Southern Region Women’s Premier Division

Southampton Women’s 5

(Laura Gilbank, Cassie Thorp, Gemma Simmonds, Jane Yeates, Sheree Bell-Jack)

Newbury Ladies 1

(Caroline Harkness)

Attendance: 38 (approx. headcount)

Testwood Stadium (AFC Totton)

The sun was shining on a glorious Sunday afternoon in Southampton and I had no plans after finishing work so I had to decide between some proper Sunday league action, under 18’s or women’s football.

I am loving the polls on Twitter at the moment and I set up a quick one to help me make my mind up and women’s football got 60% of the vote, so I decided on Southampton Women’s purely based on the fact that they use a ‘proper stadium’, the Testwood, home of AFC Totton.

Having watched very little ladies football in my time (and the film Bend it like Beckham doesn’t count either apparently) I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I have never been overly thrilled when catching bits of the England women’s national team so never mind what, was in fact, the fifth tier of women’s football had to offer.

The main thing I noticed was rolling subs, says it all really. My last memory of rolling subs was playing in the under 15s South Cheshire Youth League for my local village team. The game didn’t seem to have that competitive edge with the amount of substitutions resembling a pre season friendly.

All in all it was an experience and another game of football, I was just glad there was plenty of goals.

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The Ground

One of the main reasons for picking this game over a small handful of others was the fact that it was ten minutes in the car from work, and they play at one of the nicest local non-league grounds in the Southampton area.

The Testwood Stadium is a relatively new build (2010) and having only been once before in November 2013 I was excited to be going back. The ground is very similar to a ground I grew up visiting when I lived in Cheshire, Nantwich Town.

Like the Weaver Stadium, Totton boasts a nice modern looking main stand with seats surrounding the tunnel and the dugouts sitting just in front. Now six years old, the ground still looks very fresh and the terracing either side of the main stand and behind each goal has a couple of steps to allow people to stand and offer a bit of height above pitch level.

Opposite the main stand there is another covered terrace housing a few rows of bench seats. On this occasion with only a small handful of spectators all taking a seat in the main stand the other areas of the ground were empty. The place looked even better in the glorious sunshine on a Sunday afternoon as opposed to cold November Tuesday back in 2013.

The Game

Southampton Women’s made it two wins from two to jump to second in the league following a 5-1 thrashing of Newbury Ladies.

Goals from Laura Gilbank and Cassie Thorp gave Southampton the lead going into the break before three, second half goals from Gemma Simmonds Jane Yeates and Sheree Bell-Jack completed the scoring.

Newbury did pull one back in the last minute through Caroline Harkness but it was a little too late to mount any sort of comeback as the Berkshire outfit still go on the hunt for their first league win.

The first half was littered with awful shooting from the home team, who were donning a full Southampton FC 2014/15 away kit, with the away side seeing very little of the ball. Newbury had a good following in the crowd and they were in full voice for encouragement but it was Southampton who were seeing more of the possession.

Sheree Bell-Jack was making herself busy in the attacking areas but she couldn’t quite find her shooting range, firing wide and high on a number of occasions.

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Southampton thought they had taken the lead through Gilbank when she was on hand at the back post to tap in a low cross, however the linesman had flagged for offside.

Gilbank would have been forgiven for looking over to the linesman seconds later when she converted an almost identical chance, this time giving her side the advantage with just under half an hour played.

Newbury’s right back had the woodwork to thank when she nearly volleyed into her own net when trying the clear the ball, only for the effort to beat the ‘keeper and bounce off the post.

Thorp doubled the home side’s advantage on 37 minutes when she tapped in Jane Yeates’ cross from inside the six-yard box. And it was Yeates that nearly grabbed Southampton’s third of the game in first half injury time when her diving header ricocheted off the crossbar.

The crossbar came to Newbury’s rescue one minute into the second half when Gilbank saw her header hit the woodwork from Yeates’ cross.

Southampton did make it 3-0 shortly after when Gemma Simmonds hit a weak shot in the box which took a slight deflection to wrong foot the goalkeeper.

And two minutes later Yeates, who had been causing problems for much of the game, finally grabbed her chance when she volleyed in from close range after losing her marker in the box from a corner to give the home side a four goal cushion before the hour mark.

Bell-Jack rounded off the scoring in the 65th minute when she out sprinted the defence through the middle of the pitch and neatly dinked the ball over the ‘keeper.

Newbury did manage to play some football in the closing moments and despite showing very little in attack for the majority of the game managed to get a few shots in. They won a corner in the final seconds of the game and got their reward when Caroline Harkness headed in to score her teams first goal of the season.

2016/17 Games: 27

2016/17 Grounds: 27

Total Grounds Visited: 167

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