After what we City fans have witnessed in the last 24 hours, it will be nice to speak about one Norwich side in a positive manner at least!
Almost immediately after the full-time whistle blew on another abject Carrow Road display for Norwich – this time succumbing 3-1 to Blackburn Rovers – the women got underway at The Nest, looking to send the City faithful home happy and justifying their decision to attend the women’s fixture.
As I mentioned in last week’s review, whilst bittersweet and downright frustrating to have both fixtures effectively clash with one another, it was great to see Norwich play in front of Canary fans again after what seemed a lifetime.
However, for the fans in attendance, Sunday’s game also marked the opportunity to say farewell to a legend. Midfielder Jodie Drake was presented with gifts on the pitch before kick-off after it was announced last month that she would be retiring from football to prioritise more family time. Drake has been a stalwart in the Norwich midfield since joining the club in 2008.
With Norwich’s women’s side arguably being more popular now than it’s ever been, it may be disappointing to know that there are some fans in attendance who are new to The Nest and will never get the opportunity to see Drake’s brilliance in the famous yellow and green.
Let’s not make any mistakes, Ashford Town certainly isn’t an easy fixture, and The Tangerines would have pulled level with City on points in the league with a victory.
It was the first women’s fixture in NR10 since the 6-1 over Haywards Heath in September and boy did City come out of the blocks flying, with three chances in the first ten minutes through Natasha Snelling, Rachel Lawrence, and Alice Parker.
Norwich’s blistering start showed no signs of slowing down, and Martin Herdman’s women were rewarded for their perseverance in the 39th minute when Snelling’s shot found a way through the Ashford Town ‘keeper’s hands and into the back of the net.
The fact of the matter is, when Snelling is in this sort of form, she’s unplayable. She already could have had a hat-trick before her first went in.
City then showed their clinical side, with Parker deciding that first-half injury time was the ideal moment to score a beautiful, long-ranged brace, the second of which came from a free kick, to send the Canaries in at half-time three goals to the good.
When Parker plays against Ashford, you’re guaranteed spectacular goals.
Like Snelling, Parker’s dead-ball ability as well as her natural scoring prowess is effectively a cheat code in certain games. This was one of them.
Herdman must’ve been delighted with his side’s performance in the first half, and ordered much of the same in the second, with City dominating at the start of the half and looking to put the game to bed.
Rachel Lawrence wanted a slice of the Parker pie, having three chances herself within a five-minute period to no avail.
Megan Todd also made herself a nuisance to the Ashford defence, who defended well for the majority of the half.
However, with chances constantly being created, another one was bound to be taken, and it fell to Katie Knights in the 81st minute to put the hosts 4-0 up and ensure the three points.
Or so we thought.
In a move very unlike this current crop, Norwich started to become complacent and allowed Ashford back into the game, firstly through Ashley Cheatley.
Clearly taking inspiration from Parker in the first half, Ashford scored a free kick themselves in second-half injury-time to half the deficit.
4-2. Game on?
It so nearly was, as Sarah Quantrill had to claim another free kick in order to prevent a third and ensure the points for the Canaries.
After last week’s setback in the cup, it was nice to get back to winning ways in front of 340 spectators at The Nest as we head full force into a title race.
The result keeps Norwich second in the division, four points behind AFC Wimbledon with a game in hand.
As Parker alluded to in her post-match interview, hopefully, next week’s match will see a bigger crowd. With potential new fans not having to worry about which team to align themselves with on a matchday, next week should feel like the proper homecoming for the women’s team.
Speaking of title races and important fixtures, it doesn’t get bigger than next week, when City welcome Hashtag United to The Nest in the first round of the FA Cup.
The Tags beat City to the National League Division One South East title last season, and are striving for back-to-back promotions this term, currently sitting second in the National League Southern Premier Division, with Portsmouth keeping them off top spot only on goal difference.
Seeing as City lost to London Bees last week, who sit bottom of the Southern Prem, Hashtag will undoubtedly be the biggest challenge the club has faced this season. But with home fans on side and an unswerving support only seen by the women’s team this season, anything is possible.