As we enter December, this weekend will see The Nest play host to what could prove to be a crucial turning point in the race for promotion from the FA Women’s National League Division One South East. AFC Wimbledon travel to Norwich City for a first-vs-second clash.
The story so far
While both Norwich and Wimbledon battled hard towards the top of Division One South East last season, it was the Dons that ultimately finished higher, falling just four points short of champions Hashtag United in second place, with 45 points. Meanwhile, the Canaries had to settle for a fourth-place finish with 30 points.
However, while Norwich can be said to have had a good team last season, the summer appointment of new manager Martin Herdman and some shrewd work in the transfer market have seen the Canaries become a great side for this level. As such, they are much closer behind Wimbledon this time around.
The Dons have a near-perfect record, with nine wins and 27 points from their opening 10 games of the season, with their only league defeat of the campaign thus far coming at home to Ashford Town in early September.
Meanwhile, Norwich remain unbeaten but have struggled to pick up clean sheets, meaning that they’ve had to settle for draws in a handful of games. Herdman’s side currently sits on 21 points after nine games, having recorded six wins and three draws.
However, with a game in hand, the Canaries will know that beating Wimbledon on Sunday afternoon will give them a great chance of drawing level on points in the long run. That being said, to do so will be no mean feat, although the sides were well-matched last season.
Two close affairs last season
While Wimbledon ended up finishing comfortably ahead of Norwich in terms of the league standings last season, there was little to separate the two sides on the pitch, with their fixtures ending in a 1-1 draw and a 1-0 Dons win.
The first of these took place at The Nest in January, with a resilient Norwich side doing well to get a point from the game. After falling behind to a first-half Hannah Billingham header, and with right-back Jess Harper deputising in goal for the injured Bryony Williams, the Canaries got a deserved equaliser at the death when Natasha Snelling poked home inside the box.
The reverse fixture took place at Plough Lane on the final day of the season in late April, with Emma Plewa getting the only goal for Wimbledon in a game of few chances.
Last time out
Even without the added pressure of the fixture being a top-of-the-table clash, both sides come into this weekend’s game with that little bit extra to prove following defeats in the FA Cup last week.
In terms of the visitors, the Dons did well to come from 4-1 down to level the scores at 4-4 away at National League South side Chatham Town. However, their third-tier opponents eventually got the better of them, winning 5-4 care of an injury-time penalty.
Meanwhile, Norwich hosted fellow fourth-tier side Boldmere St Michaels, who ply their trade in the FAWNL Division One Midlands. After the Mikes took a first-half lead, the hosts responded quickly, with Ceri Flye heading home Shannon Shaw’s flick from an Anna Larkins corner. However, like Wimbledon, Norwich also fell victim to an injury-time goal, with Philippa Wilson firing home to make it 2-1 to the visitors at the death.
With all of these factors at play, Christmas has certainly come early for fans seeking a rip-roaring women’s football fix in Norfolk this Sunday. With two of the division’s top sides going toe-to-toe, we look forward to a match that will likely have very real ramifications come the race for promotion at the end of the season. Bring it on!