VAVEL UK's WSL 2 2016 Team of the Season - The battle of midfield

VAVEL UK's WSL 2 2016 Team of the Season - The battle of midfield

8 of the 10 WSL 2 teams feature in our best of the year.

Sophie Lawson

Although not sparking as much debate as our WSL 1 TotS – and with less potential fisticuffs – our writers were once again left stumped as to how to include everyone we thought worthy and a number of notable names ended up relegated from the bench to the stands.

Unable to start 20 players instead of 11, we thought it was still worth giving special mention to those we just couldn’t find room for – Chloe Arthur, Michelle Hinnigan and Phoebe Read were all worthy of a spot in our team but we just couldn’t work a ten-woman midfield.

The Starting XI - GK – Kirstie Levell (Everton)

Although 2016 may not have been the best year for goalkeepers, we thought that Everton’s number one, Kirstie Levell had been the best of the bunch, edging out competition from Yeovil’s Charlotte Haynes and Bristol City’s Caitlin Leach. With calm handling and the joint meanest defence (having only conceded 15 goals with one game remaining), 19 year-old Levell is our ‘keeper of the year.

LB/CB – Vicky Jones (Everton)

Sticking with the Everton theme, our defence starts with one of the more experienced of the Blue Girls, a solid ever-present for the WSL 2 runners up, our writers would be more than happy to have the intelligent Vicky Jones in any of our teams.

CB – Deanna Cooper (London Bees)

The London Bees roaming centre back, Deanna Cooper is our defensive rock, as happy with the ball at her foot as she is next to a wicket stump (this writer apologises for not knowing anything about cricket), Cooper has been one of the stand-outs for the Bees this year. Having taken to Dave Edmondson’s new-look team like a duck to water, the Bees backline always looks stronger for her presence, with an eye for a challenge as well as a goal, it’s easy to see why Cooper has fast become a fan favourite.

RB/CB – Nicola Cousins (Yeovil Town)

The first of three Lady Glovers to feature in our team of the year is gutsy defender Nicola Cousins. Having started all of Yeovil’s league and cup games this year, it’s not hard to understand why Jamie Sherwood puts so much faith in the experienced defender, who has consistently put her body on the line for her team this year, having chipped in with four league goals to boot.

LW – Sarah Wiltshire (Yeovil Town) – Player of the Year

Possibly the stand-out player of the league this year, Sarah Wiltshire is not just the woman our writers would love to see tearing up the left side of the pitch but the player we think most deserving of Player of the Year.

Having made only 12 league appearances this year before dropping to the sidelines there might be some light controversy over why we haven’t gone for someone who’s featured more this season but we couldn’t find someone more deserving – which is only a testament to Wiltshire’s awesome ability, and nothing on the fierce competition she was against.

With her on the pitch, Yeovil were cruising, on certain course for promotion but the Somerset side began to wobble when she announced that she’d be missing the last six games of the season. A star turn in a very talented Yeovil team.

CM – Bethan Merrick (Aston Villa)

Another to have made the cut – and beat a number of players into our midfield – is Villa’s talismanic Bethan Merrick. Experienced beyond her years, Merrick has proven time and again that she has a keen understanding of the game, anchoring Villa from midfield, somewhat of a set-piece specialist the young midfielder is one of many in a talented Villa team.

CM – Ashleigh Goddard (London Bees)

In an increasingly competitive midfield, Bees captain Ashleigh Goddard is another we’d take in a heartbeat. One of the more consistent footballers this season, not just for the Bees but in all of WSL 2, Goddard is the very heart of her team, dropping deep with a meaty challenge to cover the defence or surging forward in attack. Her injury in the league cup semi-final a real turning point that only went to her importance in her team and her tremendous work-rate.

CM – Jodie Brett (Bristol City)

A team tipped to struggle after their relegation, Willie Kirk’s Bristol City have done anything but, dominating most games this season, Chelsea loanee Jodie Brett as decisive factor in midfield for the Vixens. Not always the main focus, Brett goes about her business quietly, controlling play, popping up at just the right time for her team, her loan signing was clearly an inspired one.

RW – Beth Hepple (Durham)

Another name that was thrown around early on as one that simply had to be in the TotS was Durham’s prolific number seven, Beth Hepple. Having provided eight league goals for the Wildcats this season as well as a number of assists, when Durham score – and win – Hepple is usually found at the heart of the move, a hard-working attacker with one hell of a shot on her Hepple makes up the last of our ludicrously talented midfield.

