FAWNL: Five talking points as Bees return home and Robins claim spoils

Photo: London Bees

We take a look at some of the talking points from this weekend’s action.

With another round of fixtures consigned to the record books and narratives already starting to evolve across the Women’s National League, we take a look at some of the weekend’s talking points from matchday two of the 2022/23 season.

A buzz about London as Bees return home

London Bees made a much-awaited and welcome return to The Hive Stadium at the weekend, drawing 1-1 with Crawley Wasps in the side’s first league outing at the stadium since beating Blackburn Rovers on the final day of the 2020/21 season.

Bees, who hold a place in history as a founding member of WSL 2 and were the first club to record a victory in the competition by beating Oxford United 0-3 in the FA WSL 2 opener back in April 2014, were required to play their fixtures outside the main stadium last season following relegation from the second tier in 2021.

Thankfully for Bees, Sunday’s match marked the end of this arrangement after the club announced that London Bees would return to The Hive Stadium to “ensure that the team are using first-class facilities and can play in front of crowds in an all-seater stadium” ahead of the new season.

A move that can only be considered a positive for Marie Hourihan’s side and serve to strengthen the club as a whole going forwards.

Newly-promoted sides go head-to-head

Sunday’s match between Cheltenham and Billericay was the first meeting between two newly-promoted sides in the WNL this season as the Division One South East and West champions went head-to-head, with the Robins claiming bragging rights over the Blues.

Tom Davies’ side, who last lost a league match on the opening day of the 2021/22 season, came from behind for the second time in as many weeks to continue their dream start to life in the Southern Premier Division, with goals from Emily Owen and Lacy-Jai Liggett to take six points from six.

Billericay Town, on the other hand, have experienced opposite fortunes from their opening two matches, falling to consecutive 2-1 defeats.

Lady Magpies take flight in front of 1,500

Newcastle United made their first outing on home soil since being brought under the ownership of Newcastle United at the weekend, backed by the largest attendance in the Women’s National League this season.

Previously an independent entity but supported by the Newcastle United Foundation in recent years, Newcastle United announced that Newcastle United Women had completed the relevant formalities to compete as part of the club hours before the start of the 2022/23 season.

The Lady Magpies later marked the occasion with a 1-4 against Division One North newcomers Merseyrail before making a highly-anticipated return to Kingston Park in front of an expectant Geordie crowd of over 1,500 – and they didn’t disappoint, dispatching Stockport County in convincing fashion.

While these are very early days in United’s journey up the pyramid, the first boxes have been checked emphatically with back-to-back victories, the introduction of a new Development side, Becky Langley’s appointment as the club’s first full-time Head Coach, and a positive start to life under the Newcastle United wing.

Women’s football in the North East could soon have a new competitor in the form of the Lady Magpies.

Sheffield FC end unwanted run

Sheffield FC’s 2-0 win over Solihull Moors in Division One Midlands marked the end of an unwanted run and perhaps the turning of the tide for John Bennett’s side as The World’s First claimed back-to-back league wins for the first time since March 31, 2019 – an incredible 1,246 days.

Captain Tiana Hicks converted from the penalty spot to give Sheffield FC the lead, with Alex O’Neill doubling their lead from distance minutes later, while Leah Kellogg performed heroics between the sticks throughout the match to nullify the Moors attack and to help move The World’s First to the top of the table.

Bennett, who said: “I will be building the team and the woman’s section over the next few years with the aim of being very competitive as well as bouncing back, whilst providing a long-term sustainability so they can thrive and develop further in the years to come” upon his appointment as Manager in the summer is already delivering on his words in the Sheffield dugout.

Cardiff City impress as Sargent bags consecutive hat-tricks

Cardiff City have been relentless in the opening two games of the new season, scoring seven past Portishead Town on opening day and nine times against St Austell at the weekend to move to the summit of Division One South West.

Indeed, the season is still very much in its infancy, and there will inevitably be much tougher tests for the Welsh outfit as they gear up to face Southampton Women’s, Exeter City, and AFC Bournemouth in the coming weeks, but it’s hard not to take notice of Cardiff’s current form.

With 16 goals to their credit from their opening two matches, spread across five scorers, Jamie Phillip has his side purring in front of goal, with a potency currently unmatched by any other team in the Women’s National League.

Leading the front line is Ellie Sargent with six goals, with the remaining goals being shared between Kerry Bartlett (4), Cori Williams (4), Ingrid Aadland, and Chloe Lloyd.