And just like that, 2023 is over for our women’s team.
And what a year it has been!
From winning the County Cup against Mulbarton Wanderers at Carrow Road to a famous FA Cup upset against Hashtag United, a crucial league win against AFC Wimbledon, and a victory at Loftus Road against Queens Park Rangers, Norwich have had a remarkable year, which will live long in the memory for the players, staff, and fans.
Although most will be sad to see the back of 2023, the club has set itself up perfectly for sustained success in 2024 with a nail-biting promotion battle on the horizon.
Alas, there was still one last challenge ahead for the Canaries this year as they welcomed lowly Chesham United to The Nest.
After a week-long break, it was nice to be back at The Nest, and rounding off the year in front of the City faithful was the perfect way to continue the celebrations after Saturday’s derby shenanigans.
Past meetings would suggest that, despite Chesham sitting ninth in the National League Division One South East, they can prove difficult for anyone in the league. It was the Generals who handed City their first defeat of last season, so City knew how tough it would be if they underestimated them.
Martin Herdman made two changes from the win over Wimbledon, with Millie Davis coming back into the side and Holly Kennard making her debut in yellow and green – the winger signing from AFC Sudbury in October after impressing against City on opening day.
There was an electric start to the game, with the hosts winning a penalty inside the opening two minutes.
It was not an issue that the usual penalty taker, Megan Todd, was missing from the team, as Natasha Snelling rifled the ball home from the spot to put City one up and take her tally to 11 goals for the season.
Norwich still seemed to dominate play after the goal, restricting the visitors to long-range half-chances.
However, it was against the run of play that Chesham struck back, with captain Kat Bowers firing past Sarah Quantrill in the City goal to score the equaliser on the 25-minute mark.
Conceding the goal seemed to awaken a certain determination in Herdman’s side, with the Canaries finding an almost instant reply through Katie Knights, who saw her beautiful curling effort from outside the area nestle in the back of the Chesham net on 28 minutes.
From then on, there was only one side in the contest.
Chances came aplenty for Norwich, with Snelling, Alice Parker, and Millie Daviss all coming close to extending the lead.
Ellie Smith finally did add a third after 36 minutes, rising highest from a Parker free kick to cushion her header past Hassa in the Chesham goal to send City in at halftime 3-1 up.
Parker has a penchant for deadly set pieces, and Smith is proving to be one of the most dependable players in the side, popping up with vital goals whenever Norwich needs them it seems.
Seeing an eerie coincidence to the first half, the second half began in the same fashion with another Norwich penalty!
It was Snelling once again who stepped up but this time saw her effort saved by Hassan who then claimed the rebound.
A lifeline for the visitors, who were seeking to put on the pressure and rock Norwich’s confidence by hitting them on the counterattack, came close after a well-worked corner routine.
I’ve talked before about how effectively Herdman uses his substitutes and this game was no exception.
After introducing both Shannon Shaw and Freya Symonds into the fold, he was rewarded as the pair sealed a Norwich victory.
Breaking away at pace, Shaw saw her effort denied by the gloves of Hassan, who could only parry the ball into the path of the oncoming Symonds, who rolled it into an empty net to add a fourth for the hosts on 80 minutes.
Despite the scoreline, Chesham didn’t shut up shop and had to call Quantrill into action in stoppage time, palming away a well-struck free kick to maintain the three-goal margin and secure all three points for the hosts with a 4-1 victory.
The result keeps City second in the FAWNL Division One South East standings but puts us level on points with Wimbledon and keeps our unbeaten league record intact heading into 2024.
Things continue to look bleak for Chesham in ninth place who find themselves only outside of the relegation zone on goal difference and are five points behind Actonians in eighth place.
Now it’s time for a well-deserved break for the women’s side, who have Christmas and New Year off to recuperate before heading into 2024 with a determination to win promotion.
They start the new year with a trip to the Oakside Stadium against London Seaward on Sunday 7th January.