Consistent Cardiff City Women secured the Welsh Premier League title, in this final fixture of the season’s campaign with a polished performance, to claim the prized silverware against a resolute Wrexham team at the City of Cardiff Stadium. (reports Robert Clement).
A Rachel Rowe opener followed by two goals from Danielle Broadhurst provided Cardiff with an impressive first half performance.
However, despite that major setback, Wrexham bounced back with goals from Lowri Edwards and Kate Edwards in the second half, but it was Cardiff substitute Alicia Davies who underlined her skill and quality to find the net twice during the final fourteen minutes.
With Cardiff City and Cardiff Metropolitan level on points, with both having lost once on their travels in this inaugural Welsh Premier campaign, it was City who established the upper hand, creating a series of chances during the opening five minutes.
Firstly a Catherine Walsh attempt brought Wrexham goalkeeper Rosie Lamprey into action, and soon after a Rowe delivery flew over the crossbar.
The attacking momentum was maintained, and a surging run forward from Siobhan Walsh set up Broadhurst, but her low struck shot flew agonisingly wide of the far upright.
With Cardiff having failed to underline their early attacking momentum, Wrexham responded with their first scoring option coming from Emma Roden who set up striker Sydney Hinchcliffe, but it was swift reaction from Alesha McGlynn, with the Cardiff keeper advancing swiftly forward to gather the ball just inside the eighteen yard area.
It was Rowe who finally opened the scoring after twenty four minutes, with the former Swansea City player dispatching a rising shot into the roof of the net from six yards, after Catherine Walsh had set her up having intelligently weaved a route into Wrexham territory.
With their confidence boosted, Cardiff added a second goal three minutes later when a good piece of play from Hannah Daley allowed Broadhurst, whose vision and awareness allowed her to apply a near post angled finish past Lamprey.
The game appeared over as a contest nine minutes before the interval, with Cardiff adding a third goal which began with Rowe picking out Catherine Walsh with a well weighted pass, she then provided Broadhurst with the opportunity to apply a delicate application, which flew over the top of the advancing Wrexham keeper.
Despite that triple setback, Wrexham drew on their resources and were back in the game after fifty eight minutes, with an Alys Hinchcliffe opening being seized upon by Lowri Edwards, and her cross into the goalmouth skidded off the head of Lauren Price, with the ball then drifting beyond the reach of the stretching McGlynn.
Cardiff then swiftly showed willingness going forward, but additional pressure from Catherine Walsh failed to produce the required reward, with her low struck shot on the hour rebounding off the base of the upright.
The goal frame was once again to deny Cardiff additional advantage, with Amy Wathan seeing her scoring effort deflect off the post, and then a Davies opportunity was blocked by Lamprey.
Davies was rewarded during the seventy sixth minute when following good attacking play from Siobhan Walsh, which allowed her to seized upon the perfect pass, to slot the ball in from eight yards.
Within three minutes of securing that advantage Wrexham for a second time made a positive response, with Louise Edwards laying on a chance for Kate Edwards to apply an effective chipped delivery into the Cardiff net.
There was a rare opportunity for Cardiff full back Lauren Hancock to join the goal scoring celebrations on eighty four minutes, but her well directed shot on target was gathered by Lamprey.
With two minutes left on the clock, it was under nineteen international Shanelle Edwards who made positive right sided progress into Wrexham territory, to intelligently send a quality cross into the goalmouth for Davies to apply a splendid finish for the fifth goal.
With Cardiff City Women having won the right to represent Wales in the forthcoming UEFA Women’s Champions League preliminary round, having finished ahead of Cardiff Metropolitan level on points but with a ten goal advantage, Cardiff captain Emma Jones spoke with Women’s Welsh Premier League reporter Robert Clement, reflecting on the action packed ninety minutes.
“I think that we have to give a lot of credit to Wrexham, because they’ve travelled her on a hot day to play on a really big pitch having already cemented third place, so on paper they didn’t have a lot to play for, but I think that they did themselves proud and pressed us, particularly in the second half and made it really hard for us”.
