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WEEKLY ROUNDUP (20/07/16)

LEAGUE POSITION: 2nd (WSL1) FIXTURES: H v Doncaster Rovers Belles (Sunday, 2pm) HEADLINES Disappointing Derby Day Must Win vs Doncaster...

LEAGUE POSITION: 2nd (WSL1)
FIXTURES: H v Doncaster Rovers Belles (Sunday, 2pm)

HEADLINES

DISAPPOINTING DERBY DAY

Last weekend saw the Blues take on bitter rivals Arsenal, as second faced third in the race for the title, and Champions League football.
Chelsea persevered with the new 3-5-2 formation, with a familiar backline of Millie Bright, Gilly Flaherty, and Niamh Fahey in front of goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. Jade Bailey and Drew Spence held central midfield in the absence of Katie Chapman, with Claire Rafferty and Hannah Blundell running the flanks. Ji So-yun played as the 10, and Karen Carney and Gemma Davison went up front.
There was a frantic start to the game – the first 15 minutes saw Chelsea denied a blatant penalty, Davison knocking the ball between Josi Henning and Emma Mitchell, the latter sticking her leg out to take the striker down. The referee, and his assistant (who had an even better view), didn’t even acknowledge the contact. We did get our lead soon after, as a dodgy backpass from Alex Scott left her keeper Sari van Veenendaal with no chance, rolling into the bottom corner.
We should have been 2-0 up shortly after, as a pinpoint through ball put Spence through one-on-one, but she took far too much time, allowing van Veenendaal to make the block.
Chelsea’s game plan of blocking the channels was working effectively, and it was a cruel blow to see them pegged back just before halftime, as Vicky Losada headed home from a Fara Williams corner.
Gemma Davison was denied a clear penalty early on
The second half was a brilliant spectacle for the fans, as the game opened up and there were plenty of chances for both sides. It always seemed destined that someone would snatch a last-minute winner, and it looked like it would be for Chelsea; Aluko hit the crossbar, but the most glorious chance went begging shortly after, as an Ana Borges cross found a wide open Rafferty at the back stick, but the wingback fluffed the simple tap in straight into the arms of a scrambling van Veenendaal.
From there, Arsenal broke and found their way down the left wing, and Danielle van de Donk was able to touch the ball around Lindahl and score from almost the byline to give Arsenal the three points.
Again, it was a difficult result to take as we were worthy of at least a draw, with, once again, the opposition’s goals coming from our mistakes rather than poor defending. We remain in second, but are now only one point ahead of Arsenal.

MUST WIN VS DONCASTER

After the Arsenal defeat, Chelsea know that nothing less than a win against Doncaster is acceptable. After promotion last season, the Belles have struggled with life in WSL1, and are currently rooted to the bottom of the table with no points from five games. After a pair of 4-1 wins against the Belles earlier in the season, Chelsea are firm favourites heading into the tie.
former Belle Beth England scored her first Chelsea goal in the last league meeting between the sides
It will be a big game for Becky Spencer, who is likely to deputise for Hedvig Lindahl, who has joined up with the Swedish national team ahead of the Olympics. The second-choice keeper has played in two matches so far, keeping a clean sheet against Aston Villa in the cup, and coming on as a forced substitution to see out a win in Liverpool. Fran Kitching will likely come in as backup.

NEW SUPER LEAGUE FORMAT

The biggest piece of WSL news this past week has been the announcement of the new league format, commencing in 2017. After the current season (which ends this November), there will be a one off ‘FAWSL Spring Series‘, where each team plays each other once between February and June, before the winter season begins in September, in line with the traditional football calendar.
This change will hopefully eradicate the sporadic scheduling which has plagued the league this past few seasons, and therefore aiding team development and player fitness, as well as better enabling English teams to challenge in the latter stages of the Champions League, as they will be ‘in season’, and ready to peak at the right time.
Many fans have raised concerns about the competition of audiences with both the men’s leagues and grassroots football, but I think ultimately this decision was taken to benefit the standard of football, which I believe it will.

INTERNATIONALS

In the last week three of our young players were involved in England’s U19s‘ matches against the USA. Zoe Cross, who has been in the first team squad twice already this season was an important part of the impressive 1-0 win and 2-2 draw that England managed. Three U17s, Hollie Olding, Alessia Russo, and Katie Startup also made their U19 debuts in the matches, before meeting up with the England U17 squad later in the week.

LOAN WATCH

Once again there was plenty of Loan Watch action, with all four of the loanees’ teams in action.
Saturday saw Laura Coombs‘ Liverpool face Notts County in WSL1. Although the Chelsea player saw two excellent long-distance efforts go just over and be well saved respectively, these were the highlights of a dull 0-0 draw.
Another loanee graced the Widnes pitch the day after, as Rosella Ayane started for Everton and bagged her first goal for the Toffees in a 3-0 win over league leaders Yeovil Town. Everton are odds on to seal promotion back to WSL1.
It was a disappointing day for Chelsea’s Vixens in Durham; Jodie Brett was left out of the lineup due to a small injury, while Millie Farrow sufferred one of her own during the game, dislocating her shoulder for the second time this year, and likely ending her season. The goal ended scoreless.
Laura Rafferty started again for Oxford United, but could only see her team let a 2-0 lead slip, hosts Watford coming back to win 3-2. Jenna Legg is still yet to make her debut, as her long-term injury continues to hold her back.

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