Southampton Secure Championship Place

Southampton 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers

By Darrell Allen at Edgeley Park (22/5/22)

Above: Southampton celebrate after their win against Wolverhampton Wanderers, securing Championship football next season. Photo: Saints FC Women.

Southampton secured promotion to the Tier Two FA Women’s Championship with a narrow victory over a Wolves side reduced to ten players in the FA Women’s Championship Play-Off Final at Stockport County FC’s Edgeley Park.

In a game that was labelled Judgement Day by the league and with a prize of a place the second tier of a pyramid, the stakes could not be higher.

The early action saw Sophie Pharoah find Lucia Kendell who tried to lob the keeper but Shan Turner in the Wolves goal got her fingers to it to turn the ball away for a corner. The subsequent corner was delivered well but then cleared away by Wolves. 

Southampton continued their early dominance of the game with Alice Griffths shooting from long range before Emma Cross brought down Pharoah but the penalty appeals were waved away by referee Lauren Impey. 

Above: Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers battle it out for possession at Edgeley Park yesterday. Photo: Saints FC Women.

Wolves began to get a foothold in the game after surviving an early onslaught but were restricted to a few half shots that were blocked by a strong Southampton defence. 

In a fast and frenetic Championship Play-Off Final both teams were very watchable with Wolves next to roll the dice, Amber Hughes had two shots followed by an initial third terrific curling shot into Kayla Rendell’s hands.

Despite the end-to-end nature of the match, Southampton continued to look more prominent as Kendall floated a delightful free-kick into the box before Pharoah headed wide.

The deadlock was broken when Pharorah cleverly rounded Turner and slotted the ball into the net to spark wild scenes amongst the large contingent of Southampton supporters who had made the very long trip from the South Coast.

Above: Joy for Southampton. Photo: Saints FC Women.

The Saints attacking three of Alisha Ware, Sophia Pharoah and Alice Griffths seemed to have communication on point all afternoon as their awareness of each other and timing of runs, and good link-up play was a key element of why Southampton were so successful.

The Saints had a golden chance to double their lead when Kendall’s free-kick found Griffiths, the net was waiting to bulge but she put what looked a certain goal wide.

Tensions began to flare and what was on the line in this game was evident when Amber Hughes and Megan Collett clashed with some then verbal exchanges but the brilliant match officials did well to calm everything down.

Wolves ended the half well with a good spell of pressure although disaster did strike just before half time when Kelly Darby fouled Ware and was shown her second yellow and dismissed. It was a silly challenge and the disappointment etched across her face when she left the pitch and some water bottles received the brunt of her anger as she left the field the play.

Southampton led at the break and it was theirs to lose in the second 45 with the player advantage.

Credit to Wolves they came out for the second half and were the better team with some confident passing and early corners and free kicks showing sign of their second-half intent.

Southampton nearly put themselves into trouble when a sloppy goal kick by Rendell found Merrick but she fired wide. Indeed, the South Coast side were leading a dangerous existence despite the player advantage as both teams reached for reinforcements from the bench to add fresh legs to this contest.

Above: Wolverhampton Wanderers in possession as they search for a way back into the contest. Photo: Wolves Women FC.

Substitute Katie Rood headed wide before having a curling shot wide.

The Wolves behind the goal gave their team a rally making terrific noise as they sensed there was time to force extra time. Their team created late pressure but Jade Cross missed the best chance to draw level.

Late rallies of the famous song ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ rang out from the 700-strong travelling contingent from the South Coast as they helped see their team over the line.

This was a fantastic contest ended with Southampton securing promotion after only one season in the Southern Premier and next season they will play Tier 2 football in the FA Women’s Championship.

Credit to Wolves who were outstanding in that second half period but Southampton stood strong, defended well, and got themselves the promotion they deserved over the course of the season effort and these 90 minutes on Judgement Day.

Above: Wolverhampton Wanderers gather after the match. Photo: Wolves Women,

Player of the Match: Sophia Pharoah (Southampton)

Teams: SOUTHAMPTON: Rendell, Pagnell, Rafferty, Freeland, Ware, Pharoah, Kendall, Mott, Griffiths, Rutherford, Collett. Substitutes: Morris, Pusey, Luce, Rood, Watling.

Scorer: Pharoah 22′.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS: Turner, Cooper, Price, Cross, Gauntlett, George, Cross, Hughes, Darby, Morphet, Merrick. Substitutes: Dicken, Miller, Walker, Elsmore, Burridge.

Referee: Lauren Impey.

Attendance: 1,354.

Analysis: Lyon’s Joy Tinged With Carpenter Agony

By Kieran Yap (22/5/22).

Above: Olympique Lyonnais celebrate their win over Barcelona in Turin last night. Photo: OL Feminin

Barcelona had scored 148 goals and conceded just 11 this season. They were the holders of the trophy, having dismantled a star-studded Chelsea side last time. The Ballon D’or winning Alexia Putellas was in the line-up and in form.  The Nou Camp had packed out to watch them repeatedly and public perception was that they were unstoppable.

Nobody told Olympique Lyonnais.

This fixture was infused with recent history. It was a defeat to the French power club in the 2019 final that promoted Barcelona to create one of the most frightening teams in modern football.

