The women’s FA Cup is back for the fifth round of the competition, featuring teams from the top of WSL 1 to the third and fourth tiers of women’s league football. With just one all-WSL 1 clash, between last year’s finalists Manchester City and Birmingham City, Nancy Frostick looks at the teams from lower down the women’s footballing pyramid who are in with a shot at a place in the quarter-finals.
The draw has thrown up some interesting contests for clubs outside the Women’s Super League, with at least one Women’s Premier League club guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals.
Women’s Premier League sides flying high
In what already looks to be the most intriguing ties of the round, Cardiff City will host Charlton in an all-WPL clash. The two teams will enter the match in high spirits, with former FA Cup champions Charlton topping the WPL South table and Cardiff still celebrating their fourth-round giantkilling, where they knocked WSL 2’s Oxford United out on penalties.
Chichester City and Lewes will have to take on Merseyside’s WSL 1 clubs as they face Liverpool and Everton, respectively. Lewes have made headlines this year for their policy of equal pay for male and female players, which is paying off on the pitch as they currently sit above bigger clubs like West Ham and QPR in the WPL South table.
WSL 2 outfit Durham will host Leicester City, who advanced to this stage courtesy of a 3-2 victory over Plymouth Argyle – previously the lowest ranked team in the competition in the fourth round.
While a victory for any of these teams against WSL clubs would be an upset, the possibility of seeing a great run would be a good spectacle. The men’s equivalent of the competition has built on the new branding of the ‘the magic of the cup’, so at a time when the FA is rebranding women’s football it could be beneficial for the competition to buy into that idea.
All WSL clashes
The other half of the draw features the remainder of the teams left in the competition, all of which come from the WSL. Having entered the competition in the fourth round, most of the sides from the top two tiers have only just started their cup journey.
The fixture between 2015 winners Chelsea and six-time champions Doncaster Rovers Belles will be a measure of how well, if at all, the gap between the two leagues has closed in the last year. Blues defender Millie Bright will play her old club who, flying high in the league under new manager Neil Redfearn, will want to protect their impressive reputation in the cup.
Hot on Doncaster’s heels in WSL 2 are Millwall Lionesses, who will face off against London rivals Arsenal. The Lionesses will enter the game as underdogs but should take confidence from the manner in which they have quietly gone about their business and maintained an impressive run in the league. Arsenal, meanwhile, will be after some much-needed silverware under new manager Joe Montemurro.
Sunderland will host Aston Villa as they look to advance to the next round and this could be the closest of the all-WSL fixtures. Although the WSL 1 outfit will be favourites, Villa could just pull off a cup upset if they turn up on the day.
No doubt the biggest match of the round, last year’s finalists Birmingham City and Manchester City meet again in a cup competition. These two teams just cannot seem to avoid each other when it comes to knockout competitions and Birmingham will want to inflict some revenge for their past defeats.
While Marc Skinner’s side have finally picked up some points in the league after a rough patch of form, the Nick Cushing success train has been full steam ahead in Manchester. Realistically this tie should be all aboard, destination quarter-finals for the league leaders unless Birmingham can pull something special out of the bag.
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