Cambridge United Women battle to a place in the FA Women’s National League Plate Semi-finals with a 1-0 win over Maidenhead United...
After a tough run of games for the U’s in the League, the Plate competition served as a welcome break and a chance to return to winning ways at a stubborn and organised Maidenhead side, who compete in the South-West side of our tier.
The first 45 saw spectators witness a cagey and tactical battle, with neither side wanting to give an inch in this Quarter-final tie, and with clear-cut chances at a premium. It was Maidenhead that threatened first as a corner was helped up onto the bar by Serena Cobb before eventually being cleared to safety.
United’s best chance of the half fell to Zoe Wood after 10 minutes, as Maidenhead played short from a goal kick and into trouble, but Wood pulled her shot wide of the post from just inside the 18-yard box.
Perhaps the best chance of the half fell the way of the home side after 20 minutes. The magpie’s attacker twisted her way into the box and unleashed a shot from 10 yards, but Lauren Webb was equal to it to keep the scores level.
After a first half that saw the U’s try to control possession and build from the back, the second half started with more intensity, putting the home side under pressure straight from kick-off with Bella Simmons’ running power causing the Maidenhead back-4 some issues.
The second half, from a Cambridge attacking perspective, was characterised by this running power from the wide players, and the link-up between Zoe Wood and Alysha Stojko-Down. We glimpsed this link up for the first time 5 minutes into the half as they worked a clever short freekick which eventually saw the ball canon off the woodwork.
The breakthrough came for Cambridge in the 68th minute. Once again, it was the Wood to Stojko-Down combination which saw the latter brought down by the Maidenhead ‘keeper and a spot-kick awarded. Stojko-Down confidently stepped up and smashed the ball high and down the middle to put United in the driving seat.
Just minutes later, the same combination split the Maidenhead back-4 again, this time the goalkeeper smartly stopping the effort from Stojko-Down that would have put the tie to bed for the U’s.
Maidenhead did offer periods of pressure in the second half, but the United back line remained organised and resilient throughout. A late flurry of freekicks presented the hosts with their best chances in the second half, but none really tested Webb in the U’s goal.
Perhaps the second-best result of the day saw the return from injury of Harley Jean Simpson from a string of injury issues, as she made an appearance off the bench in the 85th minute.
The side return to league action this week, with a trip to Plough Lane and Wimbledon on 4th February. The Semi-final draw sees United hosting Barnsley on Sunday 25th February, as they look to book a place in the final for the very first time in club history.
Line Up: Webb, Kosky, Rouse, Jackson, Marden, Otten, Cobb (Edgar 80’), Wood, Fox (Gillies 70’), Simmons (Simpson 85’), Stojko-Down
Unused subs: Seymour, Marjoram