Cardiff City Ladies shot to the final 16 of the FA Cup following a convincing win over Burnley. The only Welsh contingent in the FA women’s system, Cardiff travelled north to take on Burnley, who sit 3 points from top of the tier above Cardiff.
The Dragons, who sit top of Tier 4 in the FAWNL Division One South West, had already encountered Tier 3 opposition twice in the last 3 months. They swept Bridgwater aside with a 4-0 win at home in the first round proper of the Cup.
The reds then lost their first game in all competitions this season, being defeated 2-1 by Plymouth Argyle who are fighting to evade a relegation battle, on 8th January, only three weeks before they would travel to Burnley.
A glance at the FAWNL Northern Premier table shows a composed Burnley, who have their eyes firmly set on challenging for the league title and reaching the playoffs to enter the Championship. The Clarets keep company with Wolves, Derby and Nottingham Forest – all clubs with well-known, successful men’s sides that are able to provide funding.
Following their narrow 2-1 defeat at the hands of Plymouth, Cardiff recorded a shock 0-4 defeat at home to mid-table Moneyfields in the league just a week later. With the FA Cup tie against Burnley looming, January was looking blue.
A 6-2 win at home reminded the reds of winning ways, with only a week to go before the FA Cup tie.
It could be argued that, had Cardiff continued their winning streak into the new year, they might have faltered against their northern cup rivals. Perhaps these two losses were well-timed reminders of exactly what was at stake, and what it felt like to come away without the win.
The Dragons headed north, and arrived at the hotel the night before the game to find their social media account flooded with messages of well-wishes and ‘Pob lwc’s ahead of the tie.
Whatever the staff, led by manager Jamie Phillip, had done to prepare the Welsh, worked. With barely half an hour gone, the score was 0-3 to the visitors. Captain Cori Williams fired the opening shot into the back of the net. Laura Williams, who had been missing for Cardiff’s previous two games, also got in on the action with a brace.
Followers of the team could scarcely believe the score at half time. It was really happening!
The second half resumed, and Ingrid Ådland came on to replace Laura Williams with 51 minutes gone. Not even five minutes later, and the Norwegian had a peach of a goal to her name. The score remained at 0-4 until the 89th minute when Burnley grabbed a consolation goal.
The tie ended Burnley 1-4 Cardiff City LFC. Cardiff had made it through to the final 16 of the FA Cup.
At the time of writing, this remains the top fixture in Since 71’s weekly poll for performance of the weekend with 75% of votes.
The impact of this season’s FA Cup run for Cardiff is huge. It cost the best part of £3000 to simply fulfil the fixture, due to travel and accommodation. That would have been covered by the losing team’s prize money. As an added bonus for the win, all involved with the club – players, staff and volunteers – will be recipients of a warm winter jacket. But these aren’t just any jackets. They will be a symbol of what the club represents, success despite the odds, hard work in the face of adversity.
There are some who may have thought of Cardiff City LFC as a ‘club of the past’. Michele Adams MBE, club chair, admits that in some ways they are – if club of the past means replicating the feats of 2013/14 and 2017/18 to defeat higher-ranking opponents and progress to the 5th round of the FA Cup.
In a day and age where women’s football has never been so well funded, to achieve this in 2023 in an environment where the teams rising to the top are backed either by men’s clubs or investors is no mean feat – since Cardiff has no such investment. They are an independent, volunteer run club. And they are now set to face Lewes away in the 5th round of the FA Cup at The Dripping Pan. There is some undeniable poetry in the independent clubs drawing each other for the tie.
With Arsenal and Chelsea having drawn each other, it’s theoretically possible that the amateur club from Wales will outlast one of the giants in the competition.
Dare the Dragons dream?
Photograph by Liz Johnstone