In September I wrote about Portsmouth Women’s difficult start to the season. After two league wins against C&K Basildon and Gillingham in their first two fixtures, the blues went on a run of one win in eight.
The manager, Jay Sadler, will have gone into the winter break knowing that despite his team’s strong performances things needed to change in order to turn their season around. On New Year’s Eve, the club announced double signings of Becki Bath from Moneyfields and Hannah Haughton from Southampton Saints Girls & Ladies.
Becki Bath and Hannah Haughton (L to R). Photo: @OfficialPompeyW
Haughton is a goalkeeper I first saw play last year when my Winchester City Flyers side took on her former club Southampton Saints in the cup. Hannah was superb in goal! She’s not the tallest of keepers but her positioning, athleticism and reading of the game make her one of the best keepers I’ve seen at this level. I was confident that she could be the difference in those tight games and turn them from defeats to wins or draws.
Eleven days later Shannon Albuery returned on loan from Yeovil Town. Since then the club also added Caitlin Collighan and Jade Widdows from Southampton FC and Chichester City respectively. Competition for starting places will be fierce and the players will have to be at their best to command a starting place in Jay’s side.
If questions were being asked of Jay then I believe that he and his players have emphatically answered any critics that he might have out there with five wins out of six in 2019, including wins against local rivals Southampton FC in the Hampshire Cup.
Strangely it wasn’t the wins that have shown me that Portsmouth have a bright future, it was their 5-4 defeat to Watford. Pompey found themselves 4-1 down on the hour mark thanks to two goals from Helen Ward, one from Leanne Bell and an own goal. Many might not have given them much hope in that game but they pulled it back to 4-3 and then had seemingly secured an unlikely point with a stoppage-time equaliser from Katie James. Cruelly, Ward popped up in injury time to snatch the victory for Armand Kavaja’s side.
This fightback demonstrated that the squad are united and appear to have confidence in their ability to score goals against the top sides in the National League.
The biggest test of their revival comes this Sunday when they travel to Coventry United. Coventry are currently sitting second in the league, two points behind Chichester City but with three games in hand. They are a formidable side although only managed a 2-1 win on the south coast earlier in the season.
A positive result against Coventry will give Portsmouth the belief that their season isn’t over and that they can still finish in the top half of the league and catch the likes of Loughborough Foxes and Watford. I won’t be there but I will be turning my Twitter notifications on for updates and keeping my fingers crossed that the blues can bring home three points and that we’ll see a debut goal for Widdows.