BCWFC Pre-Season: July Round-Up

The Bantams take on Sheffield FC in far-from-summery conditions in their third pre-season match.

The Bantams take on Sheffield FC in far-from-summery conditions in their third pre-season match.

With the new FA Women's Premier League season less than three weeks away now, Bradford City Women's pre-season campaign is in full swing, with three games played in July and another three to come in August.

The team are confident heading into the new season that they can really make a statement in the league after fourth and third placed finishes in the last two years respectively, and thus they have not hesitated to test themselves from the off with some tough pre-season fixtures.

Coventry United 2-0 Bradford City, Sunday 12 July

This month, the Bantams kicked things off with a trip to Coventry, last year's runners-up in the Northern Women's Premier League - a team they lost 2-0 to in December and drew 1-1 with on the final day of last season.

Recently disbanded from the men's team, Coventry United Ladies welcomed City on Sunday 12 July for what was also their first pre-season friendly, and thus sure to be a tight game as both teams got reacquainted with their teammates on a more competitive basis.  With fresh and new faces involved, it was a chance for them to get to know their team on the pitch too, whilst all players would benefit from the run out as they looked to regain their match fitness and sharpness - something that would be made difficult by the humid conditions, however.

Both sides took their time getting into the match, with the opening stages rather uneventful as the players familiarised themselves with proceedings having not played a proper game of football for around two months. Yet, the deadlock would be broken after just 20 minutes by the hosts when a deep cross was met at the far post by the head of a Coventry player, who sent it back across goal, looping over the head of the City 'keeper.

United were boosted by this goal too and would double their lead before the break, a simple but effective drive to the byline by one of their wingers resulting in a player being picked out in the centre of City's box completely unmarked, and she able to tap home with ease.

However, the Bantams were keen to make amends for a sloppy first half, albeit one perhaps expected in their first pre-season game, and they came out after the break playing much better football. New arrival Jess Graham hit the bar with a thunderous effort from a corner just moments before half time, the ball falling kindly for her after United failed to clear their lines, and City picked up from here in the second period as Abi Brown tested the keeper five minutes in. On the hour mark, Brown played a crucial role in some good play from Bradford that allowed them to find the back of the net, but the assistant referee was quick to flag for offside as Abi Lee converted her cross.

City were unable to carve out any more glaring chances like these in the match though and, therefore, they were unable to get back into it as Coventry ended the game strongly by finding the target twice late on, only for the score to remain 2-0 in their favour.

It was a defeat, but a defeat with lots of positives to take from the game and lessons to learn for the Bantams, which, coupled with match fitness, is what pre-season is all about. Overall though, they had battled hard to keep up with arguably the toughest side they'll face in the league this year, and with some players still to come into the team.

Barnsley 3-6 Bradford City, Sunday 19 July

The main learning points from the Coventry loss were taken on board during the week and worked on in the build up to the Bantams' next friendly, away to Barnsley just seven days later.

Barnsley play their football in the fifth tier of English women's football and also started their pre-season campaign with a defeat on July 12, narrowly losing 3-2 to Rotherham United of the fourth tier. Barnsley finished third in the league last year, just six points off eventual winners and promoted side, Hull City.

City, refreshed by the returns of many key players missing against Coventry, as well as some more new faces, started this game much better and it was one of those new players who opened the scoring with only 12 minutes played, Carey Huegett, formerly of Leeds Ladies, emphatically breaking the deadlock with a rocket from 25 yards. 

This lead could have and probably should have been added to in the next 10 minutes, with numerous chances carved out for their attackers but a lack of match sharpness, mixed with good defending from Barnsley, meant the score remained 1-0 - that was until the 21st minute when the hosts netted an equalised via a former Bantam in Abby Parkin, whose cross found it's way rather fortuitously into the back of the net completed untouched.

City didn't let this stroke of bad luck affect them though and were quick to reply through Shauna Legge, who danced through the Barnsley team, evading several challenges before finding herself room to shoot from 12 yards out, producing a clinical finish to complement her wonderful run and give the Bantams the lead once more.

However, the visitors were unable to maintain their concentration and keep the lead again, with Barnsley pressing well to force City into losing possession in their defensive half, before a strike from distance was fumbled by the Bradford goalkeeper and the referee adjudged it to have crossed the line, despite her best efforts to claw it back out.

The score read 2-2 at the interval, and the away side were cleared determined to turn things around, with their half time team talk working wonders as they came out of the blocks in the second half, regaining the lead less than 10 minutes in through Graham, whose hard work and energetic pressing forced the Barnsley goalkeeper into an error which was punished by a simple finish from the City player.

Sloppy play from the Bantams occurred at the back again to allow the hosts to make it 3-3, but this only rallied City who would bang in another three without reply in the final 15 minutes to record their first pre-season win.