Lyon themselves, so long the benchmark, had been overtaken by Paris Saint Germain domestically in 2021. Yet Lyon still had a team of world-class players, a coach with winning experience as a player, and a Ballon D’or recipient of their own in Ada Hegerberg.

This was Lyon’s eighth Champions League triumph. Players as talented as Wendie Renard and Catarina Macario do not like to be written off, and Amandine Henry took only five minutes to set the tone for the game.

Above: Amandine Henry celebrates her stunning opening goal. Photo: UEFA Women’s Champions League.

After winning a 50/50 ball with Putellas, the field seemed to stop. On both sides, for a few seconds, everybody waited. Perhaps in disbelief that Putellas had been beaten, perhaps in anticipation of what Henry would produce next.

Her opening goal was scored from almost 30 yards. It was a truly vicious strike of the ball into the top right corner of the net. Barcelona were suddenly in the unfamiliar position of being a goal down.

Lyon did not try and beat Barcelona at their own game, they beat them on their terms. The defence stayed deep, and absorbed pressure. Getting caught too high up the field in a press would have given the Barcelona forwards the space to exploit. This was the patient, controlled performance of a well-drilled team that are comfortable on the big stage.

When Lyon did win the ball, they rarely cleared it hurriedly. They moved it quickly or carried it out to relieve pressure and put the opposition on the defensive. They found space between Barcelona’s midfield and back four.

A counterattack resulted in a second goal in the 23rd minute. Hegerberg was somehow left unmarked at the back post and the record scorer for the competition gave Lyon some breathing room. They would need it, Barcelona are never kept goalless.

Above: Ada Hegerberg after her goal. Photo: UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Crucially, Lyon did not attack with numbers committed forward. They have the talent to do that, not many teams do.

Hegerberg turned provider in the 33rd minute. Her initial shot was blocked but she curled a pass to the far post where Macario was on hand to tap into the bet.

Barcelona played the way they usually do, what reason would they have to change? They have been so dominant for so long that altering tactics would have looked like panic. Caroline Graham Hansen got on the ball consistently on the right flank, but was closed down quickly. She does not need much room to accelerate, but she was given none. Her delightful quick feet were nullified.

Putellas delivered as she always does. On the occasion that Graham Hansen did not try to dribble and crossed the ball early, Putellas ghosted in from outside of the box and met the ball with a stunning low volley. It was 3-1 at half time.

Bareclona had opportunities in the second half, but Lyon’s defence, marshalled by 100 game Champions League veteran Renard remained solid. Their closest opportunity came from a spectacular effort from near half-way. Guijarro’s amazing display of technique and vision deserved a goal and only the woodwork would stop her.

Above: That incredible lob from the half-way line which nearly produced another stunning goal in this final. Photo: UEFA Champions League.

A cagey second half ended with the same score line as the first. 3-1, Lyon are champions of Europe.

In a strange way, this eighth Champions League victory signals a slight equalisation of the competition. Barcelona are not unbeatable. Significantly, neither are Lyon. These two teams may still be the benchmark but at this level, both have challengers, and Lyon are not guaranteed a domestic title this season. Expect the English sides to work hard to close the gap and the professionalisation of Italy will increase the opportunity for teams like Juventus to perform.

This competition will grow, DAZN has built a worldwide viewership online and stadiums are beginning to be filled as a matter of routine.

The Champions League, like the men’s competition is growing into the pinnacle of club football. These two teams delivered campaigns and a final worthy of it.

The Australian view

Above: Ellie Carpenter post-match with the trophy. Photo: Football Australia.

For a second year in a row, Aussie football fans had a reason to wake up at 3am. Last year Sam Kerr started for the defeated Chelsea. This time, it was Ellie Carpenter in Lyon’s colours. The results were different, this time there was a winning medal for a Matilda, but this was a sadder occasion.

In the 12th minute, Carpenter had to be subbed out with what looked to be a serious injury. 13 months out from a home World Cup now means a nervous race against time for one of the world’s best fullbacks.

We know nothing about the injury at the time of writing. But it was non-contact and she celebrated on crutches then by being piggy backed around the ground. What we do know is that Carpenter is a consummate professional, with the mental strength to overcome. She will do everything she can to be fit again.

From a national team perspective, this loss is huge. She can play in a back four, five or three. Carpenter offers attacking impetus and defensive flexibility.

What this does do is show that Tony Gustavsson was correct in exploring options and giving opportunities to young players in the Matildas. Charli Grant and Charlize Rule have both spent time in the national team setup. Grant in particular is well suited as support to Carpenter or Steph Catley. She has all the physical and technical gifts, but not the experience yet.

There are potentially tough times ahead for The Matildas and for Ellie Carpenter. If it is a long-term injury, she has the silver lining of being a European Champion. She deserves it, Australia is proud of her.

Brave Thetford Beaten In Season Finale

Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers 4-0 Thetford Town

By Darrell Allen (21/5/22)

Above: Thetford Town look to defend a corner against Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers. Photo: Hardy Scott.

Thetford Town were beaten in their final Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One game of the season at Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers on Wednesday night. 

