Women’s Sports Column 14-20 July 2017

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s marathon, hopefully it’s a bit more of a sprint this week, although with so much going on it’s hard to keep it brief.  But here goes.  Stories this week come from cycling, netball, cricket, lacrosse, football, athletics, hockey and diving.  England teams managed to appear in three semi-finals in two days this week!

Cricket World Cup

I don’t have the room to go through the last group of round-robin matches, so instead I’d like to concentrate on the semi-finals.  And what games they were!

18 July

England v South Africa
Bristol

Shrubsole says “What’s all the fuss about?”

South Africa 218/6 (50 overs)
England 221/8 (49.4 overs)
England won by 2 wickets

Well that was too close for comfort for England (understatement).

When South Africa only posted 218, England must have been rubbing their hands.  But, as we know, chasing is not England’s strong point and they seemed to do everything they could to lose it.

Opener Laura Wolvaardt scored a fine 66 from 100 balls, which was needed when the dangerous Lizelle Lee was bowled by Anya Shrubsole for just seven.  Trisha Chetty was done by a remarkable world-class stumping from Sarah Taylor off the bowling of Nat Sciver.  Mignon du Preez then came in and scored 76.  But other wickets fell cheaply with both Kapp and van Niekerk run out.  The hard-hitting Chloe Tryon was caught and bowled by Jenny Gunn and South Africa were faltering.  It was a patchy and slow innings and 218 should have been well within reach for England.

They got off to a steady start in reply.  The first wicket partnership was 42 before Lauren Winfield was caught by du Preez off Khaka for 20.  Beaumont followed soon afterwards for 15 and it was up to Sarah Taylor and captain Knight to steady the ship.  At this point it was serene progress.  Then chaos ensued.  Taylor was run out needlessly for an excellent 54 – she had looked good to go on a make a big score.  It was Knight’s fault and this obviously disturbed her as she was dismissed next over, smacking a Luus full toss straight to Wolvaardt.  Four balls later Sciver was bowled by Luus for 3 and England were in disarray.

Katherine Brunt was the sixth wicket to go, bowled by Daniels and the crowd didn’t quite believe what they were seeing.

Fran Wilson was seventh to go, committing (in my eyes) the ultimate sin by trying one of those hideous scoop shots and it going straight to the keeper.  Unnecessary and reckless at this point in the game.  England were then 213 for seven with two overs to go.

Jenny Gunn was playing a storming innings at this point, but running out of partners.  When Laura Marsh came in England needed five runs from ten balls.  Sounds easy.

Last over with the intimidating and fast Shabnim Ismail to bowl it.  Three runs needed.  Third ball Marsh is bowled and England still need two to win off three balls.

Enter Anya Shrubsole.  First ball hit for four and England win.  You can practically see her saying “Why are you all messing about?  Let’s get this done.”  And she did.

The South Africans were rightly devastated, but England go on to the final.  Would they face their old foe Australia, or the only team to defeat them in the World Cup so far, India?

20 July

Australia v India
Derby

Australia have no answer to Harmanpreet Kaur

India 281/4 (42 overs)
Australia 245 all out (40.1/42 overs)
India won by 37 runs

When the Derby day dawned dark and rainy it looked as if the reserve day might come into play.  But no-one foresaw what was to come as both the weather and the play brightened until we were blinded by the brilliance of one player in particular – Harmanpreet Kaur.

In a game reduced to 42 overs India made a steady, if unspectacular start.  Smriti Mandhana fell cheaply to Schutt and Raut soon after, but captain Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur began to build a partnership slowly and steadily.  Raj fell with the score on 101 in the 25th over and from then Kaur took over.

Kristen Beams bowled possibly the widest, biggest no-ball ever seen and Kaur hit the resultant free-hit for six.  She seemed to take this as a sign to cut loose.  And so she did.  From then on it was carnage.  There were sixes and fours a-plenty as she ended up with a magnificent 171 off 115 balls.  Towards the end of the innings she began to limp with what looked like either cramp or a thigh injury, but it didn’t seem to hold her back.  She was ably backed up by Deepti Sharma with 25.  The Australian bowlers were battered and bruised and Lanning appeared bereft of ideas as India racked up an incredible 281 for 4 off just 42 overs.

So what would Australia’s response be?  In truth they got further than they should as Alex Blackwell refused to capitulate, but there was no way India were giving it up.  The scorecard makes strange reading.  The openers were dismissed cheaply and when Lanning was bowled by Goswami for an eight-ball duck they were in trouble.  Perry and Villani did their best, scoring 38 and 75 respectively, but when Perry was out in the 27th the score was 140/5 and Australia were way behind the rate.

Blackwell tried her best, but wickets fell all around her and they were all out in the penultimate over.

India were worthy winners and they will be tough opponents in the final.  I don’t suppose I’m giving anything away when I say England have got to win the toss on Sunday and bat?  I didn’t think so.

Off the pitch

Pakistan

There have been reports that Pakistan’s women team have been cold-shouldered by the Pakistan Cricket Board since their return from the World Cup.

Pakistan lost all seven of their matches, but showed definite spirit, promise and improvement in all aspects of the game.

However, this obviously wasn’t good enough for the PCB as not a single representative turned up to meet the team on their return and no onward travel was organised.  One member of the team was picked up and taken away on a motorbike by her father.

According to an article on “The Nation” website, the governing body was “very angry” at the team’s performances and that wholesale changes would be made.

An unnamed source is also quoted,

“Most of the non-performing teams as well as old players, who are now have well passed their peak will be replaced with the young and talented girls, who are performing exceptionally at national level and are knocking at the national team’s door.”

Since the situation was made public the PCB has issued a statement:

“The PCB wishes to clarify that as per the usual practice all logistical arrangements were made for the national women’s team on their arrival from England, Monday June 17. There was a bus ready to take the players to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and from there to their homes if needed.

“Officials from the Women’s Wing were present to facilitate the players and management, some of the players though opted to return home through their own transport with their families after seeking due permission from the team manager.  The PCB regrets news items in certain sections of print and electronic media that erroneously claimed that there were no arrangements made for players’ return from the airport.”

I’ll leave it with you, but you can expect the fallout to continue for some time to come.

Football

As one stunning tournament draws to a close, another begins.  And so it will be for the rest of the summer!  The Women’s Euros are finally underway, after what seems to have been a long, long build-up.

Women’s Euros

Everyone has now played one game with Group A having played two.

16 July
Group A

Netherlands 1-0 Norway

The hosts kicked it all off in front of a sell-out (and distinctly orange) crowd of 21,732 in Utrecht with a 1-0 win over Norway.  Utrecht-born Shanice van de Sanden, who plays in the WSL for Liverpool, scored the only goal, heading in from a great cross by Lieke Martens.

Denmark 1-0 Belgium

It was a one goal game in Doetinchem too as Sanne Troelsgaard headed in after Pernille Harder’s free-kick had been tipped onto the crossbar.

17 July
Group B

Two surprise results on day 2.

Italy 1-2 Russia

Russia scored twice in the first 30 minutes to shock Italy.  Elena Danilova scored the first and Elena Morozova the second to put Italy on the back foot.

In the second half Italy huffed and puffed and had chances.  They pulled one back through Ilaria Mauro and then thought they had equalised in the last minute but Elisa Bartoli was adjudged (correctly) offside.

This was Russia’s first victory in a Euros tournament.

Germany 0-0 Sweden

Shock number two of the day came in Breda, when Sweden after 11 attempts, finally managed to end on level terms with Germany.

In truth Germany didn’t play well and Sweden’s defence was organised.

18 July
Group C

Austria 1-0 Switzerland

Another first as Austria won their first game in major tournament.

Austrian captain Nina Burger’s goal in the first half was enough to take the points.  Switzerland’s misery was compounded after the break when Rahel Kiwic was sent-off for a professional foul – the first red card given in a Women’s Euros since 2009.

France 1-0 Iceland

It looked as if Iceland had earned a priceless points against one of the tournament favourites in Tilburg but five minutes from time France were awarded a penalty.  Eugenie le Sommer calmly slotted it home to seal the win.

19 July
Group D

Spain 2-0 Portugal

Portugal were all-but defeated by half-time as first Vicky Losada and then Amanda Sampedro scored for an impressive Spain side.

Portugal were completely overrun, failing to get a shot on target in the match.

England 6-0 Scotland

The Lionesses began in the best possible style with a thumping win over Scotland.

