The curtains for the 2018/2019 season have finally closed and I ask myself did we do enough and where can we improve. Those of you who have followed our journey this year will have witnessed or read about our successes and failures during a long tiring season.
Women’s football is on the rise as we keep saying but it is at grassroots level where the issues really are. This season has been one of the most challenging of my short managerial career. Last year we built a new team, and got rid of the stigma that had unfortunately followed Hitchin Town Ladies . This year I had to do better but how was the question. We like all grassroots clubs advertise for new players and it is hard to recruit female footballers in positions you need filling. I needed a new striker, goalkeeper and to increase the depth of my squad. We recruited Amiee Holland, Kitri Simon, Heather Lai, Lauren Wyatt & Robyn Wilfort into the squad and welcomed back Ellie Fursland & Becky Day to Hitchin Town Ladies. Fortunately for me Natalie Thompson with Becky Day solved our goalkeeper crisis. They shared the responsibility when they both were available for team selection. It was club secretary Louise Gash that said ‘I’m not a striker, but I’ll give it a go’. I now had a fully functioning squad which was ready to compete in Division Two. Last year we finished third, this year I wanted to finish with more points and goals.
In our first four league games we obtained ten points from a possible twelve being were held to a draw at Evergreen Eagles Ladies. We were already in pursuit of achieving my targets for the season. Every manager dreams of winning a league or cup or both in a season. We got drawn away to Division One side Sharnbrook in the League Cup but crashed out losing the game 7-1. I said to the players afterwards that the odds were against us as we lost players during the game due to injuries and that we needed to focus on our aims in the league. Plus we were in The Chris Renshaw Cup anyways so there was still another chance of winning silverware. Our first league season defeat was at the hands of local rivals Letchworth Garden City.
We got back to winning ways and went on a club record of ten games undefeated scoring over thirty goals and conceding only eight goals. That included a return visit to Sharnbrook and putting three past them to go into the next round of The Chris Renshaw Cup. After entering 2019 as Division Two leaders our turning point was dropping points at Royston and losing at Evergreen Ladies. We didn’t capitalise on our chances during those two games and dropped valuable points. It ended our unbeaten run also. We crashed out again in the semi-final of The Chris Renshaw Cup to Division One side Garston Ladies 2nd XI and we wish them well in an all Garston final.
We returned to Top Field the home of Hitchin Town FC to play in what was the biggest game of the season. It was against Division Two leaders Hitchin Belles. Hitchin Belles needed a point to secure the title from their last fixture and we needed three points to keep the title race alive with our two games in hand. We shared the points at Top Field after a hard fought battle by both teams and Hitchin Belles won the division. We were now in a promotion battle with Letchworth Garden City Eagles Ladies. We made it our mission to not finish any lower than second place. We secured promotion against Letchworth beating them three nil before traveling to Wheathampstead on our final game of the season. We rounded a successful season winning ten nil to record our biggest win of the season. We had topped this seasons targets.
Looking at the statistics for this season we have best defensive record out of three divisions in the Beds and Herts Women’s League, only conceding twelve goals. We have conceded less goals than Arsenal Ladies who have won the Women’s Super League! That is also the best defensive record Hitchin Town Ladies have recorded. It was also noted that we had broken another record of Hitchin Town Ladies and that was the amount of points in one season. What will next season bring?
I couldn’t have done this without the following the following people:
- Karla Chaffey – Club Chairperson
- Louise Gash – Club Secretary
- Shannon Murnane – Club Treasurer
- Ben Edmonds – Social Media
- Ollie Binda – Assistant Manager
- Plus the Hitchin Town Ladies FC players of course.
Each individual has volunteered their valuable time to make this club work. I personally thank everyone in this club for making it work.
I also owe a thank you to Rachel the owner of Soul Shack who agreed to be our club sponsor for the second season running and she even provided the half time oranges & a variety of biscuits that she baked! So it’s a thank you to Rachel for again sponsoring us and we are looking forward to playing in our new yellow and green kit. Another thank you is to the Dowds Group, a construction company who sponsored our club jumpers! They fit perfectly and each and everyone one of us are grateful for your sponsorship.
Thank you to North Herts FM for their coverage of the Hitchin Town Ladies v Hitchin Belles game along with Peter Else who provided photography during the game.
A thank you to our club Hitchin Town FC, I would like to personally thank Roy for including us in his weekly bulletins even when I send them late on a Thursday night or Friday morning! I also would like to thank Mick Docking for including us in the club’s match day programmes. Thank you also to Kate Deller who is always looking at ways to promote women’s football and looking at new ways to develop our club. A thank you to Mark Burke for letting us use the club physio to mend our broken players. Also to the social media team for their continued support on social media.
But most of all a thank you to you, our readers and supporters. When I visit Top Field many of you ask about the ladies team. It is refreshing to see such interest in the women’s game. I feel privileged to be working within such a great football club with an incredible fan base.
As I reflect on the season I am already preparing for next (if they have me for another year)
Thank you again.
BY CALLUM ELLIS
Hitchin Town Ladies FC Manager