Cambridge City Ladies and Cambridge United Women battle out thrilling draw in FA Women’s National League
Becca Fay hit a spectacular equaliser for Cambridge City Ladies in an entertaining 3-3 draw with Cambridge United Women in the FA Women’s National League, Division One South East.
It was a match that you could really not take your eyes off from the first minute, and both sides will have walked away with regrets that they did not take all three points.
City had an impressive attacking verve, led by Charlotte Gillies, and had the greater chances on goal, but United led three times and were unable to close the game out.
There were whole-hearted and feisty challenges, talking points galore and some cracking goals from both sides - it really was just the perfect entertainment for an autumn night.
Only three minutes were on the clock when Gisela Otten swept home the first goal for the U’s, converting a corner at the near post after the visitors had started by playing some impressive football to create space to get at City.
Emma Jenkins then tested Sarah Hudson from distance, but United went into their shells as the hosts found their feet and City’s front three of Gillies, Karly Tolentino and Freya Standing were finding the space to exploit.
Sofia Castiglione sent Tolentino into the box with a great pass in the 12th minute, and the striker squared the ball across the area for Standing, who blasted over.
After Standing and Fay had shots held by U’s keeper Amy Butler, City equalised in the 34th minute. Marauding left-back Lauren Tomlinson had a shot saved by Butler, and as Standing went in for the rebound, she was fouled.
Castiglione made no mistake with the penalty.
The goal had a galvanising effect on United and, just as in the opening passage of the game, they became more dominant on the ball.
It seemed the U’s wide players - Laura Mitchell and Jenkins - were tucking a bit narrower, and this was forcing City back.
There was a reward for their efforts in the 43rd minute as great play at the edge of the area by Mitchell saw her roll the ball back to create space for herself, and then fire in an unstoppable effort to give United a 2-1 lead at half time.
It was strange though, as the goal had the same impact again, making United look jittery as City showed their attacking prowess by upping the intensity and ferocity.
Standing broke down the left and crossed for Gillies to fire wide in the 56th minute, but there was no mistake three minutes later.
Gillies got the ball at the edge of the area and fired an unstoppable drive past Hudson to make it 2-2.
The midfielder almost did it again in the 68th minute, curling a low shot towards the bottom corner, but Butler made a good stop low to her left to turn the ball wide for a corner.
A major talking point came in the 83rd minute, when United went 3-2 ahead.
Tomlinson went down in the City area defending a corner, and her team-mates appealed for the ball to be kicked out to allow for treatment, but neither side took the chance to do so.
Amy Howlett then hit a curling, dipping shot from 25 yards over Hudson.
There were calls that the referee should have stopped play for a head injury but, unfortunately for Tomlinson, his decision was vindicated when the left-back limped off, showing it was not a head injury.
City clearly felt aggrieved, but they did not let it fester and three minutes later, Fay let loose with a left-footed belter from 30 yards that flew into the top corner to make it 3-3.
United had a late appeal for a penalty for handball dismissed by the referee, and so it finished all-square.
While both sides may feel they should have won - for very different reasons - there was no escaping that everyone left the ground entertained by the evening’s fare.
Cambridge City Ladies: Hudson, Reed, Fay, Tomlinson, Castiglione, Mulheron, Gillies, Mosley, Standing, Tolentino.
Substitutes: Cullum (Mosley, 55), Stanley (Tomlinson, 85).
Cambridge United Women: Butler, Crisp, Burt, Waygood, Bennett, Mitchell, Otten, Hodgson, Jenkins, Howlett, Khan.
Substitutes: Davies (Crisp, 65).
Bookings: City - Mulheron (foul, 45); United - Khan (foul, 72).
Referee: Jack Coupar.