Martin Goodall reviews Middlesbrough FC Ladies’ 2012-13 campaign in the Northern Combination.
A newly assembled team brought together by the newly appointed Ladies manager, Gemma Grainger, have had a pretty good season. After a shaky start, the girls all gelled together and put on some great displays as they moved up the Northern Women’s Combination League table, eventually finishing in fourth place.
In the FA Women’s Cup, Boro battered league rivals, Huddersfield Town 4-1 at home to earn themselves a 3rd round tie against the mighty Sunderland from the top of the Women’s Premier League National Division. Sunderland came to Thornaby on the 3rd of February and left Gemma Grainger’s side with a 6-1 victory for the Wearsiders.
Middlesbrough tasted success this term when they made it all the way to the North Riding FA Women’s County Cup final at NRCFA head quarters in Stokesley in April. Grainger’s red army marched to victory beating triple champions, York City 3-0.
Middlesbrough began their new season in August 2012 with a mid-week 3-1 away defeat to South Durham Cestria and a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield the following weekend. After a hard fought 1-1 away draw with Bradford City, Boro lost their next two games, both 2-0 at home. The girls managed a victory away to Leeds City Vixens before another two away defeats, including the 6-1 drubbing at Chorley (a score line only repeated by Sunderland). By the end of September Boro were eighth and looked as if they would have a similar season to last, when they finished ninth. October started and so did Middlesbrough. The girls went on a three game winning streak, scoring fourteen goals and ended 2012 in fifth place in the league.
The harsh winter saw one postponement after another and Middlesbrough had to wait until mid February to get their league campaign under way again, a full eight weeks after their last league game in mid December. The first league game of 2013 was a 1-0 home defeat to a then, unbeaten Bradford side, before embarking on a nine match unbeaten league run.
After their rocky start to the 2012-13 league season, Boro’s turning point seemed to be the 6-0 hammering to Leeds City Vixens in mid-October. Middlesbrough put together a three match winning streak before losing 4-1 to Sheffield United Community. A welcome break hit in December when, the girls had to face Peterlee St. Francis in the first round of the FA Women’s Cup where they hit five past the Peterlee defence to book their place in the second round. After that game, Boro went into their final game of 2012 away to Stockport County to record a 3-1 victory heading into Christmas.
2013 started with the FA Cup 2nd round game against league rivals, Huddersfield Town in which, the Ladies showed their quality, beating the Yorkshire side 4-1 at home. Unfortunately, the weather took its toll and ravaged the fixtures across the league and Middlesbrough were made to wait four weeks before playing another game.
That other game was the hugely anticipated FA Cup 3rd round tie against the Premier League National Division leaders (and eventual league winners), Sunderland. The Wearsiders turned up as overwhelming favourites and the fans were treated to some good football. Tidy passing and strong attacks saw the visitors finding the back of the net six times. Middlesbrough achieved a consolation goal and despite the scoreline, actually put on a decent show themselves and, at times, matched their North East rivals.
After the exhausting FA Cup exploits, Gemma Grainger’s team were able to get back down to league business with then, unbeaten Bradford City. Grainger’s red army fought hard and restricted their opponents to only one goal but, were unable to find the net themselves. The promising performance was enough to please fans and spur the team on for the rest of the campaign and strung together an unbeaten run of nine games (including the NRCFA County Cup win), which they carried to the end of the season.
Boro couldn’t complete their final fixture as, their opponents, Cheadle Heath Nomads, were unable to field a full starting eleven. Middlesbrough were eventually awarded three points for that game, but had already secured their fourth place finish when they beat Sheffield United Community.
Looking ahead to next season, the future looks good for a very promising team harbouring young talent. Middlesbrough are holding trials for more girls to join the team and will be setting up a second string to play in a reserves league for next season.
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