Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Lincoln Ladies 2-1 Everton Ladies Highlights

Whats that i hear you say? You can't wait to see the highlights of Lincoln Ladies fine 2-1 win over Everton? Well wait no more because here they are. The second goal just gets better and better.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Lincoln Ladies 2-1 Everton Ladies.

At the start of the season, the Lady Imps' aim was to finish in the top two of the WSL thus gaining a place in the Women's Champions League. Unfortunately for one reason and another that target is now beyond them. One of the reasons for this is the club's home form. This was the team's last home match of the campaign, and up until now only one home win in the league had been recorded; a fine 2-0 win over Chelsea. If the Imps were to add to that total then they would have to be at their very best today to defeat an Everton side that sat 2nd place in the table, one point ahead of Birmingham (who have a game in hand) and who couldn't afford to drop any points in their final two games of the season if they were to claim the second Champions League spot. The reverse fixture earlier in the season saw the Blues run out 1-0 winners in what was by all accounts a tight match.

Last week the WSL took a break as it was international week. England completed their European championship qualifying campaign with a solid 3-0 win over group whipping girls Croatia, on Wednesday evening. Two of the goal scorers that evening were on show today. Everton's Jill Scott got the ball rolling with the first goal and Lincoln and England skipper Casey Stoney bagged the third. Lincoln were also represented by Sophie Bradley and Jess Clarke who was an unused substitute. Alongside Jill Scott, Everton were also represented by Fara Williams in the starting line up, with young striker Toni Duggan coming off the bench to make her international debut. In goal Everton had Rachel Brown who was also in the England squad . Today all seven lionesses started.
Staying on the international theme Lincoln also had Laura Allaway away with the Australian national side on their tour of the USA in which she sustained a slight shoulder injury which kept her out of today's match. However the club are hopeful that she will be able to take part in the Imps' last game of the season away at Chelsea. Imps striker Katie Rood was at the match in her tracksuit but not in the matchday squad so i assume that her knee injury is still bothering her.
Although there has been quite a few changes and set ups in the Lincoln midfield, in the second part of the season one player has remained a constant and in my view is the Lincoln Ladies player of the season. Remi Allen had been the most consistent Imp this season and is the workhorse and ball winner in the Imps midfield. Pretty much the same job that Jill Scott does so well for England. The battle between those two was going to be fascinating to watch as the game went on.

Lincoln lined up with Nic in goal, a back line of Sophie Walton, Casey Stoney, Sophie Bradley, and Meaghan Sargeant. Midfield consisted of Remi Allen, Megan Harris, Sophie Barker, and Lucy Staniforth. Leading the line for the Imps was Precious Hamilton and Jess Clarke. The one thing that struck out was the fact that Lincoln only had four subs compared to Everton's six. Lincoln's bench however was well balanced.

When a side has nothing to play for one of two things can happen. They can either just coast through the game and take it easy or they can just go for it. Thankfully Lincoln did the latter and the way they started the game you would have thought that it was they that had Champions League aspirations.
In the first half Lincoln played some of their best football of the whole campaign so far. Jess Clarke was almost unplayable at times and linked up well with Precious Hamilton, when they are both on form i believe they are one of the best attacking partnerships in the division. Both of them fired in decent efforts but Brown in the Everton goal showed a safe pair of hands to keep them out . The visitors were struggling to string two passes together but when they did get the ball down the Lincoln end they found Stoney and Bradley in top form. Although they had created plenty of chances with some great chances from the likes of Hamilton, Staniforth, and Clarke, the Imps had nothing to show for their effort till the 29th minute
This was one of the strangest goals that i have seen for a while so its pretty hard to describe. Jess Clarke raced down the right and sent in a cross but it was intercepted by an Everton defender under pressure from Remi Allen. Rachel Brown in the Everton goal came out it collect the header but seemed to lose her footing which meant she only got a hand to the ball and it ended up in the back of the net. The Imps may have got lucky with the goal but even the most ardent Everton supporter couldn't deny that Lincoln were well worth their lead.
The Imps didn't have to wait long to get the second and it was well worth the wait, and again Jess Clarke played a key roll in the build up. She latched onto a fine through ball from Stoney, Brown came out well and saved at Jess' feet on the edge of the area and the ball cannoned away to Lucy Stainforth about 35-40 yards out. She then looked up, saw Brown still on the ground, and launched a shot right into the roof of the net and evaded the defender on the line. We have seen some cracking goals at Ashby Avenue this season and this was right up there with the best of them.
This goal did seem to fire Everton up a bit and they did come back a bit at Lincoln, but the Imps defence held firm. Just before the halftime whistle Lincoln could have wrapped up the points when Hamilton led the Everton defence a merry dance but her good work came to nothing.

