Newcastle United WFC 4 Alnwick Town 0, St James’ Park, 1/May/22, Att: 22,134
The game itself was somewhat one sided. Alnwick did their best to match the players but it was obvious Newcastle had other gears – Katie Barker was gutted to see an early chance disallowed for offside and with no VAR to step in it was quite nice to be back to quick decisions. The Wor Flags display was again brilliant and it was a real buzz, clearly a lot of people who don’t have the opportunity to go and at three pound an adult, why not!
This is massive for the region and for women’s football in general, the investment made by Barcelona and Lyon in their female team is the blueprint for success that Newcastle could make. Bringing them back under the umbrella of the club and making it a joint effort will raise the standard and the fact that so many local people came out for this game shows the buy in people will have. I am not a huge watcher of the women’s team but our two girls loved it and the lad just loved being back in the ground.
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The first goal was scrappy but young Barker celebrated a la Shearer, with a nine on her back and one hand in the air. Her movement was more Bellamy, but her precision in attack had the defence resetting constantly, unable to pick her up as she moved into pockets of space. On the left hand side Kacie Elson was full of running and was causing issues every time she came inside. When she departed in the second half I’m sure the Alnwick right back breathed a sigh of relief. Katie Ellwood in midfield was a physical presence and able to win back possession repeatedly, unfortunately the pace of Lucy Bowman and movement of Michelle Stewart weren’t visible often enough.
The second goal was a penalty dispatched confidently into the Leazes net, and the fourth was a penalty originally saved, then retaken for what I think was encroachment. But in all honesty and in not anyway patronising, the football was secondary today. The fact that at full time seventy per cent of the crowd stayed to applaud both sides on a lap of honour, Sam Fender blaring out from the audio system.
The fact that the Wor Flags pre match banner said “Howay the Lasses”. The fact that by the end the Gallowgate and East Stand were full, the Leazes was full up to Level 4 and Level 5 (I think) had to be opened. The fact that the players seemed delighted with the fan turnout, that even Alnwick who were soundly beaten seemed to enjoy the day.
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Lots of people seem to enjoy being disparaging about the takeover, the positivity around the club. But this has the ability to go further, to reach out to areas of the community that don’t care about NUFC in the men’s team. This was a completely different experience, but no less enjoyable and the atmosphere was quieter during the game but still loud at different points.
The final word should be about the idea of the club, foundation and the women’s team to put this game on at St James’. If this is just a marker and the introduction of the team back into the club fold, then it has had an excellent, inspiring start. This is what we can be, the focal point of football in the city, the region and the nation. What a positive step, another one on this journey so far.
Stephen Ord @smord84