Thetford made the 84-mile round trip to the multi-million pound ‘The Nest’ facility just north of Norwich next to the airport. The game took place on the venue’s 3G surface under the floodlights.

Above: A plane over The Nest, which is near to Norwich Airport. Photo: Hardy Scott.

Having secured fourth place in their first season at Step 7 with a 3-1 win at Bungay Town last time out, Thetford travelled with another limited squad of just 12 and knowing they had nothing to lose in this final game.

The game was played with a three-figure crowd with many high-profile people from other Norfolk teams and the County FA in attendance. It was a super tribute to both clubs and to the profile of the Norfolk Women and Girls League.

To the on-pitch action, and lone Thetford striker Rebecca White floated an early free-kick into the box which was comfortably collected by Tyla Cole.

Dussindale began to get into their stride which before this game started had seen them score an incredible 108 goals in 18 games. Shanice Sutton headed their first chance of the game wide before having her next chance saved by Lydia Ward.

Thetford had chances of their own Abbie Corbyn had a cross-shot that was cleared by Maddy Goodenough.

The visitors also made life difficult for their hosts with excellent closing down with Ellie-Mae Davies and captain on the night Dayna Howard particularly influential in ensuring danger was kept to a minimum in the first half period. 

However, despite Thetford’s best efforts, Dussindale took the lead shortly after the half-hour mark when Sutton dispatched a penalty beyond Ward in the Town goal.

Despite a further chance for Sutton, the lead remained singular at the break.

Dussindale utilised their great options from the bench in the second half with Tallulah Bell and Charlie Head coming on to have starring roles.

Above: The battle between Ellie-Mae Davies of Thetford Town (left) and Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers; Shanice Sutton was one of the most prominent features of the match. Photo: Hardy Scott.

In a stop-start second half due to injuries, the game struggled to get any momentum going but a key battle was developing between the influential Sutton for Dussindale and Town defender Ellie-Mae Davies.

Rovers doubled their lead when Bell tapped in Sutton’s cross.

The game’s controversial moment came when the Sutton v Davies battle came to blows in front of the main stand and saw the Dussindale player receive a few knocks in the back before unnecessarily retaliating by pushing Mae-Davies in the face to the floor to be booked by referee Thomas Macleod.

Sutton then missed a penalty by firing it wide of goal. 

A lengthy stoppage time period at the end of the contest saw time for Dussindale to comfortably seal the game. Chelsea Brister finished well beyond Ward before Charlie Head slotted in a fourth.

Dussindale were denied a fifth goal when Lucy Wetherall saw her penalty saved by Lydia Ward.

This was an important three points for Rovers which sees them well on course to finish second. They need just a point from their season finale against struggling North Walsham on Sunday to make sure of the runners-up spot.

For Thetford, this was a game that was just there to be enjoyed on the final day of a brilliant season. Fourth spot was secured prior to this match. Thetford’s great team spirit ensures that Dussindale had to sweat for more than an hour before their second went in. David Skipp and his team will look forward to try and build on these achievements in 2022/2023.

Above: Rebecca White, Thetford Town’s joint player of the match. Photo: Richard Brown.

Thetford Players of the Match: Ellie-Mae Davies and Rebecca White.

Teams: DUSSINDALE AND HELLESDON ROVERS: Cole, Kennett, Humphries, Goodenough, Wetherall, Nobbs, Belton, Tink, Sutton, Hutchin, Brister. Substitutes: Wilson, Head, Kowalczyk, Bell.

Scorers: Sutton, Bell, Brister, Head.

THETFOR TOWN Ward, Klimcke, Davies, Howard, Lynch, Lloyd, Corbyn, Russell, White, Howard, Claughton. Substitute: Musgrove. 

Referee: Thomas Macleod.

Attendance: 112.

Brooke Chaplen: Farewell To A Legend

By Abi Ticehurst (20/5/22).

Above: Brooke Chaplen (centre) walking out onto her home pitch with Reading. Photo: Reading FC Women.

Reading’s Brooke Chaplen retired from professional football at the conclusion of the FAWSL season. The midfielder had been sidelined for the Royals since November due to injury, but her season was indefinitely put on pause in February when it was confirmed she had a tumour in her leg which required surgery.

Speaking about operation, Chaplen said: “It was successful, the tumour has been removed and scans show that there’s no sign of it left which is obviously great news. Unfortunately, the operation that I had to have meant that a couple of knee ligaments attached at that point weren’t able to be saved and as a result of that I’ve been advised that playing football going forward won’t be an option for me”.

Chaplen has an impressive set of stats in the FA Women’s Super League, having made 143 appearances, scoring 29 goals, winning 50 games, and completing 2286 passes which is testament to the attacking midfielder she has developed into.

Portsmouth-born Chaplen began her youth career playing for side in Southampton and Portsmouth from the age of 13. She began her senior career at Portsmouth in 2005 and she spent three years at the club.

Above: Brooke Chaplen pictured against Tottenham Hotspur. Photo: Reading FC Women.

Chaplen then moved to Chelsea on a year-long deal and scored a single goal for the West London side in a 5-0 victory against local rivals Fulham.

