Zenith glory again for Rovers Women

Jersey Wanderers Libby Barnett, left, holds off a challenge from Hannah Campbell but it was Rozel Rovers who would again emerge triumphant at Springfield in the Zenith Cup final Picture: ROB CURRIE

“IT’S a special competition for us,” said manager Tim Pryor, after watching his Rozel Rovers beat Jersey Wanderers 2-1 and lift the Zenith Cup for the fourth successive season, and their fifth in six years.

“It was the first cup we won in the first year we got together.”

That was back in 2018 when the Rozel revolution began and since then a steady line of young talent have been produced in blue-and-white hoops. Just four players survive from their first Zenith Cup win in that year: Tayah Vasse, Tiffany Sundby, Lucy Even and Holly Muirhead.

The class of 2024 just about deserved their win against a Wanderers side who have seen their own fair share of young talent coming through. But it came in what many believed were contentious, controversial and confusing circumstances. Rozel were on the attack and, when the ball bounced around inside the penalty area, there was a flag, a shot, a whistle, a goalkeeping error and a goal.

The flag came because the linesman, Marco Pestana, saw a foul on a Rozel player. Hannah Campbell managed to dig out the shot and, seemingly simultaneously, referee Finn Bennett blew his whistle as Ana Malta let the shot squirm through her legs and across the goal line. Bennett allowed the goal to stand, much to the disbelief of the Wanderers players and management team, ironically made up of referees Chris Duncan and Charlie Balcombe, who argued that the whistle was blown before the ball crossed the line.

It was unfortunate sequence of events and not one that should have settled an important cup final, but settle it, it did. Rozel may have been worthy of their win in the end but Wanderers could rightly feel aggrieved. They had started the contest the stronger team, taking the game to Rozel. Captain Libby Barnett was at the heart of it all, stopping Rozel from getting into any rhythm. Wanderers created a couple of chances for Sofia Fernandes, whose efforts were well saved by Vasse. But just over half an hour into the game, Rozel got a lucky break that gave them the lead against the run of play. Muirhead swung in a corner that Malta failed to deal with. The ball dropped in front of her, a mixture of hesitation and panic ensued, before Sundby nudged the ball over the line.

The goal allowed Rozel to hit their stride but Wanderers also rallied and they got their reward on the stroke of half-time when Sam Silva toe-poked the ball under the onrushing Vasse from close range.

But Rozel came out the second half with renewed energy and controlled the game thereafter. The winning goal might have been tainted, and only Malta can say whether the whistle put her off or not, but Wanderers struggled to cause any further problems and eventually the game sizzled out to another Rozel win.

“It’s the best feeling,” said captain Sundby, after lifting the trophy. “We knew it was going to be a tight game. When we play them it can go either way.

“But we love this competition. We knew if we put in more effort than them, and win our individual battles, we would beat them.”

Jersey Wanderers: Ana Malta, Lauren Trachy, Diana Marsden, Rachel McCarten, Lauren Quemard, Lara Couvert, Libby Barnett (c), Ella Brennand, Sam Silva, Sofia Rodrigues, Hannah Lynam. Substitutes used: Tammy Wheeler, Sienna Ward, Emily Davies.

Rozel Rovers: Tayah Vasse, Emma Dempsey, Poppy Benest, Ana Melim, Charley Skinner, Tiffany Sundby (c), Lucy Even, Holly Muirhead, Hannah Campbell, Ella Docherty, Natalie Jurek. Substitutes used: Emily Le Page, Nazmin Ribeiro

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –