Sunday, 29 March 2015

Match Report - Birmingham City Ladies v Manchester City Women

  My 1st FAWSL 1 match of the new season a trip to Solihull Moors FC, Autotech Stadium to watch Birmingham City Ladies play Manchester City Women.

  David Parker's side had been many peoples tip to struggle last season, be in contention to be one of the 1st teams to be relegated from the FAWSL's top teir. As it was Birmingham City Ladies did the exact opposite buoyed by an impressive 2 leg win in the quarter finals of the Women's Champions League against Arsenal Ladies, they took that form into the league season and were at the top of the table for a good portion of it, could have even took the title on the final day were one of three teams that could. Didn't get the result they wanted and ended up deflated and disappointed to finish 3rd.

  Will be the underdogs again this season, but have retained all most all of their playing staff from last season, have brought in two new faces Alex Windell and Freda Ayisi. A young squad there is no reason to think they won't be in the mix at the top again.

   Manchester City Women enter their 2nd season as an FAWSL 1 club having joined the top teir of women's football last season, bringing with them strong financial backing form the men's club. Brought in alot of new faces several current England internationals last season such as Steph Houghton and Jill Scott. After a shakey start the club got going in the latter half of the season to eventually finish 5th in the league.

   Now under the media spotlight the club is under pressure to do well again this season won their first silverware the Continental Cup, now they're expected to climb up the league table maybe even challenge for the title. Mean business again this season adding another crop of international stars with the likes of Lucy Bronze, Sarah Wiltshire, Jennifer Beattie, Nikita Parris, Demi Stokes and most recently Natasha Harding all coming in.

  The start of the summer league season you wouldn't have thought so with the clocks going forwards the night before the weather was decidedly horrible. Dark clouds and heavy rain all the way to the Autotech Stadium, was very gloomy and overcast a strong wind swirling about that was to play a large part in the game to follow.

   Birmingham City Ladies starting XI - Becky Spencer, Aoife Mannion, Emily Westwood, Kerys Harrop, Jess Carter, Alex Windell, Jo Potter, Jade Moore (C), Remi Allen, Melissa Lawley & Freda Ayisi.
   subs - Sophie Baggaley, Meaghan Sargeant, Kirsty Linnett, Emily Simpkins, Abbeyleigh Stringer, Cristina Torkildson.

  Manchester City Women starting XI - Karen Bardsley, Emma Lipman, Chelsea Nightingale, Jennifer Beattie, Demi Stokes, Jill Scott, Keira Walsh, Isobel Christiansen, Nikita Parris, Natasha Flint & Toni Duggan.
  subs - Alex Brooks, Georgia Brougham, Kathleen Radtke, Krystle Johnston, Sarah Wiltshire & Natasha Harding.

  Birmingham's two new signings Alex Windell and Freda Ayisi were in the starting XI, had Chelsea Weston missing through injury and captain Karen Carney missing through suspension. Jade Moore was wearing the captains armband today as the Blues lined up with 3 at the back, 5 across the middle with Jess Carter providing the width left Windell likewise on the right with Melissa Lawley playing up top with Ayisi.

   Manchester City were without captain Steph Houghton out injured aswell as new signing Lucy Bronze. Three of the other new signings were starting, Jennifer Beattie and Demi Stokes as part of a back four with Nikita Parris up front on the right of an attacking trio in a 4-3-3 formation. Jill Scott was captain today.

   Was Birmingham all in blue to kick off the match with Manchester City lined up in their sky blue kit. Was a very quiet opening five minutes the ball being exchanged between the midfielders no forward passes getting beyond the defences. Playing three at the back Birmingham are looking for Carter and Windell to provide the width and both are hugging the touchline.

   Manchester City's Nikita Parris has the 1st shot at goal a low drive hit from outside the box, Becky Spencer in Birmingham's goal isn't troubled as she drops low to make the save.
Freda Ayisi has seen little of the ball, coming back to try and win the ball back she wrecklessly lunges in on Manchester City defender Chelsea Nightingale, the referee shows Ayisi a yellow card with barely 10 minutes played.

  The wind is causing problems swirling about the pitch Manchester City have it at their backs isn't helping them anymore than it is Birmingham, as the rain starts to fall again. Free kicks are tricky as the ball will not sit stationary is causing a little frustration amongst the players. When the ball is played it has to be watched is getting taken by the wind Karen Bardsley in the Manchester City goal keeps her eye on a delivery sent in from deep by Jo Potter takes it cleanly.

The ball is being hotly contested in midfield

   Isobel Christiansen is playing in the centre of the midfield along side Jill Scott, is the player finding time and space on the ball for the visitors, she sends a pass through the Birmingham defence aiming for the forward run Toni Duggan has made for her, just too long as the ball enters the area Spencer is out and does well saving at Duggan's feet as she closes in.

   Goal mouth action is at a premium very little happening a combination of poor weather, a hotly contested midfield and more than a few niggly fouls being put in by both sides breaking up play. Potter on the ball comes over the half way line sends the pass out to Ayisi making a run into space on the right she tries to send the cross in for Melissa Lawley to run onto, the wind helps it reach Bardsley's gloves before Lawley can attack it.

   Half an hour gone Lawley has a strike on goal 25 yards out hitting the ball on the turn gets too much lift sails over the bar. A minute later more pressing from Birmingham the ball is crossed in from the left, Stokes in the middle of the six yard box heads it away only as far as Potter 25 yards out she looks to line up a shot, is arrowing towards the top corner, great save from Bardsley to put the ball over for a corner kick.

  A good spell from Birmingham are getting Ayisi and Lawley into the game more on the right of the area Ayisi peels away from her marker, drives into the box takes on the shot hit low towards the near post Bardsley has the angle covered.

Jo Potter on the ball for Birmingham

   Winning another free kick just inside the Manchester City half Birmingham have players up from the back as Potter plays it in towards the area, Ayisi and Mannion both attempt to go for the ball as it lands between them the shot is deflected behind for a corner.

   Controversy, corners are taking there time anyway because the ball won't stay in the quadrant due to the windy conditions the referee is having words with the players inside the box when his attention is called to the linesman on the far side of the pitch between the dug outs, after conferring he calls over Ayisi and she is shown a straight red card and sent to the dressing room, not sure why but most likely an altercation* as the linesman was as far away from the incident as I was albiet on the opposite side of the pitch. Whatever the case Birmingham are down to 10. The corner is dealt with.
 (* updated entry - With TV camera's at the ground highlights indicate Ayisi had a coming together with Karen Bardsley that caused her to lash out at the goalkeeper the incident spotted by the linesman.)

                Half-time Birmingham City Ladies 0-0 Manchester City Women

   Going to be tough for Birmingham having to play the 2nd half with a player down. Will have the wind 2nd half although it didn't help Manchester City, would the visitors be able to break them down, trouble was they hadn't troubled the home defence too much in the 1st half Birmingham are keeping a good shape.

   Manchester City kick off the 2nd half. Birmingham look to have pushed Allen up a bit to give Lawley support in attack with Carter and Windell tucking in. Early on Birmingham are attacking I think it's Windell that is fouled by Keira Walsh outside the area. The young Manchester City midfielder has come off 2nd best though is down injured looks to be in a lot of pain after lengthy treatment she can't continue is carried off the pitch Manchester City bring on German defender Kathleen Radtke.

   Sees a change in personnel with Radtke dropping into the defence and Jennifer Beattie pushing up into the midfield to help Christiansen and Scott. The free kick is taken right corner outside the area it's Moore with the dummy, Potter takes smashes it into the wall, rebounds back to her strokes her low shot wide of goal.

  'Another free kick' is a running trend in my notes today Birmingham are getting awarded a lot in the midfield. Potter is the taker of 99% of them looking to play the ball into the area for her team mates to attack, are happy to send players forwards have started brightly despite the numerical disadvantage. Manchester City's defence are dealing with the balls that don't run out of play, one does drop to Emily Westwood 30 yards out from goal, on the turn she strikes a good effort back towards goal curling it doesn't come back enough goes wide.

