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Stoke City have reached their first major Cup Final after winning 2-0 away to Milton Keynes Dons in the semi finals of the FAWNL League Cup on Sunday.
We talked to Stoke midfielder Ali Hall, who was understandably delighted with the result and set her sights on challenging for a top three places as well as the forthcoming League Cup Final:
WSS: Many congratulations on the semi final win, how does it feel for you and everyone at the club to have reached its first major final?
AH: Thank you, it feels incredible to have reached the final, it means so much to all of us at the club and it is a result of all the hard work that has been put in this season by everyone. Reaching the semi final made history for Stoke City Women but the final is an even bigger milestone for us and one that we will take pride in being a part of.
WSS: You went into the game as warm favourites, was there any concern that complacency might have crept in beforehand?
AH: Not at all, we knew MK Dons would be very organised and they also had the home advantage at an unbelievable stadium which all players at this level aspire to play at. We prepared very well, as we always do, and were ready for a tough game.
WSS: The two goals came in a six minute spell around the hour mark, did you feel comfortable from that point?
AH: We controlled possession for most of the game, however we knew we needed a goal to feel more comfortable. More so in the second half, we settled into our stride and created opportunities which led to our two goals. From then on, we definitely felt more comfortable, but we knew it was important to stay composed and try to control the remainder of the match.
WSS: Now you have a big day ahead against another team in red and white stripes in the final, as you will play either Sunderland or Southampton who meet this week. What are your thoughts on potentially facing either side?
AH: We cannot wait for the final regardless of who we are facing, but we know either side will be very challenging. Sunderland are a talented team who we know well, they are a good footballing side who have excelled so far this season. Southampton seem to be going from strength to strength and have achieved great results against many teams in the leagues above them. We truly believe we can beat either team and either match-up will be a fantastic contest.
WSS: Because of the weather, you have more or less been playing every two weeks and in different competitions all the time, has it been tough for the team to find any kind of consistency or momentum?
AH: It is always difficult when matches are called off due to the weather, which makes it hard sometimes to build momentum. However, we prepare for these circumstances every year and importantly, we always continue to train at a very high intensity to be physically and mentally ready for the next match.
WSS: It's your first home league game for over three months on Sunday...you're up against Huddersfield who you have met in both cups recently and both have been close games, are you expecting the same again this week?
AH: Firstly, we're so excited to be playing at home again and look forward to seeing our home supporters. We have already played Huddersfield three times this season, every game has been challenging and we definitely expect another close game. We came out on top in the most recent League Cup quarter final against them and we hope to do the same again in the league match this weekend on our turf.
WSS: As things stand, you still have half the season to play and are only four points off second. How confident are you that you can push for at least a top three place?
AH: One thing I love about this league is that it is incredibly competitive from top to bottom and anything can happen. Our recent results have been excellent and we have built momentum which I believe we will take forward into the rest of the season. We will continue to push on and win as many games as possible to climb the table and I am very confident we will finish within the top three.
WSS: Now the club has made the breakthrough and got to its first major final, do you think that this can be a launch pad for bigger things in the future?
AH: Yes, 100%. Reaching our first major final is a huge achievement for all involved with the club and has shown exactly what we can do as a collective. This is just the start for us and the club has a massively talented group of players, coaches and staff who will continue to grow and show great intent for the future.
Our thanks to Alison!
Stoke City have reached their first major Cup Final after winning 2-0 away to Milton Keynes Dons. The first half of the semi final at Stadium MK was goalless but goals either side of the hour mark, from Abby Hunt and Hollie Gibson, gave Stoke a historic victory.
The other semi final between Sunderland and Southampton FC is set to take place this coming Sunday.
Northern Premier Division
On Thursday night, Sunderland returned to league action with 6-1 victory against Middlesbrough. Bridget Galloway led the scoring with a hat-trick whilst Keira Ramshaw - on the occasion of her 200th appearance for the club - Georgia Gibson and Katie Barker added the others, with Emily Scarr replying.
Derby County remain six points behind Sunderland in second place after winning 2-0 away to Loughborough Foxes. Jodie Michalska put the Ewe Rams in front in the opening minute and Hannah Keryakoplis wrapped up the win with the second, after the break.
Division One North
Brighouse Town kept their title challenge on course with a 1-0 win away to Chorley on Sunday. Aimi Beresford scored the only goal of the game to leave her side ten points off the pace, but with two games in hand. Brighouse were due to meet leaders Barnsley in midweek but the match was postponed.
The rest of the action in the division took place during the week, including Leeds Utd narrowing the gap on Barnsley to two points after beating Bradford City 6-0. Rebecca Hunt scored twice along with Bridie Hannon, Olivia Smart, Millie Kenyon and Holly Orr to stretch Leeds' unbeaten run to seven matches.
Durham Cestria and Newcastle Utd remain in fifth and sixth respectively but the gap between the teams has increased to five points as their meeting ended in a 1-0 win for the Wildcats, courtesy of a goal from Molly Holder.
Chorley meanwhile bounced back from defeat on Sunday to beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 and the result has lifted them out of the bottom two. Megan Searson and an own goal gave Chorley three valuable points, Safron Newhouse replying.
