Birthday girl in a faraway place – but the love from home is immense

Ashleigh in past action for Rhyl (white) against Caernarfon

A very special happy birthday today to one of North Wales’ finest footballers.

Ashleigh Mills, the former Rhyl left-midfielder who nowadays represents NFA in the North Wales Women’s League, is now 22.

Soldier Ashleigh is currently serving with the British Army in Poland, so sadly cannot be with her family today, but no doubt messages of love will have been sent to her in abundance.

Ashleigh, a former pupil of Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan, Abergele, has represented Wales in a number of internationals at Under-16 and U-19 levels.

She began playing football aged 5 and her first team was the successful Aztec Stars.

All through her younger years, Ashleigh was a hot property, and she made a massive impact playing for Prestatyn Girls U-16’s.

Ashleigh (first girl in back row) celebrates with Prestatyn Girls after their 2014-15 Welsh Cup victory at Newtown

She scored two fantastic long-range stunners in Prestatyn’s 2014-15 Under-16 Welsh Cup Final 4-0 victory over Coed Duon Dragons at Newtown.

Not surprisingly, Ashleigh was soon playing in the Welsh Premier Women’s League for Rhyl and Prestatyn, who later became known as just Rhyl.

She notched a hat-trick for the team against Caernarfon Town in 2017-18, while another memorable moment was her 93rd minute winner in a 2-1 victory over Port Talbot in the same season – a 25-yard wonder strike.

Following Rhyl’s relegation from the WPWL in 2018-19, Ashleigh joined NFA, a Rhyl-based side for whom her sisters, goalkeeper Yasmin and left-back Jessica, also play.

Ashleigh in her schooldays

When available for the team in a curtailed 2019-20 season due to Covid-19, Ashleigh was an awesome performer, hitting a hat-trick against Caernarfon Town and a particularly memorable long-distance winner which saw NFA end Mountain Rangers’ 100% record with a 2-1 triumph at Rhyl Leisure Centre’s outdoor pitch.

Ashleigh also scored what I consider the best ever goal by a North Wales player in the women’s game.

On April 23, 2017, at Cardiff City FC Women, Rhyl trailed 1-0 when Ashleigh was gifted the ball in the centre circle and lobbed the keeper with a magnificent precision effort. Legendary lob.

I’m sure everyone will join me in wishing Ashleigh an extra special happy birthday today. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

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