Date of Visit: 8th September 2019
Competition: North Wales Women’s League Division Two
- Founded: 2019
- Ground: Halkyn Road, Holywell, Flintshire CH8 7TZ
- Colours: Red shirts with navy blue tops, red shorts, red socks
- Website: https://www.holywelltownfc.co.uk/
- Twitter: @HolywellFc
The second Sunday of September would see something of a rarity for me, The 94th Minute was actually doing a Sunday groundhop. Normally I like to spend the Sabbath doing things which help improve my mental health. Whether that is either resting and chilling out, reading books, catching up with messages or even writing up blogs on this website. However on this specific Sunday, my normal idyllic Sunday plans would have to be postponed as a football fixture was being played, which I certainly could not miss out on.
The 8th September would see history being made for my beloved Holywell Town side, as it would be the very first league game of their newly created women’s team. Having been a strong advocate for the club to have an equivalent women’s team for a while, I was so pleased when the club finally announced they were creating a women’s team. Therefore, with the women’s team now initially established, I was very eager to watch their very first competitive game in their history. Also I had promised myself to write a blog on at least one women’s football match this year, so I glad I was finally able to fulfill a goal of mine. Even better that it was only a short distance away from 94th Minute HQ!
For this upcoming fixture within the Division Two of the North Wales Women’s League, Holywell Town Ladies would competing against another newly created team, which had been formed over the summer, the Connah’s Quay Nomads Ladies team. Therefore this intriguing local derby match would be the first league game for both of the Flintshire sides, and it would be interesting to see how the two new teams would match up.
HOLYWELL TOWN LADIES
An announcement was made in May this year that Holywell Town would be establishing a new women’s team to add to their growing umbrella of teams that currently play under the famous badge. It would also provide a natural outlet for the many players who are developing through the various Holywell girls teams that had been created previously. The future aim being that the girls’ teams helping develop local players, who would then progress into the full women’s team.
Taking charge of the women’s side would be Tony Doyles, one of the current Holywell Town youth coaches. He would be assisted by UEFA B-Licence coach, Jordan Hadaway, who is also involved with Holywell’s youth teams and its academy. Being a very talented coach, Jordan is currently the co-manager of local North East Wales League side, Caerwys FC.
As mentioned above, Holywell Ladies would start their league history in Division Two of the North Wales Women’s Football League. There, they would playing against seven other teams to complete the eight team league for this upcoming season. The other ladies teams within Division Two are:
- Amlwch Town
- Caernarfon Town
- Connah’s Quay Nomads
- Mountain Rangers
- North Football Association (NFA)
- Penrhyn Bay
In preparation for their admittance into the league, they have played a couple of pre-season friendlies to help bond the team together, and start to work together as a team.
Arrived later than I planned but managed to get to Halkyn Road to see @HolywellFc Ladies first game in their history 👏🏻👏🏻👍🏻#The94thMin #groundhopping #groundhopper #Flintshire #northwales #Holywell #Wellwomen pic.twitter.com/Bi8G4SWLql
— The 94th Minute 🏴 (@The94thMin) July 21, 2019
Their very first game was against NFA Ladies at Halkyn Road, where they were defeated 0-2 to the Rhyl-based side, but provided a lot of positives and great signs for the future of the new team. In their previous friendly game, they faced Wrexham Ladies at Halkyn Road, as part of a family fun day event that was being held at the ground. Sadly the Wellwomen were defeated 0-9 by the Division Two champions, but they gained a lot of respect for their commitment, determination and drive. They were hopeful they could carry this desire into their debut game against the Nomads!
CONNAH’S QUAY NOMADS LADIES
It was announced during this summer that current Cymru Premier side, Connah’s Quay Nomads, were also looking to establish a new women’s team to their club. This would add to the growing number of teams being established in Flintshire, with Northop Hall Ladies and Airbus UK Ladies being established sides within the area already. The Nomads would start life in the North Wales Women’s League Division Two, alongside Holywell Town Ladies.
Connah’s Quay Nomads Ladies appointed the highly-respected UEFA A-License coach, Sara Hilton, who was appointed to the new role in early August. Sara formerly managed Crewe Alexandra Ladies team, and was part of the Conwy Borough coaching set-up last season, during Gareth Thomas’ tenure as manager (including the time I visited Conwy Borough on a groundhop). She is currently the coach educator for the FAW Trust, and also a Football and Coaching Science lecturer at Wrexham’s Glyndŵr University.
Sara is assisted by former Rhyl Ladies manager, and UEFA B-Licence coach, Cassandra Thomas, who has extensive experience of women’s football within Wales. Certainly an important appointment to help develop the new Nomads women’s team, and proving an excellent combination of management and coaching.
Prior to this upcoming historic league fixture, the Nomads played their first ever game in a pre-season friendly against Wrexham Ladies. Playing against the Division One side, they managed an impressive 5-2 victory over the Robins at The Quay 3G, with the home side being 4-1 up at half time! Certainly hopes for the Nomads this season were going better than initially expected!
HALKYN ROAD GROUNDHOP
- Distance Travelled: 0.5 miles
- Travel Time: 5 mins
- Entrance: FREE
- Programme: N/A
- Can of Cola: £1.00
- Raffle Ticket: £1.00
This Sunday match would be my second trip to Halkyn Road during this weekend. I had been at the stadium just 24 hours previously to watch the men’s first team take on Plas Madoc in the Welsh National League Premier Division fixture. For that game, a brace from Shaun Tuck, and goals from Jacob Wise and Ben Brierly ensured the Wellmen got a deserved 4-0 victory over the newly-promoted side.
This superb victory was then followed by watching an excellent Queen tribute act (called Monarchy) perform in the middle of Holywell High Street. This was part of the town’s Well Inn Festival, which is an annual music festival that is held within the town every September. Bands, groups and solo performers all perform at various locations around the town, with a main stage being erected in the middle of town for its bigger performers. Just as the same as last year (where we were treated to an Elvis impersonator), Holywell were playing at home on the same day as the music festival, so it allowed me to watch some of the talented acts before and after the game.
— The 94th Minute 🏴 (@The94thMin) September 7, 2019
However, with no tribute acts rocking out in the middle of Tower Gardens on the Sunday, I had now returned back to the stadium to watch this historic game. Once again Halkyn Road was basked in early Autumnal sunshine, with wisps of white clouds drifting quickly along the bright cyan sky. I found the temperature to be a bit warmer than the Saturday, mainly because the chilling breeze of the previous day had subsided somewhat. All in all, it was a very pleasant day to watch a game of football. If only the rest of the season was like this…
I arrived at the stadium roughly 15 minutes before kick-off, and it was brilliant to see that a large crowd of supporters had already gathered at Halkyn Road to see the game. Many of them congregating in the main stand, although there were lots others dotted around the ground also. It goes to show that there is a strong demand for women’s football within the town. Also I am sure the great weather and the free entry for this afternoon’s game also had a helping hand in boosting up the numbers. Regardless, the clubhouse certainly looked busy anyway, which can only be a good thing for the club!
I spotted a number of the Holywell regulars before the game, as well as chatting with Nomads youth coach, Stephen Boyes. I also had a chat with Iwan Waters, who had traveled down from the Holywell under 19’s match that was played at Rhydymwyn earlier in the morning, and was now on media and PA duties for this afternoon’s game. That lad is an absolute star and a super-fan, and so, so worthy of his “Holywell Town Clubman of the Year” award!!
With both teams now out onto the lusciously green pitch (which was in good condition considering there had been a game on it just 24 hours previously), and taking team pictures to remember this historic day, I decided to stand on the Dee side of the ground (opposite the main stand) to watch the game. With the summer rapidly disappearing for another year, I wanted to take full advantage of basking within the warming North Welsh sunshine to enjoy the game, as they are surely to become few and far between. I would certainly have plenty of opportunities throughout the winter to hid under the shelter of the covered stands.
For this particular match, Holywell had named fifteen players on their team sheet (thus having four substitutes available), whereas the Nomads had just the single substitute on their bench, as well as having an outfield player playing in goal. There was also just the referee for this game, and no assistant referees running the lines. However it never detracted from the quality of the game in my opinion, and the young official would have an excellent game.
