating possession across the midfield, yet being denied clear goal scoring opportunities by a stoic Jesus defence.
However, the deadlock was broken after fifteen minutes by a looping aerial shot courtesy of Lucia Groizard, following some good link-up play down the Catz right. Catz doubled their lead within five minutes, with Amy Trenter’s clearance from a Jesus attack finding the able feet of Groizard who nestled the ball in the bottom left corner for her second. On the brink of half-time Catz made it 3, with some excellent midfield play from fresher Grace Kneafsey finding captain Anna Wakelin on the edge of the box, who fired home.
Jesus came out fighting in the second half, with some good spells of possession across their midfield, but any hopes of a valiant comeback were sadly dashed by the completion of Groizard’s hat-trick, from an excellent pass by Megan Alexander on the right. Once the fourth goal had been scored, Jesus struggled to get the ball out of their own half, and were faced with an onslaught of Catz chances, fresher Ananya Birla coming close on many occasions.
An unfortunate handball in the box lead to Trenter converting from the penalty spot for St Catz’ fifth, and not long after Birla scored a well-deserved goal from the edge of the penalty box to make it six to Catz. Jesus should be credited with a plucky and determined performance, and both teams have plenty of positives to take away into their next fixtures.
Somerville Women inflicted a sound 2-0 defeat upon Foxes on a rain-soaked Wolfson pitch on Sunday afternoon. In blustery and wet conditions, the weakened Foxes side found themselves muscled out of the midfield and it was only last-ditch defending, and profligacy by the Somerville attack, that prevented the match seeing a cricket scoreline.
Owing to a shortage of players, Foxes began the match with just ten men, a disadvantage in numbers that showed most prominently in the middle of the park that formed the centrepiece for the accomplished Somerville passing game. The numbers in the midfield were unbalanced and the Foxes attack struggled to assert itself, reduced to a few scattered and optimistic runs into the Somerville half. Midway through the first period the traffic was one way and it began to look increasingly inevitable that the Foxes defence would break. A series of good chances went begging for the Somerville attacking line before, five minutes from the break, striker Lena Naassana opened the scoring. A corner came in from the right and, as the Foxes defence faffed about getting it clear, Naassana bundled the ball home to deservedly give the lead to Somerville. With one period of play finished, the 1-0 scoreline was flattering to Foxes if anything, as the Somerville attack had been applying all the pressure and let a host of good chances go begging.
The picture didn’t improve for Foxes in the second half, as they lost another player (apparently to a more important appointment) during the break. However they started brightly enough, applying early pressure and making one of a very few forays into the Somerville box. Two minutes later, however, Naassana scored a second time to effectively put the game beyond doubt. Taking the ball on the left hand side of the Foxes box she curled an effort into the far corner of the goal and doubled the Somerville lead. From here it was not a question of whether Somerville would win, but by how many. It was a testament to their resistance that the scoreline remained only 2-0 through the rest of the half. Somerville did themselves no favours, however, as they continued to be wasteful with the ball on the attack. This was a game that could so easily have been a rout, and 2-0 does little to convey the dominance of the Somerville players.
It remains early in the College League season and although Somerville will have come up smiling from this particular game, the Foxes team can take their staunch defending as a heartening positive to carry forward into their next match.
St John’s 0
Newly promoted Merton/Mansfield didn’t lose a single league fixture last season, meaning this year they find themselves in Division Two, facing the likes of last year’s Cuppers Champions, St Catz College. But, undaunted by their own success, they look set to continue their good form after a well-earned 1-0 defeat of St John’s.
In the opening minutes Merton/Mansfield came under tremendous pressure from an experienced John’s side. Habiba Daggash made life difficult for the defence, threatening several goals in the first half, but Merton/Mansfield keeper Sophie Smith denied her every opportunity with some confident saves.
After forty minutes of play and no goals it looked as though the two sides had reached something of a stalemate and a goalless draw seemed like. However, Merton/Mansfield striker, Natasha Stotesdbury, came up with the goods in spectacular style with a run in from the corner and a looping shot which sailed over the St John’s keeper and into the net.
All the M&Ms then had to do was hold off the St John’s attack for a further twenty minutes in order to secure their first three points of the season. This proved to be easier said than done when St John’s, led by captain Madeleine Forman, stepped up their efforts inside the Merton/Mansfield penalty area. One shot deflected tantalisingly off the post whilst another looked sure to go in before it was expertly tipped over the bar by Smith, who was easily St John’s biggest obstacle in the game.
To the frustration of St John’s, the Merton/Mansfield defence was a tough nut to crack thanks to the efforts of centre backs Jess Odone and Imy Buchan, and the elusive equaliser never came, leaving the final score at 1-0 to the M&Ms.