By Matthew Kermode
After an enforced two week break due to COVID concerns, a rejuvenated Bradford City WFC fought back to earn a creditable 2-2 draw at home to Norton & Stockton Ancients.
Hannah Richards was a late introduction to the line-up, called up from the bench to make her debut in goal as Aimee Routledge was injured during the warm up.
City were a goal down after 21 minutes, when the visitors’ top scorer Bianca Owens scored from the spot after what appeared to be a trip in the box by City defender Tori Thomas. Then on the half hour mark Shannon Reed’s cross-shot looped over Richard to double Norton’s lead.
In previous seasons this would frequently have led to a capitulation from City, but under Chris Hames they have a new energy and determination, and within three minutes a trademark Zoe Roberts inswinging free kick was headed into the path of Keegan Lambert, who slotted home inside the far post past the onrushing Norton keeper.
City’s equaliser was almost a carbon copy of their first. Again Roberts put a free kick into the box, it was headed down and this time captain Katy Woodcock thumped home from close range.
The second half was fairly uneventful, with both sides fighting for that key breakthrough, but ultimately they cancelled each other out and had to settle for a point each.
Hames was rightly full of praise for his side, he said: “My first thought is how proud I am of the group today. We have had a rocky few weeks - only being able to train one of the last three weeks - so we knew we would be rusty, whereas Norton are very much now in their flow, and I think you could tell that in the early stages.
“We had to dig deep and put bodies on the line at points but really we restricted them to very little, everyone was giving their all.
“Of course we were disappointed to go two down, ultimately the phases that led to those goals aren’t good enough, not even just the moments themselves, but with more game time in the coming weeks those little mistakes don’t happen, so we take them as what they are and move on.
“After that moment we played some of our best football, if not the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here, and we have to be happy with that. The desire to keep plugging away, to get the goals back is a huge bonus for us and one of the positives we need to take away. That character is something we’ve talked about throughout preseason, and is now becoming our identity.
“We had some very good moments in that second half, and large spells where having that clinical edge would have given us the next goal. But a lot has to be said for how Norton defend, they throw bodies around the ball, give you very little space and make life very difficult which we have to give credit to as well.
“We’re back now, and hopefully without too many other interruptions over the coming weeks to start getting some game time together. We have to take today as what it was, a game, a day, a point to kick start our season and to get us now moving in the right direction going forward”.
Elsewhere City’s Reserves finally started their season, unfortunately they went down to a 5-0 defeat on the road to a strong Stockport County side.
City are back in action this Sunday, as they kick off their 2020-21 Vitality FA Cup campaign with a home tie against Sunderland West End LFC. While the Reserves host Middlesbrough at Rawdon Meadows.