Sunday 24th September
Way off the beaten track this Sunday, up in the North East, new beginnings all round a new season of FAWSL football begins and for the 1st time a match report from the FAWSL will feature on Women’s Football East. An exciting looking game to begin with too from FAWSL 2, Durham Women FC one of the favourites to win the league hosting newly promoted Tottenham Hotspur Ladies.
Merging my two women’s football sites this season, the Supporting Women’s Football Blog no more the match reports remain however just in a new home Women’s Football East, for the past two season’s an FAWSL free zone namely as their was little FAWSL presence in the region. Arsenal Ladies can stake a claim however from FAWSL 1 along with Watford FC Ladies in FAWSL 2. Brighton & Hove Albion WFC and now Tottenham Hotspur Ladies winning the FAWPL Southern Division title and then the FAWPL Playoff game earning promotion since the time is right to cover the countries top two leagues as well.
FAWSL 2 is a highly competitive league and no doubt it will be again this season, new challenges with the FAWSL reverting back to the winter to move in line with the rest of the women’s football pyramid. The league itself is a hard on to call this season. With the make up of the league Durham Women FC have their best chance ever of mounting a title challenge. Doncaster Rovers Belles will be up there. Millwall Lionesses have recruited well and had a really strong Spring Series. London Bees under new manager Luke Swindlehurst have made some useful signings, Aston Villa Ladies if they can find consistency might spring a surprise. Brighton & Hove Albion WFC have had the Spring Series to get used to the league with Hope Powell now there manager have made good signings over the summer. As for Tottenham Hotspur Ladies themselves have a strong winning mentality and haven’t had to wait over a year like in previous seasons to make their FAWSL bow.
Durham Women FC one of the founder members of FAWSL 2 are well established and stable. Progress made on and off the pitch since 2014. Finishing in the top half of the table in 2016 & 2017. Attendances have steadily grown one of the best in engaging with fans on social media haven’t the men’s club behind them but are a leading force for women’s football in the North East likely to challenge rivals AFC Sunderland in that regards if they keep going the way they are. Named FAWSL 2 Club of the Year the side collected the award in front of their home crowd before today’s game. Have added a few additions to their squad, Striker Abigail Cottam along with midfielder Nicola Worthington. Scottish defender, Kathryn Hill also comes to Durham along with Scottish youngster Ellis Dagliesh.
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies stormed to the FAWPL Southern Division title last season, going unbeaten for most of the campaign. Went on to beat Blackburn Rovers Ladies the Northern Champions in the FAWPL Play-off game in Charlton back in may. A short but in real terms close season to prepare with the FAWSL reverting back to the winter clubs no longer having to wait over 8 months to begin life in the FAWSL. Karen Hills side is one of the most exciting and attack minded teams I’ve seen play and have no doubt that is how they will approach life in the FAWSL. Have made a few new signings bringing in some FAWSL experience with striker Sarah Wiltshire joining from Yeovil Town Ladies, Carol-Jade Haines comes to the club on a season long loan from Birmingham City Ladies. Ashleigh Neville joins from Coventry United Ladies. Hannah McKenzie from Reading FC Women. Lauren Pickett new to the club too looks a talented addition. Whilst it’s also good to see the likes of captain Jenna Schillaci, goalkeeper Toni-Anne Wayne and attacker Wendy Martin getting an opportunity to show what they can do at this level. Tottenham are also the FAWPL Club of the Year with Karen Hills awarded Manager of the Year.
New Ferens Park the venue for today’s game have only been here once before it’s a long way from Norfolk. That said a simple run A17 then A1 just off the motorway. 3 and a half hours and the radio managed to stay on the whole way there for a change. A compact ground an all weather playing surface. A seated stand along one side housing the changing rooms a cafe bar on entry. Hot refreshments available I wasn’t hungry but was lured by the smell of cooking bacon so I gave in very nice it was too. Looked an interesting game on paper a chance to see what Durham were made of and whether Tottenham were ready for the next challenge.
Durham Women FC starting XI – Helen Alderson, Anabel Johnson, Jordan Atkinson, Sarah Wilson (C), Caroline Dixon, Beth Hepple, Zoe Ness, Emily Roberts, Kathryn Hill, Rachel Lee & Nicki Gears. Subs – Megan Bothwick, Nicola Worthington, Ellie Curson, Lauren Briggs & Abigail Cottam.
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies starting XI – Toni-Anne Wayne, Lucia Leon, Renee Hector, Jenna Schillaci (C), Josie Green, Sophie McLean, Ashleigh Neville, Coral-Jade Haynes, Sarah Wiltshire, Wendy Martin & Bianca Baptiste. Subs – Chloe Morgan, Hannah McKenzie, Lauren Pickett & Ronnell Humes.
