Fri, 07 Sept 2018
ON a hot summer evening at Donnington Cricket Club, a pair of freshly-inflated goalposts occupy a place in the outfield.
The women who have turned up early for Newbury Ladies FC’s pre-season training session begin to fire shots into the empty net – reflecting the club’s ongoing search for a senior goalkeeper.
By 7pm, more than 25 women are ready to be put through their paces by coach Darren Seal (currently working towards his UEFA B Coaching License), ahead of their SSE Women’s FA Cup tie, scheduled for last Sunday against Sandhurst Town.
Newbury received a bye as Sandhurst were unable to field a team.
For any grassroots sports team, playing away from home always has its challenges – but in a traditional cup sense, Newbury Ladies aren’t even home to a home.
The team hire Donnington Cricket Club for training and home league matches.
FA Cup rules, however, demand that games must be played on a bigger pitch, which means the club have had to travel to Lambourn and Kintbury in recent years to host cup games.
“We’ve had to be quite nomadic when it comes to the FA Cup,” says Sue Hewett, Newbury Ladies’ head coach.
“We’ve had some really good games in the FA Cup, but we can’t play them at Donnington sadly.
“It’s a shame in a way – we’re playing in a national high-profile competition which has a final at Wembley and yet we can’t play those important games in Newbury. We’ve had to tour round clubs and villages.”
Newbury Ladies FC - Players wanted for First Team in Southern Region Premier Division & our Development Team in Thames Valley Counties League. Open training Thursdays 7-8:30pm. Contact email@example.com for further info.— Newbury Ladies FC (@NewburyLFC) July 22, 2018
As the Ladies’ senior teams look to progress further up the national women’s league, constraints such as the size of the pitch may begin to surface as a long-term problem.
As the senior team begin this season with fresh ambitions to progress to the Women’s Premier South West Division, it’s a question of whether a club’s resources can meet league requirements.
“We are at the top of where we can go,” says Hewett. “If our first team were promoted, we’d have to have another five metres of pitch, which would take us onto the cricket square.
“You want to go as far as you can go – but you also want to play in the town you’re representing.”
This season will be the Ladies’ fifth in the Premier Division of the Southern Region Women’s League – the highest level the club has ever played at.
Newbury will face clubs such as AFC Bournemouth and Southampton FC, who are part of a wider professional set-up and have far greater resources.
“Our aim, first and foremost, is consolidation, to secure our status as early as we can and to ensure we will be playing at this level next season,” said Hewett.
“Anything above that is then a bonus.”
The side’s development team are also looking for at least a top-half finish in Division 2 South of the Thames Valley Counties League.
Newbury Ladies welcome new players of all abilities for both its teams and is particularly seeking to add a goalkeeper.
Anyone interested should contact Caroline Harkness on 07970 756157 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Training takes places for both squads at Donnington on Thursdays at 7pm.