With the weather threatening to devastate the women’s football programme yet again, Sent Her Forward takes just a brief look at some of the potential highlights if games survive
The FAW Cup reaches a key phase this weekend as teams from the second tier of the Super League join the fray.
And it’s the ideal opportunity for Premier League sides with Super League ambitions to test themselves against teams already at the next level.
Two of Sussex’s three remaining cup survivors – Premier League rivals Brighton and Lewes – face WSL2 clubs.
Brighton, the current league leaders, travel to Watford, while Lewes visit Yeovil Town.
Both will learn from their experiences against sides who finished in mid-table in their division last season, and will regard the games as a yardstick.
But while the Sussex sides are midway through their winter seasons, the Super League is still a long way from starting, and tomorrow’s games may provide no more than a snapshot of where the clubs are in their preparation.
None the less, they are exciting draws for the Premier League sides, and despite the efforts of Brighton first-team coach James Marrs to play down his side’s chances at Watford, he must know the time is ripe for a giant-killing (of sorts).
John Salomon’s team eventually finished seventh in the inaugural season of WSL2, having been third at one stage.
Salomon has admitted his players have had to return to pre-season action earlier than they might have liked to prepare for the cup game, and he told his club’s website that the side that plays Brighton is unlikely to be the one that starts the Super League season on March 19.
However, while Watford’s players – who include former Chichester City midfielder Hollie Wride – might not be as match-fit as his, Marrs knows their opponents will be well-drilled and primed to pounce on the slightest mistake.
He told his club’s website: “The array of players they’ve got are at the next level, and they will have a lot more ammunition and firepower to be able to hurt us.
“If you make mistakes against a team from a higher level, you get punished for them. So there’s not much margin for error this weekend.”
Salomon is a shrewd manager and will under-estimate Premier League leaders Brighton at his peril. Whoever emerges triumphant from the contest will know they have been in a battle.
Cracking cup tie
Lewes, meanwhile, probably have lower expectations. But they have proved on occasion this season what a good side they can be, not least in a pre-season friendly against Chelsea’s development side.
They travel to Yeovil, who finished fifth in WSL2 last season, under no pressure whatsoever, but with the knowledge that if manager John Donoghue can conjure one of Lewes’ better displays from his players, their opponents, too, will know they have been in a cracking cup tie.
The third of Sussex’s third-round representatives are Eastbourne Town, whose home tie against Premier League Derby County is previewed here.
Portsmouth, who beat Super League Durham on their way to a record-breaking run to the quarter-finals last season, have a demanding journey to Blackburn Rovers, who are currently fourth in the Premier League Northern.
Perry Northeast’s team, currently third in the parallel southern division, have not lost since the first day of the season and appear to have a stronger squad this time around than the one that succumbed to a series of bad injuries last year.
Most of his players have a taste for the FAW Cup after their exciting exploits last year and will be keen to prolong their stay in the competition.
Fellow Premier League sides Charlton Athletic host Wolverhampton Wanderers, bottom of the northern division, and Tottenham Hotspur are at home to Preston North End, who, like Spurs, are fifth in their respective regional divisions.
But most at risk of an upset must be Keynsham Town, yet to record a win in the Premier League Southern this season. They travel to Carshalton Athletic, who are bidding for promotion from the London & South East Regional Women’s League, two tiers below them.