Conti Cup preview

This week-end is Conti Cup week-end with the first round being played. Some teams will certainly rotate their squad as it will their third game in a week, so we might see some upsets.



Reading v Arsenal

Reading will welcome their long term injured players including goalscorer Boho-Sayo who will certainly be a handful for the Arsenal defence. I expect some rotation in the Arsenal as it will be the third game in the week.

Doncaster v Sunderland

Donnie without a win this season against Sunderland who are in freefall at the moment. The winner will have a psychological advantage that might be extremely valuable in the relegation race later this season. Those two teams will play each other twice and with only three points separating them those head to head games will be crucial.



London Bees* v Chelsea

Bees have been regenerated by Dave Edmonson arrival, they now have a structure and organisation that see them being comfortable In mid table in WSL 2. It will be interesting to see if Emma Hayes gives game time to a young  player like Alessia Russo as many fringe players from last season are currently on loan.


Aston Villa* v Manchester City

Tough ask for Villa against a City side unbeaten in the League but in a current disappointing form with two draws. City might rotate a bit now that they have signed another twop players during the Sumer transfer window.

Everton* v Livepool

Liverpool are in great form following two league draws against City. Everton disappointed at Watford but have signed three forwards recently to add to their firepower.

It should be an interesting derby game.


Oxford* v Birmingham

Oxford got a very good point against Yeovil in the League, the big question is will they be strong enough physically as it will be their third game in a week. Birmingham have made a lot of signing as many players departed as expected during the window and should be too strong for their WSL 2 opponents.


Yeovil* v Notts County

Notts County have added two excellent England midfielders to their already extremely strong line-up. Yeovil battled for a point on Thursday so their fitness level will be tested after a third game in the week and a long trip to Durham last Sunday.



Sheffield* v Bristol*

Sheffield made a lot of new signing during the window to boost their squad while Bristol added a couple as well.

The recent League game on the 22nd of May ended with a surprise 3-1 victory for Sheffield who will be looking to a repeat.

You would expect that game to be tight as the teams will have known each other really well with that recent encounter.


My predictions : Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Liverpool, Bristol , Notts County, Birmingham to go through. Sunderland and Belles to go to a penaly shoot-out lottery.


FA WSL Continental Cup 2016 draw

Here is the draw for the preliminary round and first round of the 2016 tournament.

If you wonder how the draw was made and the bizzare selection process everything is explained here

Preliminary Round draw

Sheffield* v Durham*
Oxford United* v Millwall Lionesses*
Watford* v London Bees*

First Round draw

Doncaster Rovers Belles v Sunderland
Yeovil Town* v Notts County
Oxford United* or Millwall Lionesses* v Birmingham City
Everton* v Liverpool
Aston Villa* v Manchester City
Reading v Arsenal
Watford* or London Bees* v Chelsea
Sheffield* or Durham* v Bristol City

*denotes FA WSL 2 sides

Preliminary round week-end of the 7th of May, first round week-end of the 2nd of July.


Analysing the FA WSL 2016 rules part 3 the Conti Cup

Here is part 3 of the FA WSL 2016 rules’ analysis focusing on the FA WSL Continental Cup


Competition structure :

New format as already  previously announced with no more group stage games :

The FA WSL Cup shall be a knock out competition.

Here is the full ranking used for the 2016 competition :

  1. Chelsea
  2. Manchester City
  3. Arsenal
  4. Sunderland
  5. Notts County
  6. Birmingham
  7. Liverpool
  8. Bristol
  9. Reading
  10. Doncaster
  11. Everton
  12. Yeovil
  13. Aston Villa
  14. Oxford
  15. Durham
  16. London Bees
  17. Millwall
  18. Watford
  19. Sheffield


Clubs will be ranked using their FA WSL finishing position in the previous Playing Season with the team placed first in FA WSL 1 ranked highest (1) followed by all the Clubs in FA WSL 1, then the Clubs in FA WSL 2 and the team (if any) promoted to the FA WSL from the Football Association Women’s Premier League being ranked lowest.


Oxford, Durham, London Bees, Millwall, Watford and Sheffield to play the preliminary round :

A preliminary round of 3 Competition Matches will be played between the six (6) Clubs ranked lowest. In order to determine which Clubs will play each other in the preliminary round, an open draw will take place. The winning Club from each of these matches will progress to the first round proper.

The first round proper will consist of the 3 winning Clubs from the preliminary round and the remaining Clubs


Reading, Doncaster, Everton, Yeovil and Aston Villa plus the three preliminary round winners will be at home and drawn against Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Sunderland, Notts, Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol.