Division One Midlands
Solihull Moors gave their hopes of climbing out of the bottom two places a shot in the arm as they defeated Long Eaton Utd 3-0. Eboni Fowkes, Kathryn Pagan and Lois Jefferies all scored first half goals to hand Solihull only their second league victory of the season.
On Wednesday night, Wolverhampton Wanderers further extended their lead at the top to thirteen points with a 5-1 victory over The New Saints. Jamilla Palmer netted twice along with Lowri Walker, Natalie Widdal and Anna Morphet as Wolves avenged their defeat to TNS earlier in the season, Kim Bebbington scoring the visitors' consolation.
Doncaster Rovers Belles made it three wins on the trot when they beat Long Eaton Utd 3-1 and this has taken them into a mid-table position. Nadia Khan gave the Belles a two-goal lead in the first half, with Chloe Bethell adding the third after the break.
Leicester Utd produced a fine 3-2 win away to Lincoln City to also move closer towards safety. Lauren Bartle netted twice for Leicester and Chantelle Robinson was also on target, whilst the home side's replies came from Amy Kay and Jeorgia Carr.
The Solihull Moors revival continued with a second victory in four days, this time beating Leafield Athletic 4-1 to narrow the gap between the teams to four points. Kathryn Pagan netted a goal in each half and she was joined on the scoresheet by Marianna Redmond-Lyon and Lois Jefferies.
On Thursday night, second took on third and produced a thriller of a match as Birmingham & West Midlands Ladies and Bedworth Utd battled out a 4-4 draw which leaves both teams still level on points in the table.
Division One South East
No matches were played in the division on Sunday but in midweek, Ipswich Town recovered from their Women's FA Cup defeat to Manchester City three days earlier to record a ten-goal victory of their own against Norwich City. Eloise King led the scoring with a hat-trick, Lucy Egan and Natasha Thomas each netted twice and there was one apiece from Anna Grey, Zoe Cossey and Sophie Peskett.
AFC Wimbledon kept themselves one point behind leaders Ipswich with a 2-0 success over Actonians Ladies, given to them by two goals from Katie Stanley in the opening seven minutes.
AFC Basildon and Billericay Town had met in the semi finals of the Essex County Cup on Sunday with Basildon triumphing on that occasion, and they repeated that victory in the league in midweek, winning 4-1 to lift themselves above Billericay and into third. Kelly Wealthall bagged a brace for Basildon and she was joined on the scoresheet by Poppy Binding and Courtney Clarke.
Division One South West
Leaders Southampton FC played a league game for only the second time in three months on Sunday, but kept themselves two points clear at the top as they scored six times without reply away to Exeter City. Shannon Albuery and Ella Pusey put the Saints two goals ahead at half time and Albuery went on to complete a hat-trick after the break, with Rachel Panting and Shannon Sievwright also getting on the scoresheet.
Southampton Women made sure of keeping up the chase in second place, thanks to a 3-1 victory at Swindon Town. Helena Diaz-Butcher gave Swindon a first half lead but the turning point came just before half time when Emily Wernham scored an equaliser, Southampton going on to take the points via a second half brace from substitute Erin Bloomfield.
On Wednesday night, Exeter City bounced back from their defeat of the weekend to win 5-2 away to Buckland Athletic and move themselves into third place. Connie Pengelly, Sophie Gillies, Abbie Britton and Ella-Mae Miller were all on target for Exeter along with an own goal, whilst Buckland replied through late strikes from Leah Brooks and Sarah Stacey.
The revised draw for the quarter finals of the Women's FA Cup is as follows:
Crystal Palace or Brighton & Hove Albion v Birmingham City
Everton v Chelsea
Arsenal or Lewes v Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v Manchester City
to be played on Sunday 15th March
The weather intervened in the Women's FA Cup over the weekend with three of the five scheduled ties on Sunday being postponed.
One of those three games was re-arranged for Thursday night and produced one of the biggest shocks of the tournament this season as Leicester City defeated Reading FC Women 2-1 after extra time. Reading took the lead on the stroke of half time when Maz Pacheco scored from the penalty spot but after the break, Leicester hit back and with eleven minutes remaining, drew level when Paige Bailey-Gayle fired home a shot from 25 yards. This took the match into extra time and, with the game just five minutes away from a penalty shootout, Bailey-Gayle struck again with another shot from the edge of the area which hit the underside of the bat and bounced over the line. There was not enough time for Reading to recover and Leicester became the first Championship side into the last eight.
Amongst the games which did go ahead on Sunday was the tie between holders Manchester City and Ipswich Town, the last remaining Tier 4 side in the competition. The Tractor Girls remained on terms for the opening nineteen minutes but goals in quick succession from Laura Coombs, Pauline Bremer and Jess Park ensured that City were three ahead at half time. After the break, City continued to dominate against a valiant Ipswich side with Georgia Stanway hitting a hat-trick, whilst Bremer and Park both completed their own personal trebles to wrap up a 10-0 victory for City.
The other match to go ahead on Sunday was in the north east, where Sunderland played host to Birmingham City. In a game played in a strong wind, the Blues had the better of the first half but Sunderland came more into if after the break but neither side could make a breakthrough. Five minutes from time, with extra time looming, the deadlock was broken when Lucy Staniforth scored against her old club from a free kick. The England international was actually red carded before play could resume and Birmingham needed to negotiate eight minutes of injury time before they could finally celebrate a 1-0 win.