Everton then came calling for the Hampshire-born midfielder where she spent five years making 51 appearances for the Toffees and netting three goals. Everton were involved in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in the 2010/11 season and Chaplen was pivotal in their campaign, scoring a hat-trick against MTK Hungaria in the Round of 32 and a brace against Brøndby IF in the Round of 16. Everton were however relegated in 2014 and that prompted a move to promoted Sunderland Ladies where she scored six goals in 25 appearances.

She signed on a free transfer to Sunderland and played for the Black Cats for just one season between 2015 and 2016.

Chaplen joined Reading in the 2017/18 season and made 94 appearances and scored 26 goals as a Royal. She was the top goalscorer for the club in her first season and has been a stalwart for the club for the last five years.

Speaking about her time at Reading, the midfielder said: “I’ve been here a long time, I feel like I’m part of the furniture at the club, I have some great memories, I feel like I developed most as a player here and that’s credit to the staff and coaching staff and how much they invest in me as a player, I can’t speak highly enough of the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had.”

On her favourite memory at the Berkshire club, she revealed, ”The first time we played Man United, it was a really tough, aggressive game and it wasn’t a great goal but at the time they were our rivals. And at home at Adams Park against City scoring on the half volley there”.

Above: Brooke Chaplen training with an England age group team. Photo: Sky Sports.

Chaplen also represented England at age-group levels, making her debut for the U19s in 2008 against Germany. She also represented the U20s and U23s, she played in the World Cup, the Four Nations Tournament, and La Manga Tournament. She scored one goal in a 2-0 win over Chile in the U20 World Cup.

Looking ahead to the future, Chaplen said: “I’ve been away studying for a few years looking at the business side of football so I really hope so but right now I obviously still have the injury that I suffered in November that got put on the back burner because of the tumour so just to get fit and healthy”.

Chaplen has been an often underrated midfielder, perhaps for her quiet consistency but will be much missed by the Reading squad and has had a genuine impact on the development of the women’s game and the FA Women’s Super League.

Ashleigh Neville’s Exclusion From The England Squad Is A Bad Look

Rachel Lara Cohen highlights the case of Ashleigh Neville, one of the players omitted from the Lionesses’ provisional Euro 2022 squad this week, and argues that the wider ramifications of a national team selected from such a small pool of clubs is far from positive (20/5/22).

Above: Ashleigh Neville of Tottenham Hotspur – Rachel believes that she should be in the Lionesses squad. Photo: Telegraph.

The England Squad was announced this week for the final pre-Euros friendly games. Once again all the outfield players were drawn from just four clubs and once again Ashleigh Neville was overlooked. This a bad look. First, because Neville is a great player who could contribute to the England setup. But also because of the message her omission sends to other players at clubs outside the Top Four and, finally, because it reproduces economic concentration within the game.

Why Ash?

Cards on the table: I’m biased. I’m a Spurs fan, and alongside most Spurs fans, I love Ashleigh Neville. As part of that, whenever an England squad has been announced this year I have looked for her name, and when I haven’t found it have grumbled – mostly to other Spurs fans. So, yes, I’m partisan. But not so partisan that I think that every Spurs player should be playing for England. Okay, maybe Molly Bartrip who’s had a standout season – unruffled at the back with fantastic distribution – but that’s another story.

It’s not for nothing that she has just won the Club’s two Awards for Player of the Year as voted by both Supporters and Junior Supporters.

Yet, it’s not just Spurs fans who hold Ashleigh Neville in high regard. Her stats are outstanding. She was player of the month in February, has featured in numerous Teams of the Season and is one of nine players shortlisted as Barclays FAWSL Player of the Season (although is unlikely to win given Sam Kerr’s stellar season). In other words, there’s a wide consensus that she’s more than good.

Above: Neville is one of nine players shortlisted by the FAWSL for their Player of the Year Awards. Artwork: @BarclaysFAWSL.

Neville is also positionally flexible, a necessity for international tournaments. We saw that this season at Spurs, during which she has played at both left and right back, sometimes within the same game. In the first half of the season, this involved playing as a full-back in a back four, but she has more recently been used as a wing-back and has covered at centre back. Then there were the mid-season games where she was deployed at right-wing or attacking midfield, to good effect.

Additionally, if you talk to people who have watched Spurs Women for longer than I have, they’ll tell you about how, as the team has evolved, moving up from the Championship to WSL and from relegation-battlers to (almost) Champions League contenders, so Neville has evolved, raising her game and adapting her style.

Why is this important?

Well, in part because it suggests that should she be surrounded by a group of players of a higher standard than those she currently plays with (and yes, I can admit that Spurs are not yet at the standards of some of the top WSL clubs), then she would not suddenly be out of her depth. Rather based on past evidence it’s likely she would find a new level, playing to the standard of those around her and adapting to the coach’s style of play.

England Manager, Sarina Wiegman, already knows how Lucy Bronze or Millie Bright will play when surrounded by the best players, because she, like the rest of us, can watch this week-in, week-out at club level. As such including Ash in an England training camp, and getting an opportunity to see her play in friendly games, as part of the squad (and to include other players who, like Ash, play club football in less stacked teams), will provide more additional information than watching players we already know can combine with top players.