After playing so well in the first half, it was no surprise that Lincoln didn't make any changes at the break. Everton were forced into a change and it was in goal with Danielle Hill replacing Brown. Brown had been one of the Toffee's better players in the first half so i can only conclude that she had picked up an injury somewhere along the line.
Just after halftime Lincoln had a fantastic chance to put the game to bed. The ball was crossed in, Hill completely missed it, as the ball fell to Megan Harris about 10 yards out with only a defender on the line to beat. However she managed to send the ball just the wrong side of the post. Not one that will make the end of season DVD i feel. Whenever something like this happens you worry if it will come back to bite you on the arse. Thankfully it didn't.
It looked like Everton had been read the riot act at halfitme and they were out a good 5 minutes or so before the Imps. After the early chance for Lincoln the visitors had their best spell of the game and took the game to Lincoln. Jill Scott had, by her very high standards, a quiet game, but she tested Nic Hobbs in the Lincoln goal with a great shot which drew an equally good save from the Lincoln keeper who had had little to do until this point. Everton did get a few decent crosses into the box and tried to build pressure, but the Lincoln defence held firm. The Imps looked to hit Everton on the break using their pace and continued to create and miss good chances.
In the 84th minute Everton were awarded a free kick about 5 yards from the edge of the box.

Keeper in position? Yep.
Wall set up? Sorted.
What could possibly go wrong?
The wall was well set and Nic had the other side of the goal covered. Fara Williams stepped up to take the free kick which took a huge deflection off the wall and left poor Nic in the Imps goal totally wrong footed as the ball nestled in the far corner of the goal; football can be such a cruel game at times. Lincoln have lost quite a few points from winning positions this season and i must admit i did get a feeling of "Here we go again".

Thankfully though Lincoln held off a late surge from Everton and after three added minutes claimed the three points that they deserved to end the home campaign on a high note. They do have one more game still to play (away at Chelsea) which i am going to, and if they win that they can still achieve fourth place in the table. A feat that would match last seasons effort.
Not only was today a success on the pitch, but off the pitch the club held a girls football open day which seemed to be very well attended. A reminder that Lincoln Ladies goes much deeper than the first team, and with a crowd of 291 in attendance the future looks bright for Lincoln and girls football in Lincolnshire.
Just to show how wide across Lincolnshire (and beyond) the LadyImps fan base is spread, i spent the game in the company of  gentleman on the committee of Grimsby Borough and we had a good old chin wag about all things football and very enjoyable it was to. Grimsby Borough is a ground i am yet to visit but i will hopefully be ticking it off very soon. I also know of fans that make a 70 mile round plus trip from Boston every home game to see the girls in action. All of this leaves little doubt in my mind that we have the one of the best and quickest growing fan bases in women's football in the country, and its something we can rightly be proud of.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Tottenham Hotspur 0-2 FC Barcelona

Its very rare that i get to visit a Premiership ground these days so this was a real bonus of a match. I have nothing against the Premiership and i can gladly sit in a pub on a Sunday afternoon and watch a game. However some of the ticket prices at this level are simply eye watering and well out of my price range (more of this later) Tickets for tonight's encounter were available for a mere £5. The same amount that i paid the previous evening to watch Lincoln Moorlands Railway lock horns with Brighouse town (A 3-1 win for the visitors if anybody is interested). We had obtained three return train tickets down to London for a total of £39 meaning that each of us paid less than £20 combined for ticket and travel.
The Moorlands sports ground. Home to Lincoln Moorlands FC.
 this is the kind of ground that i am use to.
The Next Generation series is a competition for under 19 sides and the format is very similar to that of the Champions league. The main difference being that teams apply to join the Next Gen instead of qualifying through league positions. Last season saw Internazionale of Milan defeat Ajax of Amsterdam on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. The final was staged at East London's most glamorous location; The Matchroom stadium, home of Leyton Orient, in front of over 3,500 people. 
This may only be the second edition of the series but it is already growing in popularity. This season it has been extended to 24 clubs and is being screened live by Eurosport. Tonight's game was the first match to get the TV treatment. 

