Plagued by injury and the difficulty of a season that kicked off over a month before even the keenest of students returned to Cambridge, it would be fair to say the Women’s football team, still looking for their first points, haven’t had the most dazzling of starts to the 2008/09 campaign in the Eastern Region Premier Division.
Sunday saw the team embark on an away trip to face league-leaders Dagenham and Redbridge at Victoria Road. However, this current Cambridge side are not easily intimidated. With four players making their full debuts, the team went into the match with their heads held high, eager to demonstrate their true potential by returning to Cambridge with a point (or three) under their belt.
Dagenham started the match the stronger side but a tight defensive line organised by debutant Danielle Griffiths meant they struggled to take advantage of their possession and allowed a determined Cambridge side to occasionally threaten. Fellow debutante Emma Eldridge linked up to dangerous effect with Clare Ross down the left wing but the similarly resolute Dagenham defence held strong.
The deadlock was broken after half an hour when Dagenham’s speedy forward stabbed home a cross driven low into the box from the left. Cambridge did not let their heads fall and 10 minutes later they were back on level terms as a beautifully executed corner from Clare Longden allowed Mandy Wainwright to convert with her head at the near post. The half-time interval saw the teams level pegging.
Ten minutes into the second half Dagenham took the lead once more and this time they did not let it slip despite the attacking play of Cambridge that saw the ball cleared off the line and rebound off the crossbar. With 60 minutes on the clock and now 3-1 down the Blues were dealt another blow; stand-in skipper and centre half Grace Parker was forced to leave the field in a daze as a head injury sustained the previous week started to take its toll. Cambridge continued to battle hard but the side tired and Dagenham, courtesy of some exquisite finishing from the in-form Sarah Sinclaire, ran away with the game taking the score to 6-1.
Captain Catherine Murphy, currently sidelined by an ankle injury, took only positives from a game in which the Blues’ produced an impressive first half performance: “I can’t fault the effort of the players. For a new team just coming together we played well and I’m sure that will be reflected in next week’s match!”
Although hardly a desirable start to the season, history shows that there is no reason for the team to panic; the current tally of six games and six defeats mimics that of last season, a season which the team ended in a respectable 7th place. The run of defeats suffered at the beginning of the 2007/8 campaign was broken seven games in with an away win over Hethersett Athletic.
Woman of the Match goes the way of Sarah Sinclaire who completed a four-goal second half demolition of the Blues, which saw her season’s goal tally reach 15 in just five games.
Next Sunday sees this very same fixture take place, let’s hope Cambridge can produce a repeat of last year’s result.