Preview: Everton Ladies FC, Sunday 12 March 2017
Sheffield face one of their toughest matches of the season this Sunday as they face Everton at the Home of Football Stadium.
Founding members of the FA Women's Super League, Everton was one of the top WSL1 clubs for the first few seasons, but suffered relegation to WSL2 at the end of 2014. Two third place finishes in the past two seasons has seen the Toffees just miss out on promotion back to the top flight, but they continue to
Manager Andy Spence has lost the services of loanees Chloe Kelly and Rosella Ayane, who have returned to Arsenal and Chelsea respectively, with Ellie Stewart and Millie Turner signing for new clubs, and Krystle Johnston and Jenna Dear moving on. In has come Olivia Chance, a 23-year old striker from New Zealand, and forward Amber Stobbs, a player with WSL1 experience at Chelsea and Reading, and was with Washington Spirit for 2014/15.
The core of Spence's side remains intact however with plenty of England Youth team talent on display (Kirstie Levell, Georgia Brougham, Gabby George, Megan Finnigan, Lauren Davies, Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah and Claudia Walker), other home nation internationals (Emily Hollinshead and Simone Magill), as well as the ever-present midfield orchestrator and long-serving captain, Michelle Hinnigan.
It will be the third time the two teams have met competitively with Everton yet to get the better of Sheffield FC. The Yorkshire side recorded a 1-0 win at home, before coming back from behind to force a 1-1 draw in the reverse WSL2 fixture last season.
Everton are yet to lose this season in their three competitive matches played. They enjoyed easy passage to the Fourth Round of the Women's FA Cup, beating Brighouse Town 8-1, but needed a penalty shoot out to overcome Durham at the next stage. Incredibly, they did so with an outfield player, Danielle Turner (sister of Sheffield FC Ladies' coach, Luke) in goal for 75 minutes of the game and the shoot out - for which she deservedly won Player of the Round. Their only league game to date saw them beat Oxford United 2-1 away from home on the opening week-end of the season exactly one month ago.
Sheffield's four competitive games have seen them record two wins and two defeats. A 2-0 win v Charlton Athletic in the Women's FA Cup was followed up with a disappointing exit to Doncaster Rovers Belles in the next round, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk dispatching a dubious penalty. In the league, Club registered a great 2-1 away win at Millwall Lionesses, but slumped to a 1-0 loss at Durham last Sunday.
Zoe Johnon's Pre-Match Thoughts
"Everton are a well-organised group who play attractive attacking football, and we're expecting a really tough game against a team I see as the title favourites. Last season we managed to take four points from them, beating them narrowly at home and picking up a very good point on the road, but we know we will have to be at our very best to get anything from the game this time around."
"We come into the game off the back off a narrow and frustrating defeat away at Durham. The girls know the second half performance wasn’t good enough, and we've worked hard in training this week to rectify what went wrong. Hopefully we'll come out this week-end with the fight and determination required to overcome last week's defeat."
"There is no bigger game to try to put things right than against Everton at home. Everton will certainly be up there as the favourites this season and rightly so after narrowly missing out last season. Andy [Spence] has a fantastic young squad who possess real quality in possession, and we know we will have to be at our best both defensively and in possession to be able to take anything from the game."
"Our aim for this game will be to try and be more consistent across the 90 minutes. We've shown glimpses of quality over the last few weeks, but we've also had some poor spells in the games, so we need to really stay focused and concentrate on our performances across the whole 90 minutes, and if we do that, I’m sure we're capable of picking up more points."
The match kicks off at 2pm Sunday 12 March at the Home of Football Stadium (S18 2GD). Get your tickets in advance here and save money on the turnstile prices. And if you've not been to a match before, check out our 'first time fan guide' here for everything you need to know in the run up to the game.