Jodie Taylor scored a hat-trick, while Ellen White, Jordan Nobbs and Toni Duggan each got one to complete an excellent win against a Scotland side that were clearly suffering from first-night nerves but also missing important players due to injury.

Taylor’s first came in the tenth minute when she got on to Fran Kirby’s flick to score.  Her second came after a melee in the goalmouth.  Ellen White then put away her seventh in nine games to make the score 3-0 at half-time.

Taylor grabbed her third in the 53rd minute as she lobbed the keeper.  She was then substituted on the hour mark to a standing ovation.

England’s fifth came through a Jordan Nobbs volley and Toni Duggan banged in another in injury time to complete the rout.

To make matters worse for Scotland, striker Jane Ross injured her shoulder during the match and may well miss their next game against Portugal on Sunday 23 July.

England are notoriously slow-starters and this result should send out a warning to the tournament’s other favourites, particularly as no-one else has had such an impressive start.  Of course England should not slip into complacency and their biggest group test will come against Spain on Sunday.

20 July
Group A

Norway 0-2 Belgium

It was another disappointing performance from Norway as they lost 2-0 to Belgium in Breda.

Belgium took the lead just on the hour when Elke van Gorp scored from close range.  Their second was headed in by Janice Cayman, who was allowed to get there first after some slack Norwegian defending.

Norway will be hard-pressed to qualify now and their last group game is against the in-form Netherlands on Monday 24 July.

Netherlands 1-0 Denmark

It’s two from two for the hosts as they held on to a goal lead to take the points against Denmark.  Although they dominated for large parts of the game, the Danes applied pressure of their own after going behind and, it could be argued, deserved an equaliser for all their hard work.

The only goal of the game was a penalty, scored by Sherida Spitse after Danielle van de Donk was fouled in the box.

Off the Pitch

WSL2 club Brighton and Hove Albion have announced their new manager will be former England Head Coach Hope Powell.

It is Powell’s first management job since she was sacked from the England post after the team’s poor performance at the 2013 Euros.

Netball 

World Youth Cup

England took a sensational bronze medal after defeating Fiji in the third-place play-off 70-35.  The winners were New Zealand who beat neighbours Australia in an exciting and tight final 60-57.

England’s placing is even more impressive when you know that the entire coaching team were out of action for several days due a sickness bug going through the camp.  At one point three players and four coaching staff were in quarantine.

Off the Court

Loughborough Lightning announced this week that head coach Karen Atkinson is to leave her role to move to Italy.

Atkinson had been in the role since 2014.

Cycling

La Course

The first stage of the two-part La Course event has been won by Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten.  She probably wouldn’t thank me for mentioning this, but you will remember van Vleuten from Rio 2016 when she suffered that terrible crash while leading the road race – yes, that crash.

Britain’s Lizzie Deignan finished second, 43 seconds behind.

The second stage is a 22.5km “chase” in Marseille and takes place on Saturday.

The top riders will go according to time gaps with van Vleuten off first.

 Stage one result:

  1. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) 2hrs 7mins 18secs
  2. Lizzie Deignan (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) +43secs
  3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Highs) +1min 23secs
  4. Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) +1min 28secs
  5. Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) +1min 33secs
  6. Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott) +1min 41secs
  7. Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank) +1min 51secs
  8. Ana Christina Sanabria Sanchez (Servetto Giusta) 2mins 24secs
  9. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Procycling) 2mins 52secs
  10. Hanna Nilson (BTC City Ljubljana) 3mins 04secs

Hockey

World Hockey League Semi-Finals

It was heartbreak for England on Thursday as they went out in the last four to the USA in a penalty shoot-out.

England took the lead early on through Hannah Martin.  They kept the lead until three minutes from time when, down to 10 players, after Lily Owsley was yellow carded, Jill Witmer equalised.

The penalty shoot-out was a mass of blanks!  Melissa Gonzalez scored the only penalty for the USA and Sarah Haycroft England’s only penalty to take it into sudden death.

Alex Danson missed her attempt, but Gonzalez scored again to win the game.

Sunday’s final will be between USA and Germany, who beat Argentina 2-1 to get there.

England will play Argentina in the third-place play-off.

Lacrosse

Rathbone’s Lacrosse World Cup
Quarter-finals:

England 9-5 Wales

England ‘s fast start saw them take a 6-1 lead by half-time and although Wales fought back they couldn’t quite pull it back enough.

Sophie Brett scored a hat-trick and the other goals came through Olivia Hompe, Laura Merrifield, Torz Anderson and Jenny Simpson with a brace.

By the time Wales put the pressure on it was too late.

USA 20-3 Israel

World number ones USA worked their magic again as they convincingly defeated eighth seeds Israel.

Israel started strongly, but once the USA were back in the game they took over and at the half-way stage it was 13-3 to the USA.

After the break it was a one-sided affair as the reigning champions added another seven goals.

Australia 21-6 Scotland

Another one-sided affair in the third quarter-final as Australia beat Scotland for the second time in two days.

Scotland started well, but by half-time they were 11-3 down and struggling.  Australia continued to dominate in the second period and won comfortably.

Canada 16-1 New Zealand

Canada are ranked second in the world for a reason.  They took New Zealand apart to take up the fourth spot in the semi-finals.

Canada took the lead after just 57 seconds and were 11-0 up at half-time.

New Zealand never stopped fighting but it was in the final third that they couldn’t convert.

Semi-finals

USA 19-8 England

Semi-final heartbreak part two for England came within hours of England hockey’s defeat.

It was always going to be an uphill task for England against the world’s number one ranked team.

It was a tight game in the first-half, even though England were 2-0 down after just two minutes.

They drew level after five minutes through Laura Merrifield and Lucy Lynch and were only 5-9 down at half-time.

In the second-half England kept up until a devastating 15 minute spell with eight unanswered goals for the USA took the game away from the hosts.

England will now play Australia in the Bronze Medal match on Saturday 22 July.

Canada 8-6 Australia

By half-time Canada were 5-3 ahead with all to play for.

Thirty seconds after the break Australia pulled the deficit back to one.  With two minutes 45 to go and Australia ahead for the first time it took a Dobbie score to take it into overtime.

Kinna and Jimerson scored for Canada in overtime to seal the victory.

The final, between USA and Canada will be on Saturday 22 July.

Athletics

World Para-athletics Championships

I have been most remiss in recording the excellent performances by British women athletes at the World Para-athletics Championships over the last couple of weeks, so here’s a round-up of what has happened so far:

Gold medals have gone to Georgina Hermitage (400m T37), Hannah Cockroft (100m T34, 400m T34, 800m T34), Sophie Kamlish (100m T44), Olivia Breen (Long jump T38), Samantha Kinghorn (200m T53), Sophie Hahn (200m T38), Hollie Arnold (Javelin Throw F46) and Stef Reid (Long jump T44).

Hannah Cockroft has yet again shown she is amongst the very best in the world this week.  She has won three golds and has now won 10 world titles and five Paralympic gold medals.

Georgie Hermitage won the T37 400m in a world record time of 1:00.29.

Kare Adenegan claimed a silver and two bronzes in the 100m T34, 400m T34 and 800m T34 respectively.

Bronze medals have also been won by Sammi Kinghorn (400m T53), Maria Lyle (100m T35), Kadeena Cox (200m T38) and Gemma Prescott (F32 club).

And finally,

To keep the wolf from the door I have had to get a non-writing, but paid, job.  I will endeavour to keep up with the column, but there may be times when it is brief, or indeed, non-existent.  I realised when I went freelance that it was going to be an uphill struggle to get paid work.  Let’s face it, I’ve painted myself into the smallest corner possible: I’m a woman, of an “advanced” age, writing about sport, focussed on women’s sport, and not living in London!  I’ll keep at it, that’s for sure – there are so few of us still that I have to do it (and I’m still available for commissions).  So thank you all for your support and bear with me.

There will be no column next week as I will be working elsewhere, but I will be at the World Cup final at Lord’s on Sunday so look out for a report and photos midweek.

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 May 2017

county2Welcome to this week’s column.  We’re heading towards some exciting stuff this summer – but then there’s always exciting stuff in the world of women’s sport, isn’t there?  Well I think so, and I’m glad to see my followers do too.  This week I have stories from football, netball, tennis, athletics, hockey, cricket and lacrosse.  Plus a disheartening “And finally” from cricket – remember I said I was going to stop reading the comments sections after articles?  Well I haven’t yet, but this week has made me even more resolved to do so.

Onward!

