by Andrew Crawshaw
Following the Christmas break the Women’s league games restarted on Sunday.
We started the WSL matches with a 12:30 kickoff away at West Ham. The match was shown by the BBC on their red button and on-line services in the UK so a decent picture, even if accompanied by annoying commentators.
Lisa Evans (83), Janni Arnth (club debut), Leah Williamson, Dominique Bloodworth
Leah Walti, Kim Little c (90), Danielle van de Donk
Beth Nead, Vivianne Miedema, Katie McCabe
Sari van Veenendaal, Louise Quinn (83), Ava Kuyken (90), Ruby Grant, Paige Bailey-Gayle, Emma Mitchell
The opening exchanges were largely a midfield battle between the two teams. In the 10th minute it looked to me as though we should have had a penalty with Beth Mead going over in the penalty area.
Unfortunately the referee gave an excellent Mike Dean impression and waved the penalty shouts away going as far as to give a free kick to West Ham for some minor ‘afters’. The kick was taken long over our defence and Alisha Lehman picked it up on the left wing, took it to the by-line and produced an excellent cross giving Jane Ross an easy finish from inside the six yard box. Struck me as a typical PGMO goal, penalty denied, phantom foul, goal.
We regrouped and gradually reasserted our style of play. Miedema failed to make the most of a couple of good chances and West Ham defending for their lives. We equalised when the ball was recycled following a set piece, Mead was allowed far too much time on the right hand byline and produced a great cross which was met with a towering header by centreback Leah Williamson for her first goal of the season. Five minutes later and it was a ‘Groundhog Day’ moment. An equally good cross from Mead, this time from a corner and newcomer Janni Arnth, our other centre back produced an identical header for two one.
We dominated the remainder of the first half until West Ham produced another long ball which was headed on by their midfielder and Jane Ross was again through to equalise. Halftime and two goals all – all to play for in the second half.
Surprisingly West Ham didn’t provide anything like the threat in the second half that they did in the first. Whatever Joe Montemurro said at halftime seemed to settle our team and we looked far more cohesive.
Danielle van de Donk was increasingly influential in midfield, nearly setting up a third goal after nicking the ball off Becky Spencer inside the 18 yard area and setting up Kim Little, who returned following her broken bone, but her chip was comfortably cleared off the line.
In the 59th minute Danielle was on hand to tap in a Katie McCabe cross from all of one yard. She then finished the scoring to finish another great cross from Mead ensuring that we returned to winning ways.
Possession was 66/34 to Arsenal, shots on target 9/2 to Arsenal and attendance was 913.
In the other WSL games
Birmingham City 2 v Reading 1
A late goal from Meaghan Sargeant kept Birmingham in touch with Chelsea and Man City as they chase us for the title. The Birmingham main keeper Ann-Katrin Berger was signed by Chelsea earlier in the week but young backup keeper Hannah Hampton was rarely troubled by the visitors. It was a close contest between the two teams with possession at 50/50, Birmingham edged the shots on target 5/3. All the goals came in the last 20 minutes, Kerys Harrop heading Birmingham ahead in the 72nd minute, an own goal by Hannah Hampton in the 88th minute raised Reading hopes before Sargeant got the winner a minute later
Attendance was 606
Chelsea 3 v Everton 0
If Chelsea are to win the League they can’t afford to drop any more points. They scored early through Beth England but then had to wait nearly an hour before they got the second and third to keep them five points (and a game) behind Arsenal. They dominated possession at 64/36 and shots on target 9/2
Despite signing Berger from Birmingham earlier in the week, it is difficult to see how she is going to get into the Chelsea Team as they already have three excellent keepers.
Attendance was 3,221
Liverpool 0 v Brighton 2
A good result for Brighton who got only their second win of the season. They were greatful to Nigerian forward Ini Umatong who scored one and made the other, she is proving a real handful for all defences this season and may well mature into a truly great player.
Brighton bossed possession 57/43, had 7 shots on target to Liverpool’s 1. Attendance was a measly 398
Bristol City 1 v Man City 1
A real surprise here with City dropping points. As you would expect City were by far the most dominant of the two sides with 75% of the possession and a total of 23 shots. There were, however wasteful as both teams registered 4 shots on target. City also gave away a penalty from which Bristol got their equaliser.
Attendance was 812.
Yeovil Town sat out this round of matches as the 11th club.
These results leave the WSL table looking like this
Please note that Bristol and Everton have still to play their postponed match from the first half of the season, Arsenal and Yeovil have sat out their second half blank weeks.
So a slight gap re-opening between us and the second place team City (which should go to 5 points assuming we win our match in hand. Chelsea and Birmingham desperately hanging on a further 3 points behind. We play Chelsea next Sunday and that really is a must win game for them, a second win by Arsenal must surely end their title hopes.
The Women’s Championship table – the second tier of Women’s football has a similar look to it.
The top four again have a gap over the chasing pack that looks insurmountable. Man United look to be the favourites to win the division, not surprising considering the money they have thrown at it. We all have to remember that this is a team that nine months ago didn’t exist. They have decimated the likes of Liverpool and Everton for their players which is a major reason for the much poorer performances of them in the WSL this year. The surprise to me is that it still isn’t a foregone conclusion and Spurs, Charlton and Durham still aren’t out of it.
In other news the draw for the fourth round of the Women’s FA Cup was made this morning and we have been drawn against fourth tier side Crawley Wasps. The game is to be played on February 3rd at Crawley’s ground Oakwood FC in Crawley. Further details to be announced in due course. If we take anything like our full squad the score will be more at home in a rugby game so I would expect a team comprising most of our youngsters and fringe players. We will have to watch out though because the pitch is going to be nothing like that we are used to playing on. Another case of mind the gap!
Next up for us is our Continental Cup Quarter Final against Birmingham on Wednesday evening at Meadow Park Borehamwood. Kick-off is 19:30 and the ground is about a 20 minute walk from Elstree and Borehamwood Station. The Lunch Box outlets in the ground do excellent burgers, hot-dogs, chips etc and the tea also has my full recommendation.
Birmingham are always a very difficult team to play against and it will certainly not be a stroll for us, nevertheless this has been our competition over the past few years and it will be great to retain it for another year. We have only failed to win it in 2 on the 7 years it has been held (when Man City won it) and we got it back from City last year.
One of the other matches is Brighton at home to Man United and that will give a truer idea of just how good United are – I would expect that match to be quite close but United could easily win it.
On Sunday with another 12:30 kickoff we have Chelsea visiting us at Borehamwood. earlier in the year we had a magnificent 5 – 0 win at their ground, a win of any sort will go a very long way to earning us European football next year.