2 FA WSL 1 teams will therefore be at home while on FA WSL 2 team will be away.

In order to determine which Clubs will play against each other in the first round proper, Clubs ranked nine (9) to thirteen (13) under Rule 15.2 above together with the winners of the preliminary round Competition Matches will be placed in one (1) pot (“Pot A) and Clubs ranked one (1) to eight (8) under Rule 15.2 above will be placed in another pot (“Pot B”). A seeded draw will then take place with all Competition Matches in the first round proper being played between one (1) team from Pot A against one (1) team from Pot B


Open draw for the quarter-finals

The winning Club from each first round proper Competition Match will progress to the quarter finals.

In order to determine which Clubs will play against each other in the quarter finals, all the winning Clubs from the first round proper will be put into one (1) pot and an open draw will take place

The winning Club from each quarter final Competition Match shall progress to the semi-finals.


Open draw for the semi-finals

In order to determine which Clubs will play against each other in the semi-finals, all the winning Clubs from the quarter finals will be put into one (1) pot and an open draw will take place.

The winning two (2) teams from the semi-finals will progress to the final.


The FA introducing a possible neutral venue for the semi-final like they do for the FA Women’s Cup.

The first drawn Club in all the rounds (except for the semi-final and final) will play at home. The semi-finals will be played at the home ground of the first drawn club or a neutral FA WSL ground to be determined by The Management Committee in its absolute discretion. The final shall be played on a neutral ground to be decided by the Board in its absolute discretion.


Extra-time and penalty shoot-out if needed in every round, standard for cup games.

All Competition Matches shall be played to a conclusion with extra time (a period of thirty (30) minutes split into two (2) halves of fifteen (15) minutes) to be played if there is no winner after ninety (90) minutes. If there is no winner after extra time, the winner shall be determined by the taking of penalty kicks from the penalty mark in accordance with the procedure adopted by the International Football Association Board




Fielding an ineligible player:

Again the FA is putting on a curious rule about an ineligible player due to not obtaining an international clearance. As far as I know a transfer is not valid at all, if the player does not have an ITC. They also introduce another loophole with ineligibilty due to the player’s status. I feel they actually therefore have introduced an allowance for cheating.

Where a Club is found to have played an ineligible Player in a Competition Match or Competition Matches that Competition Match or Competition Matches shall be awarded to the opposition Club. Notwithstanding the above, the Management Committee shall have the power, in its absolute discretion, not to order that the Competition Match be awarded to the opposition team only in circumstances where the ineligibility is due to the failure to obtain an International Clearance Certificate or where the ineligibility is related to the Player’s status. In such circumstances, the Management Committee shall have the power to impose any sanction that it determines.


The FA WSL Continental Cup 2016 returns to its original knock-out format

Following criticism of the 2015 format that delivered a lot of blow out and dead rubbers, the FA has decided to revert back to the original format.

Back in 2011, the original format was a knock-out tournament with eight teams. Ties were decided on the final league placement as follows : 1v8 2v7 3v6 4v5. There were (unproven) rumors at the time that a certain team did not put all the effort in their last league game in order to secure a home tie in the Conti Cup.

The new format is as follows and looks very close to the format used in the 2015/16 FA WSL Development League Cup:

The competition will now begin with a preliminary round before moving straight to knock-out from the first round.

The preliminary round will be seeded – with the bottom six clubs competing in three matches. These clubs are Sheffield FC, who recently won promotion into FA WSL 2 from The FA Women’s Premier League (FA WPL) and the five lowest-placed finishers in last season’s FA WSL 2 – Watford, Millwall Lionesses, London Bees, Durham and Oxford United.


The first round will also be seeded, which will see FA WSL 1 sides drawn to face FA WSL 2 sides, with the teams from the second tier given home advantage for the fixtures.


Note: after the preliminary round there will be 9 FA WSL 1 sides in the hat and 7  FA WSL 2 sides. In all logic Doncaster Belles should be at home alongside the 7 FA WSL 2sides against the remaining 8  FA WSL 1 sides.


As per our friend from :

FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup 2016 dates

Preliminary Round: 7-8 May
First Round: 2-3 July
Quarter Finals: 6-7 August
Semi Finals: 3-4 September
Final: 1st or 2nd October

The FA WSL 2016 Season will kick off on 23rd March 2016 and concludes on 6th November 2016. The fixture programme will be announced in January.