Three games were played on Monday evening, including at Ashton Gate where Everton ran out 5-0 winners away to Bristol City. The home side were without a number of players but Everton produced a stylish performance, Lucy Graham giving them an early lead against her old club and Esme Morgan quickly adding a second. Graham headed in from a corner to leave her side three ahead at half time. In the second half, Inessa Kaagman poked in the fourth after being set up by Hannah Cain who then completed the scoring with an acrobatic volley from a Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah cross.
Chelsea played host to Liverpool at Kingsmeadow and booked their place in the last eight with a 1-0 victory. Chelsea started the game strongly and were rewarded midway through the first half when Guro Reiten volleyed in from Sophie Ingle's flick. The Blues could not add to this strike but it was enough to take them through, whilst Liverpool went down to a defeat by the odd goal once again (see match report).
Tottenham Hotspur meanwhile equalled their best run in the competition to date when they won 5-0 at Coventry Utd. Siri Worm gave Spurs the lead with a shot from distance and Rianna Dean made it two from the penalty spot after being brought down in the area by Hayley Crackle. Dean then scored a second penalty on the stroke of half time following a foul on Angela Addison. Coventry continued to battle hard after the break but could not find a way back into the game and Lucia Leon made it four with twelve minutes remaining, before Dean headed in from a Lucy Quinn cross to complete her hat-trick.
Two games still remain; Arsenal will be at home to Lewes on Sunday whilst Crystal Palace take on Brighton & Hove Albion next Tuesday night.
Connah's Quay Nomads produced a huge upset when they beat Port Talbot Town 2-1 to reach the semi finals of the FAW Women's Cup at the first attempt.
The North Wales Women's League side's victory was all the more impressive after having gone a goal down to their Orchard Welsh Premier Women's League opponents during the first half.
Lauren Amor slotted home from the penalty spot to put Port Talbot in front but the Nomads got themselves back on level terms just before half time through a well taken goal from Candice Nellist. Rebecca Bannister then put Connah's Quay ahead for the first time, early in the second half, and the Nomads stood firm under increasing Port Talbot pressure as the match wore on - with goalkeeper Rhonwen Wilde in outstanding form - to record a historic victory and reach the last four in only the eleventh competitive match in the team's history.
The draw for the semi finals has paired Sara Hilton's side with WPWL leaders Swansea City, who booked their place with a win against Bethel Ladies last week.
The other two quarter final tie were postponed for a second time but one of them was played on Wednesday night and it saw holders Cardiff Met Women bow out of the competition after they were beaten 3-1 by Cardiff City Women.
The Bluebirds got off to a flying start with Kate Jeremiah giving them an early lead and Zoe Atkins adding the second five minutes later. Alana Murphy completed a great first half for City when she put them three ahead from the penalty spot, two minutes before the interval. Erin Murray pulled a goal back for the Archers late on but they could not prevent City from taking their place in the last four where they will play either Llandudno Ladies or Abergavenny Women, who will make a third attempt to play their quarter final tie this weekend. Both semi finals will be played at neutral venues.
Chelsea 1 Liverpool 0
Chelsea have an away Women's FA Cup quarter final tie with Everton after beating fellow Merseysiders Liverpool with a single Guro Reiten goal on 26 minutes in their delayed Fifth Round tie at Kingsmeadow on Monday evening.
Chelsea found Liverpool a hard nut to crack as they had done in their away WSL match a few weeks ago. The Reds were well organised defensively with highly experienced centre back pairing Sophie Bradley-Auckland and Niamh Fahey dominating the aerial duels and chances were few and far apart for the Blues.
As so often, Erin Cuthbert offered the most creative outlet for Chelsea but it was Ji So-Yun who forced a good save from visiting keeper Anke Preuss on 19 minutes.
Reiten had an effort cleared off the line but, soon after, scored with a sweet left foot volley after a cross from the right was flicked on by Sophie Ingle.
Maren Mjelde nearly doubled the lead with an effort just over from the edge of the area but Liverpool went to the break with just a single goal deficit.
Preuss produced a fine save to deny Cuthbert after a sharp turn and crisp drive towards the bottom right corner. A flurry of substitutions included the return of Australian star Sam Kerr from Matildas duty but Liverpool continued to defend sturdily.
Finally, on 81 minutes, home keeper Ann-Katrin Berger was called into action, diving to hold a Niamh Charles shot, but this was the Reds only meaningful attempt on goal in the entire match.
Chelsea continue to be involved in four competitions as the season reaches the crucial last three months, starting with a WSL crunch match against Manchester City on Sunday whilst Liverpool will resume their battle for survival with a trip to West Ham United.
Chelsea: Ann-Katrin Berger, Hannah Blundell, Millie Bright, Sophie Ingle, Beth England, Ji So-Yun, Guro Reiten, Magdalena Eriksson, Maren Mjelde, Erin Cuthbert, Jonna Andersson. Subs: Carly Telford, Maria Thorisdottir, Jess Carter, Adelina Engman, Drew Spence, Ramona Bachmann, Sam Kerr.