We jumped on the train at Newark at 2.00pm and were we on our merry way down to London for the second time in a week. Leaving from Newark did mean a drive down there from Retford but, given the difference in ticket price, it was well worth it. After spending much of the journey down giving out relationship advice and entertaining everybody in our carriage (which wasn't very full). We arrived in London at just gone 3.30pm.
One of the many good things about London is that you can pick up a free London Evening Standard to read whilst you are travelling around on the tube. As we had plenty of time to kill we took a ride over to the Emirates as Felice has a "soft spot" for the Gunners. Its very rare i get to see big grounds like this and you can't help but be impressed by it. I didn't take any pictures though as i didn't want to look too much like a tourist. The clubshop (Or armoury as it is known as) Is quite impressive but it failed to have the elusive Arsenal year book for sale which was our main reason for coming out here. Which meant valuable drinking time was lost and this little journey has to be put down as a wild goose chase. So with this charade behind us we made our way to White Hart Lane.
There are no tube stations near the stadium so you need to get an over ground service from Seven Sisters to White Hart lane over ground station and from here it is just a short walk to the stadium. Its fair to say that the area around the station could do with a little tidying up, but you could say that about most of the stations in inner London.
One aspect of going to large grounds that i like, is that you often get lots of independent stalls selling club merchandise and especially badges. Many of which tend to be better than the official ones on sale in the clubshop. Two badges for £5? Sounds good to me.
The future?
By now i was gagging for a pint so we headed into a pub just next to the entrance to the West stand. The pub was decent enough and the ale went down a treat. After a couple of beers we headed off to check out the club shop. Although it was smaller than Arsenals i think the range of merchandise for sale was much better in my humble opinion. There was all the normal stuff you would expect plus a range of ladies underwear that i would imagine would go down well on valentines day. Its certainly something that Lincoln City should look at producing because lets face it we need something to cheer us up at the moment. Whether the good lady folk of Lincoln would relish the chance to wear a bra and panty set with the Imps crest on though is open to debate.
We still had plenty of time to kill so we headed over to the next pub. This was smaller than the first one but was much busier. The weather was decent enough so we took our drinks outside and chatted to some Spurs fans about the club and the new ground. There is a picture of it as you approach the current ground and although it looks very nice, it will be a shame if they do leave, as White Hart Lane has bags of character and is a real football ground with plenty of pubs and eating places around it.
Due to a good marketing campaign, ticket sales for tonight's game looked to had gone well. Originally only the west stand lower was going to be opened but such was the demand, the club opened the stand behind the goal and a few rows of the upper west tier. The club did issue a programme of sorts but all it was was a single folded bit of card with profile pictures of the two squads and each teams previous result in the competition so far. In fairness to the club it was given away free at the turnstiles but i had hoped for a little bit more given the stature of the two clubs playing.
The views from our seats were pretty good and the legroom was decent enough. To our left was the Spurs singing section who made a decent amount of noise all the way through the game including a great song about Ledley King being better than John Terry (which he is in my humble view) As most people know Barcelona have been known to play some great football over the past few seasons (unless they are playing Inter Milan in the Champions League) and much has been made of their fantastic youth set up. With all this in mind i was looking forward to seeing what they have coming through the system at the moment. Much of the great passing that Barca have been famous for was in short supply in the opening exchanges as Spurs really got amongst their visitors and forced them back without really testing the visiting keeper. As with the first team, Barca are a big side, but they appeared very lightweight compared to Spurs. What they didn't do though was panic in defence when they had the ball; looking to pass their way out of trouble instead of just booting it up field.
On 17 minutes Barca took the lead out of nowhere when Adama crossed in for Sandro to finish coolly at the near post. It was tough on Spurs but you can't afford to switch off for a second when you play Barcelona. This goal really took the wind out of Spurs' sails and they started to panic a little on the ball. This in turn allowed Barcelona to settle on the ball and they looked much the better side for the remainder of the half.
Since Barca have started playing the so called "Ticka Tacka" brand of football every man and his dog seems to have got the idea that you have to complete 50 plus passes to score a goal. This is of course utter tripe and over hyped by the media. Barcelona themselves disproved this myth with their second goal. Joseph Ondoa (the latest in a long line of eccentric goalkeepers from Cameroon) In the Barca goal, launched a goal kick down field. The Spurs defence let it bounce, which allowed Sandro to control it, take a few steps, and smash it past the Spurs keeper to seal the points for Barcelona. After this Spurs did make some changes but they struggled to create any real chances and Barcelona saw the game out quite comfortably in the end. Fair play to the Spurs fans though who kept on singing and created a great atmosphere all through the match.
After the game we headed back to Kings Cross, had a kebab and sunk a few beers. Standard end to an away day for us really. Earlier on in the blog i mentioned ticket prices. Before the game we picked up some Spurs home programmes for this season for something to read on the train on the way back home. The page that caught our eye the most was the ticket information. Had we wanted to buy the same seats we were in tonight for a category A game (Manchester United,Arsenal etc) They would have cost us £71! (£81 on the upper tier) with Cat C a mere snip at £47. I really enjoyed my trip to the Lane but would I cough up 71 quid to watch Spurs? No. When you see prices like this you realise why you are seeing more and more empty seats at football grounds these days, although to be fair, Spurs always sell out so some people are happy to pay these prices. And to those who do i tip my hat.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Arsenal Ladies 2-1 Lincoln Ladies

