Ladies First Team vs. Hepworth United (7 : 0)
S&H Women's Challenge Cup
The last time Sheffield FC Ladies featured in the Sheffield & Hallamshire Women’s Challenge Cup (2014/15), the first team lifted the trophy for the fourth consecutive year.
A return to the third tier of women's football meant that Club were eligible to take part in the competition once more, their first appearance in this season's contest being a third round tie on the slopes of Holmfirth against East Riding Premier Division side Hepworth United, on a bitterly cold December afternoon.
The match started as it was to continue with the visitors dominating the ball, and producing a string of decent chances. The first came from a corner: Molly Havard rising well when unmarked, but was adjudged to have fouled first, and her effort was ruled out.
Sheffield did not have long to wait before they did take the lead, however, as moments later, another excellent Molly Johnson corner this time picked out Jade Butcher in the box, her header evading the keeper for 1-0.
The next few minutes saw a string of Sheffield chances, before Lisa Giampalma – who started in the final three years ago – pounced as the ball broke through to her, and her solid strike evaded the keeper to double the visitors lead.
Millee Clarke proved to be a consistent threat down the left and, off a beautifully played through ball, found herself racing into the box where her first touch gave her the space, her second the goal as she delicately dinked the ball over the keeper.
Clarke was to add another before the break, her second goal being a product of excellent skill and sheer persistence; weaving her way past the full back and the covering defender before slotting the finish low into the corner.
Before the half came to a close, Hepworth had a shout for a penalty as a cross from the right was scrambled to the back post, the block on the shot was claimed to have hit a hand but the referee was unmoved.
As the game restarted, so did Sheffield’s determination to impress. An excellent passage of play opened up the right wing, and a Giampalma cross was then bundled over the line by Havard to secure her first for the club.
Battling against the cold and an uphill climb (literally) Sheffield’s attacked slowed, with just half chances being created. One such half chance fell to Havard who struck wide with a right-footed effort.
Havard continued to cause problems, and midway through the second half, received the ball from the right before being felled in the Hepworth box. Molly Johnson stepped up and dispatched the resultant penalty, marking her first goal since returning to the club in August, and putting the visitors 6-0 up.
Hepworth started to cause some problems after a few tactical changes and a more direct approach, but Sheffield 'keeper, Liz Hobson was limited to comfortable catches and collecting through balls in the rest of the half.
The game, much like the grey December afternoon it was played on, had set early, but with one final chance, Havard got her second and Sheffield’s seventh with the last kick of the game. Set away excellently down the middle by Hawcroft, Havard took her chance with her left, and found the top corner. Game over, and into the next round - the quarter-finals - on Sunday 20 January 2019.
Interim manager, Chris Hames, gave his post-match reaction:
“First and foremost, getting a win is always nice particularly when you’ve been on the recent run of results we have. To show that we can be solid, that we can challenge each other to deliver, and to be ruthless – particularly in the first half – are qualities we haven’t always shown this season, but are key to what will lead us into the New Year."
"We set ourselves targets that would focus on the outcomes that we wanted out of today, both as a team and as individuals, targets that would keep us motivated and challenged. Everyone carried out what was expected of them, on and off the pitch, and that’s been really good to see."
"The challenge now is to set our standards high, to keep them, and then better them, as we prepare for Middlesbrough back in the league in just under a month's time.”