Woodley had not played since their 3-0 defeat at Oxford City on December 10th (Top Of The Christmas Tree). After a good start to the season, they had recently found the going a bit tougher, not helped by losing a few players through absence and injury. However, after a few weeks off and a players returning, they were hoping to get the season back on track. Warminster's seasons has followed an opposite track to Woodley. They started the season slowly but, in recent weeks, had started to pick up points, winning four of their last five league matches, including a 2-0 defeat of the league leaders in November. This run started after their 5-0 home defeat to Woodley in mid-October. In their last game, a Wiltshire Cup game at Swindon Supermarine, they had found the net 13 times with strikers Mia Blazey (4) and Poppy Wannell (5) hitting nine between them.
The goal stung Woodley into more action. They immediately went back at their opponents and forced a number of corners that caused all sorts of problems for Warminster, none of which were finished off by a blue-shirted player. It wasn't all Woodley though. Warminster were still getting the ball forward when they saw a chance. They failed to capitalise on a sliced clearance from Cheadle just before the quarter-hour. Then, as we hit the midway point of the half, Poppy Wannell's inviting cross from the right fell for Imogen Jones who put her shot narrowly over the bar. This was matched at the other end by a Gemma Sims free-kick which sailed harmlessly over Abi Footner's bar.
Either side of the half-hour mark Sarah Lawrence twice came close to grabbing her eighth of the season. First of all Ellen Surtees dropped a free-kick into the penalty area which Lawrence headed just wide. A few minutes later, she was found by a lovely through ball that saw her bear down on goal only to be denied by an outstanding, one-handed save from Footner.
You could say that a Woodley goal looked on the cards and, sure enough, with 31 minutes on the clock, it duly arrived. It came from yet another left-wing corner, this time hit deep towards the far post by Kate Hudson. Gemma Sims, arriving at the back post, bundled the ball over the line and United were level. 1-1
At this point Warminster may have feared the worst with the momentum shifting in favour of the hosts. However, it was Town who generated a couple of chances. Imogen Jones was almost through on 40 minutes but a slightly heavy touch allowed Cheadle to race off her line and smother the opportunity. A few minutes later Poppy Wannell showed some good footwork to cut back onto her left before driving narrowly wide of Cheadle's left-hand post. Blazey then dropped deep to collect a pass before sending Wannell clear on the right. The striker took on the shot, putting it wide, when there were possibly better placed players in the centre, although it's easy to say that from the touchline.
Those three missed opportunities could have proved costly if not for yet another good stop from Footner in the third minute of injury time, coming off her line sharply to thwart a break.
HT Woodley United 1 Warminster Town 1. Great entertainment. End to end at times. Woodley edged it in terms of possession and the number of chances but could easily have found themselves behind to a Warminster side that looked very threatening on the counter-attack.
Woodley were really struggling to get the ball out of their half at this point and when they did get it forward, it just wasn't sticking and they immediately found themselves under pressure again, although Sims, Surtees and Hudson were mopping up most balls that came through the middle.
Halfway through the second period, Cheadle was again called into action, doing really well to collect a wicked, low cross from the right that took a nasty skip just in front of her. Then Charley Evans, arguably Woodley's best performer on the day, then put in a tremendous goal-saving block to keep out Blazey again, getting a bit of a knock for her efforts too.
That block sparked a rare Woodley foray deep into the Town half. May Hamblin twisted and turned to give herself a good shooting opportunity but, once again, Footner was equal to it. The Warminster stopper was again called into action with just ober twn minutes left, this time getting in front of a decent strike from Evans, who had driven forward from the right-back position to get her shot off.
So, after being on the back foot for much of the second half, Woodley seemed to get a second wind towards the end of the game, forcing a couple of corners and keeping the ball in the Warminster half. However, they couldn't find a way past a defence well marshalled by captain Millie Spratt and some inspired goalkeeper from Abi Footner.
FT Woodley United 1 Warminster Town 1. A draw probably a fair reflection of the game. Woodley had the best of the first half, Warminster had the best of the second. Both teams had opportunities to take all three points and both goalkeepers had to make good saves to keep their respective teams in it at times. If you want to catch either of these sides in action next week (and I strongly advise that you do), Woodley travel to Wycombe Wanderers in what will be their first meeting this season. Wycombe pay at Burnham FC on a 3G pitch, so this one will hopefully beat the weather whatever happens. Warminster go to Winchester City Flyers. In the reverse fixture, Flyers won 2-1 after coming back from a Mia Blazey goal in the first half. Two from Shayne Prasad gave Winchester all three points.
Woodley United: 1.Cheadle, 11. Haines, 3.Sims, 8.Surtees(c), 9.Steadman, 2.Evans, 5.Hudson, 6.Sawyer, 12.Hamblin, 7.Lawrence, 17.Turner. Subs: 4.Skinner, 14.Freeney, 10.Devlin
Warminster Town: Footner, Shibley, Y.Spratt, M.Spratt(c), 6.P.Spratt, 7.Blazey, 8.Fry, 10.Snelling, 12.Smith, 14.Wannell, 17.Jones. Subs: Hiett, Thorner-Atkinson, Weir
Much like today's visitors from Warminster, I had also never before been to Bulmershe Pavilion. Situated on the Western edge of Woodley, Bulmershe Pavilion is part of the University of Reading campus. It was opened in 2015 and the building still looks and feels new. Acess is off Woodlands Avenue through the 50-spot car park and then a gate and path that leads up to the pavilion itself. To your right is the main pitch. Beyond the avilion the space opens up to reveal a whole host of other pitches of various sizes. There is, of course, no spectator cover around the main pitch, although you can stand in the lea of the pavilion and still get a good view of the game. The pitch slopes slightly from the Woodlands Lane end down towards the pavilion end. Refreshments can be purchased inside the pavilion, along with the matchday programme (see below). The cup of tea was very welcome on Sunday with a chill wind blowing across the ground.
So hot off the press that it contains the home team's starting eleven on the back page, the Woodley programme is an excellent 10-page A5, full-colour magazine. This week's edition contained a message from home manager Marc Surtees, an article about return player Laura Devlin, a message from Warminster manager Tim Fry, a brief history of Warminster Town, the Warminster squad list, a tribute to Woodley stalwart Mollie Haines who was making her 150th appearance for the club (congratulations Mollie!), that aforementioned home starting line-up and, of course, plenty of photographs of Woodley in action.
Woodley do not charge for the programme, however there is a donation jar next to them where supporters can give whatever amount they choose. There aren't many women's teams that produce a programme at this level, so this is a great effort from the club and, I beleive, from photographer Andy Wicks, who puts the magazine together.
Ground Number: 394