Ever since i decided that i was going to follow and write about the lady Imps this season, this was a game i had marked down as a "must do". The majority of away games this season have been on Sundays meaning that fun away days on the train are virtually impossible. Being based in Retford which is on the main line to London made this an easy one to attend.
Booking railway tickets can be a little haphazard but the general rule of the thumb is you get the best deals if you book early. With that in mind i managed to secure return tickets from Retford to London at the price of £22. Leaving Retford at 8.50am which got us into London for just gone 10.30am. The return journey entailed leaving London at 8.05pm. arriving in Retford at 9.30pm.
Today was the last day of the paralympic games, so with that in mind its hardly surprising that the train was quite busy. Upon arrival in London you couldn't help but notice the difference from a year ago when i was last down this way. Kings Cross Station is now fully finished and isn't the dump that is was before, the police were out in force (although they didn't seem unduly concerned by our group of fearsome Lady Imps supporters) And you couldn't help but notice the amount of "Team GB" t-shirts on display.

None of us had eaten yet today so we headed for the McDonald's next to Kings Cross station. We had just missed the cut off time for breakfast, so it was Big Mac meals all round for breakfast. On this point i have to admit that it was my second one in just over 12 hours. I know its not big or clever but we needed to get some food in us before we started drinking. If anybody does know of a cafe type place near Kings Cross that we could visit on future away games in London could you please let me know.
Arsenal Ladies FC play nearly all their home games at the Meadow Park home of Blue Square Southern Division side Boreham Wood FC. To get there you need to get an overground train from St Pancras international station to Elstree and Borehamwood. We got the train heading to Luton and left from platform 2B(Northbound) and cost just over £7. The journey takes about 25 minutes and is mainly over ground. The trains aren't the most modern and do have a distinctly 80s feel to them. When you get to Elstree and Boreham Wood you need to turn left, walk a 100 yards or so to the highstreet the turn left and carry on down the highstreet till you come to McDonalds. You will then see a sign for Borehamwood FC directing you left. It was a glorious sunny day so as it had just gone midday we stopped in an Irish pub about half way down the highstreet to sample a couple of pints. In hindsight i should have worn shorts instead of jeans, but being hot did make the beers go down quicker.
Throughout the last week i had tweeted Arsenal and written on their Facebook page to try and find out whether or not there was a bar at the ground we could drink in. Although no information was forth coming we decided to take our chances instead of going to the Wetherspoons near the McDonald's. Upon arrival we found that there was a youth tournament going on on the practice pitches outside the ground with a brass band playing merrily away. Not your average pre match entertainment and it made a nice change. Much to our relief we discovered that Gallery Suite bar was open for business.
Now i am guessing here but it looked like this was the hospitality area that Boreham Wood use on matchdays as it looked very posh. There were plenty of leather sofas, stylish bar stools,the barman was well turned out in shirt and tie and Sky Sports News was on the TV. But above all this, it served a cracking pint, one of the best i have had in London in fact. If this is the normal supporters bar then the directors bar must be very special indeed.
Best pint of the season.
Given how good the bar was i was surprised at how few people were taking advantage of it. There was our merry little group, another lady imps fan and a couple of Gunners fans. Imps player Laura Alleway did briefly pop in to get some water. I could have asked her if she wanted a quick pint before the game but i got a little starstruck. The Arsenal fans were discussing the game and chatting about how many players they had out the team when we beat them 4-3 in the cup earlier in the season. I was tempted to point out that we had both Casey Stoney and Laura Alleway also out for that game, but i decided against it and let sleeping dogs lie. About 30 minutes before KO we supped up and made our way round to the turnstile and parted with our £5 entrance fee. Just inside the gate programmes were on sale for £1.