Liverpool: Anke Preuss, Rebecca Jane, Sophie Bradley-Auckland, Niamh Fahey, Jemma Purfield, Jade Bailey, Rachel Furness, Kirsty Linnett, Melissa Lawley, Niamh Charles, Ashley Hodson. Subs: Rylee Foster, Leighanne Robe, Jess Clarke, Christie Murray, Amy Rodgers.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photo - Niamh Fahey about to challenge goalscorer Guro Reiten
England head coach Phil Neville has injected youth into his squad for the forthcoming SheBelieves Cup as the Lionesses look to retain their title as Champions.
They will face 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup winners USA, Japan and Spain in the four-team round-robin tournament between 5 - 11 March.
Six of Neville's 23-player squad competed for England at the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2018. The inclusion of so many youngsters is an indication of a stepchange in the focus and direction of the England senior set-up with the aim firmly on developing a squad ready to win at EURO2021 in just over 500 days' time.
Grace Fisk receives her first senior call up after impressing Phil Neville at her SEC side South Carolina Gamecocks before earning herself a move to Barclays FAWSL club, West Ham United. Fisk has made 30 appearances for England at youth level and captained the bronze medal winning 2018 FIFA U20 World Cup squad.
Birmingham City's young goalkeeper Hannah Hampton and US-based striker Alessia Russo, who plays for North Carolina Tar Heels, will also join the squad for training sessions in the US as part of their ongoing development.
Head coach Phil Neville said: "This is an exciting moment for the England Women's team. With eight of our squad under the age of 23 - and six of them having competed in the WU20 FIFA World Cup - we are focusing on developing the incredible young talent we have in the women's game with a keen eye on EURO2021 in 16 months' time.
"All of the young players who have been given their opportunity today have earned their places on merit, based on exceptional form and performances at club level as well as for England's development teams, and I am delighted to be giving them all the opportunity they rightly deserve."
The Lionesses begin the SheBelieves tournament in Orlando against hosts and FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 Champions USA at the Exploria Stadium on Thursday 5 March (kick off 7.00pm local time, Friday 6 March 0.00am UK).
The squad then travel to Harrison, New Jersey to take on Japan at the Red Bull Arena on Sunday 8 March (kick off 2.15pm local time, 6.15pm UK), before finishing off against tournament newcomers Spain at the Toyota Stadium, Frisco on Wednesday 11 March (kick off 4.15pm local time, 9.15pm UK). All three fixtures will be broadcast live on the BBC.
Shelley Kerr has announced her squad for the first three matches of the decade for the Scotland Women's National Team.
Kerr has named uncapped Martha Thomas from West Ham United who has previously trained with Scotland but has yet to play for her country. Emma Mitchell returns to the squad having signed on loan to Tottenham Hotspur and scoring a memorable long range effort for her new club last week.
In midfield, Sam Kerr will jet out to Spain and look to pick up her first cap for her country.
The matches in Spain will act as preparation for three home qualifiers, against Portugal, Albania and Finland with the games taking place in Edinburgh.
Scotland have started their EURO 2021 campaign in blistering fashion, comfortably beating Cyprus and Albania in their opening two games.
Kerr's side will return to Pinatar after competing there last year, beating Brazil and drawing with Chile.
Scotland open up their matches against Ukraine on Wednesday 4th March (6pm) and then take on Iceland three days later, before finishing up by playing Northern Ireland on Tuesday 10th March (7.30pm).
All of Scotland's matches will be televised live on BBC ALBA.
Mole Valley Girls 1 Crystal Palace Development 4
One Crystal Palace team managed to defy Storm Dennis and achieve Cup success as the club's Greater London League Division One Development team reached the semi finals of the Capital Intermediate Cup with a victory over Mole Valley at Surrey FA Headquarters, Meadowbank in Dorking.
A later kick off saw conditions improve just enough for a lively, well contested match between two very successful clubs. Palace were always dangerous in attack but had to absorb a lot of pressure from the home team which they did very impressively to run out winners by four goals to one in a match which far more even than the final score suggests.
An early goal by Rosa Timms for Palace was soon cancelled out by a fine finish by Ella Bale on 14 minutes. Palace continued to create chances with a Tia Searle shot well saved by Christine Ross and Elisabeth Heyndrickx heading wide from the resulting corner.
A dangerous cross by Timms led to Palace's second with a defender scoring an own goal on 26 minutes. The third Palace goal on 31 minutes was direct from a left side corner by Eleanor Hutchins who nearly added a fourth only to be denied by a good save.
Mole Valley had plenty of good moments themselves with Samantha Wells denied by a good save from Saskia Reeves-Priestley whilst Bale fired inches over right on half time.
A super solo run and finish by Ella Johnson, driving right through the middle past two challenges before scoring from ten yards, seemed to have put Palace out of sight but Valley were far from finished. A Wells free kick came back off the bar, Bale had a shot well held by Reeves-Priestley and finally the keeper tipped another strong effort on to the bar and away to safety in additional time.
Palace themselves had further chances late on but there was no further addition to the score with the visitors progressing to the last four of the Capital Intermediate Cup after a good contest in testing conditions which had seen other 4G pitches in the area become unplayable.
