Notts County Ladies FC vs Manchester City Ladies FC   Leave a comment

It’s official – I’m useless at photographing these games! The match was so exciting last night that at various points I dropped my camera to watch the game – usually the most exciting bit! How terrible is that! The shame – I’ll be thrown out of the Sports Photographer’s secret Lodge meetings now.

So here’s where we are at the moment; we have one of the best sides in the FA Women’s Super League but have been hit badly by injuries and stupefyingly stupid FA sanctions and consequently this skilful and professionally run outfit is in danger of dropping out of the premier division! Which would be a disaster for the club.

It only needs Everton – currently the bottom placed club – to go on a good run of form and start accruing points and Notts are under serious pressure.

So here’s how last night’s game played out: Under the Meadow Lane floodlights Notts County Ladies put on a determined display of hugely entertaining football to hold out for a draw against high flying Man City. County opened the scoring through their talented top scorer Jessica Clarke but City struck back with an equaliser just three minutes later when Toni Duggan slammed home a loose ball in the county box.

Here’s the game in words and pictures:

Just before kick-off this strange mascot made an appearance ……

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0294… I couldn’t work out if it was the City mascot, the FA WSL mascot or a stray from Yellowstone National Park. I actually shook his/her hand!

I always think it’s great fun to wander around pre-game getting shots – the other photographer’s seem to just stand around talking about who’s got the biggest lens – I don’t get it. Here’s England striker Ellen White, on the road to recovery from an ACL injury, actually kicking a football.  Hoorah.

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0299

Those cones stood no chance against Ellen’s whippet-esque speed.

Here’s the Refereeing crew; center and Referee is Lisa Rashid – the first woman ref I’ve seen this year – and about time too. The lino’s are Simon and Paul and Stuart, who were telling me that they are part of a Thrash-Metal tribute band.

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0309Ref Lisa gives Paul and Stuart a wedgie each.

Here are the Stalwarts (again). I had to wake them up to get this reaction from them.

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0296‘Come on you Lady Pies.’

As part of the warm-up the girl’s thrash the ball in to the back of the net from just inside the box. I slipped behind the goal to shoot through the net.

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0310Aileen Whelan smashes the ball in to the old onion bag (remember that one anybody??)

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0325Caitlin Friend shows how to keep the ball down – good work Caitlin.

Then the ‘must win’ game started. Well, actually it was more of a ‘For God’s sake please don’t lose’ game.

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0045New girl and former England U17 star Ashleigh Plumptre started this game and competed with Jill Scott (England regular) for the ‘who is the tallest player on the pitch’ award. I think they’re both around 6 feet tall.

Katie Holtham drives into the City half.

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0046Notts put City under pressure and did make one or two reasonable chances…

… Jess Clarke tracked all the way across the edge of the City 18 yard box leaving a comet’s tail of defenders in her starry wake only to fire the shot wide.

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0107Before hitting her shot wide of the post.

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0153Caitlin Friend get an unfriendly helping hand from Houghton.

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0037City and England Keeper Karen Bardsley punches clear.

Steph ‘Hears a Who’ Houghton was all over the park and demonstrated just what a great player and athlete she is.

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0042Technically this is a baaad sport image as the action has no ball in the shot – but I liked how Steph Houghton was leaping the fallen Jess Clarke so in it goes (sorry Ben – I lied).

Carly Telford had one of the best games I’ve seen her play. Here she is waiting patiently for the ball to drop in to her arms.

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0369Notts passing wasn’t as slick or as accurate as City’s but over all I thought they had the better chances in the first half and the standard of football was some of the highest I’ve seen this season. The first half ended goaless – which was good for me as I was at the wrong end of the pitch and dreading County scoring.

Half time then and regulars to Meadow Lane will know that this mean’s ‘Humiliation by Raffle Ticket’ time! This is how it works; the club sells raffle tickets pre-game and then at half time draws a winning ticket. The holder of the winning ticket stands the chance of winning a brand new BMW saloon. Cool. The ‘catch’ is that having the winning ticket only means that you qualify for the ‘chance’ to win the car – not that you have won it. To win it you have to thump a ball from the center circle on the pitch and land it in the boot of the aforementioned BMW.