Arsenal (Or "The Arsenal") have always been known for doing things the correct way and having high standards in pretty much everything that they do in football. And this is clearly evident in the matchday programme. The men's side has always produced fantastic programmes over the years and the ladies issue is every bit as impressive. 18 pages, full colour with very few adverts, and plenty to read. With a cover price of£1 this programme is head and shoulders above anything else I have seen in the FA WSL. The away section is pretty impressive with a nice comment about the lady imps fan base. This programme, like the team, has set the bench mark in ladies football that others must try to match.
On the field Arsenal have been as dominant as ever this season. Although the scorelines may be getting closer they are still winning games, well clear at the top of the league, and are unbeaten this season in the WSL. They have only dropped points at Lincoln (3-3) Everton (2-2) and more recently a 1-1 draw at home to Bristol. All this added to the fact that the other teams keep tripping over themselves means that before kickoff the Gunners only needed six more points to take the title. In Europe they have been drawn to face FC Barcelona and on the domestic front they will face Birmigham in the Continental Cup final. Essentially, if you are going to get anything against Arsenal then you have to play very very well.
Meadow Park is a decent enough ground with one long seated area down one side, and uncovered terracing  behind each goal. Opposite the seated stand is a long covered terrace and it is here that we watched the game from. Normally we would go behind the goal but in this heat a place in the shade was the order of the day. We stood at the end that the Lincoln team were warming up at. This was certainly a day for watching as oppose to playing.
Rather them than me!
Since the mid season break Lincoln haven't really had a consistent line up in midfield and today saw another new combination with Megan Harris, Remi Allen, Lucy Staniforth, and Meaghan Seargent getting the line up. Up front the battle for places had been as tough but Precious Hamilton got the nod to lead the line with Jess Clarke playing just off her. Jess has been a thorn in Arsenal's side this season and gave Arsenal full back Alex Scott such a tough time at Lincoln. The two are England teammates so i imagine that Alex tried to be on the same side as Jess in the five-a-side training. At the other end Laura Alleway lined up at right back and had a huge challenge on her hands in the shape of Arsenal striker Rachel Yankee. Sophie Walton was at left back with England pair Casey Stoney and Sophie Bradley making up the centre back pairing in front of Nic Hobbs in the goal.
Lincoln had a half chance in the first minute when Hamilton chipped a ball into the box but Jess couldn't quite control her shot and it looped over the bar. Arsenal soon got to grips with the game though and started to take control. Lincoln kept their shape well though, but struggled to keep hold of the ball for any length of time. In heat like this you need to keep hold of the ball and make the other side chase after it which is what Arsenal looked to do by stretching the game and using Rachel Yankee and Gemma Davison on the wings. Meanwhile off the pitch some of our pro Lincoln chants and comments were getting a few strange looks form the Gunners fans around us. Arsenal were looking dangerous but Nic Hobbs in the Lincoln goal was more than up to the task and pulled off some great saves to keep Lincoln in the match. After the way that Lincoln had been disciplined for the first 20 minutes it was a real kick in the teeth to concede a sloppy goal on 25 minutes. Yankee got the ball wide and whipped in a cross which Nic did well to get a fist on. However not for the first time this season, the Imps defence didnt react quick enough and allowed Jennifer Beattie not one but two chances to slam the ball home to put the hosts one up. Although the goal had been coming its always annoying to concede like this especially after some sterling defensive work earlier on.
It could have been 2-0 shortly after but Nic pulled off another trademark save from Nobbs on a one on one. Lincoln were rattled by the first goal and went further behind on 37 minutes. A Lincoln clearance was picked up on the touchline by Gemma Davison whose shot was well saved by Nic. Jordan Nobbs latched onto the rebound but Sophie Bradley made a fantastic clearance on the line. However, the ball only found its way to Rachel Yankee who easily finished from close range to put clear daylight between the two sides. Thankfully Lincoln managed to hold out till halftime without conceding again and give the gaffer a chance to settle them down and re think things. After the promise of the first twenty or so minutes it had all got a bit belly up for Lincoln and it was going to take a huge effort to get back in the game. This was the third away match on the trot that the Imps had faced a two goal deficit.