“During the first forty five minutes we were first class, we came out of the blocks so quickly and we were 3-0 up at the break; that was when the damage was done, and we perhaps had the game won by then”.
Jones then responded to having moved ahead with two goals in three minutes period from Rachel Rowe and Danielle Broadhurst.
“Yes, both players have come into the squad being new signings, and they’ve made a huge difference contributing goals with the side gelling particularly well during the last two months, where the games have come thick and fast with the squad having a good togetherness, and the performances reflect that”.
With Broadhurst adding a second before halftime, Jones spoke about her goal scoring achievement.
“She appears to be scoring for fun at the moment, especially with her being a massive Cardiff City fan, so I was glad for her to score those goals because I know how happy it would make her”.
With Wrexham twice scoring in the second half, threatening to deprive Cardiff the required victory, Jones commented on the introduction of substitute Alicia Davies, who made a dramatic difference with two goals in twelve minutes.
“That’s right, it’s only her third appearance I think in the senior team, and that speaks volumes for what the club the club is trying to do with us bringing in a development squad this season, with it being a great example for the younger players. She’s stepped up into the senior side and has contributed with vital goals at important times, and it shows how the club is progressing in a positive direction”.
The former Welsh international defender expressed her delight of having the opportunity to play the final home league game on the City of Cardiff Stadium.
“It again highlights the help that the men are putting behind the women’s team, and this season it’s been first class. The training facilities that we’ve had, along with the pitch at Leckwith, and its things like that which can make such a difference, and it has helped us to push on and be champions”.
“Playing on this pitch today really just lifted our game and it’s an excellent surface which has suited us with small things helping us to win the league. It’s also down to pure hard work training twice a week with everybody being there; the coaching staff have been first class, with them absolutely dedicated to Women’s football”.
“All the players have been superb too and I think that this is just reward for everything the club has done along with the commitment the girls have put in”
With Jones having already experienced a taste for European football the chance has returned for a tournament prior to the new campaign beginning.
“I know, I guess when I stopped playing for Wales you think that the achievements might stop, but this is right up there, this is why I joined the club really, because I thought that I might have the chance of winning something and last season we won the Southern Division Cup, and this season to win the league and now the prospect of Europe next season; as I thought I was retiring, it seems to be just getting better”.
Wrexham skipper Lyndsey Rodger then spoke of the disappointment of being denied a point in their final fixture of the season.
“To be honest we thought that Cardiff were the better team first half; the second half we came out and battled, but at the end of the day the stronger team won; it was a great experience for the girl’s and we done our best, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough”.
Rodger then responded to Wrexham going behind to a series of goals during the first half.
“It was certainly not the best to be faced with that major setback, but I thought that the girl’s dug deep and battled harder during the second half, with it being a good achievement at 4-2 with about ten minutes remaining”.
“There was a bright spell with us getting a goal back from Lowri Edwards and then Kate Edwards raised our expectations with a great finish, but Cardiff’s fourth goal towards the end was a massive setback; one that we just couldn’t respond to”.
Cardiff City FC: Alesha McGlynn, Siobhan Walsh, Lauren Hancock, Hannah Daley (Jordan Guard 80th min), Emma Jones (capt), Danielle Broadhurst (Shanelle Edwards 85th min), Rachel Rowe, Catherine Walsh, Kelly Bourne (Alicia Davies 61st min), Amy Wathan, Lauren Price.
Unused substitutes: Lucy Thomas, Mali Summers.
Wrexham: Rosie Lamprey, Alys Hinchcliffe, Emma Roden (Kate Edwards 74th min), Stephanie Taylor, Lyndsey Rodger (capt), Chloe Foster, Olivia Pridding-Hull (Amber Dean 78th min), Jade Davies, Sydney Hinchcliffe, Lowri Edwards, Louise Edwards.
Referee: Paul Fisher (Port Talbot).
Score summary: Cardiff City: Rachel Rowe 24th min, Danielle Broadhurst 27th min, 36th min, Alicia Davies 76th min, 88th min.
Wrexham: Lowri Edwards 58th min, Kate Edwards 79th min.