   Manchester City need someone to get hold of the ball in their half and bring it forwards, it's their captain Jill Scott who sees what needs to be done, getting the ball back takes it forwards with purpose is looking for supporting runs in front of her.

Manchester City's Jill Scott

   Out on the right, Parris and Harrop are having a good contest. The Manchester City attacker is strong against Harrop leaves her on the ground as she bombs forwards squares the ball along the penalty spot a defender slips as she tries to clear it, the ball rolls through to Duggan who doesn't catch it properly leaving Spencer to scoop up a tame ball.

   Half way through the 2nd half Birmingham make their 1st change with Alex Windell the player giving way for Kirsty Linnett, the striker going up top in attack with Lawley dropping off to the right. Birmingham continue to rack up the free kicks, they are keeping Manchester City back the disruption isn't helping them get anything going in attack.

  Manchester City make their 2nd change with 70 minutes gone Natasha Flint comes off as Natasha Harding comes on to make her debut for the club.

Birmingham's Remi Allen holding off Manchester City's Jill Scott

   Remi Allen has been battling hard all over the park all afternoon is almost sent through on goal racing into the box, Bardsley is out smartly to save low at her feet. Has been a scrappy game both sides harrying the other forcing rushed passes no flowing moves have been on show the weather can be a good leveller.

  Jade Moore is shown a yellow card after she fouls Harding outside the area following another great driving run from Scott in midfield plays the ball into Harding left of the D where she is fouled. Beattie is over the ball hard strike, Harrop is the player in position to make the block as the match enters the last 5 minutes.

   Play is extended after Manchester City full back Emma Lipman gets shown a yellow card after a strong challenge on Linnett that leaves the Birmingham attacker on the floor clutching her ankle in some pain, Potter lets the bench knownshe can't carry on. They react bring on Abbeyleigh Stringer to see out the closing minutes. Linnett is up, off the pitch hobbling but able to put weight on her foot.

  Late attack from Manchester City, Scott again strong on the ball taking it forwards finds the pass out to Parris on her right, she gets her shot away but the ball is blocked. The final whistle blows and the game ends 0-0 the points shared.

   There are games that have 0-0 written all over them and early on this one looked like one of them. Good effort from Birmingham 2nd half with only 10 players dare I say it, looked better than when they had 11. The weather conditions didn't help I gather that was the case up and down the country today both sides had to deal with it though.

  Manchester City never really got going had any rhythm struggled in the final 3rd. Gave away far too many free kicks which served to help Birmingham today. Sure both managers Nick Cushing and Birmingham's David Parker wanted to win their opening league game, certainly both didn't want to lose it so I think both will take a point out of todays game look to put a few things right before the next one.




Saturday, 28 March 2015

Match Report - Doncaster Rovers Belles v Yeovil Town Ladies

   A Saturday evening trip up north to the Keepmoat Stadium to watch Doncaster Rovers Belles in league action in FAWSL 2. Their opponents tonight Yeovil Town Ladies.

  Doncaster Rovers Belles got off to the perfect start in their league campaign to back up their pre season hashtag #OperationPromotion, the goal to achieve promotion back to the top teir of women's football having narrowly missed out last season. Had to be patient in their opening day fixture at home to Durham Women FC who proved to be a hard side to break down in the 1st half before Doncaster Rovers Belles went on to score 3 goals in the 2nd half through Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, Beth England and Sue Smith a result that saw the club sit at the top of the table after the opening round of fixtures.

  Yeovil Town Ladies started their league campaign at home the same night with Reading FC Women travelling to Sherbourne Town. Fran Kirby started this season where she spent the whole of last season in blistering goal scoring form grabbing 4 on the night as Reading won 4-2, Natasha Knapman and Corinne Yorston scoring Yeovil Town Ladies goals. Tonight they travel to another of of the title contenders looking to get their own push for those two promotion spots in FAWSL 2 started.

  Had looked like it was going to be a cold and windy night with dark clouds gathering over the stadium as dusk fell, however by the time kick off arrived the weather had markedly settled. The ruckus then was going to be inside the stadium. You know the bells will be ringing loudly whenever Doncaster Rovers Belles were playing, they had competition tonight as the travelling Yeovil Town Ladies fans had brought drums and I was sat in between the too.. the competition was on!

  Doncaster Rovers Belles starting XI - Nicola Hobbs, Lyndsey Cunningham, Rhiannon Roberts, Leandra Little (C), Lauren Cresswell, Kasia Lipka, Beth England, Sophie Barker, Sue Smith, Emily Roberts & Courtney Sweetman-Kirk.
  subs - Molly Johnson, Danielle Hill, Reanne Thomas, Sophie Stamp & Nicole Dale.

 Yeovil Town Ladies starting XI - Charlotte Haynes, Ellie Issac, Nicola Cousins, Natalie Haigh (C), Corinne Yorston, Helen Bleazard, Stephanie Williams, Ellie Curson, Paige Stewart, Anne-Marie Heatherson & Natasha Knapman.
 subs - Alys Hinchcliffe, Shauna Cossens, Stacey Pearson, Amy Wathan, Ebony Dover & Jordan Guard.

  It's Doncaster to kick off the match kitted out in yellow shirts and socks with blue shorts against Yeovil lined up in green and white shirts, white shorts with green and white hooped socks. For a moment it looks as though Doncaster are going to spring a surprise in their line up as captain Leandra Little is set on the half way line to race forwards as the game starts, not for long though as soon enough she is jogging back to take up her usual position in the centre of Doncaster's defence.

   Doncaster start brightly with Emily Roberts finding space to exploit on the right, wins the 1st corner of the game the ball is sent in low towards the near post looking for Sue Smith, instead Yeovil's Corinne Yorston is well positioned to put the ball out for a 2nd corner, this one cleared.

 Emily Roberts on the left this time recieves the ball from Lauren Cresswell as the full back bombs forward to support the attack, Roberts sends the ball into the area, a Yeovil defender hooks a leg up to try and intercept the ball, only succeeds in helping it on to the far post area where Sophie Barker has arrived, gets her head to the ball, lacks any power Yeovil goalkeeper Charlotte Haynes can bring the ball into her chest.

  Yeovil get the ball up the pitch quickly on the right Helen Bleazard makes a good run peeling off the Doncaster defence into spece, bearing down on the box she takes on the early shot, Cresswell is back sticks a foot out to try and block takes a deflection off her, in goal Nicola Hobbs is well placed at her near post the claim the rolling ball safely.

   The visitors are starting to impose themselves on the game now are playing with three at the back with five across the middle, Yorston and Bleazard prviding the width left and right are pushed up in support of the front players, midfielder Stephanie Williams the one looking to sit in front of the defenders. Yorston is over a free kick won on the right of the pitch inside Doncaster's half, plays a great delivery into the area curling towards the far post inviting someone to come in a header it, it's Little for Doncaster who gets her head to it 1st.

   15 minutes gone and it is shaping up to be a good contest on the pitch as well as in the stands between the bells and the drums. A slide rule pass from midfield sees Courtney Sweetman-Kirk with a chance inside the Yeovil penalty box, she can't quite dig the ball out from under her feet to get the shot past the on rushing Haynes who gets hold of the ball.

  Bleazard is looking a threat for Yeovil as she pushes forwards is linking up well with Ann-Marie Heatherson. Bleazard capitalises on a mistake from Cresswell, central is bearing down on the box, Hobbs is coming, Bleazard's shoots early 25 yards out, Hobbs turns as the ball flies past her, is safe the wrong side of the post.

   End to end Beth England wins her team a corner, played in from the right the target is Little in the centre of the area, Yeovil try and get it clear not far enough the ball comes to Rhiannon Roberts 10 yards out she sends her header behind for a goal kick.

  Great chance for Yeovil to open the scoring as Bleazard on halfway sends the ball forwards chasing it out to the right is Heatherson she does well to get hold of the ball get past the covering defender and fire a cross into the box, travelling at pace the ball is met on the volley by Yorston, is denied by Hobbs who makes a great save the put the ball out for a corner.