Netball

Round 16 of the Super League was completed over the weekend.  Loughborough are still top of the pile after a convincing win over Celtic Dragons on Saturday.  Lightning lead the table by nine points.  The others in the top four are Wasps, Thunder and Storm.  Bath are still in the hunt for a Final Four place as they are level with Bath on 30 and lie in fifth.  This week’s scores were:

Friday 19 May

Severn Stars 64-47 Team Northumbria
Team Bath 63-47 Sirens

Saturday 20 May

Loughborough Lightning 74-44 Celtic Dragons
Hertfordshire Mavericks 46-60 Manchester Thunder

Monday 22 May

Wasps Netball 64-70 Surrey Storm

This Bank Holiday weekend it is round 17.  I will be at Loughborough v Team Northumbria on Saturday, so if you see me come and say hello!

This round’s televised match is on Monday 29 May and is Manchester Thunder v Team Bath.  It will be live on Sky Sports at 7.30pm.

Lacrosse

As usual thanks to Martin for keeping me on my lacrosse toes.  Last week Centaurs were crowned National Club Champions.

The three winners of the North, South East and South West leagues played in a round-robin format tournament to decide the champions.

The scores were as follows:

Oxton 15-4 Bristol Bombers
Centaurs 25-3 Bristol Bombers (15-3) Mercy ruling
Centaurs 10-10 Oxton

Thinking of the Lacrosse World Cup, which is only 50-odd days away, there were several England and Wales players on show.  Oxton had England players Torz Anderson, Sophie Brett, Charlotte Lytollis and Olivia Wimpenny.  The Centaurs had five Wales players in their team as well as England player Sophie Morrill.

Although the two teams could not be separated at the final whistle, the title went to Centaurs on goal difference.  As the mercy ruling had been applied at 15-3, the difference was just one goal.

Tennis

Off the Court

Injuries

Caroline Wozniacki withdrew from the Strasbourg Grand Prix with a back injury.  She retired during the second set of her first-round match against American Shelby Rogers.

With the French Open only a week away there must be a doubt as to whether Wozniacki will take her place in the draw.

World number four Simona Halep may also be a doubt as she tore an ankle ligament during the Italian Open final.  She has described her chances as “50-50”.

Players returning

Petra Kvitova is hoping to play at Wimbledon, she has revealed this week.  We still do not know if she will play in Paris, but if not she definitely has her sights on a return at Wimbledon.  She has already won the title twice and it will be good to see her back on the court as soon as possible.

Another player who may make her return at Wimbledon is Victoria Azarenka.  She gave birth to a son in December and now she says she is “ready to start competing” again.  She will play in one of the warm-up tournaments and then hopefully take her place in the main draw.

If she plays her first tournament within 12 months of giving birth she will retain her ranking of six in the world.

Qualifying for Roland Garros

Heather Watson is through to the second round of qualifying after beating Russian Anastasiya Komardina 3-6 7-5 6-1.   She has to win two more matches to make it to the main draw.  However, British numbers three and four, Naomi Broady and Tara Moore lost in the first round of qualifying and will not compete.

Laura Robson

Laura Robson is still on the comeback trail. Her persistence and tenacity cannot be denied, and it seems to be paying off.  She won the ITF 60k Kurume tournament in Japan last week and now moves back into the world top 200.  She moves from 218th to 169th.  She defeated fellow Briton Katie Boulter in the final 6-3 6-4.  It is hard to believe she is still only 23.

On the Court

Italian Open

Eighth seed Elina Svitolina won the Italian Open last weekend.  She defeated sixth seed Simona Halep 4-6 7-5 6-1.  As mentioned earlier, Halep tore an ankle ligament during the match and is now a doubt for the French Open.

Strasbourg Grand Prix

The quarter-finals took place on 25 May and the results were:

Samantha Stosur(6)  beat Carla Suarez Navarrro(4) 7-5 6-4
Daria Gavrilova (7) beat Ash Barty 6-4 6-7 7-6
Caroline Garcia (5) beat Karolina Pliskova 7-6 6-2
Peng Shuai (8) beat Shelby Rogers 6-0 6-4

The semi-finals will be on 26 May and the draw is:

Peng v Stosur
Garcia v Gavrilova

Hockey

Hannah Macleod has announced her retirement from international hockey.

She was part of the GB team that won gold so thrillingly at Rio in 2016.

Macleod will now concentrate on her coaching role with the England Under-21 squad.

Cricket

Quadrangular Series

19 May

South Africa 323/8 (50 overs)
Ireland currently 203/6 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 120 runs

Third place play-off

Ireland finished their tournament on a winning note as they beat Zimbabwe in the third place play-off.

Ireland 254/5 (50 overs)
Zimbabwe 235 all out (49.4 overs)
Ireland won by 19 runs

Captain Laura Delaney led from the front as she scored 81 for Ireland with Shauna Kavanagh backing her up with 67.  But Ireland will be really happy that they were able to take 10 Zimbabwe wickets.  Pick of the bowlers was seamer Aoife Beggs who took 5/52.

Final

India continued their excellent form in the final as they reduced South Africa to 156 all out in just over 40 overs.  They then reached their target losing only two wickets and with 102 balls to spare.

South Africa 156 all out (40.2 overs)
India 160/2 (33 overs)
India won by 8 wickets

Top scorer for South Africa was Sune Luus with 55.  The phenomenal Jhulan Goswami was in the wickets again taking 3/22 off 8 overs, while Poonam Yadav took 3/32 off 9.

India lost Deepti Sharma early on for 8 and Mona Meshram for 2, but the in-form Punam Raut with 70 and captain Mithali Raj with 62 saw them home. South Africa also bowled 15 wides.

Athletics

The news came this week that Welsh discus thrower Philippa Roles has died at the age of 39.  Roles competed at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 for Team GB.  She finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Delhi and sixth in Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne.

No cause of death has yet been revealed.

Her personal record was 62.89 metres, which is fourth in all-time British rankings.

Football – On the Pitch

Spring Series

Saturday 20 May

Arsenal Ladies 4-2 Birmingham City Ladies

Arsenal are now second in the table with this win over the Blues at the Hive.  The away side took the lead in the first minute when Rachel Williams headed home a Sarah Mayling cross.  Heather O’Reilly equalised for the Gunners two minutes before half-time from a through-ball by Danielle Van De Donk.

After the break Van De Donk got a goal of her own to put the home side ahead, but just three minutes later Williams was on the scoresheet again to equalise for Birmingham.

But in an inspired substitution saw Arsenal take the points as Louise Quinn headed in from a free kick in the 78th minute to make it 3-2 and again from a corner in the 90th to make the final score 4-2.

Bristol City Women 1-1 Liverpool Ladies

It was honours even at the Stoke Gifford stadium as Bristol took a valuable point from the Spring Series’ early pace-setters, Liverpool Ladies.

The away side were on top throughout but were held until the 80th minute when Katie Zelem fired in after a poorly-cleared cross.

It looked as though Liverpool had secured the win, but City weren’t beaten and five minutes later Lily Agg headed in from Claire Emslie to see the points were shared.

Sunday 21 May

Manchester City Women 5-1 Yeovil Town Ladies

It is safe to say that City have hit their straps.  Things started badly for Yeovil when on 10 minutes Ann-Marie Heatherson turned a Lucy Bronze cross into her own net.  Two minutes later City were two up when Jill Scott lobbed keeper Megan Walsh.

On 20 minutes Lucy Quinn got one back for the Lady Glovers, but there was to be no comeback.

Jane Ross scored the Champions’ third before half-time and the game was effectively over as a contest.

In the second-half Ross grabbed a second and Kosovare Asllani City’s fifth.  Ellie Roebuck saved a penalty from Sarah Wiltshire for Man City.

The only fly in the ointment for City was Carli Lloyd’s 89th minute straight red card for an elbow.

Sunderland AFC 0-7 Chelsea Ladies

Chelsea were five-up by half-time in this match and even had time to miss a penaly – a complete mauling for the Lady Black Cats.

Gemma Davison missed the spot kick that would have put Chelsea one-up, but it obviously did not knock their confidence.

Erin Cuthbert scored the first on 17.  Karen Carney doubled the lead on 31 after a precise pass from So Yun Ji.  Three minutes later Maren Mjelde got their third and substitute Ramona Bachmann the fourth on 41.  Cuthbert scored her second just before half-time and a dejected Sunderland team left the field.

Sunderland’s defence performed much better in the second-half, but they couldn’t stop the returning Fran Kirby from scoring a double on 80 and 85 minutes to complete the rout.

Chelsea would have been very heartened to welcome back Kirby after injury but disappointed to see Eni Aluko limp off in the first-half.