With kick-off approaching, I was really looking forward to this encounter and seeing two new teams making their first steps into creating history! Holywell would be playing in their new home strips of red shirts with navy blue tops, with red shorts and socks. Connah’s Quay had brought their all-red home kit to the game, and thus had to wear blue bibs on top of their shirts, to help differentiate between the two red-shirted teams.
From the kick-off, Connah’s Quay would have the early pressure and the majority of ball possession in the tie, utilising their advantage in pace down the flanks to create chances. However, Holywell certainly made it very difficult for their opponents to find a breakthrough. The home defensive line were excellent in the way they were challenging for the ball, and winning possession back, as well as forcing the forwards away from the danger zone and eliminating the threat posed on goal.
Despite good work from the Holywell defense, the breakthrough came after 12 minutes, and it was unfortunate for the home side considering their solid defensive start. The ball was superbly cleared off the line after a corner, but the ball dropped to Nomads’ #10 Jasmin Dutton on the edge of the box, who fired a fierce shot through the mass of players congregated around the penalty spot. Her shot got a wicked deflection on the way through the crowd, which managed to divert the effort away from the direction of the diving keeper, Steph Doyle, and nestle into the net.
Connah’s Quay continued to apply the pressure on the Holywell defensive unit (who never let their heads drop and worked 100% throughout the entire game), and almost got close when the ball was cleared off the line after a goal-line scramble, and then headed an effort against the right-hand post after the resultant corner from the scramble. However a superb set piece doubled Nomads’ lead a couple of minutes later. Nomads’ #7 Tonicha Dickens had a free-kick, about 20 yards from goal, and outside to the right-hand side of the box. The midfielder struck a perfect free-kick which curled over both the crowd in the penalty box, and Doyle’s reach, before finding the top corner of the net. An excellent free-kick!!
On the half-hour mark, Connah’s Quay had another free-kick, which almost proved fruitful once again when Dutton fired an arrow-like shot which clipped the underside of the crossbar and bounce downwards before being cleared. Goal-line technology was needed for that one, but the official thought the effort hadn’t bounced past the goal-line, and Holywell excellent cleared away the danger from their area.
Not long after and the visitors found their third goal of the afternoon, utilising their advantage in pace down the flanks to full effect. The ball was given to #8 Erin Heathcote, who managed to burst past the challenging left-back, and deftly chip the oncoming Doyle to score an excellent goal.
Connah’s Quay were now getting into their groove, and added a quick-fire double in similar circumstances, towards the end of the first half. In both situations, a low through ball cut through the Holywell defensive line and found a pacey Nomads player rushing towards goal. #9 Candice Nellist scored their fourth through a powerful low shot, whilst #15 Jennifer Haynes scorched her shot past the diving Doyle, to extend the visitors’ lead.
Towards the end of the first half, the home side had their first chance on goal. Coming from a break down the right flank, Talya Jones saw the Nomads keeper, Lian Renshaw, off her line, and attempted a long range shot towards goal. A speculative effort, it was goal-bound and had to be dealt with by the away goalkeeper through a save. Certainly an effort which got an enthusiastic round of applause from the supporters watching!
That would be the final effort of the half, and both teams returned to the changing rooms with the Nomads having a five goal lead at the break. However Holywell could be proud of their efforts in the first half, especially in their defensive play.
HALF TIME: HOLYWELL TOWN LADIES 0 – 5 CONNAH’S QUAY NOMADS LADIES
The second half started brightly for Connah’s Quay as they managed to get two early goals in the half. Their sixth goal came from a corner, which was firmly headed into the net by their substitute, #6 Rebecca Morris. Then a few minutes later, they grabbed their seventh goal of the afternoon through #7 Tonicha Dickens. Dickens managed to break clear of the defensive line through her pace, and launch a powerful shot past the keeper to extend the visitors’ lead further, and get her second goal of the afternoon.
Holywell would get their best chance of the game after some excellent counter-attacking play. They attempted a low piercing ball through the Nomads defense which their stand-in keeper failed to deal with correctly. This allowed Holywell’s #2 Ruby McGilloway a chance to fire towards goal, however Renshaw made amends for her error, by quickly getting herself in front of the effort and blocking the shot. Very unlucky for the home side there, but very encouraging none the less!
