Brighouse Town AFC Women 1 (Embley (pen) 28) Wolves Women 1 (Gauntlett 18)
Wolves Women had to settle for a point against Brighouse after what was a frustrating 1-1 draw for the champions.
A tap-in from the in-form Maz Gauntlett was cancelled out by a Leah Embley penalty from the hosts, as the two sides shared the spoils for the second time this month.
Wolves started the contest well, and 14 minutes in, Gauntlett flicked on a crossfield pass to Amber Hughes, she struck a fierce effort which was blocked by Shauna Legge. Gauntlett was appealing strongly for the champions to be awarded a penalty, but nothing was forthcoming from the referee, or indeed the assistant on the sideline.
Wolves did eventually take the lead moments later. A deep corner from the right caused confusion in the box for the hosts, they struggled to clear the cross and Gauntlett was there to tap in for the away side, who thoroughly deserved the lead in the game.
Legge and Tammi George, who were heavily involved early on and were both booked after 22 minutes, while Ali Miller forced a very good save from Brighouse goalkeeper Becky Flaherty. From the right she struck a fierce right footed shot towards the near post, but Flaherty did brilliantly well to keep it out at her near post.
Brighouse, despite being second best in the first-half, won a penalty after 27 minutes. Sophie John whipped in a wicked delivery from the right, it dropped to Embley in the penalty area, and her shot was adjudged to have hit a Wolves hand, with the referee awarding a penalty for the hosts.
Having won the penalty, Embley converted the spot kick, striking the ball to Shan Turner’s right, but the goalkeeper couldn’t quite get down fast enough to keep the ball out of her net, much to the jubilation of the home faithful.
Brighouse nearly went in at half-time 2-1 up, when another fantastic cross from Embley, who was influential in the first-half, landed on the head of defender Legge who got good connection on the cross but headed it just over Turner’s bar.
Half-time | Brighouse 1-1 Wolves
The start to the second-half was much less fluid than the entertaining first 45 minutes of football, and it was a very stop start affair in the second-half with play being stopped due to injuries and fouls galore meant the game’s rhythm suffered as a consequence.
Hughes tried to inject a bit of life into Wolves, when she picked up the ball on the left, before skipping past three players and lifting a left footed cross towards Gauntlett in the penalty box, but it was cleared by Legge.
Laura Cooper tried her luck with eight minutes to play in the contest, but her effort was sliced wide of Brighouse’s goal, in a tense second-half at the Yorkshire Payments Stadium.
The point for the champions does little to affect their league position, but the point for the hosts, means they consolidate their seventh-place position in the Women’s National League.
Full-time | Brighouse 1-1 Wolves
Wolves’ caretaker boss Karl Milgate was keen to praise the girls on what was a tough place and pitch to play on for the champions.
“Overall, a very good point, this is a hard place to come,” Milgate admitted. “We knew that after the game at Molineux last week, they made it tough. And we expected a tough game today. And it was exactly that.
“We knew what it was like here in terms of it'd be very dry. Obviously, the weather hasn't helped. It would have been nice for it to be a bit wetter, but it’s a very compact pitch, which really adds to how they want to play the game.
“In terms of high intensity pressing, they (Brighouse) are all about getting in your face and making it difficult for you. And it was hard for us to connect passes today in the areas we wanted to. We had to change our game a little bit today.”
As the crucial cup final against West Brom is on the horizon, Milgate was keen to point out the importance of putting in the hard yards, ahead of two crunch games.
“Today was a good test for us,” Milgate said. “It's good preparation for the County Cup final against West Brom. That'll be a hard-fought game as well. We wanted the ladies to just be Wolves Women and that means a team full of desire, heart and being a unified group and you've seen that over the course of the game today.”
Amber Hughes was also keen to echo Milgate’s sentiment of just how well the girls adapted to a difficult pitch and a difficult ground to come to.
“It was a hard shift,” she said. “It’s a hard place to come, it’s always difficult on away days, teams are always up for it. We got ahead, I thought we were good in possession, and we worked extremely hard off the ball, and I think to come away with a point we should be happy.”
Hughes is keen to put her goalscoring drought to bed when the girls take on Loughborough before the two crucial matches in the County Cup final and the play-off final.
“I want to keep adding goals to my game,” she said. “I haven't scored for a couple of games now and that's always in the back of my head but it's not the be all and end all for me.
“I just want to help the team and assisting goals is just as important for the team as scoring goals. I want to gain confidence going into West Brom game and into the play-off final.
“Ultimately, it's about sticking together as a team, getting that feel good factor and getting that confidence going into those big games that we have coming up.”
01/05 Loughborough Lightning (H)
11/05 West Bromwich Albion (Birmingham County Cup final)
21/05 Southampton (Championship play-off final)
Brighouse: Flaherty, Bamforth, Legge, Cass, Dean, Greene, Sowerby, Whitham, Green, Embley, John.
Wolves: Turner, Cooper, E. Cross, Gauntlett, George, Hughes, Morphet, Darby, Miller, Merrick, Burridge.
Words: Shaun Webbley