Stephen Ord @smord84 for TRUE FAITH in the stands at St James’ Park to watch the lasses progress in the Cup! 

Newcastle United Women 2 Barnsley Women 1

FA Cup Second Round, St James’ Park, 27/Nov/22, Att: 28,565 – match highlights from – click here 

Tell me Ma, me Ma! I won’t be home for tea, the ladies are in round 3! Tell me Ma, me Ma!

In front of over twenty eight and a half thousand fans, football returned to St James’ Park for the first time since the World Cup hiatus. The next time a side is on the pitch here, it will be the men for a friendly against our Spanish visitors Rayo Vallecano. But todays game, originally a league fixture against Bradford, was a great advert for the women’s game, and definitely superior to the nonsense first half of Morocco v Belgium.

There was a positive atmosphere in the family friendly environment, though twenty young people did their best to try and sing chants about the mens side, there was more appreciation of what was being offered by both teams. In the first half Barnsley had a significant physical superiority, with lots of balls in the air, a more muscular midfield and a plan to be direct. Newcastle looked the whole time to play wide or through straight to the front line. Barnsley pressed high and had pace in wide areas, they had a clear game plan to get at Newcastle and not let them settle.

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Emily Pierrepoint (not sure if she’s a relation of the former crown executioner) was given time by three Newcastle defenders following a cleared chance. She picked her spot beautifully, lifting the ball with just enough arc to loop over Donnelly in the Newcastle goal. It was the only mistake that Charlotte Potts would make all day. Calm and effective in possession, a brilliant reader of the game and a sign to the other group that it’s not just Fabian Schar or Sven Botman who have excellent distribution. Potts took every ball in her stride, played forward confidently and looked to hit angles for Barker and Georgi Gibson.

At one point Gibson was in and took a touch past the defender, the second touch was too heavy and Barnsley were able to smother it. At the back for Barnsley, Gompertz was having a game for the ages, not giving Barker a sniff, and that was the same in midfield where the size of Barnsley seemed to be winning in the battle over the technical ability of Newcastle.

The second half started much the same as the first ended. Though there was clearly an idea to keep the ball better by Newcastle and the tempo was lifted almost immediately, trying to move the ball towards the Gallowgate. However, the first chance fell to Barnsley who fired a free kick at goal, Donnelly doing well to get a hand to it and turn it over the bar. At that point Barnsley could’ve turned the screw.

The introduction of Millie Bell and Sharna Wilkinson proved to be turning points. The team seemed more settled in structure and were more prepared to overlap and gain opportunities down each side. Though it was noticeable how much the play now came down the Newcastle left, Skelton at left back having a solid game and providing a good outlet.

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Three minutes after the substitutions the Lasses were level. Georgia Gibson took aim from thirty yards and placed a strike over the goalkeeper and right into the middle of the goal. The goal seemed to come from nothing, a slight break on the left and a quick throw in but it was the flight of the ball that seemed to confuse the Barnsley keeper, who scrambled backwards and dived forlornly. Take nothing away from the strike from Gibson though, this was outstanding and came as it looked as if they just needed to start being more clinical.

Four minutes later and the Magpies led. Whilst Gibson had shown the way, substitute Wilkinson looked up and took aim for the far corner. It could not have been placed better, despite being much closer to goal and throwing herself full length to get to the top corner, the keeper and the ball were in the net. These were two high quality strikes but interestingly both came after Gompertz had left the field with an ankle injury. That had already allowed Barker to stretch the play more and had Barnsley defenders backtracking towards goal each time she received the ball.

On one occasion Skelton got through and picked out Barker who hit the post, but not for the first time in the afternoon the offside flag was raised against the Newcastle attack.

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Barnsley tried to go more direct and it only produced one moment of panic. Donnelly having to come to claim a ball in the six yard box as the Yorkshire side had one last throw of the dice. What looked a nasty shoulder injury in added time meant that it was almost World Cup level stoppage time.

At the full time whistle the players took a half lap of the stadium in front of the full East and Gallowgate stands. The small travelling contingent saluted their players but it was the Magpies with owners in attendance, who go into the hat. They might want to start playing here every week, but if they score goals like they did in the second half here, they will likely have to before too long.

Stephen Ord @smord84