   30 minutes gone Doncaster are finding it tough to get around the Yeovil defensive trio, in front Williams is doing well tracking the midfield runners, coming back to get the ball Sweetman-Kirk has a go from 30 yards out sends the shot over the crossbar. Cresswell getting forwards again wins a corner, the target is Little once again this time she jumps and gets her head to the ball, it smashes down off the crossbar, the ball is lose as Yeovil try to scramble it away comes back to Little whose shot goes wide of the goal.

  More good running from Bleazard strong on the ball on the right plays another great ball into the box, Hobbs keeps her eye on the ball even as Yeovil's Natasha Knapman is closing her down punches the ball away.

  GOAL! 39 minutes and Doncaster exploit a mistake from Bleazard to score. A misjudged ball at the ball is pounced on by Sweetman-Kirk, 30 yards from goal gives Haynes little chance to set herself as she sends the ball past her and into the back of the net 1-0. 

A costly error sees Yeovil a little rattled on the back foot as the half entered the last five minutes, they push forwards Nicola Cousins brings the ball  out from the back takes it all the way into the Doncaster area before giving away a free kick.

  GOAL! The 45 minutes ara almost up when Yeovil equalise. Bleazard makes amends with a powerful run on the right once more, gets past Cresswell and fires in a fierce cross low along the six yard line, Paige Stewart is the player making up the ground to get there puts her foot through the ball sending it past Hobbs and into the back of the net 1-1.

                                      Half-time Doncaster Rovers Belles 1-1 Yeovil Town Ladies

  A lively game of football in the 1st half another one where Doncaster have had to be patient playing with three at the back and their wingbacks high up the pitch Yeovil have done well caused them problems, have created some good chances, an error though saw them go a goal down, will be buoyed having gotten the equaliser before the break, game on 2nd half as Yeovil get us underway.

  Is an open start to the 2nd half the ball moving from end to end, it's noteable early on Beth England is looking to push further forwards when ever Doncaster win the ball join Sweetman-Kirk, Smith and Emily Roberts in attack. The 1st attempt of the half is a speculative 40 yard punt from Cresswell, but Haynes can see it wide.

  Good link up play between England, Smith and Emily Roberts on the left side of the pitch with Smith atttempting the back heel to send Roberts away to have a strike on goal, doesn't quite come off but Doncaster win a corner. Haynes comes for the ball but doesn't deal with it, has defenders back covering the goal the ball is headed away. Stewart goes down after a challenge and has to leave the pitch for treatment.

  Stewart isn't out of action for long though back on the pitch she receives the ball from Bleazard plays it out to her left where Yorston is making the run has room to dribble looks to curl a cross in from deep along the six yard line, Little is the one who intercepts almost turns the ball into her own net, but for Hobbs who is in the right place to catch the ball.

   Sweetman-Kirk puts in a lot of work off the ball closing defenders down harrying them forcing errors, getting the ball she sends Emily Roberts away on the left, wide she sends the ball in towards the near post, England is making the run to meet the cross looks to stab the ball past Haynes, sends it wide of goal. Not long after England turns provider for Emily Roberts she holds the ball up well her back to goal inside the Yeovil area has Roberts in space central in front of her rolls the ball into her, inside the D, Roberts shoots the ball curls over the bar.

   64 minutes gone and both teams make a change with Doncaster bringing of Lauren Cresswell for Reanne Thomas, she goes to join the attackers with Barker, ever versatile going to left back. Stewart is the one to leave the field for Yeovil with Stacey Pearson coming on.

  Yeovil win a succession of corner kicks the 3rd one their best chance as Hobbs punches the ball down towards the edge of the area it falls to Cousins to have the strike takes a deflection as it goes wide for another corner, finally Doncaster get the ball away.

   70 minutes gone an even contest hard to call which way it might go. Another change for Yeovil this time a change up front with Knapman giving way for Alys Hinchcliffe. The substitute does well holding the ball up on the right corner of the area, gets the pass out to Bleazard wide right, she fires a looping cross in towards the far post, Heatherson is there to meet it, gets her head to the ball, sends her attempt back across the goal face Doncaster are able to clear.

   Hinchcliffe on the run with the ball at her feet from a central position looks to drive a low shot from outside the box towards goal, Hobbs dives to her right flinging an arm out the ball goes behind, she must have gotten a touch as a corner is given, great save. Hobbs with a strong punch clears the corner ball.

  GOAL! 86 minutes have gone and Doncaster score again. Once more it's great link up play between Sweetman-Kirk and Emily Roberts, with the former playing it into Roberts her back to goal right corner of the area she puts it back into Sweetman-Kirk who looks to send a curling shot in from 25 yards out, great flight on the ball looks to be on target, Haynes throws up a glove to try and deflect the ball over, doesn't get enough on the ball, prevent it from going in a brace for Sweetman-Kirk to make it 2-1.

  A minute later and Doncaster think they've scored a 3rd goal as Reanne Thomas puts away her shot as the home side counter attack in numbers. It's England on the ball taking on the Yeovil defence has Thomas to her left, Sweetman-Kirk on her right plays in Sweetman-Kirk she sends the ball across for Thomas but she has just strayed offside the flag is raised.

   A cruel blow for Yeovil conceding so late in the game they push numbers forwards trying to claw the scores back level are vulnerable to the break, Kasia Lipka gets on the ball winning the tackle one pass and she sets Smith through for a run at goal. Haynes has to come racing out gets her foot to the ball kicks clear catches Smith who goes down but nothing is given.

  90 minutes up and a late change for Doncaster as Sophie Stamp comes on for Emily Roberts, Doncaster can see the game out and win 2-1 and take another 3 points. A great game to watch once again patience was needed Doncaster worked hard, Sweetman-Kirk with the goals and some good saves from Nicola Hobbs in goal.

  Yeovil will feel hard done by to not have gotten anything from the game was a close contest all the way through worked hard to prevent Doncaster getting players up from the back to support their attackers, meant they had plenty of bodies up when they won the ball. After 2 matches played however they have 0 points.

   Have seen some really good football played so far in the FAWSL 2 matches I have been to so far, early days the standard of play has moved up a notch from last season, long may it continue.




Monday, 23 March 2015

FAWSL 1 - Transfers and Thoughts for the New Season

   The new season of FAWSL 2 kicked off last week, now it's the turn of the top teir of women's football in England to begin it's new season. Entering it's 5th season since the league formation in 2011 the Women's Super League grows ever more competitive. Last season saw a thrilling final day climax with three teams in the running for the title, in the end Liverpool Ladies were crowned champions for the 2nd successive season having been in 3rd place at the start of play with Chelsea Ladies and Birmingham City Ladies slipping up.

  The competitiveness didn't just extend to the title race it was a close season all round with just 10 points separating the top 7 teams, and the chances are it will prove to be just a close in 2015. Money has come into the game at the top level with a handful of clubs now investing heavily in their women's team, more clubs will need to follow suit if the game really is to grow long term but we have a start and it is giving women footballers a chance to turn the game they love playing into a profession.

  I did think after last summers highly turbulant transfer period with a lot of comings and goings between the WSL clubs that this close season might be more settled... it certainlty didn't start that way, no sooner had the 2014 season ended and players announced they were off to pastures new, December was a busy month. So much so I decided to post the early comings and goings on the blog. It settled down a little in the New Year, though there has been a good deal of movement between the eight FAWSL 1 clubs.

   Time to bring it all together then with the season due to start on Wednesday with newly promoted Sunderland Ladies travelling to the Select Stadium to play champions Liverpool Ladies. Tried a new format last week when previewing the new FAWSL 2 season so will be taking a look at the transfers in and out of each club and a recap and preview too. Predictions as to how they may fair I will leave till the end.. because well it's going to be a tough one.


   Last Season - Champions

   I had tipped Liverpool Ladies to win a 2nd successive title at the start of the season, but then the club suffered a couple of injuries to key players which made the squad look a little bare. Never looked to get going during the season were never leading the way but kept plugging away picking up results weren't losing games the draws proving useful. Were out of it until Fara Williams tried her luck from distance against Birmingham (sorry to bring that up Birmingham fans). The win meant they were still in the title race on the final day but very much the outsiders. The rest is history they won their match the others didn't cue the celebrations.