Above: Ashleigh Neville pictured after scoring for Spurs. Photo: @SpursWomen.

I should make clear that I do not know that Neville would smash it if selected. She may not. Nor am I saying she should start every game. There may be better players or players whose style is more suited to particular games. What I am saying is that without a call-up we’ll never know whether she could translate a widely heralded club season into an England career. Nor, whether her astonishing tackling abilities, on-the ball confidence and pin-point crosses, might bring something extra.

The current England squad are all at Top Four clubs

In the most recent England squad, every outfield player plays their club football at one of the top four WSL teams (Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, or Manchester United) with the only exceptions being Rachel Daly, who plays in the US with the Houston Dash and Jill Scott, who until the end of this season, was on Manchester City’s books but, since January, has been on loan at Aston Villa. This dependence on the Top Four for outfield players has persisted across every England training camp and squad this year, although goalkeeping selection extends a little wider, with the most recent third and fourth choice keepers playing for Aston Villa and Everton.

Just for the sake of comparison, the current men’s England squad includes outfield players from 11 Premier League teams (plus one Bundesliga team), with goalkeepers drawn from another two teams.

There are, of course, good footballing reasons to rely on players from the top teams. You get a core of players who are used to playing with one another at club level. It might also be argued that the clubs that these players come from play on the front foot, in the way that Sarina envisages for her England team. And of course, as a tournament approaches it is good to have a more settled team.

All of this is reasonable, and might even produce success. England have after all been playing well. Rebounding from a disappointing Olympics last summer (under interim manager, Riise) Wiegman’s team has dominated qualifying and friendly games against weaker opponents and, earlier this year, narrowly won a friendly tournament, The Arnold Clark Cup, against high-quality opposition (Germany, Spain, and Canada).

Above: England celebrating a goal at Northern Ireland in the World Cup Qualifiers. Photo: Girls On The Ball.

But even if this Top-Four strategy ‘works’, what talents are being missed that might take England up a level? And what does this kind of closed shop say to players who ply their trade outside of the Top Four? At the moment the message is clear: they will not be selected. While, conversely, players who do play at top teams may continue to find themselves on the team (or at least in the squad), irrespective of how many games they have started, or their current form. Given widespread commentary on the increasing competitiveness of the WSL this is a bad look.

And in this context omitting Nevile, after the year she’s had and the accolades she has received, matters. Because if she cannot get a look in, who will?  

The economics of it

We might ask whether selection for England really matters and if so, why?

First off, selection is important to players in cementing their reputation. Having the opportunity to play for your country is something many aspire to. I’m sure Ash does.

But in the women’s game, where remuneration is relatively low, even among the top tier, playing for your country can provide a substantial earnings boost.

Information about wages in the women’s game is largely kept under wraps (with data on who is on contract to England and how much individual players are paid by club or country hard to come by) so some of the following is speculative. But we know that since 2020 international appearance payments were equalised for men and women (at that point at about £2,000 per game), with additional bonuses for wins. From 2018 the FA provided central contracts to about 30 women, each worth about £30,000 per year.

For most women footballers, whose salaries continue to lag well behind their male counterparts, the amounts described here are not insignificant. Indeed, for many playing for England would effectively double their annual salary. Of course, players in the England squad are likely among the better paid in the WSL, but even at the top of the WSL salaries reportedly peak at around £200,000 to £300,000, so an England contract would minimally amount to a 10 percent bonus (more if England progress in a tournament and Winners’ Bonuses come into play).

And that’s before you get to the exposure and additional sponsorship deals that come with playing for England. During a home Euros in which the coverage is likely to reach new levels these might be especially significant.

So even while money is not typically the reason players want to represent England, within a context of relatively limited earning power, even among the elite, it is consequential.  

I’m guessing the economics also make it harder to release players who are already contracted to England where this negatively impacts their income. And it is not unreasonable that this produces a conservatism evident in a reluctance to drop current players and a reluctance to experiment. But it also means that not selecting new players is doubly harsh – hitting both their career and earnings.

When you combine the economics with the fact that the England squad is exclusively from Top Four clubs you also end up in a strange situation where the FA is essentially subsidising the richest and most dominant clubs in the league.

So, I’ll watch England play this summer: I’m lucky enough to have tickets to a bunch of games and, depending on how far England progress, might see quite a bit of them. When that happens I’m sure I’ll enjoy the many qualities of this squad, and there are many. And if it goes well I’ll undoubtedly get caught up in the emotion during games. But I also fear that I won’t feel a strong connection to this team with its Sven-era England men’s team vibes: lots of good players, but not representative of the wider range of clubs nor my football fandom.

Meanwhile, I’ll wait impatiently to see Ashleigh Neville play when she, Molly Barttip and every other English player not currently at a TopFour club, return to the field at the start of next season. 

Above: Ashleigh Neville (right) with Karrys Harrop. Photo: @SpursWomen.

Rachel Lara Cohen also writes for Spurs Women Blog where this article was originally published. The site can be accessed here:

Norfolk Wrap

Darrell Allen rounds up all the action from the women’s game in Norfolk over the past week (19/5/22).

Above: Fakenham Town lift the Norfolk Women & Girls League Cup. Photo: Darren Gilham.

