I know Lincoln City were eliminated from the FA Cup, but there’s still a chance to see a plum FA Cup tie in Lincoln (ish) this weekend. What’s more, it is free to get in as well.
The match to which I refer pits East Midlands Women’s Premier Division side Nettleham Ladies against Liverpool Feds WFC. This is a big tie for Nettleham, they’ve already battled through a couple of rounds to get this far. You might not have heard of Liverpool Feds, but they’re a decent side and a couple of steps higher than Nettleham.
I know many of you, as Lincoln City fans, will be lamenting the loss of our Ladies team to Notts County. I often hear comments along the lines of ‘but there’s no decent women’s football in Lincoln now’. The truth couldn’t be more different. As well as Nettleham, Hykeham Town and Lincoln Moorlands Ladies battle it out in the East Midlands Division One along with Peterborough United Ladies. In the division above Nettleham face teams such as Mansfield Town and Leicester City Development.
Whilst all three teams are doing well, the FA Cup second round tie is quite an achievement or Chris Hamilton’s girls. Nettleham getting to this level is similar to (if you don’t mind crass comparisons) Boston United getting to the second round and drawing Shrewsbury. Liverpool Feds are a big side, make no mistake about that. In their last two games they’ve beaten Newcastle United Ladies 3-0 and Bolton Wanderers Ladies 1-0 (AET in the FA Cup). They’re the heavy favourites in this tie, Nettleham are the lowest ranked side left in the competition.
Nettleham kicked off their campaign with a fine 3-2 win AET against Leicester City’s Development squad. That’s no mean feat, Leicester are their main title rivals at present and are set to face the Netts twice more in December. Up next in the third qualifying round were Burton Albion, a side above Nettleham in the pyramid. Usually that would mean the end of the road, but a fine 4-0 win put them into the first round proper against Loughborough Students. It might be a university city focused on sporting achievement, but the village side from Lincoln triumphed once again. That set up Sunday’s massive clash.
So, what do we know about Nettleham? They’re managed by former Stirling Albion and Dumbarton player Chris Hamilton, no stranger to a big FA Cup occasion. Whilst playing for Dumbarton he featured at Parkhead against Celtic, ending up on the wrong end of a 4-0 score line. He’s still well thought of up north, I’ve been chatting to Stirling Albion this week and they’ve told me of the day he scored a hat trick away at Stranraer as they won 8-2. Later in his career Chris played for Stamford before joining up with Nettleham at the beginning of this season.
There’s a couple of familiar ‘Lincoln City’ faces too. Club captain Shelley Futter and current team captain Sophie Crosby are both ex-Lincoln Ladies, but believe me there is far more to the women’s game then the ghosts of the past. Up front Abbie Murrell (pictured top) is a real livewire, diminutive but sharp as a tack. There are threats on both flanks too, Tia Johnson is in a rich vein of scoring form whilst Daisy Marsh really impressed me as I took in their league clash with Oughtibridge this weekend just gone.
Make no mistake: this is going to be a big ask. Liverpool Marshall Feds (to give them their full name) have been around since 1991 and have a Wikipedia page brimming with development coaches and all sorts. Nettleham Ladies are a village side punching hard above their weight, but growing all the time. Whatever the game brings, the focus has always been on the league and promotion to more senior ranks. Sheffield United won the Regional Division last year, they’re now in the Premier League Midlands Division One. Promotion might be the aim, but there’s nothing like a big FA Cup tie against Liverpool to raise the profile a bit, right?
I’ve done a full double-page spread on Nettleham for Issue Five of ‘A City United’ (out next week), part of a six-page special on the women’s game in Lincoln. Speaking to me as part of that article, Chris had this to say about the big game:
“We’re the top team in Lincoln at the moment, this is a really good opportunity for the people of Lincoln to come down and get behind a local team. We’re playing good football and it’s a good watch. We’ve had a great start to the season and we’re keen to get people down to see what we’re all about.”
I’m told he’ll be on BBC Radio Lincolnshire at 6pm this evening too, talking up the match. You could do worse than tune in. You could do worse than getting down to Mulsanne Park on Sunday and cheering our local sides on. Lincoln Ladies, they’re dead and gone. Instead nail your colours to the Lincoln Moorlands Ladies mast, Nettleham Ladies or even Hykeham Town. There’s no point sitting around moaning about what happened to our old Ladies team, the future of the women’s game is bright, if only you take the time to go and find out. Why not get out this weekend?
Here’s the kicker: it’s free to get in. There’s no football for City this weekend, the Whites are away too, so head down to Mulsanne Park where maybe, just maybe, a local side might pull off a shock and earn a third round spot. If you’ve never been to a women’s game before, the level, ferocity and technical ability might just surprise you.