Sheffield FC 0 – 5 Middlesbrough
Dale 67′ & 69′
Sheffield FC’s first home game of the season was not the happy occasion it should have been as they were comprehensively beaten by the early league leaders Middlesbrough.
Things could not have started much worse for the hosts who were behind after just three minutes when a needless corner was conceded and Emma Foster had a free-header in the box which she dispatched comfortably past Serena Clarke in between the sticks for Sheffield.
And it went from bad to worse for the home side when all too easily, a ‘Boro attack scythed Sheffield’s defence open and Ellie Dobson finished from the angle under a half-hearted effort from the defender to block the shot.
From this point, Sheffield picked things up and for the remainder of the half saw significantly more of the ball than their opponents without really putting ‘Boro under too much pressure. Still the performance was littered with too many mishit passes and poor or late decisions, but Sheffield kept plugging away in the hope things would improve.
Middlesbrough’s goalkeeper, Laura Wareham was not overly tested in the first half hour, but she was very proactive in extinguishing any threat by coming off her line, punching cross away, and marshalling her back four very well.
Charlie Griffin and Keeley Goodwin both had efforts in good positions that were directed straight at Wareham, but Sheffield’s two best chances of the half came in the final few minutes before the interval.
Sheffield countered from a ‘Boro corner and Molly Johnson’s viciously hit strike was pushed onto the crossbar by the fingertips of Wareham at full stretch, just before a cross from the right saw the ball fall to Tania Marsden who stabbed the ball goalwards from close range only for Wareham to get enough of a touch to stop it crossing the line before the ball was smashed to safety.
Out early for the second half, Sheffield meant business and they should have reduced the arrears just three minutes after the break as Goodwin was put through in acres of space with just the ‘keeper to beat but hit her shot too close to Wareham allowing her to get a foot on the ball and maintain her clean sheet.
Still Sheffield plugged away having more of the ball than Middlesbrough but unable to really assert any meaningful pressure on their opponents goal. Substitutions by both teams after the hour mark disrupted the rhythm of the game, and a change in Sheffield’s formation was jumped upon by ‘Boro who score twice in three minutes to put the game out of reach completely. Eleanor Dale, the England WU19s forward, bagged both but both openings were allowed by mistakes from the hosts.
A half chance with ten minutes to go was fashioned when Lisa Giampalma cut a ball back to Charlie Griffin and her cross was just a little too far ahead of M Johnson for her to be able to keep her shot down, and at full-stretch, she directed it narrowly over Wareham’s crossbar.
With time running out, Sheffield threw everything they had left at getting on the score sheet as Emma Johnson’s header from Nicole Kemp’s cross was saved by Wareham, then a free-kick was hit narrowly passed the upright by E Johnson, before M Johnson had a final minute effort fly just wide.
Sheffield probably deserved a goal at least, but instead ‘Boro got a fifth – very harsh on the hosts, but Jasmine McQuade was in no mood for sympathy as her snap shot was tucked into the bottom corner.
Whilst Middlesbrough fully deserved the win, the score line didn’t reflect the balance of play, but in spite of their share of possession, Sheffield’s decision making and execution in the final third was below the standard required, and the team has work to do to start getting some points on the board.
Sheffield FC: S Clarke, Heald (E Johnson 62), Clarkson, Wardle, M Johnson, Kemp ©, Griffin, Wortley, Giampalma, Marsden (Beck 77), Goodwin (Scott 72)
Middlesbrough: Wareham ©, Bass (Elliott 60), Luke, Brown, Foster, Watt, Bell, Hutchinson (McQuade 60), Dale, Dobson (Newton 72), Scarr
Unused: B Shaw, M Shaw
Photography courtesy of Josh Myers