Women's Super League One
Manchester Regional Arena, Manchester
Match Rating: 2
For the first game of my short stay in Greater Manchester, I took in a rare competitive game in England in July, and my first taste of the relatively new Women's Super League.
Manchester City Women currently play in the Regional Arena, adjacent to the men's club's Etihad Stadium on the Sportscity complex, which hosted the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Having seen some quite spectacular action photos taken with the Etihad in the near background, this ground turned out to be a huge disappointment for me, as fans were only permitted to sit along the length of the pitch with spectators' backs to the Etihad. This also meant that spectators were packed very closely together with very few seats available, causing a rather nauseating experience of the very high proportion of increasingly restless children amongst the crowd, and it also meant one had no choice but to stare into the bright sunshine. There is also a running track around the pitch, meaning spectators are distant from the action. On the positive side, the ground is easy on the eye, with attractive white 'bubble' roofs almost all around the ground covering blue seating right around the running track, apart from a couple of gaps. A very good glossy colourful programme was given away free of charge, 32 pages with plenty of interest to read that one would normally expect to pay at least a couple of pounds for, although oddly it did not contain a league table.
In their first seasons in the Women's Super League (although Notts County Ladies is a Wimbledon/MK Dons style conversion of last season's WSL club Lincoln Ladies), the league table suggested that both clubs are settling comfortably in the league, and are evenly matched. Manchester City, in fifth place in the eight team league, were above unbeaten Notts County by one place thanks to a two goal superior goal difference.
On a very warm, sunny evening, the opening quarter of an hour was competitive without either side creating any clear chances, until the 17th minute, when the home side took the lead with a very good individual goal by Natasha Flint. Taking the ball just inside the Notts County half and as she strode forward, the Notts County defenders backed off, and eventually Flint smashed the ball into the top corner of the net. The hosts then went on to create some good chances, Toni Duggan having a half volley shot on the turn saved from close range on 31 minutes, then three minutes later, Jill Scott ran onto a low ball forward, but her eventual shot was saved by the keeper. A rare chance for the visitors came just before the interval when Jess Clarke's header from a corner was well saved by England international Karen Bardsley.
Into the second half and Notts County threatened more, creating some good chances, the best of which was when Clarke headed across goal and Bardsley only just managed to reach out fingertips to divert the ball away from goal. Manchester City seemed to rely on amore direct approach, but were caught offside countless times. They did have a great chance to put the game to bed about ten minutes from time though, but their striker slashed the ball horribly high and wide after receiving the ball unmarked in the area. But Manchester City held on to claim the three points which saw them rise one place in the table.