A club-by-club look at the first six weeks of 2018 in WSL 2.
Villa’s tough start to the season has continued into the new year, the team with a lone point to show for their last three games. Two goals down less than thirty minutes into 2018 a brace from Ebony Salmon had the hosts back in the game against the London Bees, Villa on course for a win when a late Beth Merrick free kick was nodded home by Elisha N’Dow. But as is the way with former players, they always come back to haunt their former teams, recent departee, Katie Wilkinson no exception as she fired the equaliser past Sian Rogers five minutes into stoppage time.
An early goal from Salmon wasn’t enough for the Villainesses in Oxford as the hosts pulled level ten minutes before the break through Taome Oliver, Kayleigh Hines strike just after the break turning the tie. The match wrapped up by Dan Carlton before the hour to leave Villa with no room to comeback.
Looking for a response, Villa found some of their better form at home to Millwall but failed to capitalise, the visitors finally finding enough quality after the hour to tip the match in their favour. Charlie Devlin the difference, the young attacker scoring in both the 70 and 90 minutes to leave Villa in ninth.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Spurring chances all game, the Seagulls left the door open for the hosts as they failed to extend their lead against Spurs, Sophie Perry’s lone free kick the moment of the match and enough for all three points at the start of the year.
Not too far off of the Belles, Brighton were given a shake-up when they travelled to the Keepmoat, the hosts denied an early goal by the referee before Jess Sigsworth gave the hosts the advantage from the spot. Behind for fifteen minutes, Fern Whelan nodded Perry’s free kick home in stoppage time before Kirsty Hanson neat finish six minutes into stoppage time rebalanced the tie. Hanson was back at it after the hour after having seen her side denied by the woodwork three times, the young Scot’s venomous strike from range enough to get the better of Lucy Gillett before Bex Raynor added a fourth at the death.
Shaken after their loss to the Belles, Brighton fell to an early goal against the Bees, conceding enough to wake them up and see the Seagulls draw level almost instantly through Dani Buet. Ini Umotong and Aileen Whelan helped complete the turn-around to leave Brighton well on top after the break, the score holding until full time.
One of the most consistent sides this season, the Belles can boast three wins from three so far this year, their account for the year opened with a 2-0 away to Watford, Leandra Little and Jess Sigsworth the difference in Kings Langley.
Following on from their win over Watford, the Belles confidently dispatched with a strong Brighton side, Sigsworth’s penalty cancelled out by Fern Whelan in first half stoppage time before Kirsty Hanson reopened the lead. Hanson’s 20-yard drive after the break enough to confirm the win with Bex Raynor providing the gloss in the last seconds of the match.
Going from strength to strength under new boss Neil Redfern, the Belles came from behind against Durham to overturn a Sarah Wilson goal with help from Emily Simpkins fifteen minutes before the break and Sigsworth on the hour. The win keeps the Belles top, unbeaten in their nine so far this season.
Behind to a scrappy goal from Hannah Short four minutes in, the Wildcats restored parity through Beth Hepple, the two going in at the break locked at a goal each. The match opened up after the break and Durham made their pressure count, Zoe Ness’ double either side of Sarah Robson’s header enough to put the game out of the U’s reach despite Ellis Hillman’s late consolation.
Away to high-flying Millwall, Durham found themselves a goal down half way through the first half when Leigh Nicol let fly from outside the area, the advantage doubled early in the second half by defender Billie Brooks. Not a team to roll over, the Wildcats moved back within one when Hepple sent a low shot past Sarah Quantrill only to see Ashlee Hicks reopen the lead ten minutes later. The visitors continued to come close, Jordan Atkinson the one to add their second with a sublime solo effort that saw her dribble past three players and curl home but time fast ran out for the Wildcats as they fell to their third loss of the term.
Looking to get back on track after their loss to Millwall, the hosts started out on the right foot at New Ferens Park, Sarah Wilson’s header enough to give them an early lead before Emily Simpkins levelled for the Belles. The match decided on the hour when Jess Sigsworth unleashed a venomous curler past Helen Alderson to clinch the victory and keep Durham fifth.
Three has been the magic number for the Bees so far this year, first playing out a 3-3 draw with Aston Villa before firing another three past Watford and then conceding three in Brighton.
A goal to the good courtesy of Paula Howells, Danielle Lea gave the visitors a cushion before Ebony Salmon got the better of Nicola Hobbs on each side of the break to restore parity just before the hour. Elisha N’Dow’s header fifteen minutes before time had the match all but won for the hosts until Katie Wilkinson fired the equaliser home deep into stoppage against her former team.
Well used to coming up against Watford and looking for a more confident performance than their Continental Cup draw, the Bees found their feet late in the first half when Wilkinson got the better of Fran Kitching. Howells added a second on the hour before Destiney Toussaint made it three, the Golden Girls pulling one back late through Anneka Nuttall. The Bees were then dealt a 3-1 loss in their next outing, Howells early goal cancelled out two minutes later by Dani Buet before Ini Umotong and Aileen Whelan completed the first half comeback.
Still going guns blazing, Millwall have extended their unbeaten run to 16, setting a new WSL 2 record in the process, their four wins from four this year keeping them just one point adrift of Doncaster.
Hannah Cain’s seventh minute opener set the tone in London as Sheffield looked to dictate the tie until Ella Rutherford struck a quick-fire double to leave the visitors on the back foot just before the break. Much closer after the break, Sheffield scuffed a chance to grab a late point as the Lionesses closed the game out.