It’s Durham in their all blue kit to get the 1st half kicked off with Tottenham lined up opposite wearing white shirts and socks with navy shorts. Right from the off Tottenham press Durham for the ball win possession down the left Sarah Wiltshire wins her side a corner kick. The inswinging delivery coming central Durham goalkeeper Helen Alderson rises to punch the ball away across goal a 2nd corner, this one fired in near post is attacked by Durham headed clear.
The visitors on the front foot Coral-Jade Haines plays a long pass out for Wiltshire breaking left with the ball cuts inside puts the ball into the middle, Sarah Wilson, Durham’s captain clears comes out to Ashleigh Neville on the left, Wiltshire ahead of her takes it on down the line fired the cross in this time headed clear from inside the six yard box by Durham’s Caroline Dixon. Kathryn Hill bringing the but up from the back sends a diagonal pass out to the left wing the early cross in won by Tottenham captain, Jenna Schillaci. A fast paced start Tottenham setting the tempo.
Bianca Baptiste on the ball right side for Tottenham, is brought down by Dixon the referee having a word with the defender. Schillaci to play the set-piece from wide right outside the box heading towards goal a great save from Alderson to tip the ball away across goal for a corner kick. Sophie McLean has made a couple of runs from midfield to get ahead of the attack to Tottenham slid through into the box right of goal, Alderson closing her down saves near post.
Beth Hepple looks to thread a ball into Zoe Ness inside the Tottenham area as the home side attack through the middle the ball is won back and send long, good head work from Baptiste through the middle knocking it on for Wiltshire the striker is clear on goal taking the ball into the box, Alderson comes out stays big as Wiltshire looks to place her shot wide of her, not wide enough the keeper going to ground snatching the ball into her body.
A competitive contest both sides battling for the ball Durham haven’t made the most of it early on getting forward Hill tries her luck from 25 yards out as the ball is rolled into her path, struck well goalkeeper Toni-Anne Wayne can see it wide of her near post. McLean getting forwards on the left links up with Wiltshire her ball into the box cut out Durham counter attack Jordan Atkinson receives the ball in space on the right delivers an inviting cross towards the far post, Schillaci again has her head on it.
20 minutes of the 1st half played an intriguing game Tottenham more than matching Durham the home side starting to get a little more possession in the final 3rd. Looking to take players on as she picks up the ball wide left Emily Roberts drives in field making ground is brought down. The free-kick floated into the crowd gathered inside the box is deflected onto Atkinson in space inside the area right of goal puts her foot through the ball her strike flying wide across the Tottenham goal. Durham are starting to find space on the flanks, Nikki Gears riding a challenge taking the ball on to the by-line sees her cross claimed by Wayne. Rachel Lee sends a shot whistling over the bar from outside the box as the clearance from a free-kick delivery falls to her.
Wiltshire and Baptiste switch flanks for Tottenham, now left Baptiste springs the offside trap plenty of pace surges down the wing cutting the cross in along the top of the six yard box, Wendy Martin coming in near post can’t quite reach it, races on through to Wiltshire she plays the ball back for McLean at the top of the area, leaning back into her shot she lifts the ball up over the crossbar. Lucia Leon is caught in possession bringing the ball out from the back for Tottenham out of position Atkinson moves forwards onto the pass forwards lets fly from outside the area her shot straight at Wayne saved,
The ball sent up field from the back by Tottenham, Dixon and Martin go up to contest it Martin grounded the ball is knocked on picked up by Baptiste is quick to release it fired across to Wiltshire moving into the area from the right, Alderson comes racing out to met her Wiltshire tries to lob her squeezes the ball past her but no pace, full back Annabel Johnson has gotten round on the cover to clear. Roberts coming on with the ball left sends her cross racing through the six yard box picked up by Atkinson far side she lays it back for Ness who sends er shot over for Durham.
Martin sends the ball on for Wiltshire as she beats the offside flag left side moving down the line fires a vicious cross along the six yard box looking for Martin making a far post run, Martin puts the ball back out of the area towards Haines coming on she strikes the ball hard, Wilson blocks feeling the full force of the shot stays down, the ball is scrambled behind for a corner. A pause in play Wilson off the pitch for the corner. The ball played long towards the far post drops to Wiltshire she strikes the ball goalwards Alderson across her goal drops forwards to make the save.
GOAL! In minute of normal time to play in the 1st half the stalemate is broken and it’s the home side who take the lead. Attacking down the right Gears on the ball the cross is fired into the Tottenham box is behind Ness who has made a central run adjusts well spinning falling back knocks the ball out of the area towards Hepple. Very little back lift n her strike gets plenty of power behind the shot nevertheless, Wayne is rooted to the spot as the ball races past her to nestle in the back of the net 1-0.
GOAL! The lead doesn’t last long however Tottenham restart and go straight on the offensive the ball with Baptiste on the left wing she has space to run into takes the ball all the way into the box closing in on the six yard box shoots sending the ball across Alderson and into the bottom corner to equalise and in doing so score Tottenham’s 1st ever FAWSL goal 1-1.