We took a stroll around the ground at halftime while feeling a tad sorry for ourselves. We slipped up here as it wasn't until we got to the entrance that we discovered that we could have nipped out for another pint in the clubhouse. Soon enough after some PA announcements that we couldn't understand, Lincoln were out and raring to go for the second half. One change for the Imps here with Sophie Barker replacing Meaghan Sargeant in the midfield.
For our part we decided to try and up the chants for the team with a few verses of "Precious Hamilton- goal machine" ringing out much to the bemusement of the Arsenal fans near us.
Arsenal started the second half in the same vein as the first, with Nic continuing to be in inspired form by make a great double save. At the other end Lincoln started to create a few half chances but the final ball all too often let us down when we got into decent positions. As the half wore on Arsenal started to take their foot off the gas and were happy to keep Lincoln at arms length. This allowed Lincoln to get Jess Clarke on the ball more and do what she does best; run at defenders with pace.
With 11 minutes to go Jess tore down the left, skipped past the full back, and burst into the box where she was tripped  by Arsenal skipper Katie Chapman, which gave the ref no choice but to point to the spot.
In Remi Allen Lincoln have one of the best penalty takers in the WSL, and there was little doubt in my mind that she would score. Up she stepped, sent Emma Byrne the wrong way, and all of a sudden Lincoln were back in the game. A game that in they looked well out of at half time.
Cue plenty of celebrating from us and gnashing of teeth from the Arsenal fans near us.
Lincoln did try and have a go at Arsenal and in the last minute they had a great chance to get an unlikely equalizer when Laura Alleway, up from the back, broke free and unleashed a shot from 20 yards which drew a top draw save from Byrne in the Arsenal goal. Four minutes were added but Lincoln just couldn't find the right ball and the Gunners held on to gain the points. Overall they deserved them but they will be disappointed for letting Lincoln back in the game when they should have been out of sight. As for Lincoln we should take great heart in the way we battled back and dug in but yet again soft goals cost us and you can't afford to give a quality side like Arsenal easy goals. As Casey Stoney said post game we gave Arsenal the goals instead of making them work hard for them. (Or words to that effect)

Our post game plan consisted of more drinking. I had booked us on the 8.05pm train back so we had plenty of time to indulge. First port of call was the pub opposite the train station in Borehamwood. On the door it said it had a smart dress code but we got served with no problems and sat out in the beer garden before our train back to Kings Cross. Once back in the big smoke we headed for Kings Kebabs over the road from the station, where the food was, as ever, first class. From here we took a short walk up the road to an O'Neills pub and just drank and relived the day. Although we lost, this was a decent day out. The weather was great, the girls had given it their all and we had had a good drink. What more can you ask for? We will definitely be back at Borehamwood  for more next year.
High praise indeed for the Imps fan base.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Doncaster Rovers Belles 2-1 Lincoln Ladies.

Since i last wrote about the Lady Imps quite alot has gone on. Not only in regards to Lincoln Ladies but Ladies football as a whole. The Great Britain ladies football team (With lady Imps Casey Stoney and Sophie Bradley in their ranks) Impressed at the Olympics reaching the quarter finals beating much fancied Brazil along the way at Wembley in front of 75,000 plus supporters. It felt as if the great British public had final woken up to the fact that the women's game here is growing and certainly worth watching.

On the domestic front due to the lop sided fixture list, the Lady Imps faced a run in of 5 away games from their six remaining fixtures. The first match back saw us slip to a disappointing 3-1 defeat away at FA Cup holders Birmigham City. This was followed by a trip to second bottom Liverpool at the weekend. With 20 or so minutes to go the Imps trailed 2-0 and it looked as if the season was drifting by. But if this season has proved anything, it is to expect the unexpected as far as the Lady Imps are concerned. The Imps rolled their sleeves up and mounted a great comeback to win 3-2 and keep their hopes of 2nd place alive. They may be a long shot for it but this win kept them in with a fighting chance and would have done their confidence the world of good. 
There has also been a couple of changes on the playing front. One of the Imps most constant players of the season Rachel Daly played her final game for the club at Liverpool as she has gained a scholarship in the New York University of St Johns. As she has had a fantastic season she will be very much missed and i would like to wish her luck in her American adventure. 
Its always a blow to lose a quality player, but when you do lose one its important to bring some quality in, and that's what the Imps have done. Laura Alleway's visa issues have been cleared up and she is now able to turn out for the Imps. I have only seen her play once, against Arsenal in the FA Cup but she was a class above everybody else on the pitch that day. Add into the mix that Lincoln's biggest attacking threat (in my view anyway) Jess Clarke is now fully fit and raring to go and you get some very interesting selection dilemmas for Imps manager Glen Harris. I don't envy him in picking the line up now that everybody is fit. I did have an idea of what i thought the line up would be for this game, but in the end i was well off the mark.

