Following concerns of mass postponements due to wintery weather with the league calendar switch, the fans' biggest worries came true this weekend as the majority of WSL ties were called off amid unplayable pitches and safety concerns.
With a fascinating raft of ties set for the last weekend of the year, eight teams were forced to reschedule with, Yeovil vs Reading, Arsenal vs Liverpool, Birmingham City vs Bristol City and Chelsea vs Manchester City all called off.
There was some irony in the fact that the only match that was unaffected by the weather was the one in WSL 1’s northern-most cities, Everton vs Sunderland providing the top tier with its fill at the end of the year.
Everton 5-1 Sunderland
A tight contest, the visiting Lady Black Cats were hit for two in three minutes late in the first half to leave them with little room to come back. Chaney Boye-Hlorkah’s neat goal from the right side of the box was added to moments later by Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, who was in the right place at the right time to pounce as Hayley Sharp’s attempted clearance cannoned off of Simone Magill and onto her toe, the former Belle quick to turn and whisk the ball past Rachael Laws.
From her second of the season to her third in little time at all, Sweetman-Kirk soon had the Blue Girls three goals to the good as she broke down the centre and tapped Magill’s neat cross home at the start of the second half.
Things fast went from bad to worse for Sunderland as Dan Turner got in on the action, adding a fourth before the hour, her mis-hit cross perfectly flying into the far top corner.
Still trying to get going in attack, the visitors continued to come up empty handed, the match already long out of their grasp. The final nail was put in the coffin by Turner five minutes from time with a fine curler into the far corner.
Leaving it late, the visitors finally found their goal, Bridget Galloway’s second this week enough for a stoppage time conciliation as she volleyed Lucy Staniforth’s neat free kick home at the back stick.
Paula Howells’ fifth minute strike set the hosts on their way, her angled free kick from 25-yards goal-bound from the second it left her toe.
From there on out, the game tore itself open, the ball bouncing back from one end of the pitch to the other as both scrapped for the next goal. Both sides went agonisingly close before Kayleigh Hines spun in the box and sent her shot goalwards, Nicola Hobbs left red-faced after letting the weak effort dribble through her fingertips to see the U’s restore parity before the half-hour.
Attacking each other at will, the game slowed after the break before both sides fell into step again, each having their own flurry of chances in front of goal. Both keepers in were fine form to deny certain chances late in the day before the host struck deep into stoppage time, Destiney Toussaint’s neat finish enough to see the Bees end the year on an overdue high.
Belles 3-2 Sheffield
Much like the game taking place simultaneously in 85 miles away WSL 1, the hosts went into the half-time break two goals to the good; Kirsty Hanson’s low finish her fourth in six league appearances this season. The lead was swiftly doubled by Jess Sigsworth after some tenacious work to get past Niamh Cashin before tucking the ball home form six yards to leave the visitors with it all to do.
The break gave Sheffield time to reset and the visitors came firing out of the blocks at the start of the second half. Neat interplay between Hannah Cain and Sophie Jones brought about their first goal of the afternoon, the latter carrying the ball around Bethan Davies before rolling it home.
With the match open once more the Belles regained the lead 15 minutes from time when Jones turned the ball past her own ‘keeper at a routine corner.
Despite the two-goal deficit, Sheffield still had time to make things nervous for the hosts. A controversial moment five minutes from time came when the visitors had the ball in the back of the net only for the referee to blow for a handball and award a penalty which was duly saved by Davies.
Unperturbed, Sheffield still managed to grab their second of the game when Emma Johnson let fly from distance to set up a nervy finish, the hosts comfortable to see the game out for all three points and claim the honours in the derby.