In our end of season reviews we’re already looked at the history the likes of Manchester City and Yeovil Town have made this year and although they didn’t find a route through to any silverware or titles this season it’s hard to argue that Sheffield’s debut season in WSL hasn’t been both historical and wildly successful.
Starting the season relatively slowly, on the surface there was cause for concern, Sheffield’s first win over WSL opposition of the year a 3-1 over Durham in the Conti Cup preliminary round. Two 1-0 losses against Durham, 1-2 against Villa, a 0-1 away to Oxford and a stalemate against Bristol all the historic club had to show for the first-half of their season until their last match before the mid-season interval.
A hard-fought 3-1 win over the Vixens their first three points on the year had been a long time coming, despite the results Sheffield had not been outplayed at any point, their greatest failing was simply not taking the chances they created – golden opportunities harder to come by in WSL than WPL.
When Sheffield were next back in action after the league had restarted they were determined to make their mark, a 2-0 win over Bristol propelled them into the next round of the league cup before they went up against another promotion favourite in Everton and once more left consigned one of the bigger team to leave Dronfield without any points.
A rolloping 5-0 over the Bees at the Hive made it four from four in all competitions as everyone else in WSL 2 was forced to stand up and take notice of the noisy newcomers. Back-to-back draws against Millwall and Everton left them on a six-game unbeaten run, July an unmitigated success.
As losses littered their first foray into WSL life, they became a rarity in the latter half of the year, a 2-0 loss to the Bees enough to knock them out of the league cup and keep them humble. A 3-0 over Watford dusted them off before a resolute display saw them halt the league leaders in Dronfield, 1-1 sufficing for Yeovil.
A win away to Villa preceded another narrow loss on the road, the Bees the victorious side once more but Sheffield took it all in stride and bounced back with a draw at the Den. October finishing with wins over Watford and Oxford before they finished the season away. Their last match of the year wasn’t all they hoped it to be and they were duly beaten 3-0 by the already promoted Yeovil – the Lady Glovers securing the title with the win.
With the standard very much on the up it was refreshing to see a team come up from WPL and adapt with so much ease, cleanly over their first few losses of the season Sheffield only went from strength to strength. Despite a few goings on behind the scenes as their manager departed before the first game of the season, Zoe Johnson excelled in her promoted role, always getting the best out of her team. With a number of players experienced with the rigors of WSL and a healthy number of younger players and loanees from Liverpool, Johnson found harmony on the pitch.
Even in defeat Sheffield remained impressive, only losing three games by more than one goal margin [and only once in the league]. A genuinely gritty old-school team, Sheffield were a breath of fresh Yorkshire air this year, resolute across the pitch, their defence ridged and their attack creative, a sturdy midfield the backbone contributing both forward and back.
Their defence the second meanest in the league this year (tied with Everton but behind Yeovil and Bristol), Sheffield were only one of the five teams in WSL 2 who finished the season with a positive goal difference. The Spring Series gives the Dronfield team even more chance to grow and come out fighting in the 2017-18 season, for the oldest club in the world, the sky’s the limit.