West country rivals
Having a near identical record to Bristol City this year (twelve games won, three drawn and three lost, with both teams only having conceded 16 goals this term) Yeovil Town secured top spot on goal difference alone, having netted four more times than their West Country rivals.
Always tipped to do big things this year, the Lady Glovers rectified all of their failing from the 2015 season to emerge as promotion front-runners, the team always in the chasing pack last year, running away with it this season. Starting in February, Yeovil bested WPL side Bradford City before clinching a shoot-out win against Bristol to afford them passage into the next rounds of the FA Cup, duly dumped out of the competition in March at home to Sunderland.
Taking to the pitch again three days later for the start of the league season Yeovil were dealt their only consecutive loss of the year, as a poor first-half put them on the back foot at the Stoke Gifford; a second-half rally just not good enough to leave with any points.
The Lady Glovers forced to turn around and go back home after a trip to Berkhamsted culminated with a postponement, the pitch a mini swimming pool, the game rescheduled for the next available weekend, the visitors victorious. With points on the board Yeovil ended up coming up against a brick wall in their first match at Huish Park, the Millwall Lionesses fiercely stubborn, a draw sufficing.
The Glovers with more luck in their next match, making light work of Oxford before writing a wrong and firing four of the best past Millwall at the Den, a commanding 2-0 against Bristol followed before the last match before the mid-season break. A sub-standard first-half saw Yeovil heading towards their first home defeat of the year before a sublime second-half come-back saw the hosts turn a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 win, Aston Villa the team on the end of the onslaught.
Having cemented their place on top of the pile, Yeovil were the pacemakers for the league, the team to be shot at – albeit only two points ahead of Everton, the Blue Girls with a game in hand. A close-knit group who were well used to each other’s rhythms, with a number of former Vixens in the ranks, experienced players who’d be well ready for the rigors of WSL 1 life. Yeovil not only looked to be going up, but to be a team who could be successful in the top tier, a mean defence backed up with a slick midfield and an attack anchored by Sarah Wiltshire that looked able to outscore the opposition with frightening regularity.
Life at the top
A sharp return to action brought the Glovers their sixth win of the season, a controlled 2-0 against Durham at New Ferens before a slip-up at the Northcourt four days later saw the spoils shared with Oxford. A home Conti Cup loss to Notts County nipped their cup-run in the bud – although the 3-1 scoreline an improvement on last year’s 5-0 in the same competition.
The Glovers bounced back with a commanding 5-0 against an ailing Watford side before their penultimate defeat of the year, a lacklustre 3-0 against promotion rivals, Everton. Seemingly back on track a week later with a 4-0 at home to the Wildcats before leaving Coles Lane with all three points in their first league game of the year without talisman, Wiltshire – the then WSL top goalscorer sitting out the rest of the year, expecting her first child.
Coming through a tricky run of results
Five points dropped over the next two games rocking the promotion boat, Yeovil suddenly looking beatable, their WSL 1 dreams looking increasingly fragile. Taking just a point from their first meeting with Sheffield, a less than joyous afternoon in Dronfield a relatable frustration felt by all of the promotion hopefuls, the WSL newcomers the great leveller of the league.
Two goals up and cruising at Huish against the London Bees the hosts were left shocked after a first-rate second-half come-back from the Bees, the visitors leaving with full marks, the hosts healthy lead at the top of the table demolished. Top of the tree only on goal difference, Everton still with a game in hand just two points behind the top two, Durham still with an outside shot, still only two promotion places available.
Not able to afford a slip-up in their last three games, Yeovil did well to refocus and put the pressure on Everton, the Blue Girls slipping to a 1-0 loss in Widnes. Bristol confirmed their promotion at the end of October, Yeovil still unable to drop a point for fear of being overtaken by Everton, a nervy 2-0 at the Hive ensured the Glovers promotion, the Blue Girls would have to try again the following season.
With both promoted teams confirmed it was just the matter of who would finish top, the two still neck-and-neck, goal difference all that separated them. A 3-0 win over Sheffield enough to confirm the Somerset team as champions – despite Bristol’s 5-0 romp away to Oxford – the Glovers had weathered the storm and come out in glorious sunshine.
Glovers set to handle the top flight
Professional to a tee, the team functioning just as that; a team. In just two season Jamie Sherwood has done a breath-taking amount of work with a side just up from WPL, under his leadership the Lady Glovers have gone from strength to strength (to strength). One of his more successful moves this year was signing England international beach footballer Lucy Quinn, Quinn well versed with life in WPL made the seamless jump to WSL to provide crucial goals at the tail-end of the season. Quinn’s presence on the pitch a continued boost for the southern side, the attacker immediately buying into Sherwood’s philosophy.
The future remains incredibly bright for the Lady Glovers, the team’s star very much on the rise, the greatest task ahead of them will be bridging the growing gap between WSL 2 and WSL 1, but will all the tools at their disposal it’s hard to imagine them not being a success next season.