  In - Line Smorsgard (Arna Bjornor), Ingrid Ryland (Klepp), Satara Murray (UNC), Asisat Oshoala (River Angels).

  Out - Gemma Davison (Chelsea Ladies), Amanda Da Costa (Washington Spirit), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City Women), Nina Pederson (Turbine Potsdam), Claudia Walker, Megan Alexander, Ellie Stewart (all Everton Ladies).

   Not long after lifting the WSL 1 trophy for the 2nd time both Lucy Bronze and Amanda Da Costa announced they were moving on to take on new challenges. With Gemma Davison and Nina Pederson leaving too manager Matt Beard didn't rush to bring in new faces those that have come in bring a lot of experience and talent with them the most notable being Asisat Oshoala, just 20 years old a huge talent, African player of the year, the 1st African to play in the WSL a sought after player a real coup for the club. Experience comes in two Scandinavian players coming in, both Norwegian internationals, Line Smorsgard and Ingrid Ryland will strengthen the forward and back lines respectively. Satara Murray arrives from the USA, 21 years old a powerful player I saw her in action when Liverpool Ladies played Derby County Ladies in a pre-season friendly very pro active at the back will bring something new to the WSL this season.

   Liverpool Ladies also have a couple of their long term injured stars returning to full fitness for the coming season. German Nicole Rolser is back after missing most of last season was a highly influencal player in their debut title success. Also back, although she hasn't got her Liverpool career started yet is Lucy Staniforth sure the club will be careful in managing her return after suffering two ACL's in two years I'm sure everyone will delighted to see her playing again. It's not only the players they've brought in but the ones coming through there are a number of squad players stepping up from the development set up too.


  Last Season - 2nd

   Emma Hayes' side came so close to clinching their 1st WSL title losing out after leading going into the final day after defeat to Manchester City Women. Started the league campaign well enough had brought in several new faces noteably Korean star Ji So-Yun who quickly formed a great understanding with Japanese star Yuki Ogimi. Eniola Aluko too was showing great form for club and country. After the mid-season break Chelsea had a purple patch that pushed them into contention for the title a real blow to miss out as they did.

Millie Bright
  In - Gemma Davison (Liverpool Ladies), Millie Bright (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Niamh Fahey (Arsenal Ladies), Hedvig Lindhal, Marija Banusic (both Kristianstads DFF).

 Out - Yuki Ogimi (Wolfsburg), Laura Bassett, Rachel Williams, Danielle Buet (all Notts County Ladies) Emma Wilhelmsson, Christiane Endler.

   Five in and five out for Chelsea Ladies and they seem to have gotten most of their new signings in nice and early as they prepare for the new season. Is a big blow to lose Yuki Ogimi was a huge success during her time in England a pleasure to watch and I'm sure an influence to may a young player. Hedvig Lindhal is a vastly experienced keeper the Swedish international will have to be on her game though if she is to start ahead of Marie Hourihan who had a great season last year in goal for Chelsea. Millie Bright was a fans favourite at Doncaster Rovers Belles has gotten into the England U23 set up and has the opportunity to shine at Chelsea.

  So-Yun and Aluko have signed on for the new season will be important players once again, Hayes has assembled a good blend of young talent with experienced internationals. Of all the youngsters coming through last season, one of note was Hannah Blundell who went on to feature for the U20's last year in Canada.


  Last Season - 3rd

   They were going to get relegated last season weren't they? Despite never finishing outside of the top half of the WSL the arrival of greater finance at other WSL clubs old and new was supposed to spell trouble for the likes of Birmingham. Transfer activity was quiet compared to other clubs last season even though they had reached the quarter finals of the Champion's League beat Arsenal Ladies then carried that early momentum and confidence into the season, were at the top or there abouts all the way only to see it fall from their grasp on the final like Chelsea Ladies.

  In - Alex Windell (Birmingham City Ladies), Freda Ayisi (Arsenal Ladies).

  Out - Katie Wilkinson, Hannah George (both Aston Villa Ladies), Hannah Keryakoplis.

  Very little transfer activity by the club which is a good thing were some rumours floating about that the odd key player might be tempted away, but that didn't prove to have any mileage in it. Is a relatively young squad and that is manager David Parker's policy give youth its chance has assembled a good squad and I totally agree with what others have told me, keep it together and it will only get better. Alex Windell coming in from Bristol Academy can play in a number of positions. Freda Ayisi comes in from Arsenal Ladies full of potential, just the sort of player the club would target to bring in and gives them something different in attack.

   I admit I chickened out of bumping up their chances last season even though I thought they had a good starting XI, just felt after that it was a little light, proved me wrong in that regards with players coming through, have strengthened since then, Jo Potter, Jade Moore and Remi Allen are a strong midfield trio.


  Last Season - 4th

  The 2014 FAWSL season was the toughest Arsenal Ladies have faced in a long time after a long period of being the dominant force in women's football in England. Losing the title to Liverpool Ladies saw the club enter a period of transitition as it saw a host of top name players leaving rather than queuing up to join the club. Manager Shelley Kerr had a tough job on her hands left the club (too soon perhaps) her final match an FA Women's Cup victory. The club were patient in naming a successor, brought in Pedro Martinez Losa towards the end of the season giving the Portugese coach who previously been in charge of NWSL side Western New York Flash a handful of games to assess the squad. With Jordan Nobbs returning from a long lay off through a back injury the club rallied towards the end of the season finishing in the top half of the table.

Lianne Sanderson
In - Jemma Rose, Natalia Pablos Sanchon (both Bristol Academy), Lianne Sanderson (Boston Breakers), Vicky Losada (Barcelona), Chioma Ubogagu (Stanford University).

Out - Niamh Fahey (Chelsea Ladies), Yukari Kinga, Shinubo Ohno, Christie Murray (Bristol Academy), Freda Ayisi (Birmingham City Ladies).

 Although they took their time in naming Shelley Kerr's successor Arsenal Ladies did get Pedro Martinez Losa in before the end of the season giving him a good opportunity to assess not only his squad but the WSL as a whole. Three quick arrivals were announced after the season with Lianne Sanderson, having recently returned to the England set up now returning to England and her former club following a successful spell overseas. Along with Sanderson came to new signings from Bristol Academy, Jemma Rose a young central defender who is on the fringes of a senior England call up and Spanish striker Natalia Pablos Sanchon who is a proven goal scorer in the WSL.

  Since then Arsenal have added Spanish star Vicky Losada from Barcelona and Chioma Ubogagu from the US to their squad. Have lost Japanese stars Yukari Kinga and Shinubo Ohno. It's another squad mixed with great young talent and experience of all the player comings and going this close season Arsenal Ladies have been the ones I have liked the most.


Last Season - 5th

  New entrants to the FAWSL1 last season caused controversy, but the club brought a lot of money with it and are investing heavily in their women's team. Last year they brought in the likes of Jill Scott, Karen Bardsley, Steph Houghton and Toni Duggan. Got off to a poor start took the new faces a while to get it right the spotlight the club was under meaning the pressure to achieve was ramped up, once the results started to come they moved up the table to finish in 5th place and of course went on to win the Continental Cup final.

In - Lucy Bronze (Liverpool Ladies), Demi Stokes (South Florida University), Jennifer Beattie (Montpellier), Sarah Wilsthire (Yeovil Town Ladies), Nikita Parris (Everton Ladies loan), Natasha Harding.

Out - Betsy Hassett, Danielle Young, Danielle Lea (both Everton Ladies), Andrea Worrell, Stephanie Marsh, Kim Turner.

Will Steph Houghton & Lucy Bronze be the centre back pairing for club as well as country?

   Have built upon last season by bringing in another batch of proven international players. A new stadium has been built next to the Etihad to house the youth and women's teams, looks an impressive facility. Manager Nick Cushing has brought in virtually a new defence with Lucy Bronze and Demi Stokes having established themselves in the England squad over the last 12 months and Scottish international Jennifer Beattie returning from a spell in France. Up front have added two exciting talents in Nikita Parris on loan from Everton Ladies and Welsh international Sarah Wiltshire. Have of course let several leave too not many remain from the squad from just 2 seasons ago.

