Ladies First Team vs. Stoke City (2 : 0)
FA WNL Northern Division
Sheffield FC Ladies ended a run of three straight league defeats by putting in a season’s best performance against Stoke City LFC at the Home of Football stadium.
Two quick goals in the final quarter of the game, first from Ellie Hawcroft and the player of the match Lisa Giampalma, earned Sheffield a valuable three points in a 2-0 win.
Sheffield started brightly, displaying plenty of energy and intent to limit Stoke to any real time on the ball. Whilst the effort was there, the game lacked much real quality with both sides limiting themselves to hopeful balls and pot shots from range in the early stages.
Sheffield were somewhat fortunate to not fall behind, following a mix-up at the back with only a fine Liz Hobson save at the near post keeping the scores level midway through the first half.
The half continued in a similar fashion throughout, and in spite of Sheffield’s best efforts, they struggled to find ways to support Giampalma up top and create any clear-cut opportunities. Similarly Stoke’s normally effective directness failed to massively test the hosts’ defence.
Both teams raced out of the blocks in the early stages of the second half, the bitter Derbyshire wind a stark contrast to the heat on the pitch.
Stoke attacked first, moving the ball well on the left of Sheffield’s box before Ella Pemberton’s effort crashed off the cross bar. Moments later, it was Hobson who kept the scores level as she brilliantly collected a well struck effort from range.
Sheffield’s turn. Minutes after nearly falling behind, Club should have been ahead after a number of quick attacks resulting in efforts from Holly Housley and Ellie Hawcroft, but the best came from a smart movement across the front line, which saw Jess Heald fed through the middle only for her effort to drift agonisingly wide if the upright.
The next big chance again fell to Sheffield, an excellent ball infield by Housley found Giampalma who couldn’t adjust in time and could only force a comfortable save from Stacey Wright in the Stoke goal.
The half continued in the same manner, each side fashioning half chances and playing well through the thirds, but it would be Sheffield to finally break the deadlock on 73 minutes.
A forward ball was brilliantly protected by Giampalma, her strength and pace leaving Stoke’s centre-half sprawled on the floor. Play approached the box, and the forward slid a clever ball across to Hawcroft who applied the finish for her first senior goal.
Moments later it was two. Milly Wortley capitalised on some slack Stoke play in the middle of the park, drove forward twisting her opponent into knots and opening up the space for Giampalma to receive the ball who, this time, finished past the on-rushing Wright. Sheffield erupted.
As expected, Stoke ramped up their attack making a number of changes that left three or four players high in the last 10 minutes. A number of chances came and went for the visitors, but some excellent defending and solid goalkeeping meant the Potters could not find a way through.
After the game, assistant manager Chris Hames summed up his thoughts:
“We came into this match knowing that only 100% graft would be enough if we wanted to get anything from it, and I think we really got that today.
“There are a number of areas we would expect to see continue to improve, but the intent to play some good football was there. You don’t get a result like this, and a clean sheet, without putting everything into the game, as the players did just that today.
“The crowd was fantastic today: the noise when we scored from everyone was great to hear, and really helped us achieve this result, and I know was really appreciated by the whole team.
“We have to use this feeling, the emotion of winning, and the qualities we do have, to continue to put together a good season, and that starts again on Thursday night in what will be another tough game against Derby County.”
Photos courtesy of Paula Johnson