QPR Women currently play their home games at Hanwell Town's Powerday Stadium (Reynolds Fields) in Perivale, West London. This was not my first visit to the ground, I was there in February 2017 to watch Hanwell's then tenants, Southall, take on Broadfields United (All Square). The ground has not changed all that much over the intervening years although there are a lot more PowerDay signs around the ground than there were when I last visited. The coach from Caversham was already parked up in the good-sized car park when I arrived, along with plenty of other cars which pointed to a decent crowd for the game. Eventually I opted to park out on Perivale Lane, just outside the main gates to the ground.
Queens Park Rangers were promoted from the London & South East Regional Premier League in the National League Division One South East at the end of last season's truncated campaign. They started the season well, winning their first two games, but have since lost three and drawn one in the league. However, they put six past Maidenhead in the League Cup last week, which may have signalled a return to form for the Hoops. By means of their league status, this would be their first FA Cup game of this season.
Caversham United currently ply their trade in the Thames Valley Counties League, three steps below QPR. They too have not been in the best league form having lost their last two games, both at home. However, cup games have been a totally different kettle of fish for the Goats. In the FA Cup they have disposed of Warminster Town 3-1 and then saw off Eversley & California 4-2 on their own patch in the 2nd Qualifying Round, earning this tie at QPR. They also put 13 unanswered past Wraysbury Village in the Berks & Bucks Women's Trophy last time out.
Caversham, unsurprisingly, set up very cautiously with a game plan to let QPR have the ball in their own half and to only press them when they crossed the halfway line. After a few minutes it was clear that Rangers had adapted their play to counteract Caversham's approach and had targeted both flanks as possible ways in behind the massed ranks of Goats. Some clever movement from Rangers was drawing the Caversham full-backs into a narrower position which allowed ball to be played into the gaps created for the wing-backs, Searle and Petit, to run onto.
The first real chance from QPR came in the 11th minute when Eshe Davies got in a good effort that Nina Merritt was equal to. Caversham's first major venture into the last third came on the quarter hour when good work from Charlotte Clarke gave Tiff Newland an opportunity, but Pope had the measure of the effort and it remained 0-0.
Two minutes later Davies was again close for the home side, heading just over as they tried to turn the screw. The breakthrough came in the 23rd minute when Rangers switched the focus of their attack with a great ball into the centre putting, Melanie Hall in the clear. She slotted the ball under Merritt despite the keeper getting a hand to it. 1-0
Just past the half-hour mark, however, another cleaver ball found the overlapping Searle surging through the left-hand channel. This time the covering defender couldn't stop her and, despite Merritt blocking the first attempt, the QPR wing-back fired the second one high into the net. 2-0
HT Queens Park Rangers 2 Caversham United 0. QPR had the majority of the ball and deservedly lead at the break. However, The Goats performed brilliantly, defended stoutly and have, on occasions, showed that they can trouble Rangers. They are certainly far from out of the game and who knows what the situation would have been if Steph Nelson's effort had dipped an inch lower?
The second half began much as most of the first had gone. QPR with the lionesses' share of possession and Caversham defending from the halfway line, with the odd foray into Hoop's territory. Rangers still had the threat of their wing-backs though. With only three gone in the second period Searle found Petit with a lovely pass but the right-sided player could only shoot straight at Merritt. Caversham were starting to get a little more adventurous as the half progressed with Tiff Newland and Steph Nelson a constant worry to the home defence who, it has to be said, were marshalled brilliantly by captain Vicky Grieve.
We then had a slight delay in play for a query that I don't think I have ever seen at a game before. One of the Caversham bench was convinced QPR had more than one player wearing the Number 2 shirt, in fact at one point they seemed to think there were three of them. This was raised with the assistant who called the referee over. However, after a check of shirts, it was revealed that only one Number 2 was on the pitch at that time. Something of a mystery.
What was not mysterious was the third goal from QPR, which arrived on 68 minutes. No mystery at all, just two touches of class. First off the the left-wing corner delivery from Searle was inch perfect. Secondly, the deft, flicked finish from Brogan Moore was magical. 3-0.
Caversham had to push more now. They had nothing to lose. Sumayah Zayadi replaced the tiring Tiff Newland, who had run herself into the ground and, within a few minutes, Zayadi almost made an impact, firing narrowly over. That effort was matched at the other end by another substitute, Emilia Nygaard-Parsons, who drew a good save from Merritt.
A further change from The Goats as Emma Hopkins replaced Steph Nelson who had taken a knock, and was also running on empty after chasing everything for 75 minutes. Freya Jenkins then treated us to a demonstration of her nifty footwork, almost breaking through the QPR defence, but it was to be one of her last contributions as her work rate had also taken it's toll. She was replaced by Sam Thoreau who, when I last watched the Goats, had performed brilliantly as a stand-in goalkeeper. Still there was no way through for Caversham, despite myself and Caversham Chairman Paul Gutteridge, who I had met up with at half-time, urging them on from the sidelines.
With time almost up, QPR applied one last piece of icing on the cake, Demi Edwards finishing well to make it 4-0.
FT Queens Park Ranger 4 Caversham United 0. No disgrace for The Goats in this result. QPR are a very good side, well drilled and packed full of clever players. I make no apology for my blog being weighted towards Caversham. as I stated at the beginning, I do have an interest in the team and, after a performance like this, I am even more proud to have a small association with the team. They were, to a player, magnificent on the day. Every one of them gave every last drop of effort they could muster and still managed to raise a few smiles after the final whistle. As a coach of a girl's team myself, this is the sort of attitude and commitment I want my team to show. In fact, I am definitely thinking of arranging a trip for my team to watch The Goats. Maybe it will inspire them to greater things?
Bets wishes to QPR in the next round where they will again be at home against Bromley from the Greater London Women's premier, one level above Caversham. They are a good team and played the game in exactly the right spirit. Great to see.
Queens Park Rangers: Pope, Petit, Searle, Carolan, Grieve(c), Jordinson, Blodgett, Akerman, Davies, Moore, Hall. Subs: Edwards, Nygaard-Parsons, Redhead-Ling
Caversham United: Merritt(c), C. Clarke, Hobson, Wicks, Dearling, Levy, Butler, Jenkins, Swan, Nelson, Newland. Subs: Thoreau, Hayden, D. Clarke, Hopkins, Zayadi
Ground Number: Re-visit