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History On The Hill?

Newcastle United Women make their long awaited return to St. James' Park this weekend in what could be considered the biggest match for Becky Langley's team since they came under the NUFC umbrella following the 2022 PIF takeover.

The Cathedral on the Hill will play host to the FAWNL Cup semi final with Newcastle United Women, who currently sit top of the Northern Premier Division (Tier 3) and are on course for promotion to the Women's Championship, their second promotion in two seasons, taking on Portsmouth FC Women who similarly sit top of the Southern Premier Division and are also aiming to be playing in the Women's Championship next season. Fans of the lasses have always come out in numbers when the team plays at St. James' Park and Sunday's match could potentially see total attendance for the St. James' Park matches, excluding the Sela Cup pre-season friendly, exceed 100,000. An impressive enough figure in it's own right but even more impressive considering the team currently play in Tier 3 of the women's pyramid.

Anyone who has watched NUW play whether that be at St. James' Park, Kingston Park or at an away match will know the lasses play a fast paced attacking style of football whilst remaining solid at the back. Portsmouth FC Women are a rare team who, on paper at least, can more than hold their own against NUW. Pick any stat you like, the two teams are almost inseparable this season.

Of the 48 teams which make up Tiers 1 to 3 of the women's game - WSL, Championship and Northern & Southern Premier Division - Newcastle United Women are one of only two teams who have scored 50 or more league goals this season. The other team? Yes, Portsmouth. With an incredible 60 goals in 14 matches.

The lasses, a team known for high scoring results, would have the best goal difference in the top 3 leagues on +43 if, again, it wasn't for Portsmouth who have a huge +56, 40 goals clear of the second placed team in their league.

Only 3 teams in the top 3 women's leagues have conceded less than 10 league goals this season. WSL's Man City have conceded 8 goals, NUW have conceded an impressive 7 goals, Portsmouth though have a remarkable record of only conceding 4 league goals in 14 matches.

We almost have an advantage when it comes to clean sheets. Longest serving NUW player Grace Donnelly has been in inspired form this season, contributing 12 of our 14 clean sheets in all competitions. Not even Portsmouth can better this however their keeper Hannah Haughton has kept 14 clean sheets in all competitions, 14 being the record for any team in the top 3 leagues. Tier 3's Golden Glove competition does not go beyond Grace and Hannah. Hopefully a second successive Golden Glove for Grace come the end of the season.

NUW's top 3 scorers in all competitions this season are Bridget Galloway on 16 goals, Katie Barker on 10 goals and Georgie Gibson with 9. This compares to Sophie Quirk with 17 goals, recent NUW signing Beth Lumsden with 16 and Emma Jones with 12 for Portsmouth.

Lumsden has made a tremendous start to her time as a Lady Mag and has played a significant role in Portsmouth's success this season. With 16 goals and 9 assists in 17 matches, Beth averaged 1.47 goal contributions per match for Portsmouth. Since her move to the Northeast, Portsmouth's goals per match average has reduced from 4.4 to 3.75. After putting in a fans Player Of The Match winning performance in last weekend's 2-1 win against Derby County it's very unfortunate that the talented winger is ruled out of the big match due to being cup tied.

The lasses certainly have squad depth this season. Kacie Elson, last season's Manager's Player of the Season who has rapidly developed into a player who thrives in the big matches, versatile winger Tyler Dodds who has been a constant threat to defenders on both wings this season and fan favourite Anna Soulsby would all be credible replacements for the cup tied Lumsden and they are only some of the options available to Becky and Andy. A great problem for the management team to have.

I honestly can't call this one. I'd love to see the lasses go on to the final at Kenilworth Road and ultimately lift the trophy, in a way I'm disappointed this isn't the final as it may prove to be the better match. It promises to be a fantastic football match, not only a showcase for the women's game but, hopefully, a preview of what lasses fans can expect to see in the Championship next season. I think the St. James' Park crowd is the deciding factor and it'll be a narrow 1-0 win for NUW with the winner, of course, coming at the famous Gallowgate End but it wouldn't surprise me if it goes to penalties, not that I'm sure my nerves could take that.

Enjoy the day those of you going to the match, HOWAY THE LASSES.

Beth Lumsden photo used with kind permission of Colin Lock @Tyneside_NUWFC



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