  For all the buying power Manchester City have some promising youngsters too notably Keira Walsh and Natasha Flint. The pressure and expectation has been ramped up again, money can go a long way to buying the WSL title, the difference now, say to just 4 years ago is that their are enough talented players to fill the squads of more clubs. Manchester City have their critics but on the whole I think they are going about things the right way, their approach has captured the attention of a wider media audience, but if they are to truly succeed then they need their rivals to keep up, more investment needed yet.


Last Season - 6th

  The other controversal team to enter the FAWSL 1 last season after they rebranded and moved to a new county having previously played as Lincoln Ladies for the previous 3 FAWSL seasons. Was virtually a new squad brought in as all but a handful of the Lincoln squad brought into the project. Did promise more money and ambition, and this was evident by the players they brought in assembled a new and impressive looking squad in a short period of time with the likes of Ellen White and Canadian international Dersiree Scott coming in. Injuries were to play a big part in their season lost more than their fair share for the season due to the dreaded ACL injury including White.

  Hit the ground running with Jess Clarke in spectacular form were the early pace setters Rick Passmoor setting up a side that was hard to break down they were undefeated going into the break. Had alot of draws amongst that though would end up having the best defensive record in the league but ended up hovering closer to the wrong end of the table before pulled clear to finish in sixth.

Alex Greenwood
In - Laura Bassett, Rachel Williams, Danielle Buet (all Chelsea Ladies), Jess Sigsworth (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Fern Whelan, Alex Greenwood (both Everton Ladies), Leanne Critchon (Glasgow City Ladies).

 Out - Katie Hoyle (FC Zurich Frauen), Danielle Brogan (Adelade United), Caitlin Friend (Melbourne Victory), Katie Holtham, Rachel Corsie (Seattle Reign).

  Have lost the spine of that side with defender Rachel Corsie and New Zealand midfielder Katie Hoyle moving on. Desiree Scott is with the Canadian Women's squad in a residency camp until the World Cup and will be unavailable until after the break. Have brought in another group of experienced internationals Laura Bassett is an England regular, following her from Chelsea are Rachel Williams and Danielle Buet, both of whom were involved with England two years ago but form and injury has seen both fall away from the reckoning. Jess Sigsworth is a promising youngster coming in from Doncaster Rovers Belles. Fern Whelan and Alex Greenwood were part of the Everton defence that got relegated last season, both very good Greenwood is vying for a place in the England World Cup squad, long term injury has seen Whelan drop out of the England picture, a few players at Notts County who will be looking to make an impact this season.

   Ellen White is back to full fitness and rearing to go, Notts Conuty will need to score alot more goals if they want to improve on 6th place and with Aileen Whelan, Jess Clarke and Fiona O'Sullivan they now have the firepower. Let's hope the squad isn't so injury prone in 2015.


Last Season - 7th

   Finished in 7th place last season, but like I said earlier in this piece that was just 10 points from the top finisher. Got their league season off to a reasonable start, coming back after the mid-season break went through a long losing streak winning just 2 of their last nine matches to keep themselves away from the bottom of the table. The season of course finished on a high as the club having quaified for Europe the previous season made it into the quarter finals after a memorable 2 leg win against Barcelona.

In - Hayley Ladd (Coventry City Ladies), Nadia Lawrence (IBV Vestmanneyjar), Sharla Passariello (University of South Florida), Lauren Townsend (Cardiff City Ladies), Christie Murray (Arsenal Ladies).

Out - Laura Del Rio (Washington Spirit), Corinne Yorston (Yeovil Town Ladies), Jemma Rose, Natalia Pablos Sanchon (both Arsenal Ladies), Alex Windell (Birmingham City Ladies), Judith Fernandez (CE Saint Gabriel), Natasha Harding (Manchester City Women), Lauren Haynes (Aston Villa Ladies).

  Since then though the club has lost a host of its star players, notably their attackers Laura Del Rio, Natalia Pablos Sanchon and Natasha Harding aswell as defenders Jemma Rose and Corinne Yorston. Has left the club and manager Dave Edmondson with a rebuilding job. Have retained the spine of the side, Jasmine Matthews, Angharad James, Sophie Ingle and Nikki Watts.

  Took their time in bringing in new faces have added Scottish international Christie Murray from Arsenal Ladies along with Welsh internationals Lauren Townsend, Hayley Ladd and Nadia Lawrence. Sharla Passariello returned the the club where she was a centre of excellence player before going to the United States to play her football. The new signings will need to settle in quickly. An exodus of players can hit a squads morale could be a tough season ahead.


  Last Season - FAWSL 2 Champions

  There were more than a few voices that said Sunderland should have been the team given a place in FAWSL 1 over Manchester City Women as they had won the Women's Premier League for the last three seasons were the best side outside of the FAWSL. Whatever the case they entered FAWSL 2 which wasn't a bad thing by any stretch, were the favorites to win the title were a team used to winning and in Beth Mead had a proven goalscorer still in her teens.

Beth Mead
Was a good season in the league were at the top most of the time, were pushed hard by Doncaster Rovers Belles who took it to the final day, but the club got the victory they needed to seal the title and win promotion to FAWSL 1. Was a team performance of course wasn't just Mead, goalkeeper Rachel Laws did well earning herself an England call up. Midfielders Rebekah Bass and Sarah Furness too. Abbey Joice up front with Mead looks a good prospect too injury though was to restrict her playing time.

  In - Cartlon Fairweather (manager), Suzane Mulvey (Rangers), Victoria Williams (Doncaster Rovers Belles) Brooke Chaplen.

  Out - Mick Mulhern (manager), Helen Alderson (Durham Women FC)

 The 1st change upon securing promotion to the top teir of women's football was Mick Mulhern stepping down as 1st team manager. The club has brought in Carlton Fairweather to take over the role. The club hasn't been overly active in the transfer period and took it's time in bring players in have added three new faces, striker Suzane Mulvey joins from Rangers, with Victoria Williams coming in from Doncaster Rovers Belles, a powerful and versatile player she can play in a number of positions in defence and midfield. The latest signing announced just today is an excellent addition to the squad bringing valuable experience in playing in the FAWSL 1 with her Brooke Chaplen released by Everton Ladies at the end of last season I've been waiting to see which club would get her signature for the coming season, now we know.

  Newly promoted the aim has to be to keep in the division, will be a tough ask anyone who watched the Continental Cup group stages last season saw the gap between FAWSL 1 and 2. Sunderland are well epuipped to rise to the challenge, have plenty of good young players, a stable and settled squad, and one that has been used to winning matches in recent seasons.

 Final Thoughts & Predictions

 Said I would leave it till the end to make my predictions as to how I think the league will pan out in turn of placings. Is a tough one could argue the case for 6 of the clubs looking at making top spot theirs and no doubt that will be the goal. Is a highly competitive league, the finance at their disposal Manchester City Women can attract the best playing talent, there is more to go around than just one team now so just getting what you think is the best in is no guarantee of success.

  Personally I really like the signings Pedro Martinez Losa has made to the Arsenal Ladies squad, have added a potent goal threat to the side, have stabalised not lost many players this time around have some really good young players too, Leah Williamson and Jade Bailey to name two. I think they are back to challenge for top spot.

  Actually feel that Liverpool Ladies are stronger this season than they were last despite losing Lucy Bronze and Amanda Da Costa, manager Matt Beard has recruited some useful overseas experience, Asisat Oshoala will want to show what she can do. Nicole Rolser returning from injury is a massive boost too. Key might be in getting Natasha Dowie back to the blistering goal scoring form she had in her 1st season at the club.

  So Arsenal Ladies and Liverpool Ladies are the teams I fancy at the top of the FAWSL.

 That said there is every possiblity that Birmingham City Ladies, Chelsea Ladies, Manchester City Women and Notts County could all be up their instead, they will all take points off each other, and if 1 of 6 teams can challenge for the title then one will end up 6th.

