Cheltenham Town Ladies’ Top Five Games Of The 2019-20 Season

10th April 2020

By George Brereton

After the FA Women’s National League decided to cancel the remainder of the 2019/20 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, from a season with many more highs than lows, we take a look at five of the best performances from Alex Cheal’s Robinesses

Southampton Women’s 0-2 CTLFC
(FA WNL Division One South-West: 15/09/19)

In a superb display on the road, Cheltenham returned to winning ways at The Bypass Ground as Annie Martin and a Charlotte Criddle superb strike gave the visitors three points in a thoroughly entertaining encounter.

Despite early pressure from Southampton, the away side broke the deadlock in the eleventh minute when sheer pace allowed Ella Hitchcox to beat the home keeper to the loose ball, who then found Martin unmarked in the box to open the scoring with a wonderful sweeping finish.

Taking confidence after opening the scoring, the visitors began to control the game, with Louise Fensome, George Brown and Abbey Bevan dictating proceedings from midfield as the away side went into the interval with a one goal advantage.

Southampton began the second half strongly, with Cheltenham being forced with their backs to the wall as the home side searched for an equaliser. The away side’s back four of Hallsworth, Dolloway, Butler and Rendall did everything in their power to prevent crosses and cut out passes as they continued to withstand the relentless pressure from the home side.

The hosts spurned a glorious opportunity to equalise after a floated ball forward was missed by Dolloway, allowing the striker to go clean through. Fortunately for the Robins, the finish fizzed wide of the far post with centre-half Mai Butler and Robyn Levett doing enough put the striker off.

Regaining a foothold in the game, with Sally Butterfield, on as a replacement for Sarah King, the Robinesses missed an opportunity to double their lead. Beating her marker to the ball, she delivered a beautiful ball into the path of Martin, but the ball just wouldn’t sit up for the onrushing forward and the chance went begging.

With just eight minutes remaining, Cheltenham made their second substitution as Annie Martin departed the game, being replaced by Charlotte Criddle, and she quickly made her mark on the game.

With Hitchcock involved in the build-up once again, outpacing her marker on the right-hand touchline, she set it back to Criddle, who took a small touch before firing a shot from a very tight angle. Although the ‘keeper was able to get a hand to it, she was unable to prevent the sweetly struck shot finding the net. This secured a truly impressive victory for Cheltenham, picking up their fourth win and third clean sheet of the season in the league.

CTLFC 5-0 Brislington
(Women’s FA Cup: 06/10/19)

The Robinesses swept aside Brislington Ladies in a five-star display to progress through to the third qualifying round of the SSE Women’s FA Cup as strikes from Charlotte Criddle, Georgia Brown, Mai Butler, Annie Martin and Kerry Bartlett capped an excellent display at the Big Local Stadium.

Cheltenham started strongly, with the midfield taking control in the game’s early stages, with Sally Butterfield and Criddle combining well on numerous occasions down right-hand side, but the final ball into the box was unable to provide a test for the goalkeeper.

The home side continued to apply pressure as centre-half Mai Butler’s header at the far post from an inviting corner was nodded off the line before Cerys Dolloway would see a similar chance from a second corner scrambled off the whitewash again, despite appeals from the home side that the goal be given.

Six minutes before the end of the first half, Cheltenham’s pressure paid dividends as Criddle found the back of the net after Kirsten Rendell was fouled in the Brislington half. Criddle stepped up to the free-kick and hit the net superbly from 35 yards to give the home side the lead going into half time.

Brislington started the second half brightly, but just over ten minutes into the half, midfielder Georgia Brown doubled Cheltenham’s lead, finding the corner with precision with an excellent shot from outside of the box.

Minutes later Cheltenham would add a third through Butler after a fantastic corner sent into the box was headed away by the visiting defence, before another inviting delivery was sent back into the danger zone with Butler rising above the visiting defence inside a packed penalty box to make it three.

Despite Cheltenham’s three goal advantage, Brislington continued to apply pressure on the Cheltenham defence after going direct, looking to exploit any space behind the pressing defence.

With the midfield taking control of the game again, Annie Martin would get herself on the scoresheet, becoming Cheltenham’s top scorer in the process. With the tenacious Fensome winning the ball back in the attacking third, Georgia Brown weaved her way around the edge of the Brislington defence on the right wing, evading a couple of tackles before squaring it across the face of goal and Martin was able to hammer home despite pressure from her strike partner Kerry Bartlett.

After missing out to Martin just five minutes before, Bartlett managed to get on the scoresheet after Wilkins’ cross from the left was flicked away. The resulting header fell to the division’s top scorer last season and she was able to send the ball back across the face of goal and expertly find the bottom corner to seal an empathic victory for the home side.

Image courtesy of Flora Martyr

CTLFC 4-3 Exeter City
(Women’s FA Cup – 03/11/19)

Following their dominant victory against Brislington in the previous round, Cheltenham confirmed their place in the First Round Proper of the SSE Women’s FA Cup in a seven goal thriller against Exeter City Women, which saw two hat-tricks from Annie Martin and Abbie Britton for Cheltenham and Exeter respectively in an enthralling game.

With both teams looking bright early on, playing some good passing football and pressuring the opposition, Exeter began to settle and started the better of the two teams, playing some expansive, free-flowing football. Withstanding the pressure of several Exeter attacks, Cheltenham were able to create their own chances with a couple of good opportunities falling for Kerry Bartlett, however the striker was unable to convert either of them.

Abby Bevan opened the scoring for Cheltenham in the 24th minute to give the Robins the lead. Pressuring the away defence as they tried to play out from the back, Bartlett’s stretching tackle saw the loose ball fall to Bevan, who struck her shot first time, brilliantly finding the net from 25 yards out.

Annie Martin and Bartlett continued to provide a constant threat to the Grecians’ back line, both with and without the ball as they chased and battled for everything. The game, developing into a real end- to end, proper FA Cup tie, saw Exeter showing real signs of danger going forward.

However, somewhat against the run of play, it was Cheltenham who extended their lead three minutes before the interval through Martin’s first of the day. After chasing a ball down the left, Martin stepped inside, taking it past three Exeter defenders before whipping a shot just inside the near post to double Alex Cheal’s side lead going into the break.

Unable to find the net in the first half, it took Exeter just four minutes of the second half to get onto the scoresheet as Britton bagged her first for the away side, dispatching a cross into the box from a couple of yards out.

With Exeter threatening to get back into the match, Cheltenham made an early change, with Ella Hitchcox coming into the game, replacing Sarah King. The away side continued to apply great pressure on the home side and found an equaliser through Britton again after a half-clearance from an Exeter cross saw the ball returned into the box for the striker to head home, temporarily leveling the score.

Cheltenham restored their lead less than 2 minutes later, with Martin also grabbing her second after producing a fantastic finish from the edge of the box after Cheltenham caught Exeter’s midfield on the back foot.

With 75 minutes on the clock, Martin completed her hat-trick and restored Cheltenham’s two goal advantage. In midfield, Bevan produced a wonderful pass forward to give Martin both time and space to provide a driven shot expertly into the bottom corner, beyond the reach of Rhiannon Dumper in the Exeter goal.

Despite the two-goal deficit, the visitors continued to create several chances, including rattling the crossbar. Like Martin before her, Britton completed her own hat-trick with two minutes to go, after racing onto a perfectly weighted through ball, dispatching the ball past Robyn Levett to bring her side back within touching distance of the Robins. Ultimately, the home side were able to control the dying moments of the game and hold out to victory, sealing their place in the First Round Proper of the SSE Women’s FA Cup.

Image courtesy of Will Luker

CTLFC 1-0 Buckland Athletic
(FA WNL Division One South-West: 02/02/20)

In a tight game against a tricky Buckland Athletic, a side that had picked up four wins in their previous five fixtures, Cheltenham Town Ladies secured a vital narrow victory courtesy of midfielder Abby Bevan’s finish from distance at The Big Local Stadium.

Starting at a frantic pace, the visiting sided create the first opening but were pulled back by the assistant referee’s offside flag.
After handball appeals from Cheltenham were waved away after an attacking pass appeared to strike an arm, Buckland were on the attack down the left, but saw the offside flag waved again in quick succession, halting their progress.

Some lovely exchanges between Lauren Ellis, Ella Hitchcox and Bevan allowed Sarah King to find space on the right, but her cross proved far too strong for Hitchcox at the far post with both teams still unable to find the breakthrough.