Thursday 25 May

Manchester City Women 1-0 Chelsea Ladies

After their stunning win on Sunday, Chelsea would have been fancying their chances against the champions.  There was, unsurprisingly, an emotional atmosphere at the Academy Stadium as a minute’s silence was held for the victims of the attack on the Manchester Arena on Monday.

But it was Chelsea who had trouble in settling.  They were defence-minded in the first-half and by the time they decided to take the attack to City it was too late and Manchester had got into their stride.

The only goal of the game came from Toni Duggan just before the half-hour.  How Chelsea must be sick of the sights of Duggan who has now scored 10 goals in 10 games against them.  Nikita Parris also looked lively for City although her finishing left something to be desired.

Off the Pitch

Notts County

Well, I didn’t see this coming.  New Notts County owner Alan Hardy has confirmed that he plans to bring women’s football back to the club.

As you will know, I have had plenty to say on this subject and could say plenty more, but this new announcement has thrown me somewhat.  I don’t want to be sceptical or cynical and would be more than happy to see a new team, so I’ll hold my thoughts until we see just what comes next.

This is what Hardy has said so far:

  • He wants to put together a sustainable model, which first sees a girls’ academy being set up.
  • He wants a clear pathway for academy players to progress through to a women’s first team.
  • He sees it as a long-term project
  • He knows they will have to work through the leagues and divisions but is willing to commit to that

On the problems he had with the previous set-up:

“Unfortunately, the ladies’ team I inherited was an entity on its own. There was just the first-team; there was nothing that was attaching it to the club in any way – probably because it was brought over from Lincoln and it had no structure or foundations.

“As of next season, we will have an under-nines, under-10s and under-11s girls’ academy, which will be playing in the boys’ Young Elizabethan League (YEL).”

All good words so far.  I just hope that the FA offers as much support as it can – very often (and I know I’ve said this before) I feel the FA has all the ideas (the “initiatives” – ugh beginning to dislike that word) regarding women’s football, then sets everyone adrift to fend for themselves with little or no back-up.  And before you all yell that clubs have to sustain themselves and why should they be propped up by the governing body – I don’t mean that they should be propped up – just that the FA should be aware of potential problems or issues and should be available to provide assistance.

It’s not just football that does this, but I would suggest the ECB and RFU are equally culpable.  And to support this, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes had her say about the FA this week.

Emma Hayes

The Chelsea manager pulled no punches on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.  She said that the FA is guilty of treading women’s football as an “afterthought” – something with which I would heartily agree.

She made the claim with reference to the training and pay of match officials.  She said that the pool of referees is too big and when it comes to payment, officials at WSL matches are paid around half the amount of those in the men’s National League (the top division of which is the fifth tier of English football).

The FA was quick to issue a response to the criticisms.  With respect to the officiating “problem” it has a “Gameplan for Growth” strategy:

“We acknowledge there is more to do but our commitment is clear”, it said.

“The FA is also: developing a pathway to recruit, train, deploy and mentor more women and men, from all walks of life, to referee at every level of the women’s game, and we’re reaching out to everyone involved, including clubs, to get a clearer understanding of peoples’ perceptions of officiating and seeking ways in which standards could be improved.”

It’s very interesting that the FA felt the need to issue a statement only hours after the interview.

Bibiana Steinhaus

The Bundesliga will see its first female referee next season.  38-year old policewoman Bibiana Steinhaus had previously been a fourth official at a Bundesliga match and has been a German FA referee since 1999.

She has already refereed the 2011 Women’s World Cup final and the women’s 2012 Olympic final.

Did I read some of the comments after this article on the BBC?  Yes I did.  Were they as bad as you think?  Yes, they were.

Signing

Arsenal have signed Netherlands international Vivianne Miedema from Bayern Munich for the new 2017/18 winter WSL season.

Miedema, a forward, already has 48 caps for the Netherlands and had been at Munich for three seasons.

And finally,

The BBC released a “Breaking news” item online this week that said that both Heather Knight and Sarah Taylor are included in Mark Robinson’s World Cup squad.  Any genuine cricket fan will see this as great news.  It is a real result that Taylor is available for selection and that Knight looks to be overcoming injury.

So, and yes, I know I should know better by now, I thought I’d look at the congratulatory comments after the article.  Except at that point, there weren’t any.  There were just four or five from men saying this was not news and why were the BBC covering it?

For a brief, fleeting but naive moment I thought the comments meant that both players were so good they couldn’t be left out.  Alas no.  What they were actually saying was that the article was not news because there was no competition for places in the squad and they just put anyone available in it, and of course, by implication, that women’s cricket was beneath notice.  They were, of course, displaying their total ignorance of the subject: Sarah Taylor has been out of the England set-up for a year, dealing with her anxiety issues, whilst Captain Heather Knight sustained a stress fracture in her foot at the training camp in the UAE and was (and still may be) a doubt for the World Cup.

So what makes these men think they are qualified to comment?  Do they care that they are so spectacularly wrong?  Probably not, but I just wish the wilfully uninformed would stay out of it.

If you can’t be bothered to get your facts right, don’t be bothered to comment.  Thanks.

And finally (2)

I’m currently writing a short four-part history of cricket for WiSP Sports.  If you would like to read part one here’s the link:  WiSP Sports.

There will be no column next week as I’m away watching the Champions’ Trophy – yes I do watch men’s sport too…..

Women’s Sports Column 15-21 April 2017

Welcome to this week’s column.  This week we have stories from swimming, golf, football, cricket, boxing, lacrosse, gymnastics, athletics, netball and tennis plus two “And Finally” pieces that have been featured far and wide in the mainstream media, but nonetheless bear repeating in this column.

So let’s crack on.

Football

Top Story

This one just broke this morning (Friday 21 April).  Notts County Ladies have folded just two days before they were due to play their first match in the Spring Series.

Anyone who knows this column or my Twitter feed will know that County is my biggest local team and I have been happy to promote them wherever possible.  I am both saddened and angry that this has been allowed to happen and I believe the FA should take a long hard look at themselves – I know the sport has to be sustainable in the long-term, but the FA are all talk.  I’ve said it before that they come up with all these “initiatives” but forget that clubs need everyday support.  Shame on you, Football Association.

Last year I visited Meadow Lane to interview the then Chief Executive, Matthew Alexander.  It was such an enjoyable morning – the staff was all very upbeat and friendly.  Matt gave me full access and a tour.  I was unable to sell the resultant article, but published it on my website some time afterwards when Matt left.  Here’s the link: Interview

I realised when he left so suddenly that all was not well, but was sure the club would come out of it.

But this is not the case.

There are four Lionesses currently playing for the team – Carly Telford, Laura Bassett, Jade Moore and Jo Potter – and it is unclear what will happen to them as the transfer window is now closed.

It did seem that new Notts County FC owner, Alan Hardy, was going to pay the debts of both the men’s and women’s clubs owed to HMRC, but now it appears that it he is unable to do so.

I know no-one has bottomless pockets, but this is disaster for the FAWSL.  County were a club on the up – I saw it firsthand and it is short-sighted in the extreme that the money could not be found to save them.

On the Pitch

FA Cup Semi-finals

Manchester City 1-0 Liverpool

Melissa Lawley scored the only goal of the game in the 58th minute.  The win should have been more convincing with both Jill Scott and Carli Lloyd missing good chances.

Birmingham City 1-1 Chelsea
Birmingham win 4-2 on penalties

After a goalless first half Birmingham took the lead in the 68th minute through a Meaghan Sargeant header.  It looked as if this was going to be the winner until Drew Spence popped up two minutes from time to score the equaliser and take it into extra time.

With no further scoring in extra time, the tie went to penalties.  Both Eni Aluko and Millie Bright missed their spot kicks and England striker Ellen White stepped up to score to send Birmingham through.

The final will be at Wembley Stadium on 13 May.

Off the Pitch

European Women’s U17 Championships

England has announced an 18-strong squad for next month’s tournament in the Czech Republic.

Goalkeepers: Hannah Hampton (Birmingham City), Emily Ramsey (Manchester United).

Defenders: Meg Boydell (Liverpool), Shannon Cooke (Arsenal), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Grace Neville (Millwall), Poppy Pattinson (Sunderland), Olivia Smith (Chelsea).

Midfielders: Beth O’Donnell (Manchester City), Aimee Palmer (Bristol City), Amy Rodgers (Liverpool) Emily Syme (Bristol City), Miri Taylor (Chelsea).