  A stable squad they did so well last season, Birmingham City Ladies can't be written off in the title hunt, is a blow for the club losing Chelsea Weston to injury for a long spell ,was in my opinion the best right back in the FAWSL last season. Will wear the underdog tag but are more than capable of mixing it with the best.

  In regards to Chelsea Ladies I feel the loss of Ogimi has pulled them away from the top of the table, I know one player doesn't make a team but the japanese star was involved heavily in their build up play. Emma Hayes has plenty of exciting talent at her disposal and goals will come from all over the park.

  Manchester City Women are title challengers of course have to be considered that purely on the players they have bought in over the last two seasons will be aiming for the top but like I said the best talent isn't all in the possession of one team makes thing's very interesting and they can finish a match with 8 attackers on the pitch if they want to.

  Notts County will have ambitions for the top of the table too, just feel that what they have brought in is counter balanced by who has left meaning I don't feel they are stronger than they were last season. The key difference this season though is they have more attacking options available were the lowest goalscorers last season have Ellen White back now. Know they will be a hard team to break down 6 draws last season can they turn these into wins and if they do will climb up the table.

 That leaves Bristol Academy and Sunderland Ladies, both of whom I don't see as title challengers but rather slugging it out at the bottom of the table to avoid the drop. Both need to be hard to beat. Mead will score goals in the top tier will need contributions from others. The number of departures from Bristol Academy are hard to replace lost alot of goals will be vital they keep them out at the other end.

   Clear as mud then 6 teams capable of challenging for the title it'll be a right mess! Highly competitive let's hope more managers choose to go for the win rather than start with the "we mustn't lose it approach." 

   I'm going for Arsenal Ladies for the title.

  Six league games before the break for the World Cup will it be a distraction for some players Mark Sampson the England manager has said he will pick form players, think he must have 20+ names of his squad written in already, will anyone start the season brightly enough to force her way onto the plane.. guess we'll have to wait and see?

   All kicks off on Wednesday 25th with Liverpool Ladies v Sunderland Ladies live on BT Sport. 4 more clubs get their league campaigns started on Sunday the 29th March with Birmingham City Ladies hosting Manchester City Women and Notts County Ladies at home to Chelsea Ladies. Arsenal Ladies and Bristol Academy have to wait unti lthe 2nd of April to get underway.

   An exciting season ahead, Birmingham City Ladies have the best cheeseburger in the FAWSL 1 so at least that settles one thing. Enjoy the season everyone who ever you're supporting.


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Match Report - Aston Villa Ladies v Sheffield FC Ladies

   My 2nd trip across to the West Midlands in a week the venue once again Coles Lane home ground of Aston Villa Ladies to watch them in action in the 5th Rd of the FA Women's Cup their opponents today Sheffield FC Ladies.

  The draw for the 5th Rd of the FA Women's Cup threw up some exciting ties and with it the news that this years final would be played at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 1st August. Great to be able to use the hashtag #RoadToWembley for the women's FA Cup final will be a great occasion and a dream come true for any player that gets there. Most of the time there is a tie that jumps out at me and I fancy when the fixtures are announced and this time it was Aston Villa Ladies v Sheffield FC Ladies.

  I've wanted to see Sheffield FC Ladies for a while now are the current FA Women's Premier League Northern Division Champions and this season are slugging it out at the top with Coventry City Ladies (the current Southern Division Champions), it's all about geography and I've explained it once already.

  Sheffield FC Ladies entered the competition in the 2nd Rd beating Leicester City WFC 8-0 away. Had another away trip in the 3rd Rd going to C&K Basildon Ladies coming away with a 5-0 victory. Home in the 4th Rd hosted Radcliffe Olympic Ladies wrapping up another 4-0 victory. Now the draw paired them away to FAWSL 2 opposition in the 5th Rd.

  Aston Villa Ladies like all the FAWSL 2 sides (bar Everton Ladies) entered the competition in the 3rd Rd. Were drawn at home against Sunderland Ladies.. I know an FAWSL 1 side now right? However when the teams entered the competition Sunderland Ladies were still competing for the title in FAWSL 2. A tough test then for Aston Villa Ladies, they caused an upset by beating them 2-1. In the 4th Rd were at home again to another FAWSL 2 side Yeovil Town Ladies, the match ending 1-1 after 90 minutes Aston Villa Ladies went on to win 2-1 in extra time to book there place in the 5th Rd.

  A pleasent spring day with the sun out, wasn't too cold which was just aswell as I'd managed to leave my coat back in Norfolk.

   Aston Villa Ladies starting XI - Caitlin Leach, Hayley Crackle, Hannah Goerge, Jade Richards, Emily Owen, Sherry McCue (C), Katy Moran, Bethan Merrick, Sarah Mayling, Kerri Welsh & Katie Wilkinson.
   subs - Maddy Cusack, Olivia Fergusson, Alicia Robinson, Lauren Haynes & Jess Myers.

  Sheffield FC Ladies starting XI - Claire Wallhead, Rebecca Lee, Danielle Cox, Billie Murphy, Ellie Gilliatt, Lisa Giampalma, Kerry Parkin, Lynn Goodman, Suzanne Davies, Jodie Michalska (C) & Emma Johnson.
  subs - Jess Horsley, Carla Ward, Chloe Dixon & Amy Beanland.

  The teams taking to the all weather pitch it's Aston Villa in their claret and blue shirts and socks with white shorts to kick off the tie, with Sheffield lined up in red shirts, black shorts and socks.

   The home side put early pressure on pushing into Sheffield's half win a free kick out wide on the right the defenders jog up from the back as the ball is floated into the area, it's Jade Richards leaping who gets her head to the ball the attempt is over the bar.

  Aston Villa continue to press, Kerri Welsh starting this game where she left off on Wednesday night after she came on as a substitute making life difficult for the defenders around her, holds off a challenge as the ball is played into her from the left, looks to set Sarah Mayling away to her right in space the pass is a little strong allows Sheffield goalkeeper Claire Wallhead to get her gloves on the ball before Mayling can reach it.

   On Sheffield's left Ellie Gilliatt makes a good run from full back getting all the way up the pitch fires a low cross with pace into the six yard box can only pick out Aston Villa goalkeeper Caitlin Leach covering her near post. Making another run this time looking to come inside and run across the pitch Gilliatt is fouled 35 yards from goal, a central position it's Sheffield captain Jodie Michalska over the set piece drills the ball low and hard the Aston Villa wall does its job the ball doesn't find a way through.

   On the attack Aston Villa's, Katie Wilkinson recieves the ball on the left 30 yards out she holds off her marker, it's Welsh looking to make the run for her, Wilkinson plays the ball to her as Welsh bursts into the box she shoots, Wallhead is down to make the save it spins away to the right into space, Wallhead scrambles to get across as Mayling is racing in looking to get to the ball right of goal looking to send it past Wallhead into the back of the net Mayling smashes her shot against the keeper.

   A lively opening 15 minutes the midfield is being hotly contested, the ball is travelling up and down the pitch both sides looking find an opening. Sheffield are getting into crossing positions can only pick out Richards or her central defensive partner Emily Owen. The more clinical chances are falling at the other end Mayling is put through on goal again after good work from Wilkinson and captain Sherry McCue on the left get the ball into Welsh back to goal sees Mayling as loads of space to run into on her right puts the ball into her path inside the box Mayling looks to shoot across the keeper, gets the ball past her but also wide of goal.

  Katy Moran recieves a yellow card after she fouls Sheffield's, Rebecca Lee as she looks to bring the ball out from the back. Chances for the visitors are few the ball played into her feet, Emma Johnson has team mate Lisa Giampalma making a run in front of her looking to go in field plays the ball to her, she takes the shot on the effort is blocked inside the area. Michalska gets the ball outside the area from Giampalma and looks to pull the trigger puts the attempt over Leach's crossbar.

