Match Report – Dartford FC Women’s Development 2 XL FC 1 - South East Counties Women’s Football League Cup semi-final played on Sunday 29th January 2023
Weather: Grey, cloudy and cold
Manager Rhys Terry; Coach Dan Edwards
Dartford: Stevie-Marie Reece, Tilly Rowsell, Kirsty Cameron, Annie White, Chloe Hall,
Emily Woodhouse, Lauren Bullen, Georgia Culputt, Aimee Ascott, Lizzie Nugent, Alex Foulds
Subs used: Alex Fagan, Sabine Ghag
DARTS REACH LEAGUE CUP FINAL
XL F.C. visited Princes Park with some recent good results under their belts. Sitting third in the league behind Dartford and Sittingbourne, XL had won ten of their fifteen matches, having won their last five scoring 28 goals in the process. But this was a cup tie and a semi-final at that and it didn’t help XL or Darts having to wait 30 minutes before getting started. This was due to the scheduled 3 o’clock kick-off being delayed as the first team played out their League Cup 3rd round tie with Millwall Lionesses which required extra-time.
The opening thirty minutes was quite disappointing from a spectator’s view-point with both sides nullifying each other out in a close and often frustrating cup encounter. Neither side were able to put any telling passes through to the strikers, but this was not for the lack of trying.
XL were proving to be a well-disciplined side but just as they were beginning to gain that extra midfield possession, the Darts got their noses in front.
On 30 minutes, Alex Foulds’ strong running on the left wing kept the ball in play and her persistence paid off when she forced the defender into a poor back-pass which ran kindly to Lizzie Nugent. Lizzie rounded the goalie but in so doing tightened her shooting angle but skilfully guided it home into an open net for 1-0.
XL’s strong back-four often tried to feed their striker “over the top” of the Darts defence, but Annie’s and Chloe’s anticipation in these situations was good and held the Darts defence together competently, well patrolled on the flanks by full-backs Tilly Rowsell and Kirsty Cameron.
The midfield of Loulou Bullen, Emily Woodhouse and Georgia Culpitt had a right royal battle with XL’s midfield and both teams more-or-less cancelled each other out and was still a tightly-fought affair.
Aimee Ascot was often forced back to strengthen Darts’ in the middle of the park and thus the service to the strikers, Alex and Lizzie was often curtailed by a well organised XL defence.
The second-half got off to a thrilling start with first Georgia coming close with an attempted lob in the first minute, and then a couple of minutes later, a great through-ball found XL’s striker, Gabriella Buddle-Smith alone with only the goalie to beat. Stevie stood her ground but the striker’s finishing was sure and sound and left her little chance of saving. 1-1
However, XL’s joy in equalising was short-lived when Darts’ struck back almost immediately to regain the lead, when great work by Georgia in the penalty area managed to get the ball off to Lizzie, who took one step and slammed the ball past the goalie. That was in the 49th minute 2-1.
During the half Alex Fagan came on for Loulou and Sabine for Tilly
In the 73rd minute there was a scare for the Darts when a high corner was met by a strong header and cleared off the line and immediately another shot rained in on the Dartford goal which was heading for the top corner but Stevie managed to brilliantly tip it over. Stevie’s positioning and handling throughout the game was very good.
There was superb work from Lizzie after a wonderful through-ball from Sabine. She had two players on her which she held off before getting in a great cross but Alex was just too far away to benefit from it.
On 80 minutes, nice combined play between Annie, Lizzie and Emily eventually found Sabine near to the penalty spot, but she couldn’t connect strongly enough with the ball and it ended up as a safe save by the goalie. But the move warranted much more.
Lizzie was at the fore-front of everything that was positive about Darts’ play and Sabine’s linking play with Aimee and Lizzie was often very enterprising. One time especially, Alex has supplied Sabine with an excellent pass who in turn played a ball that sliced through the XL’s defence. It reached Lizzie who was left with the goalie to beat but couldn’t quite get the accuracy on her shot which surely would have secured herself a well-deserved hat-trick
Full time: Dartford 2 XL FC 1
All in all, this was a tight affair and Darts’ certainly had to up their game in the second half to win this one, and in the end, they did just that. The second 45 minutes was much better than the first, due mainly to the game opening up with both sides striving to get a winner. Darts’ passing game kept improving as the game went on and produced many more chances than the scoreline perhaps suggests. But full credit to XL who were always there, or thereabouts.
Dartford thus earned their place in the final where they will face the winners of the Tunbridge Wells Foresters v Margate tie.
Report by Tony Brown
XL FC (Home) - League Cup semi-final 2-1
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