Some may live for Champions League nights but not me, I absolutely love it when the National League host the mid-week local derbies under the floodlights. This Wednesday saw the first derby match between Southampton FC (Saints) and Southampton Women since Saints reformed a few years ago.
If you’re not already in the know then I appreciate that last sentence could be quite confusing. Southampton FC are alined with the well-known men’s Premier League side and are led by Head of Girls and Women’s Football, Marieanne Spacey-Cale. While Aaron Smith‘s Southampton Women were formed back in 1970 and are one of the most successful football teams in women’s football. They are eight-time winners of the FA Women’s Cup second only to Arsenal who have won fourteen titles.
I arrived at the ground an hour and fifteen minutes before kick-off as I had time to kill after work, plus I wanted a good parking space but most importantly I knew that this would be a well-attended match with plenty of familiar faces that I would want to catch up with. It was a nice surprise to meet Carl Anka from The Athletic, a new subscription-based sports resource that provides ad-free national sport journalism with an emphasis on a mix of long-form journalism, original reporting, and in-depth analysis. I’ve signed up and thoroughly recommend it! I’ve respected Carl’s work for a long time and as The Athletic’s local correspondent it is great to see such a big resource is also taking the time to cover women’s football at this level.
As the teams came out for the warm up, Southampton Women announced that there was to be a new face on their bench with the signing of EJ May from Portsmouth. Both sides looked well drilled and focused during their warm-ups. They both knew the enormity of the match with both sides pushing for promotion to the National League South along with Exeter City and Cheltenham Town. The team that eventually wins the league and will be the side with the best head to head record between the aforementioned sides.
As the referee signalled the start of the game, the crowd of over 550 let off a loud cheer befitting of the occasion. In the early stages it was Southampton Women who looked the most dangerous.
Whilst Spacey-Cale’s side are very composed on the ball, the high press of Vinnie Nkomo and Jane Yeates caused problems, although neither were able to meaningfuly test England youth goalkeeper Kayla Rendell.
Yeates and Ella Morris both had decent chances for their respective sides but the half finished 0-0.
As both teams came out for the second half, Spacey-Cale substituted former Portsmouth stiker, Panting, for another former blues striker, Shannon Albuery.
Albuery was involved early on when she found herself on the end of a long ball from Rendell. The forward was adjuged to have gone down too easily as she tried to go round Kite and was given a yellow card for simulation. For me, it was not a foul and nor was it worthy of a booking.
Much of the second period was played in the Southampton Women’s half and massive credit must go to the away side who kept focus and worked hard, preventing Saints from creating any real clear chances.
In injury time Kite saved well from a shot on the edge of the box, Ella Pusey followed in fouled Kite in the process.
After eight minutes of injury time the referee blew the whistle. Both sides should agree that a point each was a fair outcome as neither side deserved to lose, nor did either show enough to warrant the three points.
It would be difficult to pick a player of the match but the two stand out performances came from Rose Kite and the Saints right back Ella Morris. I say right back, with her pace and work rate she covered the role of a right winger as well.
Saints: Kayla Rendell, Ella Morris, Kirsty Whitton, Ella Pusey, Shannon Sevwright, Sophie Pharoah, Tiffany Taylor, Caitlin Morris, Alisha Ware, Rachel Panting, Charley Evans
Subs: Georgie Freeland, Sara Luce, Phoebe Williams, Chloe Gilroy, Shannon Albuery
Southampton Women: Rose Kite, Lauren Cheshire, Kellie Warren, Anie McKeever, Phillipa Holden, Jane Yeates, Vinnie Nkomo, Tash Angel, Emily Wernham, Hannah Samuels, Lauren Clark
Subs: EJ May, Gracie White, Kayleigh Tonks, Jen King, Tia Hooper