Sheffield bid for women’s title

Sheffield FC Ladies' sumnmer signing Sophie Barker in pre-season action. Photo: Julian Barker
Sheffield FC Ladies' sumnmer signing Sophie Barker in pre-season action. Photo: Julian Barker

The winter season FA Women’s Premier League kicks off on Sunday with an unofficial title decider to determine the best winter league women’s side.

Sheffield FC Ladies finished runaway Northern Division champions last season and they play host to Coventry City who clinched the Southern Division title, but only in their final game at the end of May, so there was no time for a proposed “play-off”.

It is a bit of a trip into the unknown for Sheffield, Coventry having been switched from the Southern to Northern Division, and arguably represents what is likely to be one of their toughest encounters of the new campaign.

Sheffield have enjoyed an encouraging and unbeaten pre-season, including a 2-2 draw with Doncaster Rovers Belles a week yesterday.

Manager Helen Mitchell has guided the team to five titles (including three which secured promotion), three County Cups and also last season’s FAWPL Cup over the last several years, while at the same time keeping a strong nucleus of players from one season to the next, but also making a few very astute signings each year.

The pick of this summer’s newcomers is midfielder Sophie Barker who has played for Rotherham, Lincoln and Notts County, but found her prospects at the latter two clubs hampered by ill-timed injury.

The FAWPL has been expanded to incorporate the four former Combination Leagues. Sheffield United Community begin their Northern One campaign away to Tranmere Rovers, while in Midland One Rotherham United host Leafield Athletic and newly promoted Steel City Wanderers visit Curzon Ashton.

The North East Regional Women’s League season is traditionally preceded by early rounds of its Cup competition and Doncaster Belles (Women) prevailed 2-1 over Rovers Foundation on Keepmoat Stadium pitch 2 last Sunday. Gabi Marriott and Lauren Cuttell gave Belles who had first backing of a very strong wind a 2-0 interval lead.

Tara Fisher converted a penalty for Rovers (picture back page) who twice went close to forcing extra time in the closing stages. this Sunday’s ties include Wakefield v Barnsley.

Friendlies: Hull 2, Sheffield 4; Sheffield Wednesday 3, Dronfield 2; Wednesday reserves 3, Bradford Park Avenue 3; Brighouse 1, Rotherham 1.

Doncaster Rovers Belles begin the second half of their FA Women’s Super League 2 season with a visit to Oxford on Sunday.