   30 minutes gone, Welsh gets on the ball on the left, coming into the box she looks to pick out Mayling again making the run towards her, Sheffield get the ball away but only as far as the edge of the area McCue is up, she gets her head to the ball tries to send it back into the danger area, the ball however travels wide out of play. From right back Hayley Crackle latches onto a poorly cleared Sheffield ball, travels forwards looks to pass it central into Wilkinson, the striker looks to turn send the ball forwards and look to strike, her touch is a little too heavy, she can't get to it but, Welsh in front of her can puts her foot through the shot, hits a Sheffield body the rebound spinning back to Crackle 25 yards out she has a shot sends the ball over the bar.

                    Half-time Aston Villa Ladies 0-0 Sheffield FC Ladies

  No goals but an entertaining 1st half, two commited sides, Aston Villa have had the better of the chances have restricted Sheffield to long range efforts been comfortable with any wide balls that have been fired into their box. Sheffield get the 2nd half underway.

  The visitors start the half brightly enough, Giampalma finds herself in space on the right in attack on two occasions the pass from deep trying to pick her out aren't accurate enough. On the 3rd occasion it's Emily Owen who intercepts the ball and launches a high ball up the pitch, looks a nothing ball, however Wilkinson wants it and gives chase, from left back Hannah George has covered alot of ground to get up the pitch, getting to the ball Wilkinson gets it out to her, George sends the ball into the area Wallhead doesn't get the ball it drops behind her, Sheffield manage to get it away before Aston Villa can capitalise.

  Bethan Merrick is seeing alot more of the ball 2nd half is looknig to press forwards make herself available to the attackers in front, the ball played in from the right hand side comes into her feet outside the area lines up the shot, can only pick out Wallhead well positioned in goal. Merrick then turned provider for Katy Moran as she travels with the ball from the left into midifeld gives it to Moran she shoots for distance off target.

Aston Villa Ladies Bethan Merrick

   Down the left Lee puts in a ball to Johnson her back to goal outside the box, she looks to head it on with Giampalma making the run to get in behind her, a good effort, only Giampalma doesn't get there instead Richards is in the right place to meet the ball with her head get it away.

  Welsh is fouled inside the Sheffiled half on the right, Merrick is over the set piece sends it deep looking for the far post area it's Owen who meets the ball with her head, sends it the wrong side of the post, got a touch off a Sheffield player on the way corner given.

  15 minutes into the 2nd half and Aston Villa make a double change bringing off Mayling and Moran, with Alicia Robinson and Olivia Fergusson coming on. Aston Villa continue to be on the offensive Wilkinson with the lay back to Merrick 25 yards out her shot is placed over the bar. Sheffield introduce a new player to the pitch themselves bringing off Johnson, Carla Ward coming on to jion the attack.

  GOAL! Olivia Fergusson has only been on the pitch a matter of minutes is already looking lively when she is released the ball put forwards for her to run down has Gilliant in front of her as she enters the area, gets body checked and the referee points to the spot. Penalty. It's Wilkinson to take, a decisive shot arrowed unerringly into the back of the net Wallhead going the wrong way 1-0.

  GOAL! Just a few minutes later Aston Villa double their lead Sheffield are pressing in numbers up the pitch looking for a quick response, get hit on the counter attack the pass is threaded though into space in front of Fergusson she bombs forwards, Wallhead comes racing out to the edge of her area to try and stop her gets something on the ball it ricochets between the pair two or three times before coming loose beyond the keeper, Fergusson is after the ball and sends her shot into the back of the net 2-0 with 70 minutes played.

  Sheffield almost pull a goal back with the next attack as Lynn Goodman looks to push on into space from the middle of the park, has Giampalma in support plays the ball out to her on the right, Giampalma puts the ball back into Michelska on the edge of the D, tie to place her shot she looks to curl one into the top corner is close but wide.

  Aston Villa make their 3rd change bringing on Maddy Cusack for Kerri Welsh. Good persistance on the right from Fergusson sees her regain the ball gets a cross into Merrick outside the area sending a shot in she looks to have Wallhead beaten, is just over. 2nd change for Sheffield with Amy Beanhead coming on for Suzanne Davies.

  Carla Ward is covering ground to try and retain possession up front for Sheffield very nearly slides the ball through to Giampalma making the run into the box, only for Owen to make a timely interception. More pressure from Sheffield numbers up and around the Aston Villa area, no way through, Goodman shoots from distance, Leach is well placed to see it all the way into her gloves.

   Sheffield are attacking late on the ball is put into Michelska on the six yard line at the near post gets her header away as she is clattered the ball goes wide. Closing moments and Sheffield launch a counter attack the ball is played forwards with pace Michelska is chasing it is clear of the Aston Villa defenders, Leach is rushing out to close her down, Michelska gets the ball around her takes it right of the goal the angle is tight she aims for the near post, is denied by Richards who clears off the line having covered the ground to stop the ball going in.

    The final whistle blows and Aston Villa Ladies seal a 2-0 win and are through to the quarter finals of the FA Women's Cup.

   A very good performance from Aston Villa several players having a fine 90 minutes, Merrick in midifeld and Richards who wasn't letting anyone through.. even her own captain McCue! Olivia Fergusson coming on and winnng a penalty and scoring the 2nd goal.

   Good effort from Sheffield FC Ladies, came up against a solid team and defence that wasn't going to be broken down today.

    There were six other ties in the FA Women's Cup today the results below

      Birmingham City Ladies 3-1 Liverpool Ladies
                 Chelsea Ladies 6-0 Watford Ladies
            Millwall Lionesses 0-7 Arsenal Ladies
                        Coventry City Ladies 1-2 Charlton Athletic Women
                  Manchester City Women 3-1 Doncaster Rovers Belles
                            Notts County Ladies 4-0 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies
 The final tie between Everton Ladies & Bristol Academy will be played on Tues 24th March. The draw for the quarter finals of the FA Women's Cup will be made tomorrow. Best of luck to Aston Villa Ladies in the next round.

 Update Mon 23rd - The quarter final draw was made earlier today. Aston Villa Ladies have been drawn away to play Notts County Ladies.

  In the other 3 ties Charlton Athletic WFC will travel to either Everton Ladies or Bristol Academy. Manchester City Women will play Birmingham City Ladies and in the stand out tie Arsenal Ladies will play Chelsea Ladies. Ties due to be played Sun 12th April.



Thursday, 19 March 2015

Match Report - Doncaster Rovers Belles v Durham Women FC

   The opening round of FAWSL 2 fixtures continues as the other 6 teams get their league campaigns under way, all wanting to get those 1st, precious 3 points on the board. Last night saw Millwall Lionesses get their season started with London Bees the visitors to The Den, the points were shared as they drew 0-0. Whilst Aston Villa Ladies welcomed Everton Ladies to Sutton Coldfield, the side relegated from FAWSL 1 last season coming away with a 2-1 victory (see previous match report).

  Tonights fixtures see Oxford United Women hosting Watford Ladies and Reading FC Women making the trip to the south west to play Yeovil Town Ladies. I have headed north up the A1 to watch Doncaster Rovers Belles play Durham Women FC at the Keepmoat Stadium.

   A quick recap of last season saw Doncaster Rovers Belles narrowly miss out on promotion having given eventual FAWSL 2 Champions Sunderland Ladies a good run for their money. Doncaster Rovers Belles aim this season is the same as last to achieve promotion, and now that there are two promotion places up for grabs they are one of the favourites to do so.

  Durham Women FC, also know as the Wildcats took a while to settle into life in thre newly formed FAWSL 2, went on a good run towards the end of the season and secured a creditable 6th place. Are hoping to build on that this season.

   Was a chilly night at the Keepmoat Stadium, dry and clear under the floodlights there was a good buzz about the place as the two teams took to the pitch.

  Doncaster Rovers Belles starting XI - Nicola Hobbs, Ashleigh Mills, Rhiannon Roberts, Leandra Little (C), Lauren Cresswell, Kasia Lipka, Sophie Barker, Bethany England, Sue Smith, Emily Roberts & Courtney Sweetman-Kirk.
   subs - Danielle Hill, Molly Johnson, Lyndsey Cunningham, Reanne Thomas, Sophie Stamp, Hope Knight & Samantha Tierney.

