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Kick off 12:00 (UK)

1-2
14 April 2019 Venue New Ferens Park Attendance

Kick off 12:00 (UK)

Durham
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Sheffield United

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Match Previews

Women's Villa preview

16 August 2019

Sheffield United Women kick off their second FA Women's Championship campaign this Sunday with a trip to now familiar opponents Aston Villa Women.

The sides met four times last season, twice in the league and in both domestic cup competitions, with each of the four matches becoming an important moment one way or the other in the club's first season in the second tier.

This weekend's meeting at Boldmere St. Michaels takes place exactly one year on from the first meeting between the sides last season, a Continental Cup tie which marked the first game for Carla Ward's side since the women's football restructure.

"I was a bit daunted coming into it," recalled Sophie Barker. "I knew a couple of the girls but I'd not really jumped clubs that much. I'd known Wardy for a long time so I did settle in quite quickly. Not many people knew each other so we were on a level playing field, everyone was fighting for spots, nobody took their place for granted and it was actually really nice to come into that.

With a side featuring eleven full debutants after a busy summer of recruitment, including Barker, goals from Danielle Cox and Tania Marsden ensured the Blades got off to a perfect start.

"We set out to win the majority of games because we knew the quality we had, but we knew we were a brand new team and there was always that aspect of wondering how we would do.

"Considering the team hadn't been together long, we showed massive character throughout that game to win it."

Villa didn't have to wait too long for a chance to exact some revenge as the first league meeting between the two clubs took place just over a month later, still the only home game against Villa for United to this date.

With the game being played at Bramall Lane, it was another new experience for all the players involved as Ward's side ran out comfortable 4-1 winners to record their first league win of the season.

"It was an amazing experience to be fair," said Barker. "It's definitely one of the best stadiums I've played in and the support we had to be able to do that was great.

"We'd still not played together that much, we knew we could win but to have that momentum behind us, to play on that pitch played to our advantage because we've got some good players in this team."

One of the club's youngest players, Alethea Paul, scored her first goal for the club from the penalty spot after joining from Manchester City, and it was a "special game" for the teenager.

"All the girls rose to the occasion and we played a really good game," said Paul. "We knew what we were capable of and I think that game demonstrated that. Personally, it was a game to remember as I scored my first goal for the club."

The club's met for a third time before 2018 was out in what was the last league game before the winter break. With Villa's form picking up and United struggling with injuries, it proved to be the club's biggest defeat of the season as Gemma Davies's side ran out 5-1 winners, completely turning the tables on the Blades and a game which Barker admits went a long way to setting the side on the right path for the second half of the season.

"I think that kicked us on," said Barker. "We probably took it a bit more granted after beating them 4-1, it was a massive, massive learning curve. We didn't lose many games after that, we realised we couldn't take anything for granted, we weren't the best team in the league and I think we only improved from there."

The final and most eventful game was saved until last when the sides were drawn to face each other in the SSE Women's FA Cup, once again at Boldmere St. Michaels. Form had picked up for the Blades and with the additions of Fran Bentley, Naomi Hartley, Ebony Salmon and Maddy Cusack, the squad was stronger than before the break.

Former Villa midfielder Cusack scored her first goal for the club to put United 1-0 up, but after leading 3-1 with only five minutes to go, the side let their lead slip and eventually went out on penalties.

"It was great to get my first goal," said Cusack. "After that it was quite comfortable for us until a crazy last five minutes. We were so disappointed to end up losing because we'd played some great football up to that point.

"After 90 minutes, another 30 minutes and penalties, it really hammered it home to all of us about game management and seeing games out. We can laugh about it now but we definitely learnt a lot of lessons in that game."

"We all knew we could have won," added Barker. "We worked a lot in training after that on game management. There are so many girls in this squad who are so young and probably didn't understand game management. Sometimes you just have to boot it into the corner, so that was another massive learning curve for us."

It was also a tough game for youngster Paul. Six months on from her penalty success at Bramall Lane, her penalty in the shootout was the only one that failed to find the net, but like everyone else the attacking midfielder took away the positives.

"We knew we should have won but our game management skills let us down. Everyone worked so hard, it was a tough one to get over, especially for myself missing a penalty.

"We took the positives though and lessons learnt from the game which helped us have such a successful run towards the end of the season which the girls were all really proud of."

The sides will now meet again on Sunday as well as in the Continental Cup once again and Cusack is looking forward to another challenge against a team who have recruited strongly during the summer.

United themselves have added two of Cusack's former Villa teammates in Katie Wilkinson and Olivia Fergusson, and the midfielder feels both will be a threat on Sunday.

"We want to get off to the perfect start, especially against a team we've closely contested with, we know it will be a tough test because they've lots of very good players. We just hope we'll be that little bit better on the day!

"I've played with both Liv and Wilko a long time at Villa. Liv will add a lot of pace which in this league will really hurt defences. Wilko has found the net wherever she's been. I remember at Villa her getting us a lot of points so if she can do that for us it will be great for the team."

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Match Reports

Durham 1-2 United Women - report

14 April 2019

Sheffield United's women's team recorded a fourth successive victory and another away win at a promotion-chasing side in Durham.

The hosts had lost only once all season and were responsible for Manchester United's only defeat of the campaign, but it didn't stop Carla Ward's side putting in a commanding and confident performance which earned them a deserved three points.

The Blades took the initiative from the off and Ebony Salmon looked like she had a chance to open the scoring but she just couldn't get to a through ball before Durham goalkeeper Hannah Reid.

Bex Rayner saw a free-kick cleared for a corner as United applied more pressure and it looked a goal was coming. It only took a further five minutes for it to arrive when Danielle Cox took down Rayner's free-kick into the box and slotted home past Reid.

United were comfortable until the final few minutes of the half when Fran Bentley was called into action to push away a good effort from Nicki Gears.

The visitors missed a huge chance to double their lead early in the second half. Caught upfield, Salmon and Jade Pennock broke up field together but the latter's ball into the striker saw Salmon caught offside as she put the ball into the bottom corner.

Becky Salicki should have scored with a header at the back post but soon after her game was up when she tugged Salmon back as the striker burst through on goal.

It took less than 10 minutes for the player advantage to count, Rayner slipped Pennock in down the left before the winger cut inside and fired home for her third goal in as many games.

It should have been a comfortable last 15 minutes for United but when the referee adjudged Maddy Cusack's interception to be a back pass after Bentley picked the ball up, Beth Hepple scored a stunning effort from inside the box to half the deficit.

Despite plenty of pressure, United held on and defended well to ensure a fourth straight victory and a third in a row on the road.

Blades: Bentley, S. Barker, Tierney, Pennock, Cox, Gilliatt, Rayner (Paul 79), H. Barker, Hartley, Cusack (Sarri 89), Salmon.
Unused: Marsden.

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