Forwards: Nicole Douglas (Chelsea), Jess Ngunga (Arsenal), Lauren Hemp (Bristol City), Ella Rutherford (Millwall), Gabby Ravenscroft (Oxford United).

England’s campaign begins on Tuesday 2 May.

Group Fixtures

v Republic of Ireland (2 May)
v Netherlands (5 May)
v Norway (8 May)

The top two in the group go into the semi-finals.

Sponsorship

Liverpool Ladies have signed a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with Avon Products Inc.

The company’s logo will make its first appearance on the Liverpool shirts during the Spring Series, which begins for the Reds on 23 April against Yeovil Town Ladies at Huish Park.

Transfers

Liverpool have also been busy in the transfer market this week.  They have signed Jess Clarke from Notts County Ladies and Laura Coombs, who had been on a season-long loan at the Merseyside club from Chelsea.

Netball

Well, it’s still all going swimmingly for Loughborough Lightning in the Vitality Super League.  Hoping I don’t put the curse on them, they are still unbeaten after 10 rounds.  There were two rounds over the Easter weekend and this week and the results were as follows:

Round Nine

Monday 10 April

Celtic Dragons 55-53 Sirens

Friday 14 April

Team Bath 45-46 Hertfordshire Mavericks
Wasps Netball 68-46 Team Northumbria

Saturday 15 April

Manchester Thunder 66-58 Surrey Storm
Severn Stars 47-56 Loughborough Lightning

Round Ten

Monday 17 April

Surrey Storm 65-56 Team Northumbria
Loughborough Lightning 49-40 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 50-59 Severn Stars
Sirens 66-76 Manchester Thunder
Hertfordshire Mavericks 51-58 Wasps Netball

Loughborough are top of the table on 30 points with Wasps second, having lost two games and are on 28.  Third on goal difference are Manchester Thunder.

The next live Sky game will be Severn Stars v Surrey Storm on 24 April at 7.30pm.

Swimming

The British Swimming Championships have been taking place this week at Ponds Forge in Sheffield.

Standout performances so far have been from Imogen Clark from Loughborough University, who set a new British record to win the 50m Breaststroke in a time of 30.21 and Jocelyn Ulyett who broke the British record to take the 200m Breaststroke title.

Results:

50m Breaststroke: Imogen Clark (Loughborough University), Sarah Vasey (National Centre Loughborough), Corrie Scott (Edinburgh University)

400m Individual Medley: Hannah Miley, Aimee Willmott (London Aquatics Performance Programme), Abbie Wood (National Centre Loughborough)

200m Freestyle: Eleanor Faulkner (City of Sheffield), Kathryn Greenslade (Edinburgh University), Jazz Carlin (National Centre Bath)

50m Butterfly: Charlotte Atkinson (Loughborough University), Sophie Yendell, (City of Derby), Alys Thomas (Swansea Aquatics)

100m Backstroke: Georgia Davies (Loughborough University), Kathleen Dawson (University of Stirling), Jessica Fullalove (Bath University)

200m Breaststroke: Jocelyn Ulyett (Loughborough University), Molly Renshaw (Loughborough University), Chloe Tutton (City of Cardiff)

200m Butterfly: Charlotte Atkinson (Loughborough University), Alys Thomas (Swansea Aquatics), Emily Larger (Newcastle)

50m Freestyle: Anna Hopkin (Ealing), Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (Bath University), Lucy Hope (Edinburgh University)

Two days to go.

Lacrosse

An 18-strong England squad has been announced for the Women’s World Cup in July.  National Team Director, Phil Collier, has gone for a blend of youth and experience with eight players who played in the 2013 World Cup in Canada included, but there also three players who will be taking part in their first major tournament.

There are also eight reserves, should they be needed.

Goalkeepers
Sally Keogh, Isabel McNab

Defenders
Emma Adams, Chloe Chan, Ashleigh Gloster, Annie Hillier, Emma Oakley

Midfielders
Camila Hayes, Kirsten Lafferty, Lucy Lynch, Charlotte Lytollis, Laura Merrifield, Ruby Smith

Attackers
Torz Anderson, Sophie Brett, Olivia Hompe, Jenny Simpson, Megan Whittle

If you haven’t experienced lacrosse in the flesh, this is the ideal opportunity to do so.  The tournament takes place at Surrey Sports Park.  Tickets can be purchased here: www.2017worldlacrosse.com

Tennis

Good news from the WTA tour this week as Petra Kvitova has announced that she may make a comeback as early as the French Open in May.

 

She has been out since December since being stabbed in the left hand by an intruder in her home.

She suffered damage to both nerves and tendons and was expected to be out for at least six months.  But she has put her name forward for Roland Garros in the hope that she will be there.  There is no guarantee that she will be able to play, but this is definitely a move in the right direction.

The French Open begins on 28 May.

Boxing

Nicola Adams

After winning her first professional bout 40-36 against Virginia Carcamo, it has been announced that Nicola Adams’ next fight will be over three-minute rounds as opposed to the two-minute rounds that are standard in the women’s sport.

Under WBC rules women are not allowed to fight three-minute rounds in title fights but as this is a non-title fight it will go ahead.

The fight is in Leeds on 13 May on the undercard of Josh Warrington’s featherweight title bout against Kiko Martinez.

Adams is also leading the quest for women to wear lighter gloves.  At the moment all women fighters wear 10z gloves, whereas male fighters from flyweight to welterweight are allowed to wear 8oz gloves.

The British Boxing Board of Control is still to comment on this proposed change.

Katie Taylor

Ireland’s Katie Taylor’s next bout will be the undercard of the Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko fight at Wembley Stadium on 29 April.  She faces Nina Meinke in a WBA lightweight world title eliminator.

Natasha Jonas

Natasha Jonas has announced she is to come out of retirement to turn professional.  She got to the quarter-finals at the London 2012 Olympics and won World Championships bronze also in 2012.

Cricket

Isa Guha

Former England bowler and TV and radio broadcaster, Isa Guha, has become the first woman to be appointed to the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) board.

PCA chief executive David Leatherdale said,

“Isa has a vast knowledge of the game from a men’s and women’s perspective.

“With our international women players now full members of the PCA, Isa will bring real insight to the PCA board.”

Sarah Taylor

There was good news from the England set-up this week as it was announced that Sarah Taylor would join the training camp in the UAE.

Her goal is still, according to coach Mark Robinson, to be fit to play in the World Cup in June and July.

Gymnastics

Ellie Downie has become the first British gymnast to qualify for every final at a major championships.

She led the all-round standings at the European Gymnastics Championships in Romania on 56.198.

Alice Kinsella has also qualified for the all-round competition, with Becky Downie in the finals of the beam and uneven bars and Claudia Fragapane in the final of the floor.

Golf

Cristie Kerr won the Lotte Championship at the weekend.  She finished -20, three shots ahead of New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun of Korea and third-round leader Su-Yeon Jang.

Kerr hit an amazing third round 62 to take her into contention and didn’t drop a shot in the fourth to maintain her good form.

Becky Morgan of Wales finished tied 16th on -10 and England’s Bronte law tied 39th on -6.

Athletics

American sprinter Brianna Rollins has been banned for one year after missing three drug tests in 2016.

Rollins won the 100m hurdles gold in Rio.

She can, perhaps, be considered unlucky as for one test she was at the White House meeting President Obama and for another she was in her home town in Florida attending “Brianna Rollins Day”……

She will miss the World Championships in London in August and will be eligible to compete again on 18 December.

And finally (1)

It has been everywhere this week (and good to see), that Kathrine Switzer, first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967, has run it again this year, 50 years on at the age of 70.

She registered for the race under KV Switzer, therefore avoiding exposing her gender.  She was not noticed at the start-line, although some miles in an official tried to drag her off the course.  But she was not to be removed and finished the race in four hours 20 minutes.

Women were not allowed to race officially until 1972.

Last week she ran it again finishing in a time of 4 hours 44.31 – just under 25 minutes slower than in 1967.

Switzer wore the same number, 261, in both races and the organisers have now decided to retire the number in her honour.

And finally (2)

Serena Williams announced this week that she is pregnant.  Anyone who reads this column on a regular basis will know that I am a complete Serena devotee and so I would like to congratulate her on this happy news.  I’m not going to say “Wow, wow, wow, she won the Australian Open while she was pregnant”, not because it’s not an achievement, but because pregnant women do amazing things every day.  Nor am I going to question how she might feel if and when she returns to tennis – who knows how she will feel?  I do take issue with certain “news” papers that have pronounced that Serena’s competitive edge or what some people see as unseemly strength power will be taken away by motherhood.  Why?  There can be absolutely no scientific basis for such a statement and why should anyone want it to be?  Let us just allow Serena to enjoy the moment and hope that she has the best experience possible in her pregnancy.

