Coventry United Women
Image: Wikimedia Commons / James Boyes

Women’s football weekend

Last weekend was all about women’s football as people up and down the country went to stadiums and watched on TV as ‘women’s football weekend’ unfolded.

The weekend started in 2019, coinciding with an international break in the men’s game, as an initiative to attract more supporters to live matches.

With only a few weeks left of the season, the title is up for grabs

This year has been arguably its most successful edition. The weekend, started with a Merseyside derby draw on Friday night at Goodison Park, followed by a dominant Arsenal display in the north London derby on Saturday. That evening, Manchester United returning to the top of the table at Old Trafford, before Manchester City kept their title hopes alive by beating Chelsea.

These results only helped continue to add drama to this outstanding season. The title race in the Women’s Super League is a genuine four-horse race, with only three points separating Manchester United and Arsenal.

With only a few weeks left of the season, the title is up for grabs, with numerous big clashes to come in the coming weeks.

Personally, to celebrate women’s football weekend, I dropped down a division to the Women’s Championship. I took a trip to the Butts Park Arena, to watch a midlands derby, as Coventry United hosted Birmingham City.

Going into the game, Coventry had just two wins from 17, sitting bottom of the league; compared to a Birmingham side sitting fourth in the table.

Another disappointing afternoon for Coventry United, as it appears their fate is sealed for the season, but their history shows they will respond

After some scrappy, early exchanges, Eleanor Heeps was forced into a flying save to keep Coventry level. That was a sign of things to come for Heeps in goal, who was an assured presence all afternoon; effectively claiming shots and crosses throughout.

From the kick-off, Coventry sought to counter-attack, playing quick vertical balls in behind, to release their wingers. Notably, Morgan Cross, the right-winger, who joined in January was a constant threat, bringing about an early yellow card for her opposing left-back.

Despite Cross’ threat, Birmingham continued to get chances. Their first golden opportunity arrived after 20 minutes, with Jodie Bartle caught on the ball when playing out the back, but Heeps made herself big to stop the one on one.

Chances continued to fall Birmingham’s way, as they sought to exploit Coventry’s narrow 4-3-3 with their 3-5-2. After 25 minutes that provided the breakthrough, as a cross from right wing-back to left wing-back was bundled in at the back post.

Coventry did almost hit back ten minutes later, with Isobel Goodwin’s shot creeping into the corner, before an outstretched hand clawed it away. That chance aside, it rarely looked as though Coventry would come back into the game in the opening half.

The second half started promisingly for Coventry, with a couple of half-chances early on. It was to be short-lived as soon Birmingham were on top and created a couple of excellent chances, with Heeps keeping Coventry in the game.

Coventry and their supporters continued to do everything they could, to get back into the game, but the quality of Birmingham showed. They continued to dictate the game throughout the closing period, despite just the solitary goal advantage.

Another disappointing afternoon for Coventry United, as it appears their fate is sealed for the season, but their history shows they will respond.

Coventry United Women have an interesting history. They were founded in 1991, developing close ties with Coventry City in their early years. From 2015, when their home stadium changed to the Butts Park Arena, they instead developed links with non-league Coventry United. However, since the summer of 2021, they have existed as their own independent entity.

In recent years, the club has struggled financially, but when they survived on the last day of last season, hope returned to the club. They decided to embark on a series of changes to secure the future of the club.

There were changes for the whole coaching team. The club also switched to operate a hybrid model of professional and non-professional players to deal with financial issues. The summer even saw a name change from Coventry United Ladies to Coventry United Women.

Although this season looks set to end in relegation, they have shown their character as a club in the past years to respond to adversity. These players are evidently capable of playing at this level, having finished ninth and 10th in the Championship campaigns prior to this one.

If this season does end in disappointment, then next summer will likely carry as much importance as last year. If the footballing troubles do not improve next season, then financial woes will only worsen.


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