Women's FA Cup 5th RoundOver the last six months or so i have really started to take an interest in women's football. For the past couple of seasons we have threatened to watch Lincoln Ladies but never got round to it. After watching the Women's International at Doncaster, and then one of Lincoln Ladies friendlies, i decided to do as many LLFC games as i can this season. Lincoln Ladies are playing all their home matches at Lincoln United's Ashby Avenue this season with admission being £6
Lincoln however have plenty of International class and experience in their ranks in the form of Striker Jess Clarke, Sophie Bradley (who is sadly injured at the moment), and current England Captain Casey Stoney; who recently earned her 100th cap during the Cyprus Cup.
Today felt like the first real day of spring so after stuffing ourselves stupid in Yo-Yos all you can eat Chinese, we headed to Ashby Avenue for a few beers in the sun before kick off. I have always found Lincoln United's clubhouse to be very welcoming and so it proved today. What i really liked was the relaxed atmosphere both inside and outside the ground, with both sets of fans mingling in the sunshine. As you enter the ground there is a table selling merchandise and smart looking matchday programmes were on sale for £1.50. It looks like the club is really trying to encourage families to watch women's football and had erected a bouncy castle in one corner of the ground for the kids to play on. Nearby a BBQ was doing a roaring trade and made me regret stuffing my face earlier on. The only downside was that the PA system was dreadful and made hearing the line ups pretty difficult but luckily both sides players had there names on the back of the shirts with Arsenals being in fancy premiership style writing. The Gunners were in their traditional red shirts with white socks while Lincoln wore the new two tone blue away kit which looked quite smart. I am not sure if Lincoln wore the blue to show off the new kit or if Ladies Football follows the same lines as Rugby when kits clash (i.e the home side wears the change kit of if the kits clash) Or if the new home strips aren't ready yet. Anyhow it didn't matter i think the blue kit looks smart.
Then on 15 minutes the Gunners took the lead when England international Ellen White fired home following a misplaced pass from the home side. It was tough on Lincoln but when you are up against a quality side you just know any mistake will be punished. After the goal Lincoln didn't let their heads drop and battled even harder. Arsenal looked like they weren't used to teams having a go at them and were starting to moan to the ref whenever possible. Remi Allen and Lucy Staniforth in the midfield weren't taking any prisoners and won pretty much every 50/50 ball they contested.
Hamilton was being a real thorn in Arsenal's side with Clarke looking to feed of her. For all Lincoln's hard work however, they failed to really test Byrne in the Gunners goal from open play. Where they did look dangerous was from set plays as Lincoln were getting quite a few kicks around the box due to fouls mainly on Clarke. With Alleway up from the back Lincoln had a real aerial threat and the Arsenal keeper started to flap at all the corners and free kicks that went into the box.
I haven't seen any attendance figures but i would have said there was a good 250-300 fans in attendance. Arsenal did bring a few but they were very quiet (just like the old 'Highbury the Library' days) If you haven't been down to watch the Lady Imps then you really are missing out. As the league runs through the summer the weather is normally great, you can take your beer into the ground and you can pretty much sit where you want. The food looks great and the club really values your support. Its been a terrible few years in Lincoln footballing wise with City, United, and Moorlands all struggling in recent seasons so get yourself down and watch a Lincoln side that can play and its only £6!
Lincoln's Lady of the Match went to Laura Alleway who was the standout player for Lincoln today (with Jess Clarke a close second IMO) Reading the programme she says she is a big surfing fan and looking foward to doing some surfing because she misses it. I wonder if when she signed for the club she was told about the wonderful Skegness beach and its surfing possibilities. If that's what clinched the signing then hats of to the Lincoln managment team, it would be interesting to hear how she rates Skeg compared to the golden beaches of Australlia.