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 June

sarah TaylorLots to get through again this week, so let’s crack on.  There seem to be a lot of medical stories this week – some good, some bad.   I have snippets from tennis, athletics, gymnastics, hockey, horse racing, swimming, rowing, golf, judo, cricket and football.

The biggest tennis news obviously surrounds Maria Sharapova. She has been banned from tennis for two years after failing a drugs test.

She tested positive for meldonium, a heart disease drug that has been on the banned list since January 2016. It has emerged that she has been taking the medication since 2006.

Sharapova is set to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

 

On the positive side, Spain’s Garbine Muguruza won the French Open at Roland Garros on Saturday, beating Serena Williams in straight sets 7-5 6-4.

It was clear that Williams was suffering with an injury throughout the tournament and did not look herself. But an injured Serena is often as dangerous as a fit Serena and Muguruza must have been aware of that.

Williams was aiming to win her fourth French Open title, Muguruza her first. Williams was beaten by the better player on the day and was quick to dispel the idea that her opponent had won largely because of the injury;

“It was OK,” she said. “I’m not one to ever make excuses and say, like, ‘Oh, my adductor was hurting,’ or whatever.

“At the end of the day I didn’t play the game I needed to play to win and she did. Adductor or not, she played to win.

“She won the first set by one point. I mean, that just goes to show you that you really have to play the big points well, and she played the big points really well.”

 

This week has seen the start of the run-up to Wimbledon with the traditional warm-up tournaments being played. Britain’s top women have been in action at Nottingham, but have not fared too well.

Laura Robson went out in the first round, losing 6-3 7-5 to Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal. Heather Watson took the first set in her first round game against Magdalena Rybarikova, but eventually lost 4-6 6-0 6-4.

Naomi Broady fared no better, 6-2 6-1 to Su-Wei Hsieh.

This left British number one, Johanna Konta, and qualifier Tara Moore as the only Britons left in the competition.

Johanna Konta made it to the second round, beating Victoria Duval from the USA 6-3 6-0 in the first, before succumbing to Zheng Saisai, ranked 44 places below her, 6-4 7-5. Konta had to call a medical time out for what she called a “niggle” in her pelvis, but expects to compete fully in the run-up to Wimbledon.

Tara Moore, however, continues to fly the flag for Britain. She has, very impressively, reached the quarter-finals. In the first round she beat Donna Vekic of Croatia, 6-2 7-5 and conquered Christina McHale in the second round 6-2 6-2.

 

In athletics, long jumper Shara Proctor finished third at the Oslo Diamond League meeting this week with a season’s best 6.67m.

Anyika Onuora was fourth in the 400m and Tiffany Porter also fourth in the 100m hurdles.

 

Great Britain’s gymnasts produced an excellent performance to win silver at the European Gymnastics Championships in Bern, Switzerland, over the weekend. Becky Downie, Ellie Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Gabby Jupp and Ruby Harrold finished with a score of 170.312, second behind Russia.

 

New Zealand’s Black Sticks caused somewhat of an upset this week as they beat Australia in Darwin to win gold at the International Hockey Open.

They had been beaten by the Hockeyroos at the round robin stage, but had their revenge in the final, taking it 2-0. Goals from Kelsey Smith and Olivia Merry in the first half were enough to take te title.

This is great preparation for the side which flies to London next week to take parting the Champions Trophy in London from 19-27 June.

 

Jockey Michelle Payne was released from hospital this week after suffering a serious fall in May. She had surgery on her pancreas and has been told to rest for at least another month. There has been some speculations that her career may be at an end, but Payne is yet to make a decision on that front.

“I’m going to be guided by my doctors and how I feel in myself,” she said.

 

Commonwealth Games bronze medal winning swimmer Erraid Davies may not get a chance to compete at the Paralympics in Rio later on this year.

She was told in April that her disability may not be serious enough for her to compete. Davies has Perthes disease which affects her hip bones and joints.

She now faces a medical panel in Berlin to assess her eligibility. However, because of the classification issue she missed the British Para-swimming trials in Glasgow which is the only competition for swimmers to achieve the qualifying standard.

So not only does she not know if she can compete due to the re-classification of her condition, if she is passed able to compete, she may not be able to qualify in time. There seems something wrong there to me.

 

It looks as if rower Katherine Grainger’s quest to compete for a fifth Olympic medal is in doubt.   She did not meet the time required to qualify for the women’s eight and was not on the list of 43 announced by Team GB on Thursday.

She can still be selected for the double scull with Vicky Thornley and, if the comments of British Rowing’s performance director, Sir David Tanner, are anything to go by, Grainger will still feature;

“It’s my confident intention very soon to be announcing those two back in their double and racing for Team GB at the Rio Games.

“There is no uncertainty. The only issue is that we weren’t ready to get the announcement in in time for today. It’s quite straightforward,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

 

The Women’s PGA Championship is underway at the Sahalee Country Club in Washington.

After the first round, Canada’s Brooke Henderson is leading on -4 with Christina Kim of USA and Kim In-Kyung of Korea tied on -2 in second.   Henderson’s first round score included a hole-in-one at the par-three 13th.

Some of Britain’s best players are also in action; Melissa Reid and Jodi Ewart Shadoff are both five shots off the lead, with Charley Hull a further shot behind on +2. Catriona Matthew, however is in danger of missing the cut as she stands on +5.

There was good news from Bangkok, Thailand this week as British judoka, Steph Inglis, woke from her coma. Inglis was hospitalised in Vietnam after falling off a motorbike when her skirt got trapped in the wheel when she was on her way to her teaching job in Ha Long. She was initially given just a 1% chance of survival, but has now been transferred to Bangkok to continue her recovery.

She apparently had one eye open when her parents arrived to visit on Tuesday. Her mother asked her blink and she did and then reached for her father’s hand.

She obviously has a long way to go, but at least her family and friends have some encouragement at this point.

 

More details have emerged this week as to the cause of England cricket star Sarah Taylor’s reasons for taking a break from cricket. She has revealed that for the past four years she has been suffering from anxiety and panic attacks.

It’s really worth watching the BBC interview with Joe Wilson in full. In it Taylor speaks sensibly and frankly about her condition,

“My health is the most important thing and unfortunately my cricket has to come second,” she says.

Taylor is likely to miss the England series with Pakistan as well as the inaugural Kia Super League, which starts at the end of July.

She clearly realises that her recovery will take a while, but it is good to hear that she is confident of her return,

“I would like to say I’m 99% sure I will play cricket again.”

She also emphasises how grateful she has been for the support she has received from the ECB and, in particular, new England coach, Mark Robinson.

It has been well documented that cricket has always had a number of players who have suffered with mental health problems, and more than its fair share of suicides. Whilst the sport as a whole was slow to recognise this fact, it seems that now the support required is in place and providing a vital service. If you are interested in this subject, or if it affects you, you should also listen to the BBC TMS podcast interview with Graeme Fowler – one of my favourite players growing up, who revealed relatively recently his battle with depression. A moving and informative piece.

 

It’s be a great week for the England Lionesses with two thumping wins against Serbia on Saturday and Tuesday, and the news that they have qualified for the 2017 Euros with two games to spare.

On Saturday, England won 7-0 at Adams Park in High Wycombe. They took the lead early through Alex Greenwood and were 3-0 up by half-time through a Karen Carney penalty and a first goal for England from Rachel Daly.

In the second half England took complete control. Ellen White and Izzy Christiansen scored one each and Karen Carney sealed a hat-trick to make it 7-0. A crowd of 5.503 saw an impressive display, admittedly against a poor Serbia side.

On Tuesday it was the return fixture in Stara Pazova. And for the second time in four days, England put seven past their opponents.

Gemma Davison finally got on the scoresheet with two goals while Jill Scott opened the scoring and Ellen White added a second. Nikita Parris also bagged two goals, with the seventh coming from a Damjanovic own goal which completed another impressive and resounding win.

The week was capped for England when they were informed that through those two performances they had acquired the points they need to qualify for next year’s tournament. They still have to play Estonia at home and Belgium away to decide who finishes top.

Scotland had a mixed week in their quest for qualification. They suffered a terrible 4-0 home defeat to Iceland last Friday, but came back with an excellent win in Belarus 1-0 on Tuesday.