Mole Valley Girls: Christine Ross, Hannah Thomas, Tanya Dady, Lily Turner, Samantha Wells, Jasmine Baker, Jessica Downes-Evans, Xayla-Rae Alberts, Sarah Chapman, Ishbel Zuurmond, Ella Bale. Subs: Charlotte Blunt, Leila Ayimba-Golding, Amber Clipperson, Ally Greig, Olivia Stuart.
Crystal Palace Development: Saskia Reeves-Priestley, Tayla Lock, Morgan Searle, Marlena Ballia, Stefania Paci, Maisy Wyer, Rosa Timms, Eleanor Hutchings, Tia Searle, Elisabeth Heyndrickx, Ella Johnson. Subs: Tally Rivens, Alice Wood, Kadelia Wilkins, Lauren Singleton.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Elisabeth Heyndrickx takes possession under pressure from Lily Turner
(middle) Elle Johnson takes on Tanya Dady
(bottom) Lily Turner tries to win the ball from Elisabeth Heyndrickx
East Midlands League
Northampton Town moved up into fifth place when they defeated Woodlands Ladies 5-0 in the only match to be played in the Premier Division. Alex Bartlett gave them the lead just before the interval and in the second half, Francesca Partridge was on target twice along with Abbie Brewin and Maisie Jones.
An important match was played in Division One South as two of the main title challengers, Ilkeston Town and Notts County Women, battled out a 3-3 draw. Georgina Williams netted twice and Jade Eaglefield the other for Ilkeston, with County scoring through Nya Chambers, Jessica Drage and Lashea Francis.
South West League
Portishead Town's hopes of a League and Cup double were brought to an end as they were beaten 1-0 by Callington Town in the quarter finals of the Pat Sowden Cup. Callington were actually playing their first match for ten weeks but returned with a notable win, Chloe Williams scoring the only goal of the game.
The other action in the league took place in the Northern Division, where AEK Boco ran out 4-1 winners against Weston-super-Mare. Shania Powell netted twice for Boco, with Sasha Ferris and Jasmine Brewin adding the others to put a gap of six points between the two teams, whilst Weston's consolation came from Jasmine Baker.
Southern Region League
One match managed to survive the weather on Sunday, the promotion battle between Eastleigh and Abbey Rangers in Division One. The match ended in a 3-3 draw, leaving Abbey still three points above Eastleigh in the table but having played two games more. Samantha Hide, Catherine Browning and Keeley Fitzgerald were all on target for Eastleigh, with Abbey replying through a Laura Hobbs double and Megan McGarvey.
West Midlands League
It was a similar story in the West Midlands League on Sunday where there was also only one result. In Division One South, Chloe Debaes netted twice and Andie Coupland the other as Rugby Town consolidated themselves in mid-table by winning 3-1 away to Coventry City.
The second week of group matches in the SWPL Cup fared a little better than the one before with five matches managing to beat the weather, although nothing was played in Group D.
A full complement of matches was played in Group A for the second week running and it is Spartans who continue to lead the way following their 3-2 win away to Glasgow Women. The Edinburgh side made a strong start to the game with Rebecca Galbraith netting twice inside the opening thirteen minutes but Glasgow hit back and a Cara Henderson double brought them level by half time. After the break, Galbraith headed in from a corner to complete her hat-trick and give Spartans a second straight victory.
Celtic meanwhile kick started their campaign by scoring six times without reply past St Johnstone. Summer Green gave them a second minute lead, with an own goal doubling their advantage ahead of half time. In the second half, Sarah Ewens hit a hat-trick and Rachel Donaldson also got on the scoresheet to round off a good result for the Hoops ahead of their league opener.
Group B got underway for the first time and Hamilton Academical opened up with a 6-1 victory over newly promoted Queen's Park. Amy Anderson netted twice and there was one apiece from Georgie McTear, Ellie Kane, Amy Anderson and MT Gardiner, whilst Ashley McKeown scored a consolation goal for the Spiders.
The performance of the day came in Group C where Aberdeen, on their return to SWPL football, defeated top flight newcomers Heart of Midlothian 2-1. Lauren Gordon gave the Dons a first half lead which was cancelled out after the break by Aisha Maughan, but Eilidh Shore headed in the winning goal for Aberdeen with fifteen minutes remaining.
It is Stirling University who are the early group leaders though, following their 4-2 win away to Boroughmuir Thistle. Naomi Welch was on target twice for Stirling, along with Sam Gallagher and Bethany Kerr.
Blackburn Rovers have moved into second place in North Division One, a single point off the pace, following a thirteen-goal blast against Bradford City. Carra Jones and Ria Montgomery led the spree as they netted five times apiece, whilst Rebecca Beresford contributed a brace and Isabel Pacitto was also on target.
With Leeds Utd U21 not having a game, Sheffield FC took the opportunity to replace them at the top of North Division Two as they won 4-3 away to Burnley FC Women. This did not tell the whole story however as Sheffield came from 3-1 down at half time to take the points thanks to goals from Charlotte Bennehan, Adele Hill, Natasha Wood and Leah Hardy, after the Clarets had led at the break through Grace Turner, Rianna Fennell and Naomi Greene. Hull City and Barnsley shared the spoils with a goalless draw, meaning that Stockport County are now in the top three following their 2-1 success at Liverpool Feds, which was given to them by Debbie Price and Jasmin Limb.
