Bradford City Women shared the spoils in the North East this past Sunday, with a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Wallsend BC Ladies.
Sitting three places above City in third in the North East Regional Women’s Football League (NERWFL), and having only lost one match all season, the 200-mile round trip to Wallsend appeared a daunting prospect on the face of it, even if City entered on a three-match winning streak.
Circumstances were made more difficult still when key midfielder Rebecca Hunt landed awkwardly in the warm-up, and was unable to start as planned.
This did however hand an opportunity for Matilda Fernie, at just 16 years and 8 days old, to become City’s youngest-ever debutant as Hunt’s replacement.
As well as Fernie’s inclusion, regular starter Ellie Prothero was back in for Jade Foster, and Laura Wilson returned in goal for Tiffany Whelan.
With swirling winds at Kirkley Park occasionally dictating the direction of the ball more than the players, the first 10 minutes saw both teams wrestling for possession without conjuring any real goal threat.
That changed shortly afterwards, as Wallsend took the lead. City’s Charlie Ramsden was dispossessed just inside her own half by the hosts’ Lily Walker, allowing her to turn quickly and play through centre-forward Erin Donachie.
The striker was suddenly one-on-one with Wilson, and despite the ‘keeper’s awareness to sprint out and try to smother the ball, Donachie tapped it past her and into the bottom-right corner.
The Bantams looked shaky after going a goal down, unable to replicate the free-flowing dominance they had shown at home to Hull United.
Captain Monika Stube and Kanisha Underdown in midfield showed steel to win the ball back numerous times despite some physical challenges from the home side – one of which against Prothero resulted in her needing treatment, although the defender was fine to continue.
Fans watching thought Wallsend had netted their second goal in the 20th minute.
Having won a free-kick high up on the right-hand side, the ball was swung in and centre-half Abbie Young was presented with a free header, only to place it wide of the left-hand post.
In the 24th minute, Dani Trickett did incredibly well to cut out a Wallsend counter-attack and put the ball out for a corner when the alternative would have been another one-on-one for Donachie against Wilson.
As the clock hit 30 minutes, City fans were treated to a sensational goal to drag them level.
Striker Aaliyah Nolan had come short to receive the ball, and as she tried to play out to Prothero on the left, she was brought down by another rash challenge from behind.
With the free-kick awarded 30 yards from goal, City’s players filled the opposition box to provide targets for Underdown to aim for as she lined it up.
The midfielder had other ideas, however, smacking the ball over everyone and into the top-left corner from some distance to bring the scores level.
The half-time interval allowed City a chance to regroup after a first half that had 10 minutes of added time due to treatment needed for players.
Manager Em Senior will have been delighted with the response of the team in the second half, as they raced into a 2-1 lead 10 minutes after the restart.
It is not often you see goals scored directly from corners, but City fans were treated to another set-piece special, this time from Hannah Markey.
Lining up from the left-hand side, the ball was whipped so acutely that it swerved into the top-right corner leaving Wallsend ‘keeper Jenny Blench with no chance.
The visitors did not have long to celebrate, however, as shortly after the hour mark saw Wallsend’s turn to equalise.
City captain Stube was penalized for pulling a Wallsend shirt as she tussled to win the ball after a throw-in, awarding the hosts a free-kick deeper into City’s half.
Wallsend midfielder Eleanor Regan launched it into the box, where it fell kindly to Jessica White who was able to prod home.
The final 20 minutes saw some fantastic defending by Trickett, as she headed clear on numerous occasions and stopped more than one dangerous counter-attack.
The final chance to fell to Mia Jacobs in the 86th minute, who came the closest to finding a late winner.
Debutant Fernie had released substitute Maria McKenna down the left, who in turn found Jacobs in the middle, but the forward could only hit it just wide of the post, as both sides were made to settle for a point.
CITY: Laura Wilson, Dani Trickett, Charlie Ramsden, Sharone Buckle, Hannah Markey, Kanisha Underdown, Matilda Fernie, Aaliyah Nolan, Monika Stube (C), Mia Jacobs, Ellie Prothero. SUBS: Tiffany Whelan, Imogen Hayhurst, Hollie Barraclough, Maria McKenna.
GOALS: Underdown (30’), Markey (55’).
WALLSEND: Jenny Blench, Anna Wuerfel, Abbie Young, Chloe Rodda, Lily Walker, Jessica White, Nicole Dack, Eleanor Regan, Chloe Mark, Michaela Sewell, Erin Donachie. SUBS: Hannah Gosnold, Sophie Killip, Ellie Mark, Abbie Gilchrist.
GOALS: Donachie (12’), White (63’).