Bibhash Dash


Bibhash is a sports journalist with a passion for photography. He is currently doing a Masters in Sports Journalism at the University of Lincoln.

Lincoln Ladies midfielder and general manager Megan Harris hopes March 8 will go down in history as a watershed moment for women’s football.

The date may be universally recognised as International Women’s Day, but for the city’s Women’s Super League club, Friday provided a double boost that could see the sport attain newer heights.

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) have announced they will be admitting female players to its ranks from next season, but the celebrations do not stop there.

Lincoln will be leading from the front in showcasing their skills to a nationwide audience as the FAWSL, which kicks off with Lincoln taking on Bristol Academy on March 23, will be broadcast by the BBC in what is seen as a major step towards bringing in a more mainstream audience.

The broadcaster, following on from its survey that found four out of five British elite sportswomen believing they are underpaid, announced a bumper coverage package for the women’s game, with the FAWSL among a host of high-profile competitions on its schedule.

And midfielder Harris, who bagged the FAWSL’s goal of the season award for a thunder strike against Arsenal Ladies in June last year, felt it was about time the women’s game got its due rewards.

She said: “Today is a landmark day for women’s football, with both the BBC and PFA announcements. With the success of the Olympics, 2012 left the women’s game simmering, crying out for some sustained media commitment to catapult it into the mainstream. Today’s announcement does just that.”

Next season will be the first time in history that the all-male PFA will permit their female counterparts entry. It means all players who are registered with the Women’s Super League will become eligible to join the PFA.

They will also get a chance to mix in with the stars from the men’s game at the traditionally all-male annual PFA awards dinner, but Harris believes it is the principle of recognition that is of paramount importance.

Harris, whose five-member family are all involved in the game within Lincoln, added: “I know the PFA have been working very hard to get female footballers on board, and it is fantastic that we will finally be recognised by such a well established union.

“The recognition and support is what elite female players deserve and will allow the professionalism of the game to grow even more,” she added.

TV puts spotlight on women’s football

Meanwhile, the BBC will screen the women’s FA Cup final live on Sunday, May 26 and provide full coverage of the women’s European Championship in July, with many of Harris’ Lincoln team mates sure to be involved.

Following that, BBC Two will have four FA Women’s Super League programmes providing goals round-ups, highlights and features as well as looking ahead to England’s World Cup qualifiers, which will also be shown live on BBC.

BBC Two will also have two preview shows, fronted by Jacqui Oatley, on May 20 ahead of the women’s FA Cup final and then on July 8 ahead of the European tournament.

“The platform has been built over the last few years, and the potential growth bandied around by those in the know,” Harris said.

“The BBC agreement can now be the catalyst to take it to the next step and give it the commercial exposure it has been longing for.”

Following Friday’s announcement by the BBC, the Football Association’s Kelly Simmons hailed it as “a watershed moment for the game in England,” and Harris was in full agreement.

The midfielder, whose association with Lincoln Ladies goes back to its very inception, said: “8th March, 2013 will be talked about in years to come as a turning point in women’s football. Now it’s down for us to deliver on the pitch and I’m convinced it will go from strength to strength!”

Josh Gowling was pleased with City’s second-half response

Lincoln City defender Josh Gowling wants Sincil Bank to become a veritable fortress for his side after helping them to a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Luton Town on Tuesday night.

Blue Square Bet Premier promotion chasers Town looked on course for a fifth away win of the season as striker Danny Crow provided a slender lead nine minutes before the break.

However, some resolute defending at the back helped the Imps gain confidence when going up front in the second half and ultimately led to the equaliser.

Conal Platt began one of his many runs down the left flank on 77 minutes and a looping cross saw centre-back Richard Hinds cropping up in front of the Town goal to head home his first City goal.

City are now unbeaten in three successive home games taking seven out of a possible nine points and Gowling, who was named man of the match, said: “Last year the situation with the home form was a quite dire. We want to make this a bit of a fortress and our base and I think we’re doing that.

“It’s been a hard road this season. We’ve got the belief and the potential but we’re just not quite fulfilling it. To pick up points like these playing against the better teams it just gives you that little extra to see. We were as good as them if not better.”

City boss David Holdsworth was forced into a substitution at the break after a tepid first half Imps performance. Francis Laurent replaced Kyle Perry up front while the hosts also brought on Jamie Taylor in place of Simon Russell midway through the half.

The changes provided a healthy boost to their efforts and they could well have scored more than once. Alan Power was a constant threat down the middle with effective support from Jean-Francois Christophe and Tyrone Thompson.

Laurent had two chances to win three points for the Imps but was unable to reach Jake Sheridan’s low cross on one occasion while a near-post shot in stoppage time could only find the side netting.

Gowling added: “In the second half we settled a bit more got into positions nice and early and I think that gave us the space to go and play.

“We could have done with five more minutes actually! We looked like we could have scored again, but it’s a well hard earned point. They’re up there in the table so it was good for us.”

Things went from bad to worse for Town as they had Alex Lawless and Jamie Hand sent off on second bookable offences on 85 minutes and stoppage time respectively.

Holdsworth said after the game: “Got to be well happy with that, but at the same time a little bit unhappy we didn’t get the three points. Our second-half performance showed a lot of encouragement and lot more spirit.

“I felt we took the game to Luton Town and tonight we showed a lot of character and commitment.”

Imps manager Holdsworth is bringing in some changes ahead of the Luton match

Lincoln City on Monday announced Mitchell Nelson is to leave the club, just over two weeks after the defender was signed on loan.

Manager David Holdsworth also announced the imminent departure of striker Bradley Barraclough to Evo-Stick Northern Premier League side Buxton FC, while admitting a further two City players could be sent out on loan.

22-year-old Nelson was on his third loan spell from League One side AFC Bournemouth – his services were due to expire on December 18 – and was a regular feature in the City backline.

He last played for City in their 2-0 defeat at Wrexham last month, and will return to his parent club today, with no official reason given for his departure.

Holdsworth said: “This morning Bournemouth recalled (Nelson). We’d like to thank Bournemouth and we’d like to thank (manager) Lee Bradbury’s assistance because he did me a favour.

“But his loan spell ended today and I wish him and Bournemouth every success.”

City play Luton Town at Sincil Bank on Tuesday having lost their last two Blue Square Bet Premier games – 2-0 and 1-0 to York City and Newport County respectively.

Holdsworth is under no illusions about the task against the league’s promotion chasers Town, who lie sixth in the table and are unbeaten in eight out of 11 games at home.

He said: “Full credit to (Town boss) Gary Brabin. I know that the expectation levels there are very high, they’ve facilitated that in the type of players that they’ve got.

“They’ve got some very talented boys. It will be a very good game for us to play in and I’m looking forward to it.”

While there is good news that City have been drawn against Blue Square Bet North side Colwyn Bay in the FA Trophy, Holdsworth admitted the Imps were hurting after their 1-0 league defeat at Newport last Saturday.

The game was more memorable for the rain-lashed pitch, which made life difficult for both sides and ultimately caused a relatively harmless looking Newport free-kick in the first half to be bundled into the City goal.

The second half of that game was a different story as City dominated their opponents, but failed to find the killer touch in the final third of the pitch.

Holdsworth added: “The facts speak for themselves. We had far superior corners and possession.

“Going to Newport County and getting that takes some guts and some belief. We came off the pitch hurting. It was a close game but often such games are finalised by one slip and that’s what it came out to be.

“I felt we played well enough for a point at least, but it’s football and you have to respect it and look at the bigger picture.”

+ More stories