The BMW is cunningly positioned beyond the corner flag in the corner of the ground. Yes folks – that’s over half a pitch length away. Although to be fair Sytner (the people that put up the prize) do open the boots prior to the attempt being made.

Now then – to date the ‘lucky’ raffle winners have been, lets say, somewhat out of shape physically and have struggled to actually walk to the center circle let alone kick a ball out of it! As for them launching it over 50 yards through the air to the waiting gawp of the BMW’sd boot… no chance. But last night….. things were different.

The winner was young, athletic looking, and showed every sign of being able to not only walk unaided to the middle of the pitch but to actually be able to kick the ball in the general direction of the car as well.

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0388Sytner BMW representatives began sweating and went into a huddle from whence frantic conversation could be heard. Meanwhile the young man stepped up and hoofed the ball in to the air with considerable aplomb …. the crowd held it’s collective breath as the ball sailed majestically toward the corner flag …….

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0389….. but wide of the open booted BMW! (See ball left of shot above). Shortly afterwards a number Sytner employees could be seen tearing up their letters of resignation.

And back to the game……

…… which saw Notts’ Katie Holtham and City’s Steph Houghton apparently trying to get air born.

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0022Steph wins by virtue of speedier arm flapping.

Notts came under the cosh somewhat in the second half with City looking the more likely to score but County broke once or twice to whip in crosses that had the City defense scrambling.

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0450Bardsley loses the ball but the ref blew for a foul on the Blue’s keeper.

And then it was Jessica time! It seems an age since she last scored but chasing lost causes is one of her great attributes and this time it paid off; with an hour gone she closed down Blue’s keeper Bardsley as she went to clear the ball and managed to block the kick downfield. The ball rebounded back toward goal over Bardsley’s head and then a foot race ensued between the two players….

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0191… there was only ever going to be one winner of this race….

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0193… despite the keeper’s desperate lung at the ball and or Jess, the County striker got there first and nudged the ball into the empty City net!

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0408Celebration. Relief. Awesomeness! 1-0 NOTTS! Get in!

You’ll notice a pictoral gap between Jess scoring and this celebration. That’s because I was watching her score the goal and then pumping my fist in the air instead of taking any pictures. There’s no hope for me now. I may as well buy a ticket next time and watch from the stands.

Unfortunately….

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0136… only about 3 minutes…

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0089had elapsed…

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0238.. between County’s goal and….

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0167… City’s goal!

City threw the ball into the County box from a corner after an extended period of possession and a scramble ensued in the 6 yard box! Various opportunities presented themselves for Notts to clear the ball but somehow it evaded everybody’s boot except Toni Duggan’s. And she leveled the score to prevent County from claiming all 3 points and breathing space between them and Everton.

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0214Duggan (far right) pounces on the errant ball to slam it convincingly into the County net before wheeling away to celebrate.

The game was played to conclusion with some tense moments where County battled in defense to keep City from robbing them of the point they’d earned.

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0171Plumptre played her part in the well earned draw.

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0229City go close.

Steph Houghton almost nets from close range but her shot is blocked by Scott at the last moment  ….

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0161… and goes down injured for her pains.

Notts County Ladies vs Man City Ladies_0162Under the guise of showing concern County’s Scott and Brogan assure Houghton that if she tries that again then there will be more of the same.

3 minutes of extra time were declared at the end of the 90 and County were just hanging on in there for the draw.

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0445Jess Clarke runs down the clock with some impressive Line Dancing with some of the City defenders.

Game over and the score remains 1-1.

Personally this was the most exciting game I’ve ‘watched’ this season. Full of skill, inventiveness and quick precise passing. As it was England men were playing a friendly at Wembley on this night too. When I got home I watched the recorded game using ‘fast forward’ but then got bored and went to bed.

Nott County Ladies vs Man City_0521Passmoor explains that all the team has to do now is win all their remaining League games and win the Continental Cup and he’ll be quite happy. Wouldn’t we all. 🙂

(C) Drew Smith Photography

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