Scotland desperately want to avoid finishing second and going in to the play-offs. They have failed to get into the last two Euro Championships by losing in play-offs.

On Friday they were outplayed by Iceland, with BBC Player of the Year, Kim Little, also missing a penalty.

But on Tuesday it was a different matter. Jo Love scored the only goal in Minsk after 15 minutes and held on for the win to temporarily put themselves back on top of the table.

However, Iceland then beat Macedonia 8-0 to return to pole position and put Scotland under pressure once more.

 

And finally, former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro has settled her constructive dismissal case with Chelsea, but not before she had chance to reveal in court some of what went on at the club on a day-to-day basis. Chelsea had offered her the sum of 1.2 million pounds to settle out of court, but she turned them down.

Over the time between she turned them down and the details emerging of the treatment she suffered at the club, I heard more than one person expressing their disgust at her “greed” for not taking the money. Many of the mainstream newspapers took the same view, although, and somewhat surprisingly, I did see that the Metro front page described it in their headline as “hush money”.

And did Chelsea have something they needed to keep hushed?  They certainly did. They were forced to release a statement in which they said,

“The club regrets the circumstances which led to Dr Carneiro leaving the club and apologises unreservedly to her and her family for the distress caused.

“We wish to place on record that in running onto the pitch Dr Carneiro was following both the rules of the game and fulfilling her responsibility to the players as a doctor, putting their safety first.

It added: “Jose Mourinho also thanked Dr Carneiro for the excellent and dedicated support she provided as first team doctor and he wishes her a successful career.”

Dr Carneiro alleged that Jose Mourinho said that she had no place with the men’s first team,

“She works in academy team or ladies team, not with me.”

She was subjected to a barrage of sexually explicit comments, both from away fans and her own colleagues. And while the former could, unfortunately, be expected, she should not have had to put up with the latter. She claimed that the club took no notice of any of her complaints.

So, basically she was demoted then sacked for doing her job in a situation where she was constantly belittled and objectified. I would like to congratulate Dr Carneiro (called “girl doc” in a Daily Star headline – gosh she must have started her medical degree when she was nine) for having the guts to stand up to the machismo-machine that is the Premier League. Hopefully her example will make it easier for women currently suffering similarly to make their case.

 

Women’s Sports Column 14-20 May

POswU50y0C-Tarbosaurus,dinosaurs,pictures_of_dinosaurs,Cretaceous,carnivores-034

Welcome to the column. This week’s stories from football, cricket, swimming, canoeing, tennis and netball, with the only possible “And finally” that there can be.

The SSE Women’s FA Cup Final took place at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 14 May. It was the second year that the BBC had televised it live. A crowd of 32,912 saw Arsenal defeat the holders, Chelsea with a stunning goal from Dan Carter. I wrote a report for Women’s Sports UK. You can read it here: http://www.womenssportsuk.com/football/match-report/arsenal-win-sse-fa-cup-with-spectacular-carter-goal

There were also some league matches this week:

13 May

Chelsea Ladies 0-2 Manchester City Women
Staines

Manchester City remain unbeaten in the FAWSL after completing an impressive away win over Chelsea. Demi Stokes scored the first in the first half with Jennifer Beattie doubling the score in the second. It capped a miserable week for Chelsea who lost out to Arsenal in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Sunderland Ladies 0-4 Liverpool Ladies
Hetton Centre

A comprehensive win for Liverpool saw them move up to third in the table. Rosie White scored the first with Alex Greenwood putting away a penalty for the second. An unfortunate own goal from Steph Bannon made it three and Katie Zelem got the fourth. Sunderland are still looking for their first win of the season.

Birmingham City Ladies 0-0 Reading Ladies
Solihull Moors

Reading were also looking for their first win of the season, and although they couldn’t secure all three points, they were happy to leave with the draw. In a disappointing televised game, chances were few and far between and the close control was poor. Birmingham are now unbeaten in four games, but were left rueing the few chances they had.

Did you know the women’s under 17 European Championships have been happening over the last couple of weeks? Not if you only look in the mainstream media. England’s women finished third after winning the play-off for bronze against Norway.

They had been beaten in the semi-final by, yes you guessed it, Germany, 3-4, but came back well to triumph against the Norwegians to claim a place at the Under 17s World Cup in Jordan later this year.

Eventual winners, Germany, and runners-up, Spain, also qualified.

Niamh Charles scored both goals to take the win.

In a turn of amazing news, FIFA has appointed Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura from Senegal as its new Secretary General. She has plenty of high-level experience, having spent 21 years at the United Nations. She replaces Jerome Valke, who was banned from football for 12 years after his conviction for corruption.

“She has a proven ability to build and lead teams, and improve the way organisations perform. Importantly for Fifa, she also understands that transparency and accountability are at the heart of any well-run and responsible organisation,” said FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino.

Unhappy news from cricket this week as Sarah Taylor has announced an indefinite break from cricket for “personal reasons”. Hot on the heels of Charlotte Edwards’ forced retirement last week, this is a blow for Head of Women’s Cricket Clare Connor and coach Mark Robinson. It is not known whether she will be back for the visit of Pakistan in June or Sri Lanka later in the summer. She is also due to be an essential part of Lancashire Thunder’s quest to win the inaugural Kia Super League.

In better news, the ECB awards were held this week. Women’s Cricketer of the Year Award went to Anya Shrubsole. Last season she took 32 wickets for England and has put herself forward to replace Charlotte Edwards as Captain. And talking of Edwards, she was voted fans’ Women’s Player of the Year.

There were some interesting league fixtures last weekend. Kent continue to set the pace:

Berkshire v Warwickshire
Wokingham

Berkshire 186 all out (48.1 overs)
Warwickshire 200/9
Warwickshire win by 14 runs

Warwickshire won the toss and elected to bat. They put on an impressive 200/9 with Anna Lanning the pick of the batters with 54. Best bowling came from putative England captain, Heather Knight, who took two for 13 off her 10 overs, bowling seven maidens in the process.

Berkshire’s reply started well as the first wicket didn’t fall until 97 was on the board, when Linsey Smith was bowled by Georgia Davis for 40. However the next five wickets fell for just 39 runs with only Knight holding the fort. They were lucky to get as close to their target as they did with Hennessey pick of the bowlers taking four for 32 off her 10 overs.

Kent v Middlesex
Canterbury

Kent 94/4 (20.2 overs)
Middlesex 92 all out (38.5 overs)
Kent win by 6 wickets

Easy win for Kent at Canterbury as they dismissed Middlesex for just 92 and went on to reach their target in just over 20 overs.

The top five batters only scored 21 between them with a lethal spell from Tash Farrant doing the damage as she got Sophia Dunkley (2), Natasha Miles (4) and Catherine Dalton (0) with Alice Davidson- Richards taking Anna Nicholls’ (9) wicket in between the latter two.

Kent are a class outfit with superstars at every turn. It seemed inevitable, after the horror show of a week for Charlotte Edwards, that she should play a decisive innings. She was 30 not out at the end and Kent won at a canter.

Somerset v Sussex
Bath

Somerset 126 all out (38.5 overs)
Sussex 127/3 (28.1 overs)
Sussex win by 7 wickets

Somerset opener Gwenan Davies went for a four-ball duck, bowled all ends up by Izi Noakes. There was a semblance of a recovery from Georgina Adcock (28), Sophie Luff (26) and Anya Shrubsole (14) as they took the score to 94/4, but after that the lower order collapsed with only Kate Randall, coming in at nine, getting into double figures. The destroyer of the innings was Georgia Elwiss who took a stunning six for 17 off eight overs.

Elwiss, who is becoming a useful all-rounder, then did her bit with the bat. She opened the innings and scored 45 before she was caught by Sophie Luff off the bowling of Nicole Richards. But Sussex never looked in trouble, seeing it home in just over 28 overs.

I published my interview with Salliann Briggs, Head Coach of Loughborough Lightning cricket, this week.  Here’s the link if you would like to read it:

http://www.womenssportsuk.com/cricket/news/loughborough-lightning-not-just-a-flash-in-the-pan

There were some good performances by British swimmers at the European Swimming Championships in London this week.

Among the best were:

Great Britain’s mixed relay team gold in the 4 x 100m

Fran Halsall grabbing bronze in the 50m butterfly

Jazz Carlin’s silver in the 800m freestyle

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor and Hannah Miley – silver and bronze respectively in the 200m individual medley

Chloe Tutton’s bronze in the 100m breaststroke behind Lithuania’s amazing Ruta Meilutyte.

