Tottenham were given another look at the level they need to reach to be competitive in the Women’s Super League should they win promotion as goals from the captain Steph Houghton, Lauren Hemp and Gemma Bonner, along with a penalty save from Ellie Roebuck, ensured Manchester City cruised into the FA Cup quarter-finals.
“There’s another two levels, there’s the top-top, the top-four, and then there’s the rest. We know we can compete at that level,” said the Spurs manager, Karen Hills, whose team held off City for much of the first half. “We’re semi-professional and they’re full-time – if it got evened up who knows? We know we’re not a million miles off and what the girls did was fantastic. The crowd were brilliant today and hopefully they can be proud of the girls.”
Spurs and City find themselves in similar circumstances in their respective leagues. Both table-topping, both looking over their shoulder at teams who have played two games fewer – City two points above Arsenal, Tottenham five clear of Manchester United. But that’s where the similarities ended at Cheshunt, in front of a Spurs stadium record crowd of 1,158 and where the gulf between the sides was evident.
Spurs are in the hunt for a place in the fully professional top division and, while they have overcome WSL sides Brighton and Yeovil in cup competitions this season and lead the fully professional United in the Women’s Championship, this test against Manchester City offered a glimpse at the levels of fitness, physicality and quality they would need.
It is a big task to turn a semi-pro team into a fully professional setup in a single summer without wholesale team changes – perhaps United’s decision to launch fully professional in the semi-pro second tier in preparation will need to become the model for clubs with top-flight ambitions.
Houghton was full of praise for Tottenham. “They’re brave, the way that they try and play out, their players want to get on the ball and they worked hard,” she said. “They probably ran a marathon today. The future’s bright for this Tottenham team, they are doing well in the league, they’ve got some good coaches and good young players and they look as though they are progressing really nicely.”
For the first 30 minutes Spurs would have been pleased. City were significantly slicker in their passing but they failed to create many clearcut chances. If Tottenham – who have conceded more than their three nearest rivals in the Championship – were holding firm at the back, however, then they struggled to make it count when going forward.
It was Houghton, the the stalwart of that back line, the England captain, who broke the deadlock, whipping a free-kick over the wall and into the bottom right-hand corner of Morgan’s net. . Two minutes later and it was two, Hemp delightfully chipping Chloe Morgan.
Just five minutes after the restart it was three, a cross from the left causing panic in the box before Bonner was able to poke the ball over the line.
The introduction of Angela Addison injected some pace into Spurs’ midfield, and it looked like she would reduce the deficit. Scythed down in the 75th minute Addison stepped up to take the resulting penalty but her effort lacked power and Ellie Roebuck got down to her right to parry it away.
“We’ve got a lot of young players but we are patient. We respected Tottenham, we knew what their strengths were and we nullified them and it’s great to come away with a clean sheet,” added Houghton.
“We’re really pleased with the performance despite the scoreline,”said Spurs captain Jenna Schillaci. “We had a game plan and I think we stuck to it really well. It was unfortunate to give a set piece away but they’re quality players and we knew if we gave them chances they’d take them.”
City go into the hat for Monday’s quarter-final draw knowing next Saturday’s League Cup final opponents, Arsenal, are out, having lost 3-0 to Chelsea . A goal in either half from Beth England and another from Jonna Andersson ensured the Blues cruised through while Lisa Robertson scored twice as Championship Durham knocked out WSL side Bristol City.
Kirsty Linnett and Rinsola Babajide ensured Liverpool booked their place in the quarter-finals against Millwall Lionesses. An 82nd minute goal from Rakel Hönnudóttir earned Reading a 2-1 win over Birmingham.
Jodie Hutton scored the winning penalty in a shootout after her hat-trick helped
Aston Villa come from 2-0 down against
Sheffield United to level the score at 3-3 in the 96th minute sending the game into extra time.
Casey Stoney got the better of her former England teammate and the new London Bees manager Rachel Yankey as
Manchester United ran out 3-0 winners. And West Ham survived going behind to a 14th-minute penalty to beat Huddersfield 8-1, with Leanne Kiernan scoring a hat-trick.