Match Report: Stevenage 4–2 Royston Town

Stevenage FCW moved to the top of the Eastern Region Womens Football League Premier Division with a battling display against a tricky Royston side. The home side welcomed back Amy Josland, a player who has made 143 appearances for the club and scored 29 goals, making her the 3rd highest appearance maker of all time. Ailish Straver, a member of last year’s County Cup winning team and a goal scorer too, also returned to the County Ground for the first time since her 11th appearance.

Fadi Mazloum said after the game that he had told his girls to start well and take advantage of the lack of games Royston had played this season, so a goal within the first ten minutes ticked that box immediately. An early trio of corners led to nothing, but a fabulous corner from Hannah Nebbitt was headed down by Erin Price and cleared off the line into the path of the unstoppable Amy Makewell who fired home. It was her tenth consecutive game with a goal involvement.

Moments later, Makewell was through again after a delicious ball from Emily Schofield, but her shot hit the post after rounding Amy Martin. Regardless, the lead was extended after some superb work down the right hand side. Jodie Bellinger chased a through ball and sent in an outstanding cross for Schofield to turn past Martin with her thigh.

Photo: Ed Payne

Borough had played well and found the first half reasonably comfortable. However, Lewis Endacott had told his players it was too easy during the first half, and Royston came out with purpose in the second half. It took them four minutes to halve the deficit, Riana Badel did well to cut inside onto her right foot on the edge of the area and sent a powerful shot goalwards that Mia O’Brien got a hand to, but couldn’t keep out of the net.

Mazloum and his team made a couple of tactical tweaks and that, coupled with more magic from the outstanding Shianne Swarres restored the two goal cushion. The front three of Boro’ played a series of passes as they made their way goalwards, before Royston intervened. The ball landed at the feet of Swarres twenty-five yards out, who stepped forward and sent a superb shot goalwards that Martin could not get to.

As Mazloum readied the substitutes, Erin Price saw a header hit the post. With one last set piece before she was due to be removed, Nebbitt stepped up to send an inswinger straight onto her head for a bullet header that nearly broke the net as well as her league duck.

Five changes were made over the next eight minutes and this allowed Royston to take the initiative again. Bellinger lost out on a challenge that was not given as a free kick and Becky Charter pushed forward before sending a looping shot beyond O’Brien.

Photo: Ed Payne

Stevenage settled back into the game with the players “catching up with the speed of the game” as Mazloum identified. Bellinger nearly embellished the score after a great tackle from Hannah Bodily and a superb through ball set her free in the box. Bellinger shot first time but couldn’t keep it down.

The whistle blew soon after and Stevenage celebrated a result that took them to the top of the table, albeit with the teams below having games in hand. After the game Schofield told us, “Today, we looked like a whole different team, moving the ball fast, getting it up the pitch and creating opportunities and we were more clinical than the last time we played them.” It was a vital three points as Boro’ continue to put pressure on the teams around them.

Stevenage: O’Brien, Farmer, Webster (c), Neal, Nebbitt, Swarres, Price, Greenwood, Schofield, Makewell, Bellinger
Subs: Shephard, Bodily, Wodhams, Millen, Re

Goals: Makewell, Schofield, Swarres, Price

Royston: Martin, Bourne, A. Georgiou, Straver, Houghton, Page, Charter, Josland, Croucher, South (c), Richardson
Subs: Grogan, Smith, Cooper, Badel

Goals: Badel, Charter