ST – Claire Emslie (Bristol City)

Having only joined the Vixens over the mid-season break, there were questions over Claire Emslie’s inclusion in the squad but with ten league appearances and eight goals to her name, Emslie has more than earned her spot. Although the former Hibs player can be a peripheral player at times she’s never far from sparking into life and doing something exceptional, one of the signings of the season Emslie has been a crucial part of Bristol’s promotion push.

ST – Ini Umotong (Oxford United)

In a largely forgettable season for the U’s, Ini Umotong has consistently given the fans something to cheer about, although the vast number of her goals have been conciliatory the Nigerian international has rocketed up the scoring charts. Currently the top league goalscorer in either division, the prolific striker would be at home in any team.

Coach – Zoe Johnson (Sheffield)

Whilst the WSL 1 coach of the year was more of a cut and shut case for Nick Cushing there have been a number of names thrown around for WSL 2. Whilst Willie Kirk and Jamie Sherwood are deserving of plaudits for all they’ve done this year to guide their respective sides to promotion in our office we were much more focused on the middle of the table.

With a strong argument for Dave Edmondson and his amazing rebuilding work with the Bees our writers concluded that given everything that’s happened this season Sheffield’s Zoe Johnson just had the edge. Having taken the reigns from Mick Mulhern after his sudden departure before the start of the season, Johnson has let nothing faze her this season, never wavering on her belief that her side could go toe-to-toe with the best in the league.

The season started slowly for Sheffield, never out-played but unable to take full advantage of their chances few were surprised to see them languishing at the bottom of the table but when they finally started getting the results to match their performances there was no stopping the WSL new-comers. With some astute summer signings the Dronfield based team only went from strength to strength, and after a jaw-dropping season we were in agreement that Zoe Johnson had to be our Coach of the Year.

Substitutes - GK – Helen Alderson (Durham)

In a year when the younger 'keepers were stealing the headlines, Helen Alderson called upon her vast experience to become a rock for the Wildcats. Again, in a tight battle with Leach and Haynes for a spot on our bench, and having conceded slightly more than the competition our writers still felt she was the right back up keeper in 2016.

DF – Elisha N’Dow (Aston Villa)

With five yellow cards to her name this season, Elisha N’Dow is certainly a defender that likes to get stuck in. At her best when paired at the back with Jade Richards, the 20 year-old has become a crucial member of the Villa team and will have a vital role to play next season as the Villainesses aim for a promotion place.

DF – Carla Ward (Sheffield)

Admittedly not naturally a defender, Sheffield’s captain, Carla Ward has been somewhat of a utility player this season, having been deployed around the pitch she’s stood up to the test and excelled in all number of positions. A key factor is their success, Sheffield know Ward will never give less than her best (no matter where she plays).

MF – Ashlee Hincks (Millwall Lionesses)

The only Lionesses to make our team of the season, Millwall captain Ashlee Hincks’ performances speak for themselves. Consistent in a turbulent year, Hincks’ has remained a driving force in the team, calling upon her experience to make it out of tight situations and come away with the ball time and again, her hunger in attack has seen her rise to the top of Millwall’s goalscoring charts, leading the way with six in fourteen.

MF – Helen Bleazard (Yeovil Town)

Another of Yeovil’s reliable core group of players and the last Glover to make our list, Helen Bleazard is another player who’s featured in a number of positons this season, comfortable anywhere in defence or midfield. A key component of Yeovil’s successful season, our only regret was not being able to fit Bleazard into the starting XI.

CF – Jodie Michalska (Sheffield)

One of the most feared attackers in WSL 2, Sheffield native Jodie Michalska only narrowly missed out on a spot in our starting line-up. Clinical to the last, her goals have propelled Sheffield up the table as the team up from WPL have stamped their authority on the league this year.

CF – Jo Wilson (London Bees)

Like Michalska, we regrettably had to demote Jo Wilson to the bench. Another bright spark in the Bees’ season, Wilson is one of the hardest working attackers in the league, a constant runner who refuses to relent even against the most imposing of opponents, her tireless performance against Chelsea one that sticks in the mind to exemplify exactly what the former QPR player will give you on the pitch. Another of Edmondson’s canny signings.