Ladies First Team vs. Tottenham Hotspur (4 : 3)
Sheffield LFC beat Tottenham Hotspur LFC 4-3 with 9 players in the FA WSL2, a game where fans certainly got their money’s worth, writes Luke Phelps.
Mel Johnson opened the scoring for Sheffield after following up a Hannah Cain strike, before a penalty scored by Spurs' Coral-Jade Haines got the score back level. Johnson got her second of the game and again coming from Cain, who set her strike partner up for an open goal finish.
With 10 remaining in the first half Cain and Tottenham’s Sophie McClean were involved in an off the ball bust-up which ended in straight red cards for each player. After the dust had settled on a frantic period, Johnson completed a first half hat-trick which a tidy finish inside the box for Sheffield.
Spurs clawed one back within a minute of the restart when substitute Bianca Baptiste scored with what must have been her first touch of the ball, slotting past Gibbons after a long ball over the top. Katie Anderson gave Sheffield the breathing space they craved with a finish in the box just shy of the hour mark.
Sheffield received a second red card of the game and this time it was Jenna Dear who picked up a needless second yellow card for kicking the ball away, leaving her team with 9 players on the pitch. With the woman-advantage Spurs pushed on and got a third through Wiltshere, who picked out the top corner of Gibbons goal from a low cross.
The opening exchanges were relatively open and in the middle of the park but the game had a flutter of life on 8 minutes when Spurs forward Sarah Wiltshere got the beating of Sarah Jackson, cut inside the box and fired a shot directly at Danielle Gibbons in the Sheffield goal. Gibbons offloaded quickly and set her team up on the counter. Katie Anderson fed Sheffield striker Mel Johnson who on the edge of the box, and fizzed a low effort narrowly wide.
The counter attack seemed to be Sheffield’s approach to this game and it paid off on 12 minutes. Emma Johnson picked up the ball on the centre circle and slipped in Cain with a through ball. Cain ran towards Toni-Anne Wayne in the Tottenham goal and fired a shot towards her bring a save from the keeper. The rebound however fell to an on-rushing Mel Johnson (12) who tapped into an empty goal.
All was well in the Sheffield dugout until Sarah Jackson brought down Wendy Martin in the Sheffield box, and referee Melissa Burgin blew for a spot kick. Wiltshere stepped up and brought a top-class save from Gibbons, but the rebound fell kindly to Coral-Jade Haines (14) who got Spurs back on level terms.
After two goals in quick succession, fans were returning to their seats expecting the tempo of the game to slow down. But fans were brought off of their seats just minutes later as Cain was again put through on goal on half way by a pin point Johnson pass. This time, Cain squared the ball to Mel Johnson (19) on the six yard box for another tap in to restore Sheffield’s early lead.
An action packed opening 20 was capped by Spurs' Haines who rattled the crossbar with a thunderous free-kick from distance. With the lead, Sheffield sat back for the next 10 minutes and defended astutely whilst remaining dangerous on the counter. Captain Emma Johnson had an effort on goal blocked when her team broke on the attack with Rhema Lord-Mears, whilst Sophie McClean had a long range effort for Spurs saved by Gibbons.
With the game drawing into half time with Sheffield leading, all hell broke loose when a player from each side saw straight red cards. Without the use of the contested VAR, it was difficult to tell exactly what happened. A scuffle broke out off the ball between Cain and Spurs’ McClean near the dugouts. After a lengthy deliberation the referee decided to show both players a red card.
After mass confusion around the stadium the game was back underway. With minutes remaining in the first half, it seemed Spurs had switched off when Jenna Dear hit the bar from the edge of the box, and moments later Mel Johnson (45+2) completed her hat-trick. With Katie Anderson now occupying the vacant right winger position, she had an immediate impact and fed through the striker for a one-on-one opportunity which she finished neatly.
With the restart it seemed that a quite second half was on the cards but no more than 30 seconds into the second half we had our fifth goal of the game. Spurs restarted and straight away looped a ball over a slack Sheffield defence, substitute Baptiste (45) used her fresh legs to zip past and through the defence, and finished coolly past Gibbons.
At 3-2, fans of both sides were enjoying a brilliantly entertaining game of football with got even more so when Anderson (53) scored for Club. A Lord-Mears through ball was deflected into the path of Anderson who took her time, and confidentially put the ball past Wayne in the Spurs goal to restore her teams lead.
The red mist had certainly defended on The Coach and Horses today, and continued to do so in the second half when Jenna Dear picked up a second yellow card for Sheffield. With Spurs looking to break with a quick free kick, Dear decided to hold onto the ball and kick it away. The referee deemed this a booking and gave Dear her marching orders on 63 minutes.
Now with 9 players on the pitch, Sheffield had 25 minutes to defend their 2 goal lead. Manager Zoe Johnson made a double substitution in an attempt to sure up the defence, bringing Sophie Jones and Chloe Dixon into the game. The changes proved ineffective though as Spurs got a third goal through striker Wiltshere (68). A make shift Sheffield defence was breached by a low ball from Baptiste on the wing. Wiltshere hit the ball first time and looped the ball over a helpless Gibbons and into the top corner.
At 4-3 we were set-up for a dramatic final 20 of what had been so far, the game of the season at The Coach and Horses. Spurs had a disallowed goal for offside on 78 when Wendy Martin fumbled the ball over the line, but fans of Sheffield were saved by the linesman's flag.
Panic was beginning to set into the Players, as both sides were giving away possession needlessly in dangerous areas. Sophie Jones was working hard for Club, run down the touchline and attempting to keep the ball in the corner of the Spurs half with minutes remaining.
But Sheffield, as they had done throughout the second half, stood firm in the face of the Tottenham onslaught. With the full 90 minutes up it was signalled that there would be an additional 4 minutes to the game. Tottenham threw everything at the Sheffield defence, Baptiste had been influential since her half time introduction and almost troubled Gibbons with a vicious strike from range. It wasn’t enough for the visitors though as Zoe Johnson’s girls held out for all three points. A truly entertaining game of football.
Sheffield LFC: Gibbons, Jackson, McCue, Cox, Dear, Johnson (Dixon 65), Lord-Mears (Jones 65), Cain, Anderson, Johnson (C) (Donohue 84), Kemp.
Tottenham Hotspur LFC: Wayne, Leon, Hector, Vyse, McLean, Vio, McKenzie, Haines, O'Leary, Wiltshere, Martin.