As one of the matches that was fulfilled following the flurry of snow that swept the nation on Sunday 11th December, Cardiff City hosted Bournemouth Sports in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.
Bournemouth Sports compete at Tier 5 in the Southern Region Women’s Premier football league and were the lowest-ranked side still in the FA Cup. Cardiff City LFC play in Tier 4, the South West Regional Women’s Football League in the FAWNL.
Bournemouth came to the fixture off the back of a 3-0 defeat in their league the previous weekend, while Cardiff were as yet unbeaten (and yet to draw) all season.
Despite the division gap, both teams prevented the other from scoring for the first 45 minutes of a bitingly cold day at Ocean Park Arena – but that’s not to say that the opening half was without action.
Nerves were fraught and tensions were high when it became apparent that the visitors were not to be underestimated. After a false start from a clearly eager Sport, the game began. The visitors stormed ahead with early offensive play, catching Cardiff off guard and forcing a corner. The header went wide, the tone was set, and Cardiff had to wake up.
Four minutes later, the home side had a chance but uncharacteristically sent the shot high into the air and far above the target.
Neither team managed to take hold of the game, though challenges flew in from both sides as each battled for control of the midfield.
Midway through the first half Kelly Isaac showed her brilliance for the Welsh side, bringing the ball down cleanly from the air in the defensive third. With a classy shimmy past her opponent, the Welsh-capped player lay an incisive pass through Bournemouth Sport and toward Kerry Bartlett who was unable to connect.
The game began to open up as time wore on. Cori Williams drilled the ball through low and hard from outside the box, only to see her effort the wrong side of the post. Kelly Isaac saw a free kick saved by Chrippes, the Sports’ keeper.
Play continued to be cagey yet disordered. Both teams were defending with big clearances, attacking without accuracy, and the ball frequently reached altitudes rarely seen at Ocean Park.
With only half an hour gone, Cardiff manager Jamie Phillip had already decided the time for action was needed. Harriet Lambe was subbed off and Chloe Lloyd was brought on in an attempt to bring order to the middle of the pitch.
From this point on, Cardiff were rewarded with more chances on goal, but was still unable to trouble Chrippes.
As half time edged closer, murmurs of ‘it’s coming’ ‘the goal’s coming’ were heard from the spectators who’d braved the icy conditions. When the whistle blew however, there was a slight air of uncertainty – the home crowd were not used to having to wait for goals. Their patience, it turned out, would be rewarded.
Phillips made another two substitutions in preparation for the second half, with prolific goalscorer Laura Williams coming on for Ingid Aadland, and defender Caitlyn Williams replacing youngster Kate Wood.
Just four minutes into the second half, a scramble in the box saw the deadlock broken – Kerry Bartlett had found the back of the net for Cardiff.
Only two minutes later, Sport were gifted a free kick down the other end, but this was saved by Welsh number 1 Laura O’Sullivan.
Cardiff’s second came only five minutes after their first. Ellie Sargent, the ever-present threat down the right wing, cut through Bournemouth Sports’ defence, twisting and turning before laying the ball off to captain Cori Williams, who found a finish cool enough to match the temperature.
Cardiff settled into their dominant style of football, forcing saves from Sam Chrippes who stood resolutely between the Dragons and the back of the net.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors, however, when Yeo was sent off with 25 minutes left to play.
Cardiff capitalised on this through Cori Williams finding Kerry Bartlett’s head in the box. 3-0 to the Dragons.
With 10 minutes to go, tragedy struck. Ellie Sargent, floored by a challenge by a frustrated Bournemouth Sports, was carried off the pitch in a state of distress and with a rapidly swelling ankle.
Libby Piggott was called onto the pitch, and the game recommenced. The Dragons did a good job of keeping their minds on the task at hand, and none other than Captain Cori led by example to fashion the fourth goal – her second of the game, to go hand in hand with her two assists.
By this point, the remaining minutes had become a formality. That is, for all except a ruthless Ruby Scahill, who delighted the home crowd with a rocket from outside the box high into the top corner before the final whistle blew.
Bournemouth Sports bowed out of the FA Cup with no shame to be had, having held the best from the west to a draw for half the match. Both teams will have taken a lot from the fixture, with lessons learnt and experience gained.
Cardiff enters the fourth round of the FA cup alongside WSL teams, in what is their best run of form in recent years. In the FA cup alone this season the Welsh outfit have scored 25 goals and conceded zero. They look ahead to the next round on January 29th.
Photo: Monks Photography