Cheltenham created a dangerous counter attack from a Buckland corner, as Alice Kempski and Bevan combined nicely to clear the danger and find Hitchcox with an exquisite diagonal ball. Hitchcox and Martin then linked well to find midfielder Bevan charging forward in acres of space, with the midfielder unleashing a looping shot from outside the box, gliding it past the reach of the Buckland goalkeeper to open the scoring for the home side.

The visitors, now searching for an equaliser, created several strong attacks with Cheltenham’s centre-half duo of Elle-Mae Simspon and Sam Hallsworth clearing several crosses. Bevan was then bravely denied by the visiting ‘keeper as the two sides went in at the interval with just a single goal separating them.

Buckland started the much better side after the break, playing some good passing football in midfield, pushing players forward to pen the hosts back and building on the front foot, testing Cheltenham fullbacks with searching diagonal passes.

After handling a wave of Buckland attacks, Cheltenham quickly turned defence into attack with a great ball into space for the pacy Hitchcox to chase, with the winger winning a corner. Cheltenham were then gifted a player advantage as a Buckland winger was directed off the field to receive treatment for a bloody nose. The player in question then received a booking for not leaving the pitch as instructed, although Cheltenham were unable to direct their corner towards goal.

Swiftly returning to full strength, Buckland continued to cause Cheltenham some issues, finding space on the wings and successfully getting in behind the home side’s defence but were unable to create any real threatening chances.

Holly Fenton then came into the game, providing great energy in attack on the flanks against Buckland’s tired legs, while Hannah Galpin also entered the fray late on, replacing Jasmine Bull in the centre of midfield for the home side.
Ella Hitchcox was the final Cheltenham player to leave the field, with young prospect Caitlin Marron entering the game.

The home side began to sit deeper and deeper, absorbing the Buckland pressure, with the game getting more and more intense with every passing minute. In the end, the away side were unable to threaten Cheltenham’s fourth league clean sheet as Alex Cheal’s side held on to claim a key three points in a narrow encounter.

Image courtesy of Will Luker

Maidenhead United 1 CTLFC 3 –
(FA WNL Division One South-West: 08/03/20)

In the most recent game before the FA Women’s National League decided the 2019/20 campaign, Cheltenham Town Ladies secured an impressive victory at Mill Meadow, despite being absent of several first team regulars from their squad.

The away side made the perfect start in just two minutes when Ella Hitchcox finished well on the edge of the Maidenhead box. This instigated a response from Maidenhead, putting Cheltenham under pressure with young centre-back Elle-Mae Simpson in excellent form to nullify any hint of danger from the home side.

The hosts’ direct and physical style of play continued to test the Robinesses defence, but the away side stood firm to keep the Magpies out.
Maidenhead managed to open up some space pinballing short, sharp passes around the edge of the Cheltenham penalty area, allowing a looping shot from Kate Le Cumbre to find the back of the net, despite Alyta Norman getting a right hand to it.

Cheltenham responded strongly, looking to play all the football in the Maidenhead half but the Magpies continued to look dangerous and were able to create chances.
The home side had the final say from the half as Cheltenham sent players forward to, looking to overload the home side’s defence and pick up a second before the end of the half. However, this allowed the Magpies to counter, with a well-placed pass opening a one-on-one opportunity for the home side but the forward dragged the shot wide, meaning the sides went in level at the break.

Cheltenham started the second half on the front foot, looking to recreate their start to the first half, with Jasmine Bull seeing a shot from distance well stopped by the away keeper. The Robinesses continued to turn the screw on the Maidenhead defence, with Martin and King linking well. Hitchcox, proving to be a nuisance all game to the Maidenhead defence, deservedly restored Cheltenham’s lead with a cool finish.

Not content with providing two assists, King opened Maidenhead’s defence again with another dangerous diagonal pass, narrowly evading Martin and Hitchcox. The pass however, sat perfectly for Bevan, with the midfielder timing her run well before fizzing her shot across the face of goal, not missing the far post by much.

Not long after, Annie Martin sealed victory for Cheltenham after she slotted a perfectly placed top-corner finish over the outstretched gloves of the Maidenhead keeper.

Young faces Caitlin Marron and Hannah Galpin would come into the fixture in the late stages as Cheltenham looked to calmly see the game out. With the final play of the game, the substitutes would be involved in one last attack but Galpin couldn’t keep her shot down.

Image courtesy of Will Luker

For a list of Cheltenham Town Ladies’s competitive fixtures and match reports from 2019/20, click here

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