Two games down in the FA Women’s Super League and Tottenham Hotspur fans have reason to be very happy.
An opening day loss at Stamford Bridge was to be anticipated, Chelsea are after all one of the best teams in the country. The manner of the defeat, losing by only one goal, was a credit to the staff and players after what had been a busy summer.
Three players from last year started the game and it was soon clear that the talk around Ashleigh Neville was justified, the left-back playing out of position on the right looked at home against this top opposition. Captain Jenna Schillaci also put in a solid performance at centre-back marking a remarkable ascent, this her third promotion with the club. In central midfield, Coral-Jade Haines found the game more difficult, being substituted at half-time.
The performance at Chelsea set the expectation levels for the first home game of the season against Liverpool who had not had an easy season last year. The game was fairly even and was decided by a penalty in injury time at the end of the first half. Rachel Furness, who joined on loan a few days before the season kicked-off, scored from the spot to cap a fantastic personal performance.
Ashleigh Neville once again put in a great performance and much of the attacking threat came from whichever wing she was on. Anna Filbey coming into central defence for Schillaci had a good game alongside Hannah Godfrey who looks like another good signing. With Gemma Davison putting in a notable performance and her partnership with Neville starting to blossom, early signs are good.
There are always areas for improvement and the fact Spurs have yet to score from open play is a cause for concern. There is work to be done in the final third as all too often there was no player in the box waiting when a cross came in. Part of this is down to playing Kit Graham as a lone striker. Graham impressed against Liverpool but she played too deep to occupy this role effectively.
In the second half, Rosella Ayane drifted more into the centre and Furness pushed up to provide some bodies in the box, creating more of an attacking threat. The answer may lie in return from injury of Rianna Dean who looked dangerous in her cameo appearance at the end of the game.
Another issue seems to be the lack of a left-footed winger. Ayane worked hard in that position but there is no doubt that she was more effective when she came into the centre. Davison also spent some time on the left at the beginning of the second half but soon found herself back on the right where she had a greater impact. When Ayane was playing on the left and drifted into the middle it meant that there was no cover on the wing with Siri Worm only occasionally getting forward.
With the visit of Reading on Sunday, Spurs will have to cope without Furness who is ineligible to play against her parent club. Furness has undoubtedly been one of the best players so far this season and her absence leaves hard boots to fill. Karen Hills and Juan Amoros may opt to try a more traditional 4-4-2 or utilise some of the players retained from last season, perhaps bringing Haines back in or giving Josie Green or Sophie McLean their first starts. With this being an FA Women’s Continental League Cup game, Chloe Morgan may also get her first start of the season in goal.
There is a lot of work to be done to build on this strong start but if the smiles on the faces of Karen and Juan at the end of the Liverpool game are anything to go by it’s work they will enjoy.
By Sian Wallis