Stoke City 3 – 0 Sheffield FC
Sheffield FC Women returned empty-handed from their opening fixture of the new FA Women’s National League season against Stoke City Women as the hosts ran out 3-0 winners.
Alison Hall’s excellent header broke the deadlock midway through the first half, a Tanisha Smith lob doubled the Potter’s advantage just before the break, before Roisin Kivel all but sealed the points early in the second half with the third.
Sheffield started brightly and Hope Knight might have had the visitors ahead inside five minutes when Lisa Giampalma’s cross was spilled by Stoke keeper Charlotte Clarke and, sliding in under pressure, Knight could only poke the ball fractionally wide of the upright. Knight continued her lively opening to the game and a ball over the top held up but was hit narrowly over the crossbar by the forward.
Sheffield were forced to reshuffle when Holly Housley was taken off injured with a dead leg on 18 minutes and, after a lively opening, momentum swung in favour of the hosts as Sheffield took time to adjust to the change.
In the preparations for the game, Sheffield FC manager Calum Oakenfold had highlighted the threat posed by Stoke in wide areas, and this is where the breakthrough came from as full-back Beth Roberts delivered a superb cross from the left and Alison Hall climbed highest to head in over the outstretched gloves of Serena Clarke for 1-0.
Hall, one of Stoke manager Chloe Jones’ summer signings, almost repeated the feat shortly after, but her header dropped just wide of the post. As Sheffield re-settled towards the end of the half, Giampalma tried her luck from distance, but C Clarke held on to the shot above her head.
With five minutes of the half remaining though, it was Stoke who extended their lead with Hall creating the chance thanks to a through ball to fellow debutant Tanisha Smith who took a touch before lifting a disguised lob over the advancing S Clarke in the Sheffield net.
Sheffield rallied in the closing moments of the half, creating four good chances when a back-heeled pass from Amy Beck set up Giampalma who lifted her effort over the bar, before M Johnson came closer but still fired over. Clarke then saved well from Knight’s firmly-hit strike to force a corner from which City’s Nicola Hudson cleared Sammy Conroy’s effort off the line deep into stoppage time.
The visitors needed an early goal to get themselves back into the game, but it was the hosts who added to Sheffield’s task when Hudson provided the pass to open up a switched off Sheffield and Roisin Kivel to coolly volleyed into the bottom.
Substitute Keeley Goodwin might have got Sheffield back into things just three minutes after her introduction but she was millimetres away from connecting with Giampalma’s low driven ball across the face. Twice more the forward got in good positions, but Clarke was well-positioned to save the resulting shots.
Sheffield made a better fist of things throughout the second half, but with Stoke 3-0 up and managing the game well, the sting had largely gone out of the game.
Goodwin again went close in the last few minutes as her effort was cleared off the line by Hollie Gibson, but it was not Sheffield’s day, and they will have to wait another couple of weeks to try to get their first points on the board of the new season.
Stoke City: C Clarke, Hudson, Roberts, Tezgel (Pemberton 73), Hunt, Richardson, Smith (Hughes 46), Hall, Bowyer ©, Gibson, Kivel
Unused: Brown, Hayes, Saunders
Sheffield FC: S Clarke, Heald (Goodwin 63), Ibbotson, Conroy, Housley (Beck 18), Kemp ©, Griffin, Pearson, Giampalma, Knight, M Johnson
Unused: Santoro, Wardle
Photography courtesy of Kevin Warburton