FA WSL 2015 team by team review

Here is my analysis for the 2015  FA WSL 1  review from the bottom of the table to the top of the table :

8. Bristol Academy

Performed as expected really as they were favorite for relegation. The winter transfer window saw five important players leave the club and replacement that came in were not as strong.

Champions League horror defeat combined with a stupid scheduling by the FA meant FA Cup elimination at an early stage. And it just went downhill from there.

A  replacement  of manager was decided to change the club’s fortune as well as a massive import of players during the Summer window. It lead to a brief revival with a couple of wins but to no avail.

The smallest FA WSL budget went down.

7. Liverpool Ladies

Performed below expectations being the title holders. Injuries hurt them badly throughout the season, while Matt Beard also hinted at a budget gap with the big 3 teams that was ever growing.

4 wins 1 draw and 9 defeats a poor return for what ended up being a transitional season that saw Matt Beard’s depart tomanage the Boston Breakers.

For the full complete Liverpool review see Heather’s blog :

6. Birmingham City Ladies

After finishing very close to winning the title last season, the Blues ended up in the relegation race alongside Bristol. They started the season badly, struggling to score goals and unfortunately in a short 14 games season, lead them to a relegation battle.

They were probably the second lowest budget in the league and therefore ending up in sixth place is not bad result. Still performing below expectations considering their previous season.


5. Notts County Ladies

Another side performing below expectations considering their squad quality. They should be competing for the Champions League places instead of being a mid table mediocre team.

They reached two cup finals and lost both, so are clearly missing the little something that separate the winners from the losers. It might simply be an attacking football set-up.

Considering the available attacking talent and technical skill, it is bizzare to see them adopt a defensive and physical  attitude and play mainly on the break with a lot of direct football ( in the game I have seen live).

The FA Cup final is a typical example with Chelsea trying to win the game by attacking and Notts content with defending and breaking away. Attacking intent got rewarded in the end and rightly so.

The Continental Cup final was marred by Bassett’s red card that totally changed the game and it meant another defeat.

Notts CEO has gone so it will interesting to see if their fortune will improve and if they will start to play a different football next season.

4. Sunderland Ladies

An exceptional season from the promoted team that could have competed for the title had they not been unlucky with injuries towards the end of the season.

They also had the top goalscorer in Beth Mead also named players’ player of the season by her peers.

A positive start of the season with a win away to Liverpool launched their season and they never looked back, surprising everyone with their solid defending and clinical scoring.

They performed way above expectation and had a sensational first season in FA WSL 1.


3.Arsenal Ladies

Following the 2014 season turmoil, it was the first full season for Pedro Losa. Changes in the training conditions helped improve the team’s form to try to match Chelsea and Manchester City.

Arsenal were unbeaten in the League at the halfway point but suffered three home defeats in the second part of the season that condamned them to the third place.

Like Liverpool they suffered from injuries to key players having to start a 16 year old defender and send on as a substitute a  17 year old in the title decider at home to Chelsea.

They ended up the season with a trophy as they won the Continental Cup back to make it a good season overall.

2. Manchester City Women

Reached their main target qualifying for the Champions League but missed on the title due to a poor first half. Their second half of the League season yielded eight wins and a draw as they steamrolled their opponents with quality football.

The club’s investment in term of facilities paid off and they could go on and dominate the League for years if they can sustain that quality attacking and passing football.

Performed as expected overall, once the machine went into full speed after the World Cup break.

1.Chelsea Ladies

Performed above expectations by doing the double. Recruited very well during the winter break with key players coming in.

Played some lovely attacking football throughout the season and were rewarded with that double.

For more in depth Chelsea Ladies  reviews :

see Hannah’s blog :—guest-fan-blog/guest-fan-blog/doubles-all-round-in-2015–the-ladies.html and

For more season review see Darren’s blog :

And also Girls On The Ball review :


Laura Bassett’s red card controversy in the Conti cup final

Bassett sending off was the moment that defined the game as Notts County were already 1-0 down and chasing the game. They made it hard for themselves to come back into the game, or maybe the referee Jane Simms did, and it ended with a 3-0 Arsenal win.

First let’s have a look at the incident video from BT Sport :

The referee has a clear unobstructed view of the incident. She sees Bassett come at full speed on Losada. She hits her and/or the ball with her left foot and then does a scissor movement with her right foot sending the Spanish player crashing on the floor.

In the context of the game where there were many fouls already signalled and players spoken to, you could think she went for the strict rule application to maintain control on the game. Many referee lose control of the game and let players rule it rather than them.

