After a brief pause for the festive period, FA Women’s National League clubs ready themselves for a return to action.
With the return of the FA Women’s National League on the horizon and plenty to look forward to, we highlight some of the things worth looking out for this weekend.
Tags first to fifty – again?
Hashtag United were the first side in the Women’s National League to score 50 league goals last season – a feat they could repeat against an out-of-form Hounslow side at the weekend, with the Tags requiring six goals to reach the milestone, fewer than half the number they scored in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
Jason Stephens’ side has players capable of creating problems for the opposition defence across the pitch, with Sammy Rowland in particularly scintillating form since making the switch from Welling United.
Can they reach the milestone at Hounslow’s expense on Sunday?
Quarter-finals set to be confirmed
The final spots in the quarter-finals of the FAWNL League Cup and Place Competition will finally be determined on Sunday, over a month later than the ties were originally set to take place.
A series of weather-enforced postponements and other cup competitions taking precedence over the Women’s National League’s own knockout competitions has led to the delay, as Cardiff City prepare to travel to face Plymouth Argyle at Home Park with a place in the final eight of the FAWNL League Cup up for grabs, while league rivals Swindon Town and Southampton Women’s meet to determine who moves one step closer to the Plate Competition final.
Portsmouth await the victors of Plymouth Argyle vs Cardiff City, while the winners of Southampton Women’s vs Swindon Town will be rewarded with a home tie against Billericay Town.
Wolves fans left frustrated with short-notice fixture
On Sunday 1st January Wolves announced that they did not have a game scheduled for the weekend, Sunday 8th January. Twenty-four hours later, they did – a FAWNL Northern Premier Division meeting with AFC Fylde at New Bucks Head Stadium.
This prompted Wolves fans to issue a statement, via the Wolves 1877 Trust, about the timing of the arrangement, highlighting that the fixture could have been announced before Christmas as neither Wolves nor AFC Fylde had a match penned in for Sunday 8th January.
The Trust also called on the FAWNL to maximise the use of its social media channels in the future to promote fixture arrangements.
At present, the constitution permits the League to schedule a fixture at 5 days’ notice.
A rule that the FAWNL will likely argue is a necessary part of its toolkit to ensure that the season can be completed but questions remain over why the fixture was not arranged sooner, leaving fans to feel like an afterthought.
Imps and Athletic eye second spot
Leafield Athletic travel to Moorlands Sports Ground to face a Lincoln City team who, after a stuttering start to the season, are now one of the league’s in-form teams, with the opportunity to leapfrog Doncaster Rovers Belles into second place at stake for both sides – albeit potentially only briefly as Belles have games in hand over every team around them.
City eventually got the better of Leafield Athletic in the reverse meeting earlier this season after being pegged back twice; Jess Rousseau scored the decisive goal for the Imps in the 85th minute of the match to seal a 3-2 win.
Victory for the home side would extend their winning run to five matches, while three points for Athletic would see them get back to winning ways after being held to a 1-1 draw with Leek Town last time out.
Tough test for winless Wasps
Crawley Wasps will be looking to put an end to a ten-game run without when they host Billericay Town on Sunday.
Wasps, who sit bottom of the FAWNL Southern Premier Division table, will know that they must start putting some wins on the board before the gap between the relegation zone and safety becomes insurmountable.
But it won’t be easy, as Ricay have been in fine form since James Gibson succeeded Scott Chickelday as Blues’ manager in October, winning seven matches and losing just once.
Three points for Gibson’s side on Sunday would be enough to move the Blues level on points with Watford, Ipswich Town, and Portsmouth in second place, whilst making Wasps’ bid to stay in the division more difficult.
Check out the league standings in the FA Women’s National League here.
Fixtures – Sunday 8th January 2023