Sporting Khalsa continue to set the pace at the top of Midland Division Two, preserving their lead of five points by winning 4-2 against Crewe Alexandra in their top of the table clash. Julie Stirrup, Lauren Walker, Louise Price and Melody Lews all scored a goal apiece for Khalsa, with Amy McDermott and Asher Oddy replying. Wolverhampton Wanderers now head the chasing teams, moving themselves into second after beating Bedworth Utd 6-2. Nyah Edwards was on target twice for Wolves along with Anna Morphet, Chantelle Teare, Courtney Dilger and Chloe Shirley.
In the South East Division, Tottenham Hotspur moved up into second place after they defeated AFC Basildon 6-1. Elisha Soula led the scoring with a hat-trick and she was joined on the scoresheet by Ellie Butler, Rebecca Evans and Paige Pryor.
Last Sunday, Milton Keynes Dons went through to the semi finals of the FAWNL League Cup with a 2-0 victory against Chesham Utd.
We talked to MK Dons defender Louise Naylor, who was pleased with the team's recent upsurge in form, including the win at Chesham, and looked ahead to meeting Stoke City in the semi finals this week:
WSS: Well done on a good win on Sunday and reaching the semi finals of the League Cup, was it a tough game away to lower division opponents who you had met in another cup tie seven days earlier?
LN: Chesham are in our county, so we regularly get drawn against them in the County Cup. We know they are always a tough team to play and can cause a threat. Despite the result against them seven days earlier, that was at the back of our mind and we were solely focused on getting to the semi final in the League Cup.
WSS: Do you think it was important that the two goals came in quick succession, making it really difficult for Chesham from that point?
LN: Obviously the goals in quick succession were important but I felt we started to cause more of a threat in the second half, so was confident we would get the goals and the win regardless.
WSS: You did well in the Plate last season, what is it about the cups that brings the best out of you?
LN: Last year was us being able to enjoy our football without the pressures of survival in our first year in the third tier. We got to express our style of play more and take more risks in the cup ties. This year was all about achieving the same if not better. We know the league is tough, so having good cup runs allow you to refocus to spur us on into the league.
WSS: That makes it three wins on the trot - all in different competitions - has there been any factor behind your good form since the turn of the year?
LN: I can think of a few factors that may have played a part. The team spirit is definitely one factor but also we have a young squad and it sometimes takes time to find that consistency in performances. Before the Christmas break, we had a chance to reflect as players and management on our targets for the season, I think this has changed our approach slightly going into each game and we hope it continues.
WSS: The draw for the semi finals gave you a home tie with Stoke City, who you are due to meet this week. What are your thoughts on being paired with them?
LN: We are excited for the draw and especially being at home at the stadium. We don't know too much about Stoke City other than they have been doing well in the Northern Premier, but we are looking forward to the game.
WSS: You started the season really well but a run of narrow defeats meant you dropped down the table, do you feel the team is starting to hit its best form again now?
LN: I think we were inconsistent in many areas of our game in the first half of the season, despite getting some early good results. Our performances of late have been much improved and we now know where our strengths are and how to apply them to the game more often. We are learning from every game but I feel we are heading in the right direction.
WSS: All in all though, you are establishing yourselves at this level and play at a fantastic home ground, do you feel that the club is pushing in the right direction and can kick on in the future?
LN: Certainly, I have been here six seasons now and the support we get compared to when I joined is fantastic. We know we still have areas to improve on to be competing higher but this league is very competitive. I think the quality of players coming through from our RTC and the fact we do share our home ground with the men's team also speaks volumes in the club's future ambitions.
Our thanks to Louise!
Photo - Simon Gooderham
Ipswich Town are having an excellent season to date and on Sunday, they get the chance to take on Manchester City in the Fifth Round of the Women's FA Cup at the Academy Stadium.
The FAWNL Division One South East table toppers were paired against the Cup holders after an impressive run in the competition, which has seen them eliminate three teams from a higher level in Chichester City, Portsmouth and Huddersfield Town en route to the last sixteen.
Eva Hubbard has been a regular member of the Ipswich side throughout their impressive campaign and the defender told Women's Soccer Scene that the chance to take on their illustrious opponents will be the icing on the cake.
"We are all really excited for Sunday's game," she said. "It's going to be an amazing experience and we are all really looking forward to it. The mood is really positive and everyone is buzzing.
"At the start of the season our main goal was to get promoted, so to think we have got through six rounds of the FA cup to get where we are and are still on track for promotion is a great thing for the club.
"The league is our priority but having a good cup run is really good for the club and attracting new supporters, especially when playing against big names such as Manchester City."
For one Ipswich player, the tie will have extra significance. Blue Wilson will be up against her former club, having joined the Suffolk side last summer. "Blue, like everyone else is buzzing," added Eva. "She wanted us to get City so she is really excited about it."
Eva also insisted that their main preparations for the tie would be the same as any other. "We tend to do lots of preparation for most of our game's so this will be no different, we will watch clips of City and try to work out what the best way to beat them.
"It will be different to our other away games with an overnight stay the night before but this is a good chance for us all to catch up and relax before the big game the next day.
"City will obviously have lots of depth in their squad and will have the ability to potentially play lots of different players and a lot of their players have international caps and are experienced in the WSL so it will be a real challenge coming up against the likes of Steph Houghton and Ellen White. This means every single one of us will be tested, but it's a great experience for us all as the WSL is where we all want to be in a few years time.