The set up at Doncaster is alot different to the other clubs in the WSL. Whereas the rest of us all play on non league grounds, (Bar Arsenal once a season when they play one match at the Emirates stadium) Doncaster  play at the Keepmoat stadium that is owned by Doncaster council and shared with Doncaster Dons RLFC and League one side Doncaster Rovers. I had mixed feelings about seeing a game here before tonight. Although it is a smart enough modern stadium, the thought of a 200 or so crowd in a 15,000 seater stadium didn't strike me as a great atmosphere for football. Having seen a match here there i feel it's not quite as bad as i first feared but i still prefer the Ashby Avenue experience.
The first thing you need to know if you haven't been to see your side play here is that you need to but a ticket before you go to the turnstiles as they don't accept cash on the gate. Once you come out of the ticket office turn right, follow the stadium round until you come to the turnstile that is open. As we entered the ground a steward politely asked whether my other half had brought her boots, and if so she would get a game as the home side were short on numbers. A ticket for this epic encounter cost £6. Once inside there is a table that was selling the programme for £2 and raffle tickets for £1. Quite why i continue to buy raffle tickets i don't know as i have never actually won one, but we live in eternal hope i suppose. I must admit to being a tad concerned that all of the food and drink huts appeared to be shut. Not to worry though for WSL games Doncaster open up the executive bar at the top of the stand how posh is that?
It would appear the the stand that is opened up for WSL games is the best one in the stadium and were all the V.I.Ps sit on a matchday. The bar is situated at the back of the stand and the thing you notice as you walk up to it is the amount of nice comfy padded seats. I don't know how much you have to pay to sit here and use the executive bar on Rovers matchdays, but i bet its a hell of alot more than six quid. The bar itself is very smart with the staff were all well turned out and the whole thing looks very professional. Although as you would expect the food and drink isn't on the cheap side (£2 for a cup of tea for example)
Anyway enough of the ground, on to the game.
We sat to the right of the seated area that was open due to one reason. Some Doncaster fans think that is a great idea to bring bells to games and ring them throughout the game. It's not my idea of fun, but each to their own i suppose. It looked like a few Lincoln fans had got the same idea, as there was a little group of us all sat at that end of the stand. In the match between the sides at Lincoln, some of the travelling Doncaster fans had brought bells with them but as you can stand/sit wherever you want you could avoid them. However at the Keepmoat as you are all located in a small area, you can't really get away from them.

The Imps team news was quite interesting and not what i was expecting. Up front we were starting with Carla Cantrell and Jess Clarke and there was a starting debut for midfielder Emily Roberts. Megan returned to midfield and Sophie Barker in at left back. The Imps had a balanced bench with plenty of options including striker Katie Rood who has just returned from representing New Zealand in the under 20's world cup in Japan. The main thing that was noticeable on the Doncaster team sheet, was the fact that they had only named two substitutes. Maybe the steward was serious about any female who brought their boots would get a game.

