Sunday 23rd April 2017
St. James’s Park, home of Brackley Town FC
Kick off: 3pm
Huddersfield Town LFC v Lewes FC Ladies
Sunday’s Plate Final sees Lewes FC Ladies contest their first national final, their first cup final of any sort since the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup in 2013. In 2011/12, Lewes won a historic double, topping the South East Combination League and claiming the Ryman Cup.
Lewes have since established themselves in the FA Women’s Premier League South where they play against recently-crowned champions Tottenham Hotspur, Cardiff City, Coventry, Portsmouth, Charlton Athletic and West Ham United.
Huddersfield play in the Northern division of the FA WPL, alongside runaway champions Blackburn Rovers, Middlesbrough, Fylde Ladies, Stoke City, Leicester City and Newcastle United. On paper, the two teams looked evenly matched. Huddersfield have 17 points from 18 games, Lewes 22 points from the same number of games.
The teams enjoyed very different routes to the final. The Terriers beat Sporting Khalsa, edged past Guiseley Vixens (5-4 on penalties after a trilling 4-4 draw), Bradford City, again on pens, (4-3 after a 2-2 draw). They thumped Tranmere Rovers 7-0 in the quarter finals, at which stage Lewes played their first contested tie of the competition, having been awarded walk-overs after both Maidenhead and St Nicholas failed to fulfil their respective fixtures.
Lewes entered late but with a bang, beating Luton Town 6-0 away with goals from Georgia Bridges (2), Chewy Carter, Rachel Palmer and Kim Stenning. The semi finals again saw Lewes on their travels, this time to the home of Premier League Champions Leicester City. The Rookettes edged a gripping match after the Foxes had a player dismissed for a reckless challenge, Bridges taking them to the final with a typically brave finish.
Town had an easier time of it in the semi’s, hammering Actonians Ladies 6-1 at the Stafflex Arena. Hot-shot striker Emily Heckler bagged a hat-trick, with goals from Katie Nutter, Kate Mallin and Charley Evans, Jess Byrne with the consolation for Actonians.
Heckler is having some season. Recently featured in She Kicks magazine, she’s notched 27 times for the Terriers this term. Incredibly that’s four less than co-striker Mallin, who has also won Opposition Player of the Match on eleven occasions.
If Huddersfield are on fire in front of goal, Lewes are giving the Old Lady a run for her money in defence of theirs. Ace keeper Lauren Dolbear has let in just three in the last six matches, including four clean sheets. The team will be keen to test that proud record against these prolific raiders from the North.
Speaking to Steve Hollis in the Brighton Argus this week, Lewes boss John Donoghue was aware of the importance of the occasion for his players.
“Being in a Cup Final is exciting and everyone is looking forward to it. There’s a real buzz about the place this week. We’re taking two coach-loads of supporters so there should be a good atmosphere on the day. The important thing is we play the game rather than the occasion.”
JD will look to his senior playing staff to guide the younger stars in a team that has visibly grown in confidence throughout the season.
“We’ve got quite a few players who have experience of playing at a higher level, if not in cup finals, so hopefully they can use that and it will rub off on others around them.”
He’s certainly not distracted by Sunday’s opponents’ modest position in their league.
“I’m quite surprised they are in the position they are (9th) in their league as they have some dangerous attacking players and are physically strong. I don’t think league places will have an bearing on the match.”
Donoghue will wait for fitness reports on Skipper Kelly Newton, injured against Charlton Athletic, and Tammy Waine and Claire Capon, who both picked up knocks in the 0-0 draw with West Ham last Sunday.
A tight match in prospect on paper, then, but let’s not forget, this game will be played on grass. COYR.