The big games on Sunday in Norfolk were the Norfolk Women and Girls League Cup and Plate Finals.

A day that always celebrates the success of the Norfolk Women and Girls League this year was held at Youngs Park, the home of Aylsham Football Club, 14 miles north of Norwich city centre.

First up was the Plate Final at 10.30am with Division One high flyers Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers against champions of Division Two, Caister. Caister were missing a number of key players which made a very difficult task all the more harder.

Things didn’t get any easier for Sophie Gillett’s team when Shanice Sutton scored with her first touch inside the opening minute to give Dussindale the lead. Sutton hit a hat trick as she scored the rest of her tally either side of a Chelsea Brister strike which meant Sutton had the match ball and Dussindale had four before the interval.

The second half was similar one-way traffic although Dussindale did find an inform Laura Beevor in the Caister goal, but she couldn’t stop Brister from getting her brace and Dussindale’s fifth on 50 minutes. The final act came when Abi Nobbs scored from distance to secure a 6-0 win and the Plate win.

Caister have had a brilliant season in their first season as a club and won Division Two with a game to spare. Reaching this Plate Final was a sign of their outstanding progression in their first season. Caister play their final match of the season this Sunday away to University of East Anglia.

Above: Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers lift the Norfolk Women & Girls League Plate. Photo: Darren Gilham.

The lunchtime entertainment for the crowd at Youngs Park was the 12.30pm kick-off which saw Kirkley and Pakefield face Costessey Sports in the Sevens League Cup Final and Costessey Sports ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a goal from Sharnie Boast.

After the this match, it was back to 11-aside action as the top two in Norfolk Women and Girls League Division One, Fakenham Town and Mulbarton Belles went head to head at 2.30pm in the last game of a busy day of Cup finals.

Mulbarton have already been crowned champions of Division 1 having won 20 out of 20 so Fakenham Town knew the size of the task ahead although Mulbarton were without captain Rebekah Lake.

The game was goalless after 90 minutes and Mulbarton dominated chances and possession but found a very strong Fakenham defence in the way of everything they were trying to do.

Lucy Lincoln eventually found a way through for Mulbarton in extra time before Sophie Lubbock levelled in the second period of extra time for Fakenham to send the game to penalties.

All 10 penalties were scored in a fabulous exhibition of how to convert from 12 yards. However, when the sudden death phase was reached, Vicky McNorton fired over the crossbar for Mulbarton which gave Olivia Baker the chance to convert and she did to win the league cup for Fakenham Town.

Mulbarton have had a brilliant season and will be hoping to still add more silverware to their collection when they face Wymondham Town at Carrow Road on Wednesday 25th May in the Norfolk Women’s Cup Final. A game that will be covered by Impetus.

Above: Shanice Sutton – Dussindale & Hellesdon Rovers’ hat-trick hero in their Plate Final win over Caister. Photo: Darren Gilham.

Norfolk Women & Girls League Division One

On Wednesday night, Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers beat Thetford Town 4-0 at The Nest in their penultimate game of the season. Shanice Sutton, Tallulah Bell, Chelsea Brister, and Charlie Head were on target. The win means that they need just a point from their season finale on Sunday to leapfrog Fakenham Town and finish in second place.

Table From: FA Full-Time.

Norfolk Women & Girls League Division Two

On Sunday there were two games in the penultimate weekend of action. Shrublands won 2-0 away to Bulldogs thanks to goals from Lacey Andrews and Samantha Burgess to continue a solid fifth-place finish for the season.

In the day’s other game Freethorpe beat Horsford 4-2 thanks to a brace from Carys Christopher, Claire Garner, and an own goal.

The result sees Freethorpe leapfrog Horsford and finish the season in sixth place.  

Table From: FA Full-Time.

Mexican Wrap

With the semi-finals of the top flight of Mexican women’s football played over the past week, Impetus’ Jorge Ceron rounds up all the action (19/5/22).

Above: Charlyn Corral celebrates one of her goals for Pachuca. Photo: @Tuzosfemenil

In the still very young Mexican women’s soccer league, there are two teams that stand out for being the most successful, Tigres de la UANL with their four league titles and three runner-up finishes in the eight league tournaments, and the Rayadas del Monterey with two titles and three sub-championships.

These two teams along with Chivas de Guadalajara (winners of the first league in history) and Tuzas de Pachuca (runners-up in the first league in history) would be the protagonists of the prelude to the final of the Clausura 2022 Tournament.

Rayadas Monterrey (1) vs Pachuca Women (4)

The first leg was played at Hidalgo stadium in the capital of Hidalgo, Pachuca, a city where according to several historians the first soccer game was played in Mexico, a sport brought by the English miners. The favourites and champions Rayadas arrived to face a team with high morale after eliminating the Eagles of America.

The game ended 2-0 in favour of Pachuca, a score that put the champions against the wall, but the result was secondary. The important thing in this game was the pair of goals scored by Charlin Corral, both goals worthy of being in a museum!

