It’s been an eventful time for the WSL since my last review, with a whole new structure announced; WSL 1 & 2 have reverted back to a winter season, designed to avoid the frankly ludicrous present fixture inconsistencies. On the field, Manchester City Women continue to set the pace at the top – Nick Cushing’s team have yet to lose, and have conceded just one goal in eight games. Hot on their heels are Chelsea (more on them below) and the ever-improving Arsenal Ladies.
Arguably, the biggest surprise thus far has been Birmingham, who have confounded many (myself included) by thriving after losing many key players, and, since my last piece, seeing Jade Moore and Jo Potter depart for Notts County. If there was a manager of the season award right now, it ought to go to Dave Parker. He has managed to develop massive talents in Charlie Wellings and Jess Carter, and attract some top overseas talent in the shape of ‘keeper Ann-Katrin Berger and Andrine Hegerberg. The Blues have continued to struggle to score goals, but their miserly back line more than makes up for this. Freda Ayisi is beginning to realise her potential up top, and the club’s prospects look decidedly rosy.
The same, however, cannot be said of Doncaster. No points, no wins, and the rather distasteful dismissal of Glen Harris has left The Belles rock bottom. A 4-0 hammering at fellow strugglers Sunderland has left new boss Emma Coates with a mammoth task to ensure top-flight football remains at The Keepmoat.
The Continental Cup quarter-finals have provided some mouth-watering ties to anticipate. At least one WSL 2sara side will make the semis, as Sheffield FC entertain London Bees – the latter producing the shock of the season in dismissing Chelsea on penalties.
Staying with WSL 2, Everton’s 3-0 victory over table-topping Yeovil has left the race for the two promotion spots to WSL 1 wide open. Jamie Sherwood’s Lady Glovers deserve huge kudos for leading the league, and Sherwood would be another candidate for my manager of the season. Meanwhile, second-placed Bristol City Women have been dealt another injury blow with a second dislocated shoulder for Chelsea loanee Millie Farrow. The Vixens still have to play Everton twice, whilst Durham are very much part of the promotion argument. The good news is that WSL 2 is a far more competitive league, with any side – as London Bees have proved – capable of beating more ‘illustrious’ opposition.
WSL Match of the Week:
The key game of the last round of WSL 1 fixtures saw Emma Hayes’ Chelsea side entertain Pedro Martinez Losa’s Arsenal at Wheatsheaf Park. A high quality encounter saw the Lady Gunners emerge with a 2-1 victory, denying Chelsea top spot. The most bizarre of own goals from Alex Scott – passing back to and past Arsenal keeper Sari van Veenendaal – gave Chelsea a 10th minute advantage. The key moment was the failure of the referee to award what appeared to be a stonewall Chelsea penalty after Gemma Davison was tripped in the box. Blues boss Hayes’ post-match comments are not repeatable here, but she was convinced that decision changed the game.
In truth, Chelsea were let down by some truly awful finishing; Drew Spence shot straight at van Veenendaal when clean through, and, later, Claire Rafferty fluffed her lines from four yards.
Arsenal seem to have Chelsea’s number right now (after beating them in the Cup Final), and Vicky Losada’s near post flick, right on half time, levelled an enthralling contest. As Chelsea poured forward in the second stanza, Arsenal picked them off on the break; Natalia’s through ball found Danielle van de Donk to round Hedvig Lindahl to squeeze in the winner seven minutes from time. A big crowd and a fine contest showcased everything good about the women’s game, though the quality of officiating surely has to improve.
That, as they say, is another debate. Until next time…