After another seemingly long break away from home, it was nice to be back seeing the women in action ahead of what promises to be an exciting year for the club.
As the first game of 2024 for the women was abandoned late on, it was important to begin how 2023 ended – with a victory in front of the Norwich City faithful at The Nest.
For fans who attended that 4-1 victory over Chesham in December, it was important to see another dominant display as City relentlessly pursue automatic promotion.
The abandonment of the Cambridge United game allowed Worthing to leapfrog City into second place, resulting in the Canaries having to play catch up.
The stakes were certainly high.
The visitors to NR10 were Actonians, a team Martin Herdman’s side are familiar with, having already beaten them 5-1 away earlier on in the season.
Would history repeat itself?
It was the visitors who had the first attack of the game, with the ever-reliable Ceri Flye coming to the rescue for City to stop a promising venture into the box for Actonians.
The hosts then began to move up the gears and create chances, twice going close through Ellie Smith before Millie Daviss dragged an effort wide.
City’s perseverance did pay off though and they took the lead through the prolific Ellie Smith who, undeterred from her previous misses, headed in from a Holly Kennard cross to put the hosts 1-0 up after half an hour.
Kennard was the standout performer across the afternoon and took great pleasure in terrorising the Actonians’ defence. Her recent arrival from AFC Sudbury looks to be a shrewd acquisition and one which I’m sure City will reap the rewards from for years to come.
Both ‘keepers were then tested from set pieces as the half drew to a close, with Alice Parker’s effort firmly palmed away by Actonians’s shot-stopper Amber Taylor. It then fell to City’s number one Sarah Quantrill to produce a fine save to keep the ball away from the top corner.
After Martin Herdman shared his frustrations with the group at halftime about the lack of chances converted in the first half, Norwich began the second reinvigorated and hungry for goals.
It was Kennard once again who created the first attack of the second period, going close before Natasha Snelling had an effort fizz wide of the post.
Snelling would get a second bite of the cherry though and netted just minutes later to increase City’s lead and extend her tally for the season, poking home from close range.
Within minutes Actonians were back on track, with an effort cruising past Quantrill for 2-1.
The next period was crucial in terms of how Norwich managed the game, as a goal from the visitors could have injected a new lease of life into their performance. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this side this season, it’s that conceding just motivates this squad rather than deters them.
Approaching the hour mark, Natasha Snelling once again had the ball in the back of the net, superbly curling past Amber Taylor to restore the two-goal cushion and ease any nerves of the 350+ Canary fans in attendance.
There was no taming Snelling, who almost completed her hat-trick on 72 minutes before being brought down in the area for a Norwich penalty. Up stepped Hope Strauss who rolled the ball into the corner for 4-1.
But with both Kennard and Snelling in the mood for more chances, it was inevitable that the pair would forge another golden opportunity, with top-scorer Snelling completing her hat-trick on 78 minutes, steering her side-footed volley past the keeper after an inch-perfect cross from Norwich’s newest recruit to make it 5-1 and repeating the scoreline from the previous meeting.
It is genuinely scary to think how good this City attack is when they are on it and 14-goal Snelling still wasn’t finished, having an effort crash off the crossbar late on.
No defence in the league is safe from this incredible, star-studded City attack, with Kennard’s three assists in this match showing that the side can both create and score with ease.
Twelve games and zero defeats for Martin Herdman’s side so far this campaign. And with games in hand over both Worthing and league leaders Wimbledon, you certainly wouldn’t bet against Norwich claiming the one automatic promotion spot in the National League Division One South East come May.
Up next is another trip to the capital as we visit the Oakside Stadium to face London Seaward, a ground City have already been victorious on this season in the FA Cup.
With Seaward taking points off Norwich at The Nest earlier on in the season and looking to make up for that cup defeat, next week’s fixture promises to be one for the ages.