Sheffield FC Women 0 Wolves Women 5 (Johnson 11, Hughes 22, Merrick 55, J. Cross 67, George 89)
Five different goal scorers were on target in a five-star performance as Wolves took all three points in their FAWNL Northern Premier Division encounter against relegation-battling Sheffield to maintain their place at the top of the table with five matches remaining.
A bright start from Wolves saw Katie Johnson head the ball over the crossbar from an Anna Morphet corner in their first attack of the game, while plenty of other chances came for the old gold within the opening ten minutes, but the Sheffield defenders were able to keep the girls at bay.
Wolves took the lead following a Morphet corner. There was a scramble in the box, a sea of red, black and gold all surrounding the six-yard box, but the final touch came off Johnson to give the visitors the early lead.
Moments later, some brilliant link-up play between Beth Merrick and Jade Cross, almost saw the latter’s cross land in the feet of Maz Gauntlett, but her back-heel was kicked away by Sheffield shot-stopper Abi Megeary
Amber Hughes added to her tremendous season tally as she doubled Wolves’ lead halfway through the first-half. A mistake from the Sheffield defence saw her able to snatch the ball and run towards goal, calmly striking the ball into the bottom right corner, taking her league tally this campaign up to 22.
Sheffield had a couple of breaks in play where they were able to get the ball forward, but no clear-cut chances were created, and Wolves’ defence were able to clear any balls around the 12-yard box.
Wolves prodded the Sheffield defence every chance they had, but the hosts managed to keep the score line 2-0 going into the break.
Half-time | Sheffield 0-2 Wolves
The hosts put more pressure on Wolves in the second-half and showed resilience as a young side, but the old gold defence remained solid throughout, and Sheffield were unable to create any chances.
Jade Cross went one-on-one with Megeary and was unable to put her close-range shot away, but minutes later, Merrick got on the scoresheet as she found herself in the perfect space, to slot the ball into the back of the net for Wolves’ third.
Another name was added to the scoresheet as Wolves scored a fourth goal as the game approached the 70-minute mark. Jade Cross had her chance and was able to bring the ball down and turn the Sheffield defender, before striking the ball and looping it over the keeper, much to the frustration of the home side’s defence.
Wolves came so close to making it five when Merrick ran at the keeper and had a go at goal. Her shot was parried away, but Hughes was in position for the rebound, however, her close-range shot was forced onto the bar by Megeary.
Sheffield’s biggest chance of the game came in the dying minutes from a break in play, in which their striker looked set to put the ball into the back of the net, but Morphet put her body on the line to deny the strike.
The fifth goal came minutes later as Tammi George rose above the rest and headed the ball into the back of the net to round off a five-star performance away from home and another clean sheet for Dan McNamara’s side.
Full-time | Sheffield 0-5 Wolves
McNamara was delighted with the girls’ performance away from home and said: “I thought we were great today. Sheffield is a difficult place to come, and the pitch was dry and bobbly, but it was the same for both teams so no complaints.
“Overall, I thought we were excellent, and really good value for the 5-0. There were some real highlights today. Phoebe Hill came on and made her debut for the club at 17. She’s been with us since she was ten, so for me that’s a big plus point and shows the direction we’re going in as a club.
“I thought Amber and Maz both had outstanding games today. Maz held the ball up well, but also threatened the other way. The back three also looked solid, Shan’s got another clean sheet in the bag and it’s another three points to help us towards our goal.
“Sheffield are a young side, and they have no fear and I think they came at us at times, but you could see at the end what a clean-sheet means to the girls, with Anna Morphet putting her body on the line to take it away from the forward who was certainly going to score.
“It’s all good going forward but we want to keep our identity and that’s being hard to score against. It hasn’t happened too many times this year and we were disappointed with the Burnley result, but that’s behind us now and three clean sheets have followed that.”
On how Katie Johnson has impressed
Johnson has been on loan at Leafield for most of the season but has come back and made a real impression on the Wolves boss.
“A big thank you must go to Leafield,” said McNamara. You can see it’s paid dividends. She’s come back and straight into the mix.
“We talk about players needing to be ready because they will contribute in the next six to eight weeks and Katie is a prime example of that. She’s not kicked a ball for Wolves this season and the next thing you know, she’s coming up with big goals away from home to open the scoring.
“She’s a massive Wolves fan and she’s another who has come right through the system, so I’m delighted for her.”
On Amber Hughes’ goalscoring form
After getting her name on the scoresheet once again yesterday, Hughes bought her goal tally to 22 goals in the 2021/22 campaign.
“Amber is a different level, “exclaimed McNamara. “You put her in front of goal, and she does what she did today.
“She had the chance in the first half, and she took it. You’ve also got to look at her beyond her goals, the way she contributes to the game and brings others into play.”
After three away games on the bounce and three clean sheets, Wolves look to do the same again as they play in front of a home crowd against Huddersfield Town on Sunday. Huddersfield come into the game after beating West Bromwich Albion 2-0.
“We’re looking forward to the test,” said the boss. “Huddersfield are a very good side. Glenn has taken them over halfway through the season he will be bringing an analyst side of the game and he will know how we play, so we’ve got to prepare a little differently this week.
“They’re going to bring a real threat and they have some very good players in the forward area of the pitch, so we just have to put together a game plan and hopefully we can be effective with what we put out.”
03/04 Huddersfield (H)
10/04 Sheffield FC (H)
17/04 Brighouse Town (A)
24/04 Brighouse Town (H)
01/05 Loughborough (H)
Sheffield: Megeary, Smith, Wood (Clarkson 45), Copeland, Hauge, Kemp (Hodkin 77), Bailey (Jacobs 77), Harness, Evison, Waite, Mason (Vincze 77).
Wolves: Turner, Cooper, E. Cross (Elsmore 62), Gauntlett (Hill 83), George, J. Cross (Butler 75), Hughes, Darby (Widdal 75), Johnson (Walker 62), Morphet, Merrick.
Words: Megan Garbutt