Today marks the final day of the FA Women’s National League (FAWNL) season fixtures. While most of the divisions concluded last week there was an extension permitted to make sure that a handful of teams could complete their fixtures after a number of postponements over the course of the season.
The Northern division completed their fixtures last weekend, Wolves’ victory over Brighouse Town wasn’t enough to retain the title because Nottingham Forest beat Stoke City which handed them the title on goal difference – a margin nineteen goals higher than Wolves.
Back down south, Watford’s 2-1 win against Oxford United on April 27th set up a three-horse race for the Southern Premier Division on the final day of the season.
Oxford United, Watford and Ipswich Town can all secure the title and most importantly a place in the FA Women’s Championship (FAWC) play-off if results go their way. This will be the final time promotion is settled via a play off match. The FAWNL has announced that from next season both the Northern and Southern Premier title winners will be promoted to the FAWC automatically and two clubs will be relegated.
Ipswich Town were originally due to host Oxford United on April 2nd but the match was postponed late in the day with Oxford already at the stadium. With tomorrow being the only suitable time to reschedule the game the decision was made to move Watford’s visit to Billericay Town back seven days so both games were rightly played simultaneously.
As it stands, everyone would rather be in Oxford manager, Liam Gilbert’s position. His Oxford team are sitting on top by a point and their mission is simple, beat Ipswich and they are league winners.
This would cap off a wonderful season for the club with the Development Squad securing the FAWNL Reserve South East and Central Division and League Cup double.
Sunday is just another game of football. We’re in a fantastic position and a brilliant place and however it plays out we know we’ll give our best.
If it’s our day then we fully deserve it, if it’s not to be then it’s not to be.
Liam Gilbert, Oxford United Manager
A draw for Ipswich wouldn’t be good enough but it could still be for Oxford if Watford are unable to beat Billericay Town. The aforementioned draw would be enough for Watford to finish top if they beat Billericay.
In the previous encounter, way back in early October, Oxford and Ipswich drew 1-1 each at Court Place thanks to goals from Lacey-Jai Liggett and Anna Grey respectively. While back in November, Billericay Town recorded a 3-2 victory against the Golden Girls. Billericay were devastating in the first half, going into half time with a 3-0 lead, while Watford fought back well, they left it too late to take any points.
The trio are almost inseparable so predicting the outcome is pure guesswork, and this could well be resolved by the finest of margins, player error, a debatable refereeing decision or a piece of individual magic.
While I cannot predict the outcome, I don’t really feel like I can say I think one team is most deserving because all three have a shout for that too.
At this moment in time, Oxford have been the best team in the division this season, the league table is clear on that one and they have been looking down upon their rivals since the league went on Christmas break.
For Watford, it would be fitting for them to return to the FAWC after the heartbreak that was Mollie Green’s goal and Coventry United’s great escape. That injury-time goal against Watford saw them relegated and while Coventry stayed up. While it would be a fitting send-off for club legend Helen Ward as she retires from the women’s game.
The time has finally come. My playing days are coming to an end ❤️ pic.twitter.com/YDWYZMBrcm— Helen Ward (@helenwardie10) March 3, 2023
Ipswich Town suffered late heartbreak of their own last season. They lead the division right up until mid-April when they were overtaken by Southampton, who subsequently went on to win promotion and established themselves in the FAWC at the expense of the Tractor Girls.
Many, like me, will be turning on Twitter notifications in order to follow all of the live updates but this is when I think that the FA Player fails. A match of the magnitude of Ipswich vs Oxford should be available to watch live and it’s a massive shame that it isn’t. I would like to see more FAWNL live coverage on the channel next season, there is no reason not to. There is money within the FA and it would create work for the many freelancers still looking for work in the industry.
Keep an eye on our socials as we’ll be trying our best to keep you up to date on all of the latest updates from both matches.