Stevenage FCW advanced to the quarter-finals of the Eastern Region Women’s Football League Cup after a comfortable victory over the imperious Barking, who have a strong grip at the top of the division below. Boro’, who currently sit atop the Premier Division, had shown tremendous professionalism in seeing off the challenge of the Essex side and secured yet another game against Royston Town – a side they will have faced no less than four times by the end of the season.
Boro’ found their rhythm immediately. Rosy Wodhams – the eventual Player of the Match – set the tone when she curled in a phenomenal right-footed cross into the path of top scorer, Amy Makewell who could not quite stretch high enough to make contact with the ball.
Five minutes later, Stevenage were ahead. Lucy Webster took a short throw to Makewell who turned and hooked a tasty ball into the eighteen-yard box. Adella Jackson called for the ball but could not claim it through the growing crowd and the ball dropped to the feet of Emily Schofield who would make no mistake from close range for her first cup goal since the County Cup Final of 2022.
Schofield was on a mission from that point onward and the hard-working forward nearly doubled the scoreline with an absolute thunderbolt from her right foot that crashed off the crossbar to safety. At the opposite end, Barking were spurred into action as they took advantage of a stray ball. Sarah Finch foreshadowed later events as she had two attempts in quick succession, both of which were bravely blocked by the consistent Nicole Farmer.
After a lull in opportunities, Stevenage carved out another opportunity, this time down the left flank. Wodhams put Makewell through, but she was unable to turn her marker. Instead, she laid the ball off to Schofield at the edge of the box who received her reward as she expertly placed the ball into the bottom right corner, beyond Jackson.
Barking were stunned into action. Their best chance came from a fantastic effort by Finch, which was turned behind by Mia O’Brien for a corner. The ball was swung in and Finch finally stuck the ball into the net to reduce the arrears.
Stevenage were determined to restore their advantage though. The continual energy of the team was on display as Wodhams won the ball back high up the pitch and advanced into the box. Her attempted pass deflected back into her path creating an opportunity which the young midfielder took without question, firing Boro’ back into a two goal lead.
Webster saw an opportunity fly over the bar before the halftime whistle, but it was her shot after it that led to the final goal of the game. Her excellent run into the box gave her the perfect opportunity to shoot. The captain did exactly that but the goalkeeper could not hold it and as it squirmed through her hands, Makewell pounced to put the fixture to bed.
The rest of the match was notable for missed opportunities but also for a celebratory reason as Jess Poulter became the first player from the ETC (Emerging Talent Centre) at Stevenage to play for the first team. This was announced in September as the FA chose Stevenage to host one of the centres and this was a landmark moment for the club.
Manager Fadi Mazloum was content at the final whistle as he said “We controlled the game well and didn’t give them the chance to play. Jess controls the game well at CDM for the development side and you could see that in some of the tackles she made when she came on.” Poulter herself remarked, “I was hopeful I could get some time to show what I can do. I really enjoyed it.” A feeling that was no doubt shared by the whole Boro’ team as they travelled back to Hertfordshire.
Barking: A Jackson, Thomas, Daly, Cook, Oxby, Holt, Colthart, F Pridie, Finch, Bunton, C Jackson
Subs: Cooper, N Pridie, Retim, McCarthy
Stevenage: O’Brien, Webster (c), Neal, Farmer, Nebbitt, Bodily, Wodhams, Shephard, Schofield, Millen, Makewell
Subs: Price, Bellinger, Poulter, Lightning, Fidler
Goals: Schofield x 2, Wodhams, Makewell