Above: Pachuca celebrating Viridana Salazar’s goal that would give them the ticket to the final. Photo: @Tuzosfemenil

Corral has not been called up to the national team for a long time for reasons outside of soccer. Let’s hope for the good of the Mexican team to see her in July in the qualifiers for Australia / New Zealand 2023, since she brings a superlative level of play. The qualifying tournament of CONCACAF will provide for direct tickets to the World Cup with two nations getting a second chance in playoffs. The qualifying tournament will take place in Monterrey.

Back to the second leg of this semi. Monterrey needed to win by two goals to advance to the final and continue with the dream of bi-championship. In the first half, Monterrey tried but could not score until the 48th minute when Yamile Franco brought the game closer with a great goal. Rayadas went with everything and got a reward by obtaining a penalty. Captain Rebeca Bernal scored on 57 minutes. This tied it up on aggregate. However, in the next play, Viridiana Salazar silenced the stadium to put the visitors 3-2 ahead on aggregate. Rayadas went in search of the goal that would save them, but they could not get it anymore, the champions were eliminated.

Chivas Guadalajara (2) vs. UANL Tigres (3)

Above: Karol Bernal celebrates her goal that brought Chivas to life in the tie. Photo: @ChivasFemenil

This was the duel of the undefeated. Neither of these teams lost throughout the season. The UANL team arrived with only one loss in its last 63 games and looking for its 8th consecutive final. The first leg was played at the Universitario stadium in the state of Nuevo León. Tigres Femenil entered to a huge welcome.

Both teams were nervy. Chivas with a great defense, combined this with several shots as they tried to take the game to Guadalajara. But the goal did not come. It was not until the 62nd minute when the American Mia Fishel scored the first goal of the game for Tigres. The second goal came, the work of Uchenna Kanu who scored her 12th goal in Mexico in just 19 games, stats that have earned a call up for her country to play the African Cup of Nations in July, hosted by Morocco.

Tigres were not able to get a third, but even so, they took a very important advantage for the second leg in Guadalajara. It must be mentioned that in this game Lizbeth Ovalle, one of the most important players for Tigres, was injured. Casandra Montero from Chivas also left due to discomfort.

Above: Chivas fans celebrate their team’s incredible success. Photo: @ChivasFemenil

In the return game, Chivas needed something more than complicated. The visitors had played more than 100 games without losing by that amount. Tigres were just about to score the first, but a heavenly intervention by Angelica Torres prevented it, in the same way Carolina Jaramillo saved a shot on the line with her head.

A goal finally came two minutes before the break when Karol Bernal scored with a header and made the Chivas dream. It was her first career goal. The second half was nervy for both teams, if Chivas dedicated themselves to defending themselves in the first game, Tigres did the same this time. When it seemed that Tigres would reach its eighth consecutive final, with four minutes left, Kimberly Guzman scored the second for the hosts – a goal that gave them the pass to the final. Chivas eliminated the favourites Tigres.

The final will be Chivas vs. Pachuca. The games will be on Saturday at 3am UK time and on Tuesday at 2am in the UK.

Roar Announce New Base For A-League Women Side


Above: An artist impression of Brisbane Roar’s new A-League Women Centre of Excellence. Image supplied to Impetus by: Brisbane Roar.

Brisbane Roar’s elite new A-League Women’s and Academy home will soon become a reality after major work officially began on the $22 million Moreton Bay facility.

Head Coach Garrath McPherson, midfielder Hollie Palmer, and the club’s Vice-Chairman Chris Fong joined Moreton Bay Region mayor Peter Flannery in Brendale on Thursday to turn the first sod on the Women’s Centre of Excellence and Youth Academy.

The site will become one of the best women’s sports facilities in Australia once complete and a great new breeding ground for Queensland football talent.

“We’re thrilled to turn the sod today and bring us one step closer to this brilliant new base in Moreton Bay,” Mr Fong said.

Above: Brisbane Roar head coach Garrath McPherson speaking at today’s ceremony. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Brisbane Roar.

“The people of Moreton Bay are proud and passionate supporters of football and especially women’s football, so we can’t wait to bring our A-League Women’s program and our youth academy to this part of South East Queensland.

“This will be a huge advantage and benefit to our players, and it’s a big part of our strategic plan to not only reclaim our place at the top of the A-League Women’s competition but to grow the sport in Queensland.

“I’d like to thank the Moreton Bay Regional Council for delivering this amazing new facility and hope to have a long and successful partnership.”

Construction is set for completion in early 2023, in time for the FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil.

The Roar will benefit from three natural turf fields plus dedicated recovery spaces, a gym and training room, three changerooms, and a clubhouse incorporating coaching and administrative offices as well as spectator amenities.

Above: Brisbane Roar player Hollie Palmer at today’s ceremony. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Brisbane Roar.

Mayor Flannery said the deal between Moreton Bay Regional Council and the Roar would see hundreds, if not thousands, of aspiring young footballers take up the sport and emulate their heroes.

“Moreton Bay is positioning itself as an up and coming sports capital of Australia, especially for women, fresh after hosting the history-making 2022 NRLW Grand Final,” he said.

“Participation in women’s sport is skyrocketing and we want to be at the forefront of developing facilities that will help grow women’s sport locally and nationally.

“This $22 million investment comprises state of the art high-performance facilities for the Roar as well as brand new facilities to support the growth of our existing local clubs.