A third minute header from Amber Gaylor had the hosts on top but unable to put any distance between themselves and Spurs, Sarah Wiltshire volleyed the visitors back onto terms ten minutes after the break. With the game nicely open, Charlie Devlin came off of the bench to fire the hosts into the lead, her thirteen-minute brace enough to make a comeback too much for Spurs. Megan Wynne’s stoppage time fourth the cherry on top for the Lionesses.
Leigh Nicol’s first goal of the season opened the match up as her strike from range gave Helen Alderson no chance, the game quite until the second half when Billie Brooks doubled the advantage just after the restart. A swift reply from Beth Hepple cut the deficit down to one before Ashlee Hincks added a third for the hosts, Jordan Atkinson’s solo effort two minutes from time not quite enough for Durham to salvage a point.
Still doing their best to keep touch with the Belles, Millwall rode out the storm in their most recent match against Villa as they struggled to find their best form, Devlin the difference as she found two late goals to scoop all three points.
A goal to the good three minutes into the season when Hannah Short nibbled the ball home when Durham failed to clear, the U’s first match of the year went downhill from there, Beth Hepple’s equaliser 21 minutes in the start of the comeback. Zoe Ness was the difference for the Wildcats as she turned Nicki Gears’ deflected cross home before Sarah Robson nodded in a third and Ellis Hillman pulled one back for the hosts. The match put to bed by Ness when she fired Robson’s rebound home.
Bruised from their loss to Durham, the U’s slipped to an early goal at home to Villa but soon found their rhythm, Taome Oliver’s equaliser added to by Kayleigh Hines early in the second half. Dan Carlton’s first goal of the season enough to see Oxford put the match out of reach as the U’s looked to climb back up the table.
From a confident win over Villa, Oxford lost their footing next time out as they travelled to Cheshunt, Chloe Chivers’ first half goal the unexpected difference at the break. Coral-Jade Haines sharp to turn the ball home after Renee Hector had seen her weak penalty saved. The match swung back in favour of the hosts when Ryah Vyse’s powered the ball home late in the game and gift all three points to Spurs to leave the U’s in limbo in the middle of the table.
Having settled into a strong early rhythm, Sheffield took the lead seven minutes into their first match of the year, Hannah Cain’s smart finish too much for Sarah Quantrill to deal with. The visitors comfortable in the match until Ella Rutherford found two goals in three minutes to leave them on the back-foot heading into the break, the match just out of reach as they fell to their fifth loss of the season.
The goals came in flurries as Sheffield came out on top in a seven-goal thriller at home to Spurs. Melissa Johnson broke the deadlock twelve minutes in after Toni-Anne Wayne had parried Cain’s effort into her path, parity restored minutes later when Coral-Jane Haines mopped up when Sarah Wiltshire had seen her spot kick saved. The hosts back ahead three minutes later, Johnson’s second the difference until both teams were reduced to ten with Cain and Sophie McLean given their marching orders for an off-the-ball incident. Undisturbed by the red cards, Johnson completed her first half hat trick in stoppage time.
The visitors stirred after the break, managed to pull one back through Bianca Baptiste seconds after the restart before Katie Anderson reopened the two-goal gap. The drama was far from over however, the hosts reduced to nine on the hour when Jenna Dear was shown a second yellow and Wilshire dug out Spurs’ third eight minutes later. A gritty team, Sheffield rode out the remaining twenty odd minutes to claim their third win of the season.
Not at their best in the first match of the year, Spurs were behind ten minutes in when Sophie Perry thundered a free kick past Toni-Anne Wayne, Brighton in full flow but unable to add a second. The lone goal enough for all three points.
Seeing less joy in their next outing, Spurs did well to stay in the game at St. Paul’s after the hosts had taken the lead three minutes in, Sarah Wiltshire’s deft volley enough to restore parity until Charlie Devlin fired in Millwall’s second and third. The Lillywhites succumbing to a fourth deep in stoppage time to leave them further off of the pace in WSL.
An engrossing match from the outset, Spurs were on the back-foot less than fifteen minutes in when Melissa Johnson gave Sheffield the lead before Coral-Jade Haines cleaned up after Wilshire had seen her penalty saved, Johnson back on the scoresheet moments later. Both sides were cut down to ten when Sophie McLean and Hannah Cain were sent off for an off-the-ball incident just before the break before Johnson wrapped up her hat trick.
Charging out of the blocks after the break, Spurs pulled one back through Bianca Baptiste before Katie Anderson made it four for the hosts who were soon reduced to nine. The advantage told and Spurs got within one courtesy of Wiltshire but failed to find an all important equaliser.
Off of the back of a losing run, Spurs were finally rewarded for a strong performance against Oxford. Despite going down early in the game to a Chloe Chivers header, the hosts saw the better chances and finally had something to show for it when Haines fired in the rebound after Renee Hector had seen her penalty saved by Demi Lambourne. The turnaround complete ten minutes from time when Ryah Vyse fired home after a lung-busting run to give Spurs their first win since November and take them up to sixth.
The leagues strugglers again this season, Watford have seen no joy from their two games so far this year. First falling to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Belles in their first outing of 2018 before shipping three at the Hive to local rivals, London Bees. Off the mark early, Katie Wilkinson had a dream start for her new team with her second in two before Paula Howells doubled the advantage on the hour and Destiney Toussaint added a third ten minutes from time. Captain Anneka Nuttall found a conciliation three minutes before the whistle, the goal Watford’s fourth in seven matches.
Looking for more luck this month, the Golden Girls had Sunday’s match against Sheffield called off due to an unplayable pitch, the gap between them and both Villa and the Bees far from insurmountable but the performances are far from encouraging for the Hertfordshire team.