Now if we had a scale from 0 to 100 to evaluate the fouls in general where

A from 0-10 no foul

B from 10 to 50 free kick is given

C from 51 to 90 a yellow card is shown

D from 91 to 100 a red card is shown

I did not see any reaction on social media from people at the game and watching on tv that said it was case D. Some people thought it was case C, other case B and we even had a few thinking it was A.

Does it mean that people watching the game are right is saying the referee was wrong ? How did the referee end up choosing to go the extreme end of the scale by going to choice D.

I tend to moan at every game that referees in England nearly always downgrade fouls on the scale going from D to C or C to B, C to A and even sometimes from D to A, so for once it looks like an upgrade for a change.

Let’s have a look at the law 12 fouls and misconduct

A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any
of the following seven offences in a manner considered by the referee to be
careless, reckless or using excessive force:
• kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
• trips or attempts to trip an opponent
• jumps at an opponent
• charges an opponent
• strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
• pushes an opponent
tackles an opponent
The important part is in bold : in a manner considered by the referee, that’s what the FA keeps telling me when I protest about poor refereeing…..

 Sending off offences

A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offences:
• serious foul play
• violent conduct
• spitting at an opponent or any other person
• denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)
• denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick
• using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
• receiving a second caution in the same match
A player, substitute or substituted player who has been sent off must leave thevicinity of the field of play and the technical area
Looking at the list Bassett can only have been sent off for serious foul play.
Now if we look at the booklet part named : interpretation of the Laws of the game and Guidelines for referees it become quite clear :

Serious foul play

A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play. A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play.
Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.
Advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play unless there is a clear subsequent opportunity to score a goal. The referee must send off the player guilty of serious foul play when the ball is next out of play.
A player who is guilty of serious foul play should be sent off and play is restarted with a direct free kick from the position where the offence occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick) or a penalty kick (if the offence occurred
inside the offender’s penalty area).
It is obvious that Laura Bassett red card comes into the bold category, she lunges at an opponent, using both legs at full speed. Does she comes with excessive force and endangering the safety of Losada ?
The referee sees it from close range and does not have the luxury of multiple replays like all of us. She is near the players and sees Bassett’s going at full power on Losada, so she applies the rules according to law 12.
The only problem here is there should be consistency in applying the rules in those situation and as mentioned before, the English referees at any level are lenient and tend to downgrade the scale of the fouls rather than upgrade in this case.
So, it was an unusual decision but, if the other referees would follow her way and come stronger on the fouls, we might see a change in English football as technical players would be allowed to develop more. We would not hear the nonsense ” it’s a man’s game, it’s a contact sport and all the get stuck in  stuff.
At the end of the day, the aim of football is to score goal and put the ball in the back of the net not to kick the opposition players. You don’t score any point by being physical in football, something that is often forgotten in British football at any level.
Was Laura Bassett wrongly sent-off ? No according to the Laws of the Game strcit application  but yes according to British football traditional views.

FA WSL Continental Cup group stage now complete

The final game of the group stage was played yesterday afternoon with Watford Ladies defeating London Bees away by 3 goals to 2. We now know all the contenders for the Continental Cup quarter-finals ( sic).

Here is the final table for Group 1:

  1. Arsenal 15 pts
  2. Chelsea 12 pts
  3. Reading 9 pts
  4. Millwall 6 pts
  5. Watford 3 pts
  6. London Bees 0 pt

Arsenal, Chelsea and Reading are through to the quarter finals where they will play Manchester City, Birmingham and Notts County on the 13th of September ie two weeks ago.

The teams through to the semi-finals are Notts County, Liverpool, Birmingham and ?

As of today, we still do not know what is happening with the postponed Arsenal v Manchester City game.

As we all know Manchester City Women FC has been charged with fielding an ineligible player in The FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup and had until the 17th of September to respond to the charge.

As the deadline has now passed, you would expect some kind of communication from the FA, but there is nothing so far. we do not even know who is the supposedly ineligible player.

We do not know why the player was not registered properly and if the registration was not valid for one game only or if the League games might be  involved. It is a bizzare situation with a lack of transparency and you do wonder what will be the outcome of the charge. If there is a knock-on effect on the League results, the table might look really funny.

City’s results since the World Cup return are exceptional : W6 D1 in the League and W5 in the Continental Cup. it would be really strange to see a player being unregistered for a single game.

The competition semi-finals are supposed to be played on the 10/11th of October, so there is still time for the Arsenal v Man City game to be played, so we might not see anything from the FA for a while.