Hull City Ladies continue to make 2018 an historic year for the club. With one League Cup game versus Bolton Wanderers to come before the New Year the Tigresses sit in their highest ever league position in 8th spot of the Northern Premier Division with the real prospect of moving even higher when the League campaign restarts in mid January.
Also with an emphatic 0-5 away win at Long Eaton United last weekend Rachel Gay’s side progressed through to the 3rd round of the SSE Women’s FA Cup for the first time in their history. The reward for the victory was a home draw versus AFC Wimbledon Ladies of South East Division 1 on the 6th of January 2019. If the girls can overcome their London opponents and go through to the 4th round they could face the prospect of drawing one of the Women’s ‘Big Guns’ when the likes of Arsenal Ladies, Manchester City, Manchester United and the two Merseyside giants entering the fray.
The last few weeks have proved to be a tough time for the Tigress squad which was at times stretched to the limit due to injuries & illness but out of adversity came the realisation that manager Gay, and head coach Danny Johnson have real depth of quality within their squad and all are ready to make the step up to senior level and perform exceptionally well.
The likes of Amy Blinkhorn, Hannah Smith, Meg Calvert and Molly Lunn started the season playing reserve team football but all have stepped up a level and performed brilliantly despite their tender years and inexperience.
Blinkhorn has been a revelation in the midfield showing excellent technique and intelligence. Signed as a striker with an exceptional scoring record, Gay and Johnson quickly saw in Amy a classy play-maker, who can put the ball on a sixpence. Her dead-ball delivery is tremendous and directly accounted for a number of City goals this season. ‘Blinks’ showed against Sheffield that she still has an eye for goal when she scored the goal of the season so far with a sublime volley from outside the box.
Teenage starlets Hannah Smith and Molly Lunn have made their debuts in the Tigress defence recently and have shown real glimpses of quality and boundless enthusiasm. The recent game at Stoke was a real baptism of fire for the youngsters against a strong, established side but they didn’t disappoint anyone watching with their performances. The 4-1 scoreline was somewhat lop sided as the girls held their lofty opponents goal-less in the 2nd half which for a squad missing FOURTEEN players on the day including captain Jo Symington and vice captain Tash Cooke was a pleasing performance.
Tigress teenagers who have quickly become regulars in the 1st team squad are winger Harley Skinner, midfielder/right back Tillie Oxley and central midfielder Meg Calvert and all three have added quality. Skinner in particular has become a near automatic choice in the eleven and is tipped by us at Fanatichull for a great future if she continues her rapid rise at senior level. Oxley has performed magnificently in the unaccustomed right back role and in the cup game was given 25 minutes in centre midfield and showed some exquisite touches and great footballing intelligence. Calvert is mature beyond her years and hasn’t been overawed or outshone by any of her far more experienced opposition in the grind of midfield.
Another young gun who has begun to flourish recently is Misty Russell (below), who has tremendous pace and technical ability.
Misty has really come to the fore in recent weeks and was simply unplayable at Long Eaton, where she troubled the home side every time she got on the ball. Her player of the match performance was capped with the opening goal.
The more established stars of the team are playing their part in the great start to the season. After an unusually slow start to the season Rach Ackroyd is now back amongst the goals, scoring a cracker at Stoke before adding 2 more at Long Eaton. ‘Ackers’ work rate and passion is unquestionable but like happens to all good strikers at times she was in something of a barren run that her all round displays didn’t deserve and now that it’s broken more goals will flow.
Last season’s top scorer, Hope Knight was the regular left winger but the form of Skinner and injuries to others has seen Hope playing in a number of different positions, but despite this she again leads the chart with 8 goals to her name, scoring 2 at Long Eaton and was denied a superb hat-trick by the cross bar. It is the measure of her quality that Hope can play great football in whatever position Gay and Johnson ask her to play.
Another of the experienced players to step up in recent weeks is defensive midfielder Emma Westmorland. ‘Westy’ has been immense in the centre of the park in the last few weeks, doing a ton of graft every game. She ‘glues’ the side together and runs her blood to water every game and allows the likes of Blinkhorn, Russell, Skinner and Knight to flourish.
The blend of the youth outlined above, mixed with the plethora of more experienced and established stars in the squad is already paying dividends for the club. The healthy competition for places is driving every member of the squad to greater heights, every one of the squad know they cannot rest on their laurels otherwise they will be spending time on the sidelines not knowing if or when they will get back in the team.
Here at FanaticHull we would urge EVERY sports fan in the area to get down to the Uni of Hull Sports Complex, Inglemire Lane on Sunday 6th January (1pm) to cheer on the girls in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, it’s history in the making, so come down and be part of history.
Photos courtesy of Kevin Greene Photography & Dave/Helen Hare.