Olivia Thackray and Huegett would give the hosts a warning of what was to come, the former hitting the bar and the latter volleying just over, but these signs were ignored as Huegett netted her brace on 75 minutes with a delightfully accurate free-kick from 25 yards. Emma Elliott, another new signing, bagged her first goal in City colours five minutes later when she applied a composed finish to Graham's good build up and slick through ball, and then Charlotte Stuart concluded the scoring in the final minute, moments after the crossbar denied Huegett her hat-trick, as she headed home Zoe Roberts' cross.

The final score was 6-3 in the Bantams favour, a result to be happy with but from a performance that still needed work, despite promising signs early in pre-season. There were again lessons to learn and things to work on before a trip to face Sheffield, winners of the league this year and now a WSL 2 side.

Sheffield FC 5-2 Bradford City, Sunday 26 July

City's third and final pre-season friendly in July saw them come up against last year's FA Northern Premier League champions, Sheffield FC, who, since claiming that title, have beaten Portsmouth in their promotion play-off and secured a spot in the 2016 WSL 2.

The Bantams were great competitors against their local rivals last year though, winning 3-0 and losing 3-2 in the 2014-15 season, and would hope that their fresh albeit much-changed new side for the upcoming campaign could produce a similar fight.

Things started well for Bradford too, despite Sheffield having the first real chance of the day when they hit the target from the edge of the box. A fruitful 10 minutes by the visitors gave them an early lead, with Huegett heading in Sarah Danby's free-kick on the 20 minute mark after a couple of early, promising counter attacks failed to break the deadlock.

Yet, this would only spark Sheffield into life as they began to fight back and produce some great football. City 'keeper Chloe Precious would be called into action minutes after her side opened the scoring, but she came up with the goods to keep them ahead, whilst her opponents squandered a couple of decent chances moments later too, failing to test her again as their efforts went off target.

Still, eight minutes before half time, a diagonal ball into the box from midfield allowed Sheffield to equalise, the lofted pass finding its intended target as it was headed home powerfully - City having not put enough pressure on in the middle of the park in the build-up.

However, the visitors responded well, with Molly Sharpe and Hannah Campbell linking up well to create a chance for each in the final five minutes of the half. The first saw Campbell drive down the right on the counter and pick out Sharpe on the edge of the area, who forced a save out of the keeper from here, whilst the second saw Sharpe slip her teammate through on goal, but the Sheffield stopper was again on hand to thwart City's attackers.

The final chance of the half was for the away side again, but captain Faye Boshell's header from Stuart's free-kick was wide of the mark.

Despite the manner in which the game came to its break, it was Sheffield who came out of the blocks firing in the second half as they took the lead for the first time with a goal inside the first minute - a lovely flowing move ending with a composed finish.

Shortly after City's Danby fired a free-kick just over the bar, Sheffield would double this lead too, initially hitting the bar from the edge of the box but clinically tucking away the rebound having responded quicker than the away side's defence, whilst an unfortunate own goal only minutes later for the Bantams meant the scoreline read 4-1 in the 53rd minute, with it having been 1-1 at the break.

It certainly didn't represent the game thus far, and City opted for a triple substitution to change things around, something which worked as the match was suddenly controlled by them as the visitors produced a whole host of chances - Huegett testing the 'keeper from range just past the hour before Thackray hit the bar two minutes later.

They would get a deserved goal with 19 minutes remaining when Huegett accurately converted a free-kick from 20 yards to narrow it to 4-2, and they could have added to this with 15 to play when Graham's shot was spilled by the 'keeper, but Sheffield's defence were on their toes and reacted quickly enough to clear the danger of the loose ball.

However, City's hosts squashed their visitors' hopes of getting back on level terms when they added a fifth with 11 minutes to play, the Bantams caught on the break as they pushed bodies forward in search of some goals. Huegett hit the target with another free-kick in the final moments, but the final score read 5-2 in Sheffield's favour.

City showed plenty of promise against the now second tier side, with some new players fitting in well and linking up with their new teammates, and the team will take plenty of positives again as their pre-season campaign continues.

The Bantams have two fixtures remaining and finish their preparations for the new season with a double header down South next month. They will face Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday 8 August, who play their football in the FA Southern Premier League, on the same level but in a different region than City, and were heavily involved at the top of the division last season, before facing Luton Town the following day, Sunday 9 August, in their final pre-season fixture.

The new league campaign kicks off on Sunday 16 August as City travel to the Midlands to face Sporting Club Albion .

  The Bantams get reacquainted with last season’s rivals, Sheffield FC, in preparation for the new campaign.

 

The Bantams get reacquainted with last season’s rivals, Sheffield FC, in preparation for the new campaign.

City shake hands with their opponents after a 6-3 win over Barnsley.

City shake hands with their opponents after a 6-3 win over Barnsley.