Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go: Let is sn… hang on. No. DO NOT LET IT SNOW.
One of the chief factors in the creation of the FA WSL in 2011 was simple logistics; women’s football has traditionally been played out on smaller grounds with pitches and facilities more vulnerable to the elements. Playing the season across the traditional winter months, allied to some pretty poor administrative planning, led to ridiculous levels of unbalanced fixture congestion and a competition lacking the structure afforded to wealthier (inevitably men’s) clubs who could afford such things as undersoil heating and a full ground staff.
To say this spring’s unseasonably naff weather offered an insight into the bad old days of women’s football, then, would be a distinct understatement.
The one potentially saving factor is that this was never intended to be the first week of the WSL, rather the initial fixtures of the Continental Cup, the season’s new traditional curtain raiser. After a full set of fixtures was summarily postponed – with one notable exception – the ugly spectre of congestion rears its head again. And with inclement weather conditions due to last for at least another week, there’s nothing at all to suggest further postponements won’t strike the still-nascent season. Unless, of course, any of the teams fancy playing in conditions like these (and yes, that game really did happen).
The one fixture to survive the weather chaos was the Group 2 Merseyside Derby, a game given even greater significance than usual thanks to Liverpool’s mass strengthening in the pre-season. With former Everton stars Fara Williams and Natasha Dowie both now lining up in the red ranks, what may have been lacking in physical temperatures was certainly compensated for in scores to be settled.
Snood-wearing Everton ‘keeper Rachel Brown was responsible for a number of high-quality saves throughout the match, yet a combination of weak backpass and her own mistimed dart off the line led to a Liverpool penalty, when Dowie was brought down in the box. Fellow new-signing Louise Fors registered her first goal in Liverpool colours to leave Matt Beard’s team on the brink of a high-profile first weekend victory, but Everton, last season’s third-placed finishers, netted a well-earned equaliser with just three minutes of normal time remaining through striker Nikita Parris, who buried a well-placed header from Michelle Hinnigan’s wickedly placed free-kick.
A matchday attendance of 1432 and a live TV broadcast by media partners ESPN at least ensured that the 2013 season got off to something of an audience bang and showed that this season has the potential to be the most competitive in UK women’s football yet, both off-the-field and on it.
Liverpool 1 – 1 Everton
All other fixtures postponed
Picture credit: bbc.co.uk/sport – Thank You