"The majority of our team are also part of the Under-21 side where we play development teams of WSL clubs, and sometimes first team players are used against us, but to play a completely senior WSL side will be a new experience for all of us and I'm sure a highlight in all of our football careers so far!
"The FA Cup is an amazing competition for teams like us that don't usually play against the bigger sides, so for us, it's a great experience to add to our excellent league form. We are hoping to get as far as possible in the Cup because it adds a new side to the squad and can get lots of attraction and excitement from supporters.
"The game on Sunday is an exciting break from the league as we have put lots of time into our preparation - but the league still remains our priority and we will work just as hard when we go back to the league the following week!
Chelsea 2 Birmingham City 0
Chelsea maintained their pursuit of Barclays FA WSL leaders Manchester City with a 2-0 home win over Birmingham City, ahead of the top two clash in Manchester later in the month.
A determined display by the visitors ensured there was no repeat of the six-goal margin in the reverse fixture but Chelsea's dominance on the night was rarely threatened.
Birmingham did manage the first shot on goal by Rachel Williams - who was making her 100th FA WSL appearance against her former club - in the fifth minute and it took Chelsea twenty minutes to fashion a shot themselves, Erin Cuthbert firing in a 15-yard effort beaten away by keeper Hannah Hampton. Generally, however, Birmingham defended very efficiently from crosses and set pieces whilst looking for the occasional counter attack.
Abbi Grant instigated Birmingham's best move of the half on 37 minutes, crossing for Lucy Staniforth to fire just over with a fine first time shot on the run. Chelsea finally broke the deadlock right on 45 minutes when Jonna Andersson's cross from the left found Guro Reiten who made space to strike low past Hampton.
Drew Spence nearly added a second on 51 minutes when her shot from a half cleared corner drew a fine save from Hampton low to her left.
It was Beth England who doubled the advantage with her 13th of the season, bursting through the middle to latch onto a Cuthbert through ball and send a right foot finish beyond Hampton on 58 minutes.
Little was seen of Birmingham as an attacking threat in the second half but they continued to defend in depth, with skipper Kerys Harrop often getting in crucial blocks and interceptions. Substitute Ramona Bachmann brought some extra invention to the home attack and she set up England for a superb turn and shot which struck the inside of the post before flying across goal on 75 minutes.
Chelsea continued to press, with Hannah Blundell getting in good positions on two occasions without finding the target. Birmingham earned their first corner of the match in second half stoppage time but had never looked like reducing the deficit.
However, in the light of the result in their first meeting and Chelsea's eight-goal haul in their last home game, this result reflected a disciplined and hard working effort.
Birmingham are deep in a relegation fight but remain third bottom with Bristol City losing, whilst Chelsea remain a point behind leaders Manchester City but with a game in hand ahead of the summit meeting on 23rd February.
Chelsea: Carly Telford, Hannah Blundell, Millie Bright, Sophie Ingle, Beth England, Guro Reiten, Magdalena Eriksson, Maren Mjelde, Erin Cuthbert, Drew Spence, Jonna Andersson. Subs: Ramona Bachmann, Jess Carter, Maria Thorisdottir, Ann-Katrin Berger, Ji So-Yun, Deanna Cooper.
Birmingham City: Hannah Hampton, Sarah Mayling, Kerys Harrop, Chloe Arthur, Rachel Williams, Brianna Visalli, Abbi Grant, Adrienne Jordan, Georgia Brougham, Lucy Whipp, Lucy Staniforth. Subs: Emma Kelly, Claudia Walker, Alex Brooks, Harriet Scott, Connie Scofield, Rebecca Holloway.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Manchester City began life after Nick Cushing with their eleventh successive home victory in the league, a 1-0 victory over Bristol City which keeps them one point ahead at the top of the Barclays FA WSL.
With interim manager Alan Mahon in charge for the first time, the Cityzens went ahead with two minutes on the clock, a Caroline Weir free kick being volleyed home by Gemma Bonner. A second goal would not come though as the Vixens defended in resolute fashion to give themselves encouragement in their battle against relegation.
Chelsea remain a single point behind in second place after they defeated Birmingham City 2-0. Emma Hayes' side took the lead on the stroke of half time when Guro Reiten slotted home following a cross from Jonna Andersson and a tidy finish from the prolific Beth England just before the hour wrapped up the points for her side (see match report).
On Thursday night, Arsenal kept themselves in the running by winning 3-2 away to Liverpool. Rinsola Babajide gave the Reds a fourteenth minute lead, Arsenal hitting back with goals in a three minute spell from Vivianne Miedema and Jordan Nobbs. Rachel Furness levelled matters once again after the break but with twelve minutes remaining, Miedema netted her second to give the Gunners three valuable points.
Reading FC Women are up into fourth place following a 2-0 victory against West Ham Utd. Both sides exchanged chances in an even start to the game but it was the Royals who took the lead when Jade Moore headed home after Amalie Eikeland had flicked on a chip by Fara Williams. Reading netted their second just after the hour, Brooke Chaplen chasing down a long ball forward and holding off Grace Fisk before planting a shot into the corner of the net.