 Durham Women FC starting XI - Helen Alderson, Jen Jennings, Sarah Wilson (C), Julie Nelson, Ellie Christon, Beth Hepple, Emily Scott, Rachel Lee, Jemma Purfield, Amelia Periera & Becky Beech.
  subs - Jordan Atkinson, Vic Linsley, Lauren Jordinson, Jess Clark & Anna Moorhouse.

  Doncaster Rovers Belles manager, Glen Harris had two of his new signings Sophie Barker and Emily Roberts in the starting XI. Whilst Lee Sanders manager of Durham Women FC had five of his close season signings starting, goalkeeper Helen Alderson along with Becky Beech and Amelia Periera in attack, Julie Nelson in defence and Rachel Lee whom the club unveiled just the day before was in their midifeld.
  Its Doncaster in their home kit, yellow shirts and socks with blue shorts to kick off the match with Durham lined up in their away kit of red shirts with black sleeves, black shorts and white socks. Doncaster start on the offensive taking the ball to Durham, it's notable early on that Kasia Lipka and Sophie Barker are the ones sitting in midfield whilst Beth England is pushing on making it look like a front 4 at times.

   Joining the Doncaster attack Ashleigh Mills playing at right back wins a throw deep in the Durham half, the home side keep possession as the ball is passed inside to centre back Rhiannon Roberts, who putting her foot through the ball looks to send a high ball into the box. Durham goalkeeper, Helen Alderson keeps her eye on it as players converge on her, she gathers safely.

  Durham are keeping it tight in defence Doncaster's moves are broken up and the visitors look to break the ball going through Beth Hepple in the middle and out wide right to Amelia Periera, the Portugese player looks to go on a mazy run the ball close to her feet she comes inside looks to thread a pass into Jemma Purfield making a good run into the box from the left, the pass is intercepted.

  Courtney Sweetman-Kirk is the 1st player to register an attempt on goal as she gets her head to a high ball lofted into the area by Barker, her header is off target goes wide. Sue Smith out on the right flank holds up the ball, looks to curl a cross into the box with her left foot, too close to Alderson, she gathers again.

  Lipka gets on the ball centrally with Barker peeling off into space to her right, getting her foot around the ball she plays a great cross into the area. Alderson sees it into her body, even as Emily Roberts bears down on her looking to get to the ball 1st.

  Periera makes a determined run down the right wins her team a corner. The set piece is played into the box, it's Rachel Lee who gets her head to the ball, is blocked rolls out to the left, Periera races to retreive it, plays it low into the area left of goal for Durham captain Sarah Wilson, she slips just as she's about the pull the trigger the ball rolls through to Doncaster goalkeeper Nicola Hobbs.

   Purfield is doing well on the left for Durham wins a tackle takes the ball forwards squares it looking be striker Becky Beech along the 18 yard line, Beech's shot is blocked at close range the rebound coming out to the advancing Lee she strikes her goal, looks to be heading for the top corner, Hobbs is across quickly to cover but she can see the shot go the wrong side of the woodwork.

  Both sides are looking to get the ball forwards create something, are finding defences standing firm on both counts. Hepple is the springboard for another Durham attack. plays a long ball out to Periera and continues to run forwards, is there to get on the ball as Periera's intended cross for Beech is cut out, Hepple takes the shot on, Hobbs is sharp to drop and make the save.

   England recieves the ball half way inside the Durham half finds herself with space to run into looks to take a couple of strides to set up a strike, Wilson is the one who senses the danger races out of the area to close her down blocking England's strike as she falls end to end as the half draws to a close Durham are doing well, Julie Nelson in particular in the Durham defence is reading Doncaster well getting herself in the right place to deal with the intended final ball.

   Doncaster though aren't afraid to take on the shot from distance, as Emily Roberts comes the closest to breaking the dead lock as yellow shirts flood the left channel possession is retained the pass comes into Roberts 25 yards out left corner of the box she shoots great effort the ball smashes off the cross bar.

                        Half-time Doncaster Rovers Belles 0-0 Durham Women FC

   Good work from Durham in the 1st half are doing well, defending is disciplined Doncaster are finding it very hard to break them down although Durham are conceding possession higher up the pitch at times. When they do get it forwards Periera is showing good close control is prepared to take players on whilst Purfield is finding some space to exploit on the left.

   Durham kick off the 2nd half, have made a change at half time with Beech the player coming off with Jordan Atkinson coming on in attack. It's Doncaster with the ball early on Sweetman-Kirk plays the ball out to Smith on the right she sends a cross into the box towards the far post area Emily Roberts is there, however it's Jen Jennings who gets her head to the ball 1st to clear.

  Durham look a threat from a set piece have a corner taken from the right coming in it's Nelson who gets a glancing head to the ball, turns it goal wards catches Hobbs by surprise, although she reacts quickly to claim the ball.

  GOAL! Doncaster get the break through, Lipka involved in the build up passes it forwards to England she lays it out to the left for Smith, she looks to place her cross for Sweetman-Kirk to hit, the ball is just behind her, Durham fail to get it clear as Sweetman-Kirk stays sharp to get hold of the ball and lashes it past Alderson into the roof of the net to make it 1-0.

  Doncaster captain Leandra Little, commits a foul against Periera half way inside the half, Hepple is over the ball looks to have a strike on goal, a good distance out Hobbs is well placed to see it into her gloves.

  GOAL! Pressing the ball inside Durham's half, Barker has England bombing on in front of her as she plays the pass to her, edge of the area bearing down on goal, Alderson comes rushing out to meet her, England gets a touch to lob the keeper and the ball going past her bounces once and into the back of the open goal. 2-0.

  Periera passes the ball out to the right with Jordan Atkinson peeling off into space, she sends a good cross into the area, Purfield is coming in at the far post gets her head to the ball, it lands on the roof of the net.

   Doncaster make a change with Cresswell the player coming off and Hope Knight coming on. Their tails up having gotten a couple of goals, Lipka looks to get in on the act, takes on a shot 30 yards out, clips the top of the cross bar and out of play. At the other end Purfield jinks pass Mills left of goal she takes an early shot sends her effort over.

  Double change for Doncaster with Mills and England leaving the field, on in their places Reanne Thomas and Sophie Stamp who recently celebrated her 18th birthday. Durham have a half chance as they manage to squeeze a ball through for Atkinson on the edge of the area Hobbs races over to smother the shot the ball going away for a corner.

 GOAL! Doncaster add a 3rd goal and it's Smith who scores as the home side keep the ball out on the right attacking the Durham goal, Smith looks to take the ball inside, corner of the area she strikes the ball a curling effort that evades Alderson to go it at the far post. 3-0.

  Durham make a double change with Hepple and Wilson the ones coming off, their replacements Vic Lindsley and Jess Clark. Doncaster though are the ones doing the lions share of the attacking now are getting lots of bodies forwards. Rachel Lee is in a more advanced role now taking the ball into space has Atkinson making a good run into space on the right passes the ball to her Atkinson looks to burst into the box and have a shot, plants the ball in the side netting.

  Closing moment Alderson gets a touch on a long range shot from Doncaster to concede a corner the ball is played into the box, Little rises and gets her head to the ball, on target an instinctive save from Alderson she tips the ball over the bar.

  The final whistle goes and Doncaster wrap up an opening day 3-0 win and have their 1st 3 points on the board too. A strong performance in the 2nd half, once they opened the scoring were in total control.

  A 3-0 scoreline is a little harsh on Durham, who played well especially in the 1st half, were hard to break down and had attacking options going forwards too.

   In tonights other matches it was Oxford United Women who ran out 1-0 winners against Watford Ladies, captain Sahara Osbourne-Ricketts with the goal. Whilst there were 6 goals shared between Yeovil Town Ladies and Reading FC Women, Fran Kirby scoring 4 of them as Reading ran out 4-2 winners Tash Knapman and Corinne Yorston from the spot the goal scorers for Yeovil.

   Early days in the 2015 FAWSL 2 season Doncaster Rovers Belles are top from Reading FC Women and Everton Ladies. Another game with some good football played it promises to be a great season.