By Luke Payne, Feature Writer
Photo Credit @ChrisFoxwell
Before this special edition of the ratings gets underway I would just like to say a few words regarding women’s football. As both a feminist and a lover of sport, I think it’s hugely important to show support for the women’s team and not just the men’s side. If you only read one article of mine this year in full, let it be this one.
These Dons are deserving of our support just as much as Mike Williamson and his Men’s team. For just £5 you could’ve witnessed Charlie Bill and the Dons Women’s team in action at Fairfields Sports Hub against league leaders and YouTube sensations Hashtag United. It was a clash between two quality teams in the FA Women’s National League and if you ever have the chance to attend one of the Dons Women’s games in future, I would highly recommend it!
The desire and never say die attitude from The Dons in this match was fantastic to see. They went 0-2 down but clawed their way back into the game and looked good for a 2-2 draw until conceding an unfortunate own goal in the closing minutes. It may have been a 2-3 loss in the end but every Dons player gave it their all and it would be fantastic to see these girls getting the credit they deserve for pushing harder and harder every year to challenge the teams at the top end of the league.
Admittedly, my knowledge on the women’s team isn’t as strong as the men’s team, so I apologise if I miss any obvious details, but here’s how I rated the players after the final whistle:
GK – Chloe Sansom (C) – 7: A standout player from the very beginning. She was confident collecting crosses into the box and was extremely vocal, showing some fantastic leadership qualities. There was little she could’ve done to stop any of the three goals. She was let down by her defence for the first two goals, and they were very similar in nature… a free cross into the box and a well-timed run leading to a shot at goal from close range. It was Macey Nicholls who opened the scoring after 15 minutes before Sammy Rowland added the second 5 minutes later. The third goal was a bit of a freak goal, with a ball into the box taking deflections off both Dons centre-backs before looping over Sansom and into the back of the net, making it 2-3 to Hashtag after 97 minutes. The keeper did have a scary moment shortly afterwards, where she made a save and looked to have claimed the ball before fumbling it towards her own goal-line. However, she quickly recovered and collected the ball before it rolled over the line.
RB – Hannah Warren – 5.5: She had a solid first half and kept Malika Apindia quiet whenever she tried to charge down the wing but perhaps she should’ve been better positioned to prevent the ball reaching Macey Nicholls for the first goal. Warren continued to battle well through the second half and kept the Hashtag United chances down to a minimum. In possession, she showed good vision and usually picked the right passes but was inconsistent executing them.
RCB – Zoe Creaney – 5: Creaney and Stovold had to deal with a lot of crosses into the box over the course of the match, but both centre-backs stood firm and won most of their aerial duels. However, lower balls into the box proved to be a bit more problematic, and Creaney probably could’ve done more to prevent both of the first two goals. She looked a bit shaky in possession at times and did give the ball away in the defensive third on too many occasions. Like Warren, she usually picked the right pass but didn’t always execute it properly.
LCB – Sofia Stovold – 5.5: Like Creaney, Stovold was dominant in the air but was a little less effective when Hashtag advanced into the box with the ball on the ground. She could’ve done more to stop the shot for the second goal but was extremely unlucky for the winning goal, with the ball deflecting off her, then off Creaney before beating Sansom. Her passing looked more assured playing out from the back, though she did still make a couple of errors in possession.
LB – Hannah Samuels – 5: She had the difficult task of trying to keep Emma Samways under control, but she was overrun at times, with Hashtag often looking to overload the left wing. Samuels did try to get stuck in but got caught ball-watching too many times, allowing Samways to play a dangerous cross or through ball under no pressure. She took multiple knocks going in for challenges and eventually had to come off injured.
CM – Gemma Biggadike – 6: Probably the most under the radar of the midfield trio but she broke up play well and enabled the likes of Megan Attenborough and Rhianne Rush to play with freedom in the middle third. She was often involved when Dons tried to get the ball on the ground and settle in possession.
CM – Megan Attenborough – 7.5 (TOP DON): Whenever Dons started to play smooth passing football, Attenborough seemed to be at the heart of it. She was strong in possession and was repeatedly able to ride challenges whilst turning on the ball, enabling her to create space for her teammates before moving the ball on. For those of you who watched the men’s team, her role was very similar to that of Jack Payne, and it was Attenborough’s presence in midfield that meant Dons could always threaten on the counter-attack.
CM – Rhianne Rush – 7: To Dons fans, a tough-tackling midfielder with energy and flair is often referred to as the ‘David Kasumu’ of the team. However, that role may be due a rebrand with Rhianne Rush at the club. She was notably strong in her challenges and protected the defence brilliantly, though she did pick up the customary booking for a particularly late challenge. She was confident on the ball, and although she was often dispossessed in the middle third when trying to take on her marker, she was usually quick to recover. Rush gave Dons a foothold in the game with her goal, winning the ball in the final third with a fantastic press. She swiftly received the ball back from the resulting attack and curled her effort around the Hashtag keeper to make it 1-2 after 39 minutes.
RW – Laura Mitchell – 5.5: With Dons under pressure for the majority of the first half, it was hard for the front three to get on the ball. Mitchell found herself having to come deeper to stay involved in the play, but even when Dons did attack, it mostly came down the left wing. She had one or two impressive moments but struggled to make an impact on the game otherwise.
ST – Lucy Wood – 6: Did a lot of running but faced the same problem as Mitchell, struggling to get time on the ball. She worked with scraps and was energetic but didn’t really get a chance to go for goal. Without the benefit of a replay, I believe she was the one to set up Rush for her goal, but it may have been one of the other forwards.
LW – Tricia Gould – 6: Gould was comfortable on the ball and looked like Dons’ most likely avenue into Hashtag’s half in the first 45 minutes. She did sometimes come back and help Samuels to hold off the likes of Emma Samways and Sammy Rowland but a lot of the time she stayed too far forward which gave Hashtag more opportunity to break through the left side of defence.
SUB – Emily Wilson – 6.5: A lively performance from the midfielder, putting Hashtag under pressure and threatening to cause problems in behind. The introduction of Wilson, Lily Dolling, and Amy McLean combined gave Dons a real chance of turning a 0-2 defeat into a 3-2 win, and they gave the game some life going into the closing stages.
SUB – Amy McLean – 6.5: McLean brought a lot of energy onto the pitch, sprinting up and down the line non-stop in order to protect Warren but also put pressure on Hashtag’s defence. Had a couple of moments where she could’ve contributed to changing the scoreline but just needed to put her foot through the ball a bit more.
SUB – Lily Dolling – 7: She gave Hashtag something different to worry about and she had the opposition centre-backs all over the place in the build-up to her equalising goal, where she was eventually able to find the bottom left corner with a composed finish, making it 2-2 after 90 minutes.
SUB – Olivia Welham – 6.5: It’s no coincidence that Emma Samways got a lot less of the ball after Welham came on. She was alert and stayed tight to her marker, taking away the space that Hashtag had utilised so often in the first half.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 6.5: Given the context of this result, it’s an impressive performance from The Dons. Hashtag United have only lost twice in the league this season, and one of those defeats was the reverse fixtures where Dons came away with a 1-2 victory. They’re a very efficient attacking side with a lot of impressive dribblers on the pitch. Dons were able to soak up a lot of the pressure and eventually figured out ways of counter-attacking. The first 25 minutes were a bit lethargic in terms of the passing and the marking. Perhaps it was a case of showing Hashtag too much respect or simply just a lack in confidence going up against the top team in the division. They were usually playing the right passes but just not hitting the ball hard enough, simply a lack of conviction.
However, Charlie Bill’s women were able to regroup and showed more and more as the game went on that they are capable of playing some great football. Hashtag were still the side in control in the second half, but Dons started to look more threatening going forwards and after the subs, the opposition did start to crumble until the equalising goal went in. From there, it was an edgy affair with both sides pushing for a winner, but it was Hashtag that had luck on their side, and that final goal was just about enough to secure victory for the away team.
It is extremely impressive to bounce back from adversity the way Dons Women did in this game, especially against the league leaders, and Dons probably deserved a point for their efforts. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, but they can go into the next game feeling like they can really kick on and get back to winning ways. The next game is away at Ipswich on the 14th of January, which is another important fixture, with just 2 points separating the sides in the league.
If you’ve read this far then thank you! I hope this article has given you more interest in our women’s team and I hope you enjoyed the read!