The mid-table clash between Tottenham Hotspur and Everton ended with honours even as the sides shared four goals. This does not tell the full story from an entertaining game though, as an end-to-end opening half hour ended with Chloe Kelly giving Everton the lead. The Toffees doubled their lead early in the second half, Inessa Kaagman firing home after being set up by Simone Magill. Angela Addison gave Spurs hope when she pulled one back with a neat header but their task was made harder when Rosella Ayane was red carded for retaliation. However from the resulting free kick, Emma Mitchell stepped up to fire in an unstoppable shot from 30 yards and salvage a point for her side.
Brighton & Hove Albion continue to edge closer towards mid-table and helped their cause with a 1-1 draw against Manchester Utd. With just 18 seconds on the clock, United were in front after a deflected cross from Lauren James went in the net via the post and Seagulls goalkeeper Megan Walsh. Brighton hit back just before half time, in-form striker Aileen Whelan rising highest to head home after Kayleigh Green had nodded on a Kirsty Barton cross.
UEFA and Disney have teamed up to develop a ground-breaking football programme that uses Disney's world-renowned storytelling to encourage more young girls to exercise regularly and kickstart a lifelong love of football.
Targeting 5-8 year-old girls not currently playing football, seven UEFA national associations including Scotland will be first to roll out "Playmakers" through schools, clubs and local communities. More associations are expected to introduce the programme later in the year.
Unlike traditional football programmes, each of Playmaker's ten initial training sessions follow the narrative of Disney and Pixar's billion dollar global box office smash hit, Incredibles 2.
Equipped with footballs, bibs and cones, trained coaches encourage participants to play the roles of popular characters, such as Elastigirl, Violet, Mr Incredible and Dash, bringing the film's action scenes to life through movement, teamwork and their imagination.
As Playmakers rolls out across Europe, new Disney storytelling will be added to the programme. In its early sessions, Playmakers focuses on building girls' confidence in their movement, encouraging creative thinking and communicating easily with their friends. Later sessions introduce girls to basic football skills, but the programme continues to put the emphasis on making sport fun.
Scottish FA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell said: "The growth of the girls' and women's game in Scotland is a key priority for the Scottish FA, so the opportunity to partner with a global brand like Disney to encourage girls to take up football is a tremendous boost.
"Our participation in the Playmakers programme will ensure that number continues to swell and will allow young girls the chance to be involved in football from a young age in a fun environment.
"This is a fantastic initiative set up by UEFA and Disney, empowering young girls through physical activity and encouraging them in a unique and innovative way to play football.
"Having the support of two global brands such as UEFA and Disney, both of whom have goals for girls' and women's football that dovetail with our own, should help to inspire a new generation of girls across Scotland to love football."
Scotland National Team striker Erin Cuthbert added: "This latest initiative from Disney and UEFA is fantastic and offers a new way for children to begin playing football. I absolutely love Disney, even at the age of 21, and when I was younger this is definitely something I would loved to have been part of.
"I can see a huge difference now in terms of the number of young girls taking part in football from when I was growing up, and playing in a boys team. Using Disney will not only make football even more enjoyable for them at a young age but will also hopefully increase participation levels even more.
"I can't wait to see the positive effect that this programme will have across Scotland."
Paul Brownlie has named his Scotland Under-16 squad for a Development tournament in Malta later this month.
Scotland kick off against hosts Malta on Friday 21st February, before taking on Azerbaijan two days later and finishing up by playing Gibraltar on Wednesday 26th February.
The squad is as follows:
The quarter finals of the FAW Women's Cup produced something of a rarity on the weekend - a match!
One of the four scheduled ties did actually manage to go ahead on Sunday and it saw Orchard Welsh Premier Women's League leaders Swansea City book their place in the semi finals with a 4-0 victory over Bethel Ladies.
The Swans opened the scoring after twenty minutes, when Katy Hosford swept home a cross from Emma Beynon. Hosford then netted her second with a firm header just before the half hour and she completed her hat-trick on the stroke of half time.
After the break, Swansea continued to press in testing conditions but Bethel, to their credit, defended in determined fashion, the home side only adding one more goal when substitute Lani Hogben scored with ten minutes remaining.
The other three ties were all victims of Storm Ciara, along with all scheduled matches in the Orchard Welsh Premier Women's League and Welsh Women's League.
The weather had the biggest say on the opening day of the season in the Scottish Women's Premier League with only three of the scheduled eight group matches in the new look SWPL Cup going ahead.
Celtic made their first appearance since all of their winter changes but it was a day of frustration for them in their first match under the charge of new Head Coach Fran Alonso, as they were held to a goalless draw by the newly named Glasgow Women. Celtic struggled to break down a well organised Glasgow defence on the day and the SWPL 2 side dug in for a well earned point.
Therefore it is Spartans who are the early leaders of the group after they won 1-0 against St Johnstone. Extremely difficult conditions made it tough for both teams throughout the match but with ten minutes remaining, Becky Galbraith popped up to score the only goal of the game and give her side a winning start.
The only other match to beat the weather was in Group D, where Forfar Farmington defeated Kilmarnock 2-0. Hannah Stewart gave Forfar a 34th minute lead when she scored from a free kick by Cassie Cowper and the striker completed her double early in the second half following good work by Billie Simpson.
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