“The Roar facility will have the best modern features for a professional squad to be competitive like a high-performance gym, ice baths, coaches’ offices, and changerooms modelled on Manchester City club rooms, as well as architectural design features to make it a welcoming space to be in.”

NPL Victoria Women Round Seven Wrap

Kieran Yap provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Victoria NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other matches along with photos (18/5/22).

Above: Action from Heidelberg United (yellow) against Bulleen Lions. Photo: Gold Leaf Creative.


Heidelberg United 3-0 Bulleen Lions

Round Seven of Victoria’s NPLW provided a top-of-the-table clash. The league leaders Heidelberg and Bulleen faced off with the winner set to secure first place.

Bulleen welcomed back Alana Jancevski to the starting eleven. The promising centre forward has appeared off the bench previously and has the potential to score from anywhere. However, as she returns to fitness, Bulleen have clearly taken a cautious approach.

Above: Alana Jancevski returned to action for Bulleen Lions at Heidelberg United. Photo: Gold Leaf Creative.

It was not all good news for the Lions however, star playmaker Paige Zois was absent. In a game where space in midfield was paramount, the player who can create it out of nothing was badly missed.

Heidelberg had the early momentum. They controlled the midfield and moved the ball easily in transition from defence to attack.

Bulleen found most of their early space deep, but were forced into playing long quick passes. If they bypassed the Heidelberg defenders, the ball was easily mopped up by Melissa Maizels in goal.

Heidelberg United had three shots on target in the opening 30 minutes, and one of those ended up in the back of the net.

Keely Lockhart made the early breakthrough in the 27th minute. Heidelberg swiftly moved the ball along the left flank and Danielle Wise cut it inside to Lockhart who took one touch to skip around a defender and another to fire the home side into the lead from long range.

Above: Heidelberg United in possession against Bulleen Lions. Photo: Gold Leaf Creative.

Bulleen tried to respond quickly and earned a free-kick from the edge of the box. Jancevski’s shot was on target and potentially troublesome but Maizels got down low and saved comfortably.

Early in the second half, Heidelberg doubled their lead. Uncharacteristic hesitation in the Bulleen defence saw Grace Jale close in on goal. A slip by the Bulleen defender meant that the New Zealand striker could burst free and round the keeper to slot home in the 48th minute.

Lia Privitelli looked like Bulleen’s best chance of getting back into the game. She skipped into space and launched a shot that Maizels did well to save. It was looking like an individual moment would be the visitors’ best chance.

Privitelli had another chance soon after. Tiffany Eliadis threaded a wide pass into her path, but her shot at full pace went over the bar.

Grace Jale provided a moment of magic for Heidelberg, her brilliant backheel flick put Lockhart in space. The pass to Wise left her with only Shields to beat in goal. The carefully placed curling effort crashed off the crossbar.

Above: Western Australian youngster Bella Wallhead in action for Heidelberg United against Bulleen Lions. Photo: Gold Leaf Creative.

Privitelli created the best opening for her side when she cut between two Heidelberg defenders on the wing. Her cross found Eliadis unopposed, and directly in front of goal. Maizel’s somehow dove and got a strong hand to it, making one of the best saves of the year.

The match was sealed in the 88th minute. It was Wise and Jale again causing problems. Jale’s cross was cleared by Bulleen but not far enough. The ball was met at the edge of the penalty area by Wise who volleyed home with perfect technique.

It was a 3-0 win to Heidelberg and the reward was top place. Bulleen were below their best but can look forward to strengthening this season as Jancevski returns to full form. Remarkably, they still sit second and have yet to field a full strength team.

This week was all about Heidelberg though. They scored three and could have had more. Every time their defence was breached, Maizels was able to answer either comfortably or spectacularly. Up the other end, Jale was dominant. Bulleen’s defence had no answer to her mobility, strength, and pace.

Bulleen will get a chance to respond when they host South Melbourne. Heidelberg United are expected to continue their winning ways against Bayside United FC.

Teams: HEIDELBERG UNITED: Maizels, Georgio, Wallhead, Georgopoulos, Tiktikakis, Galea, Burrows (Diblasi), Wise, Roach (McDonald), Jale, Lockhart (Papalia).

Scorers: Lockhart 27′, Jale 48′, Wise 88′.

BULLEEN LIONS: Shields, O’Bryan (Dolzan), Natoli, Stott, Muldeary, Johnson (Rodger), Eliadis, Burn, Vlajnic, Privitelli, Jancevski (Little). 


Above: Calder United (white) in action against Alamein. Photo: Jack Dilks/171819

In other results, South Melbourne won for the first time this season against Box Hill United on the weekend. Goals from Akeisha Sandhu and Jenna Lawson ensured a 2-0 win to lift the club off the bottom of the table.  They followed that up with a 3-3 draw against the in-form FV Emerging side on Tuesday night.

Calder United continued their impressive form with a 2-0 win over Alamein after Stacey Papadopoulos and Harriet Withers found the net.

FV Emerging put four past Bayside United. Sarah Cain and Meave Brown each scored once. Anikda Dovaston registered a brace in an impressive performance.

Table From: NPLW Victoria.