The tension was reverberating through the air at the home ground of Whyteleafe WFC in South London before kick-off in the 2nd round of the FA cup against Brighton based Montpelier Villa WFC. A special day for the latter, who entered the FA Cup for the first time in the 2021 season with a first round knockout, but u-turned this year with a 2-0 win against Burgess Hill Town in the first round of the FA Cup. Along with a promotion to the London & South East Regional league with multiple new signings, left little doubt that expectations and stakes were high when the two teams made their way onto the pitch, against each other for the first time
Words by Andreas Lange
The Badger apologies for the print edition incorrect accreditation of this article’s author.
“One of the exciting things about the FA Cup is you have the opportunity to meet teams that you would never normally come across! Which also makes the opposing team more difficult to prepare for”, Charlotte Smyrk, team captain of Montpelier Villa WFC explains. Which is quite evident as from the moment the whistle pierced the pre match suspense, Whyteleafe were allowed to dominate the playing field for the first crucial minutes of the game, with the midfield fiercely fending off every attempt by Villa to carry the ball forward. It came as no surprise when Whyteleafe banged the ball in behind keeper Eli Adie after five minutes of bombardment of Villa’s goal posts.
An apparent wake up call for the golden armoured soldiers from Brighton who then proceeded to invade the opposition’s half for the next twenty minutes, echoing Smyrk’s reflection that “this game, just like many others, we demonstrate we have the skill, spirit and resilience to compete.” However Whyteleaf demonstrates that they too can compete as they brawled their way back through the invading forces with lightning speed in the 28th minute to score another goal to Villa’s disbelief.
But ten minutes later Villa manage to prove why they deserve to be in the second round of the FA Cup, with a furious counterattack starting with a massive lob straight from their own penalty area, to winger Katie Davyson who wastes no time and carries it over to the opposition’s half and winger Nicole White who despite the fierce Whyteleafe’s defence and an oncoming keeper who miraculously saves the first shot, but stands little chance when the counter shot blasts past into the net, Putting Villa back into the game right before halftime. “Our ability to overcome setbacks is phenomenal! So many times, we have seen ourselves go behind but what I love about the team is our unity – the ability to remain positive, to reset and simply go again!” Smyrk says after a dramatic first half of the game.
The second half opens up with a bang, cause that’s literally what’s echoed around the stadium when Montpelier’s Saskia Taylor-Doyle smashes the ball into the right side goal post, a bang which is quickly drowned by a roar from the visitors when Georgia Egner sets the returning ball back into the net of the home team and Villa equalises to 2-2 at Whyteleafe stadium only minutes into the second half. With new hope on the horizon for one and fear of being overtaken by the other, both teams demonstrate constant vigilance and shows off a game that might have gone into penalties.
But Whyteleafe catch Villa by surprise with an interception out of nowhere on Villa’s field, and there is little that can be done when Whyteleafe’s attackers once again flash through the villa defence and plough the ball past an oncoming Villa keeper and into the left corner with eighteen minutes to spare. Despite multiple close calls for an equaliser from Villa, for the remainder of the game, the golden dressed soldiers from the south must admit defeat and an end of the FA cup at the sound of the whistle this time around.
When being asked about what Montpelier Villa could have done differently Smyrk says that “Decision making was a key factor in last Sunday’s game. There were a few moments where we perhaps made things a little more challenging for ourselves through making decisions that stopped us from playing our game! We need to ensure that we are considering our movement both on and off the ball to create options, making that decision making process for the player on the ball that little bit easier.”
This year’s FA has seen an increase in prize money for the women’s fixtures, and with £1800 for winning the first game and an additional £750 the defeat against Whyteleafe will be a welcome bonus to the team’s budget as this seasons promotion sees an increase in cost for the team. Smyrk also emphasises that “Football in Sussex is growing and growing quick. We’ve seen a huge increase in the number of teams over the years, but it’s not just the volume of players we are seeing getting involved, it’s the quality that’s incredible.”
You can catch Montpelier’s next fixture in the London & South East Regional league at Sussex County FA in Lancing on October 16th, Smyrk urges everyone to come along to “grab a pint, take a seat, listen to our excellent new playlist before watching what is set to be a great game of football!” And regarding next year’s FA Cup, captain Smyrk is crystal clear, “We’ll be ready!”