 

Canoeing doesn’t get featured much in this column, but I’m always looking to expand the number of sports covered.

It was the European Championships in Liptovsky, Slovakia this week. The women’s K1 trio of Fiona Pennie, Lizzie Neave and Kimberley Woods took gold, beating Germany by more than four seconds. Mallory Franklin also took gold in the C1. She originally finished in second to Australia’s Jess Fox, but Fox was later penalised 50 points and Franklin moved up into the gold position.

 

Serena Williams beat Madison Keys in straight sets, 76 63, to win the Italian Open this week. It was her first WTA title for nine months. It was her 70th career title.

The French Open begins next week and the British players have tough draws:

Johanna Konta v Julia Goerges

Heather Watston v Nicole Gibbs

Laura Robson v Andrea Petkovic (very tough)

Naomi Broady v Coco Vandeweghe

 

There was a feast of netball at Northumbria University this week as Netball Europe’s Open Championship took place. The tournament winners were the England Roses.

The Championship was contested by England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

England started the action against Northern Ireland and put in a dazzling display to take the game 83-32. England then beat Scotland Thistles 70-26. The deciding game came against Wales, who were also unbeaten up to this point, beating Scotland 49-36 and Northern Ireland 54-38.

After the first quarter England were just 17-14 up, but by half-time England were beginning to pull away, stretching their lead to 38-23. In the latter two quarters England began to put on the style, eventually coming out victorious by 81-42 and taking the title of Netball Europe Open Champions.

 

And finally, this week Muirfield Golf Club, in its wisdom, failed to secure the two-thirds majority vote it needed to allow it to begin to admit women members. Consequently the R&A stripped it of the right to host The Open. Just about everyone has seen the sense of this sanction. Of course, Peter Alliss suggested that if women wanted to use the facilities of members, they should marry one of the current members….. Must give a mention to a tweet I saw, can’t remember who it was, but it was excellent, who said that the decision would also include a change of name for the club….. to Jurassic Park.

Back from Canterbury – what next for England?

Lydia Greenway
Lydia Greenway

I will state outright, here and now, that I never even entertained the idea that England’s women would lose the Ashes Test match in Canterbury

If anything was a cast-iron certainty, an England win was it.

So, you can imagine my shock when I sat in the stands at the Spitfire Ground and watched England’s batting being blown away.

We travelled down on the Tuesday, listening to the excellent TMS commentary on the way.  I was buoyed by the bowling – the stalwart Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt doing the job admirably.  In fact I was much heartened by Shrubsole, who I thought had had a couple of below par performances recently and appeared to have lost a yard of pace.

By the time we got to our accommodation  I was feeling confident.  We let the Aussies back in towards the end of the day and

Edwards bowled
Edwards bowled

admittedly we couldn’t quite winkle out those last two wickets, but I thought it would be a formality the next morning and 268/8 from the first day was acceptable.

The next day we arrived at the ground bright and cheerful, unlike the weather.  Lanning eventually put the English bowling out of its misery and declared on 274/9.  I think this is where it all started to go wrong.  England suffered the indignity of not being able to finish off the innings and the openers just didn’t know when they would be expected to bat.

After lunch it all went to pieces with Knight,Winfield and Taylor going cheaply with only Edwards putting up a fight.  Taylor did her usual playing across the line and went for a duck.  But she wasn’t the only one giving it away.  At several points the innings was becalmed to the point of coma.  Thank God for Katherine Brunt, who was clearly as mad as hell at the performance of the batters and was determined to single-handedly get England to a decent score.  Bravely Anya Shrubsole backed her up, albeit for absolutely no runs from 47 balls.  But when Brunt went, England subsided to a pitiful 168 all out.

I had witnessed it all and was not impressed.

What happened on the next two days has been well documented by greater writers than I, but suffice it to say, things did not get any better.  The Aussies took it to England in their second innings, and a number of steady contributions meant that they could declare on 156/6, a mere 262 ahead.

Let’s face it, there was never any chance England were going to chase that.  The best that could be hoped for was a battling draw.

But it would have been nice if England had shown any sign of wanting to chase it.  I think we would all have preferred a defiantly bold defeat.  But no.  It was one of the saddest collapses I have seen (I may have mentioned that I was at Trent Bridge to see the Aussies get bowled out for 60 – but no, “sad” was not the word I’d use for that). Taylor bagged a pair and Perry looked unplayable, taking 6/32.

The bowling and fielding were good, but the batting was woeful in both innings.  I’m surprised by this as I don’t think, beyond Perry, that the Australian attack is all that special.  And, as I have said before, we seemed to lack a plan B.

I’m not going to beat about the bush, I think the Ashes have gone.  There’s no way England will win all of the T20s to retain the trophy.

I may not want to, but I’m going to accept that and move on.  But I see that cricket writers everywhere are having their say on the Test, as is their wont.

Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, for whom I have great respect and with whose opinions I often agree has stated that he thinks women should give up test cricket to concentrate on the shorter forms.  I’m sorry, but this is not the way I think it should go.  I’m more in tune with Andy Zaltzman on Cricinfo as he argues that the women need to play more test cricket, not less, if they are ever to progress.

I know that in these days it is hard enough to get some men’s test-playing nations enthusiastic about test matches, and audiences seem to be dwindling, but I am firmly convinced that that trend can be reversed.

Natalie Sciver
Natalie Sciver

I don’t want to see the game become a matter of constantly bashing the ball out the ground.  I don’t want cheerleaders and razzle dazzle at the expense of skill and flair.  I want it to be a genuine contest between bat and ball.  The only arena in which this truly happens is in test cricket.  So why can’t women be a part of this?

The women enjoy playing test cricket, but they don’t play enough to hone their skills – should we deprive them of the chance to give it their best shot?

Mike Selvey says “you have to let it go”.  I say, test cricket is a beautiful game.  Let’s do more of it, let’s train for it, play it, promote it, show everyone its worth.

In other words, let’s not let it go, but hold onto it with everything we’ve got. 

Thanks to Michael Hopkins for all photos.

It’s the Ashes!

I hope you all enjoyed my debut for Women’s Sports UK (WSUK) last week.  I certainly enjoyed writing it.  Since then we’ve had the start of the Women’s Ashes.

Pretty much like the men’s, all went well to begin with.  I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but it goes for both the men’s and women’s, that you’ve got to make the most of the Australians when they’ve only just arrived.  And we did.  The first one-day went completely to plan from England’s point of view as they won by 4 wickets at Taunton.  However, it doesn’t take long for the Aussies to acclimatise and in the second and third one-days England were outplayed and out-thought, losing the second by 63 runs and the third by 89.

I’m afraid there were some glaring issues in the latter two games that will have to be tackled before the 3 Twenty20 games at the end of August and beginning of September.  I don’t have concerns about the test match – it’s the short form we’re lacking in.

Let’s state now that I adore Charlotte Edwards to the point of hero-worship.  But I am not blind to her faults.  Very much like Alastair Cook, she is a creature of habit.  She has her plans – and they are good plans – but is reluctant to deviate if they don’t work.  Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole opening the bowling – 5 overs each.  No questions.  No messing.  No change.  It didn’t bring a wicket in the second game so, guess what, let’s do it all again in the third!  At the risk of sounding like Geoffrey Boycott (put me down now) if plan A doesn’t work you’ve got to have a plan B, then a plan C etc.  I’m afraid she didn’t look like she even had a B.  I don’t know what the answer is to that, she’s been captain for over 200 internationals now and I’m not the person to tell her she’s doing it wrong!  All I’m saying is that there’s got to be more flexibility as games very rarely go completely to plan.

Secondly, and I really do feel I’m attacking the twin pillars of English women’s cricket, someone needs to get hold of Sarah Taylor and tell her 30 is not enough.  So many times she gets a start but doesn’t carry through.  Dan Norcross made exactly the same point in the TMS commentary yesterday.  He’s someone else I rarely agree with, but on this occasion I found myself nodding along.  She’s one of the best batters in the world so it’s about time she acted like it.

In the meantime Meg Lanning, Elyse Perry, et al, go past England without pausing for breath.

Enough of this carping.  On the positive front, the coverage of the Ashes has been brilliant so far.  There’s so much discussion out there about the game and its future and it’s not just comparing it unfavourably to the men’s game.  In fact you know you’ve made it when they’re starting to talk about it in the Daily Telegraph.  Excellent piece today by Jonathan Liew on Meg Lanning and her place in women’s cricketing history.

I’m going to be in Canterbury for the test match so expect plenty of comment!