Connah’s Quay would eventually add an eighth goal through Haynes‘ second goal. Her long range effort was just too powerful for Doyle to keep out of the net. Despite getting getting a firm hand behind the shot, the power of the effort forced the ball to creep behind Doyle, and trickle over the goal-line.
This lead to a period of good defensive play by Holywell, who never let their heads, confidence or efforts drop throughout the game, and always gave 100% commitment. They were making excellent blocking tackles when required, and successfully intercepted passes to cut out any potential attack from their opponents. Plus I was impressed that they were always looking to go quickly forward on the counter-attack when they won ball possession – certainly a lot of signs of great potential with this Holywell team!
Sadly with the second half coming to a conclusion, Connah’s Quay cranked up the pressure in the final ten minutes and were rewarded with an additional four goals. Firstly Haynes struck another fine long range strike which curled away from the keeper and into the net, and completed her hat-trick. Then they got lucky to score their tenth goal when the home keeper made a cracking save to keep out a shot, but the deflection unfortunately fell to the onrushing Nellist who tapped into an empty net, to bring up double figure for the Nomads.
Nomads’ #9 Candice Nellist managed break clear of the tiring Holywell defence to send a powerful effort into the back of the net for their eleventh goal (and completing her hat-trick), before Jennifer Haynes scored their final goal of the game. A cross from the left hand side managed to find Haynes unmarked on the edge of the penalty box, and she had enough time to direct a curling effort through the crowd of people and past the unsighted Doyle to complete the scoring for the afternoon.
FULL TIME: HOLYWELL TOWN LADIES 0 – 12 CONNAH’S QUAY NOMADS LADIES
POST GAME & CONCLUSION
Even though the scoreline doesn’t look flattering for Holywell on first reflection, in reality, it failed to show the determination and positivity the home side showed throughout the ninety minutes. The scoreline ultimately not mattering for the home side on this afternoon. This game had been the culmination of a long journey and planning to finally get to this point, and Holywell Ladies were pleased to be finally competing at last.
I was super proud of all of the ladies who had played for Holywell this afternoon as they never once let their heads or performance drop, continued to give 100% effort throughout the game, and played together as a team which was brilliant to see. I saw plenty of bright sparks during the match, which certainly made me very pleased as a Holywell fan:
- The goalkeeper, Steph Doyle, made many important blocks and saves throughout the game, and looked more assured as the game progressed.
- The defensive partnership of Steph Bamford and Olivia Williams, were very good in the tackle and blocking or intercepting passes. They never once backed out of a challenge, especially when it came to 50-50 challenges.
- The full-backs were brilliant at shielding out the wingers when they were threatening down the wing, especially with their pace advantage. They never once panicked, which was superb.
- The Wellwomen’s captain, #6 Sarah Massey was excellent in midfield and provided great leadership on the pitch throughout the game.
- The wingers, Ruby McGilloway and Caitlin Hadaway, kept running all game, providing defensive solidity, whilst always causing a threat to the Nomads full-backs through their counter-attacks.
Obviously the scoreline showed that Connah’s Quay had the greater quality in their side. Sara Hilton and her coaching staff are really putting together an excellent team of players, who will no doubt challenge for the league title this season in my opinion. Here are a few things I noticed during the game:
- They were a very impressive side, with great vision and communication between the players.
- Plenty of quick players, with quick, slick passing between the players especially in the attacking phases.
- The whole side looked defensively organised, and never lost focus throughout the game.
- The pacey wingers looked very impressive by trying to stretch the play and often caused problems to the Holywell full-backs.
- Nomads have a lot of good players with a deadly eye for the goal. No doubt, with such talent in their squad, they’ll be scoring a lot of goals within the league throughout the season, especially from set pieces.
As these were the first fixtures of the season, the Nomads sit top of the table on goal difference, ahead of Amlwch Town and Llanberis, who also earned three points from Sunday’s fixtures. Sadly Holywell sit bottom after the first game, but with nearly the whole season ahead of them, and I am confident we’ll see the Wellwomen climb up the table! Either way, I am super happy there is finally a Holywell Ladies team competing, and they are progressing superbly! I am very excited for the future of both Holywell’s and Connah’s Quay’s progression within the next few seasons, it can only be beneficial to Flintshire women’s football!