GOAL! Into 1st half injury time and again Durham come back to retake the lead breaking up a Tottenham attack the ball worked rapidly through the middle put into the box comes onto Gears inside the area 10 or so yards out, spins and shoots the ball finding its way inside the near post before the diving Wayne can get there 2-1.
Half-time Durham Women FC 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies
3 goals in quick succession at the end of the 1st half and Durham go into the changing rooms leading 2-1. That scoreline could just as easily been the other way around Tottenham starting the game on the front foot getting forwards had some good opportunities to take the lead. Durham grew into the match and when the chances came their way took them. An entertaining 1st half.
Tottenham to get the 2nd half underway no changes from either side at the break. Wiltshire is fouled as she attacks down the left players come up from the back for the free-kick, a great delivery into the area Neville gets her head on the ball directs it into the back of the net however it won’t count as the flag is raised for offside. Wiltshire on the ball central again lifts the ball into the area for Baptiste running away to the right of goal taking the ball on checks back to evade a tackle then looks to scoop the cross up towards the far post, Alderson can get her gloves around the ball.
Good work from Haines winning the ball out to Green moving into space on the left pushes on before whipping a ball into the area, Martin goes up for it near post can’t get a clean header on it knocked to the ground the Durham defence shields the ball allowing Alderson to gather. End to end both sides leaving room to exploit on their flanks Roberts threads a pass through to Gears on the left, McLean tracking back slide in to concede the corner before the cross can be put in. The resulting corner is headed clear Tottenham break the ball with Baptiste she surges forwards sends the ball into the box early too close to Alderson the keeper takes cleanly.
Good running from Gears moving clear on the left once again squares the ball into the area as she arrives at the top of the box looking to pick out Roberts she connects with the ball 1st time turning it goalwards but without the power needed to evade Wayne the keeper going down claiming the ball. Durham coming at Tottenham more 2nd half Roberts finding more time on the ball. Finds Gears available on the left side again taking the ball to the byline sends a cross in towards the near post Ness arriving turns it goalwards Wayne has the post covered saves a close range the ball behind for a corner kick.
Atkinson on the right gathers the ball from inside the Tottenham drives forwards shooting from 30 yards out the ball sailing over the bar. Hector trips Hepple as the Durham midfielder looking to take the Tottenham defence on through the middle. The set-piece in a dangerous position top of the D. Hepple with the shot sends her strike over the bar.
Tottenham make a double change 21 minutes into the 2nd half bringing off Haines and Martin send on Ronnell Humes and Lauren Pickett. Durham also make a change bringing Abi Cottam on for Atkinson. A free-kick for Tottenham wide on the right the ball flighted into the top of the area half cleared falls to Wiltshire central 20 yards out jinks left the right before taking a shot the ball easily palmed down by the keeper. Tottenham make their final change bringing off Leon for Hannah McKenzie.
Durham bring on Lauren Briggs for Gears. Durham press forwards Roberts sees her shot from the top of the area deflected wide for a corner kick on the right, a good ball delivered centrally, Cottam gets her head on the ball puts it wide across goal. Durham looking the stronger as the game moves into the latter stages. McLean puts a cross into the box from the right for Tottenham, Baptiste after it goes down under challenge but the appeals are waved away. A single goal it still Tottenham press forwards, Durham ready to hit on the counter Cottam is clear left side driving towards the box Wayne comes to meet her the attacker knocking the ball beyond the keeper goes after t looks to send the ball in from the six yard line, Tottenham have Schillaci and Hector racing back between them the ball is cleared of the line.
Durham make their final change, Ness coming off to be replaced by Nicola Worthington. The game moves into the last 7 minutes. Getting forwards players around the box the ball sits up nicely for McKenzie to strike Alderson concedes the corner making the save. The ball drops over the players gathered near post drops to Humes stabs the ball up over the bar. A throw left for Durham inside the Tottenham half into Worthington chips it on for Hepple 25 yards out not closed down has a go for goal her strike rising swerving away from goal. Tottenham push on late into the game 2 crosses into the Durham box cleared by Wilson. The final whistle blows the flurry of goals at the end of the 1st half enough to secure and opening day win for Durham.
Full-time Durham Women FC 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies
An entertaining game to watch fast paced. Durham not quite at their best starting with a good result however matching Tottenham’s tempo 2nd half the game might have gone either way. Tottenham will be disappointed to start with loss but nevertheless showed they are more than capable of competing in the FAWSL and that will only make the league more exciting than it already is.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
These decisions don’t get any easier picking today’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match is another tough one. Thought Sophie McLean was fantastic for Tottenham. Have chosen Durham’s Emily Roberts strong running with the ball and more often than not her pass found a teammate going forwards, setting up a few chances.
Good to finally get back into some FAWSL action even if it was a long journey still is, as I churn this last bit off in the Motorway Services… been a long time since I’ve done that too. A good game to watch in front of a great crowd of 617 too plenty of chips sold too. My thanks to Durham Women’s FC for their help today especially Mark Donnelly. Best of luck to both sides for the rest of the season.