Lincoln finished up where they left off on Sunday and quickly had Doncaster on the back foot. With their crisp one touch passing, Lincoln forced a couple of corners and shots from range but, as so many times before this season, didn't really force Earps in the Doncaster goal into making many saves. Jess had a half chance but Remi Allen's cross was just a little out of her reach. Carla Cantrell also missed an early chance when her shot was hit straight at the keeper. Then after making all the running, on 20 minutes Lincoln found themselves behind to a fantastic strike. The last two WSL goal of the month awards have been won by Lincoln players; Carla v Chelsea and Megan v Arsenal. So i suppose it was only a matter of time before we were on the receiving end of a world class strike. What goes around comes around and all that.
When Alyssa Lagonia collected the ball wide on the right there didn't look to be any danger as there were no other Doncaster players anywhere near the box, so she looked up and delicately chipped the ball into the top corner giving Nic Hobbs in the Lincoln goal no chance at all. As soon as the ball went in the bells started to be rang with great gusto and i started to regret not bringing any ear plugs.
That goal seemed to knock Lincoln out of their stride and Donny started to pass the ball around much better than they had done. Lincoln had a great chance to equalise when Lucy Staniforth beat a couple of players and passed to Carla Cantrell who was tackled just as she was about to pull the trigger. Donny had been giving up quite a few free kicks by fouling Jess Clarke in dangerous positions but the Imps could not take advantage with the ball either being fired straight into the wall or straight at the keeper. At halftime the Imps trudged off knowing that they were behind in a game that they could and should have been comfortably ahead in. Halftime was also our cue to head back up to the warmth of the executive bar. Halftime was spent checking the phone for other scores and counting the number of groundhoppers frantically copying down the teams from the teamsheets into their little books. I may laugh now but i hope that i never become that sad. The other high point was the raffle draw which unsurprisingly i failed to win.
Neither side made any changes at the break unsurprisingly in Doncasters case given their bench. Lincoln had their first chance to equalise when Megan Harris took a free kick, but she failed to get a decent connection, resulting in an easy save for the keeper. This was followed by a couple of chances for Doncaster the first of which, from a corner, was well saved by Nic. The second one was a cross that Nic left and it just trickled wide of the back post. Thankfully there wasn't an on rushing Doncaster player there waiting for it. I will give Nic the benefit of the doubt and say that she knew it was going wide all along having got her angles spot on and was just teasing the crowd.
Sensing that Lincoln were getting on top and to press home the advantage, Glen Harris made his first change with Roberts, who had looked steady on her debut, being replaced by former Doncaster player Precious Hamilton. This was soon followed by Sophie Bradley making way for Laura Alleway who is always a threat from set pieces.
Then on 66 minutes, disaster. On a Doncaster counter attack Laura Allaway tussled with a Rovers player which let to what Lincoln thought was a goal kick. However the ref had other ideas and signalled a corner. This led to fierce protests form several Imps players. Doncaster then loaded the box for the corner which Nic punched away only for the ball to fall to Millie Bright of Doncaster who slammed the ball into the net for 2-0.  As you can imagine this only incensed the Lincoln players even more. Casey Stoney went over to have a civilised chat with the ref about it and was booked for her troubles. Most people would be quite happy if a member of team GB (and Captain of the Ladies Football team no less) came over to talk to them, but not referee Mr Carratt it would seem.

As you would imagine this fired Lincoln up even more. They made their last change with Katie Rood replacing Cantrell up front who was starting to get wound up. On 72 minutes Lincoln got back in the game when Precious Hamilton placed a glancing header past Earps in the Doncaster goal. Game on.
Only moments after getting back in the game the Imps almost hit self destruct.
Doncaster sprung the Imps offside trap halfway inside the Lincoln half which left the Doncaster forward with only Nic Hobbs in the Imps goal to beat. However Nic pulled of the save of the season to deny her and keep Lincoln in the game.
The save really was fantastic and prompted me to say "F##king brilliant Nic!" and punch the air. This drew one or two glares from people around us, as swearing at a ladies game isn't the done thing. If anybody heard it then i apologise. Had this happened at a men's game i would have been drowned out by fans swearing at the striker for missing the chance.
The pattern for the last 15 minutes or so was plenty of Lincoln pressure with Donny looking dangerous on the counter attack. Lincoln's best chance fell to Katie Rood in the last minutes, but another last ditch tackle sent the ball out for a corner. The Imps did have the ball in the net deep into injury time but the ref had spotted a push and chalked the goal off. The final whistle was greeted with a huge amount of bell ringing and chants from 4 or 5 Donny fans of  "Can we play you every week?" The answer to that is no, so go home and play with your ding a lings alone. And as for the chant saying "We're gonna win the League" Well i won't even waste my time replying to that.
 This was by and away the most frustrating defeat the Imps have suffered this season. Had we made our dominance count in the first 20 minutes then the game would have been different. Its an old saying in football that if you don't take your chances when you are on top you are going to be in trouble. The effort and desire in this side aren't in question, they proved today and on Sunday that they keep on going to the very end, which makes results like this even harded to take. Sometimes in sport as in life you don't get what you deserve and tonight was just one of those nights. However, whenever we have had a setback this season the girls have responded magnificently. Now is not the time to cry over spilt milk. We have a huge semi final at home Sunday against Birmingham City to look forward to. See you there!! Come on you Lady Imps!!