The fourth round of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup took place over the weekend with 16 ties being completed.
The ties had everything from the routine to the ridiculous. In total, 81 goals were scored across the 16 ties, an average of 5.06 goals per game.
FA Women’s Super League Full-Time have reviewed the ties and here are three of the major talking points from the weekend’s action.
Preparing a team on just a couple of games and a few training sessions isn’t easy
Some the FA Women’s National League clubs were very much thrown into a baptism of fire against higher tier opponents. Those clubs operating at ‘non-elite’ level had around three weeks and a couple of games to prepare for their fourth round ties with the Vitality Women’s FA Cup having only resumed last month and their respective league seasons having been declared void due to the pandemic.
In normal circumstances, playing higher opposition would be a real challenge for those clubs operating in Tier Three and below but the gulf in quality in this year’s fourth round was even greater due to the lack of preparation time. The greatest level of credit must go to Southampton who saw off Lewes 2-1 at The Dripping Pan while the remaining ‘non-elite’ clubs must be praised simply for their participation and getting their teams ready for action following the UK lockdown.
Barclays FA Women’s Super League survival is paramount
For the four clubs who are currently battling for Barclays FA Women’s Super League survival, the Vitality Women’s FA Cup took something of a back seat.
Aston Villa boss Marcus Bignot opted to leave many of his regular starters at home as his under-strength side were defeated 8-0 at Manchester City. Bignot admitted after the game that the club had to let their Vitality Women’s FA Cup hopes go with four huge Barclays FA Women’s Super League fixtures against their relegation rivals on the horizon.
Birmingham City head coach Carla Ward also talked of the importance of Barclays FA Women’s Super League survival ahead of her side’s tie with Coventry United. She made four changes as The Blues saw off their second tier opponents while West Ham United boss Olli Harder brought on goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold as a midfielder against Chichester & Selsey to help preserve the legs of his outfield players.
Bristol City were probably the exception as Matt Beard made just two changes to his side, bringing back Meaghan Sergeant and Ebony Salmon following injury as they lost 1-0 at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Money talks. A place in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League is worth everything these days and with a busy end of season schedule to come, those clubs at the bottom end of the table had to balance their Vitality Women’s FA Cup commitments with real care.
There is some real quality at the top end of the FA Women’s Championship
Some of the most impressive performances over the course of the weekend came from those clubs competing at the high end of the FA Women’s Championship.
Durham gave top flight side Everton a scare at Walton Hall Park thanks to a Molly Sharpe goal and while their lead was short-lived, Lee Sanders’ side pushed The Blue Girls to the very end.
Elsewhere, Sheffield United showed their class as they saw off Middlesbrough 9-0 at Bedford Terrace, a result which saw Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Rhema Lord-Mears both score hat-tricks while Leicester City again demonstrated why they are FA Women’s Championship champions by holding their nerve to see off Liverpool in what was arguably the ‘Tie of the Round’ when the draw was made.
There is some real quality in the second tier and surely it is only a matter of time before we are talking about the Barclays FA Women’s Super League becoming a 14-team league.
The Vitality Women’s FA Cup continues on the weekend of 15-16 May with the eight fifth round ties.