This Easter Sunday sees our Millwall Lionesses make the long trip to New Ferens Park to face the Wildcats, Durham Women FC.
With all eyes on Manchester United Women and Tottenham Hotspur Ladies in this campaign, Steph Libbey's side have gone about their business quietly but effectively and have been cemented in the top four for the majority of the season. With ten wins and five draws this season, the Wildcats have been one of the highlights of the women's second tier and three wins and one draw from their last five show how consistent they have been throughout the year.
Although still at the foot of the table and destined to finish the campaign in 11th place, this has been a season more about development for Chris Phillips' young side who have grown with every game they have played home and away. The travel up to the north would normally be a daunting one for many sides, but the Lionesses play with a freedom that has excited the fans throughout the season.
The earlier meeting between the two at Princes Park saw the home side dominant winners against the Lionesses with a 5-1 win, but this is a Millwall side who have vastly grown since that game and are a whole new prospect for their opponents. With an outside chance of the top two up for grabs for Durham, this will be a great game for those in attendance.
This week, we sit down with utility player, Ellie Stenning and asked her about her comeback from injury, why her and Fran Ali are such good team mates and what she thinks of the fantastic Millwall fans:
On being back in the Millwall squad after injury: "To be honest I didn’t think I would have been back in the squad as quickly as I was, you should have seen me holding onto my phone waiting for the squad to be announced. Literally jumped in the air and ‘Dabbed’ when I saw my name! So to be able to put the jersey back on as quick as I did coming back from injury felt great. Plus having the flowers underneath our shirts for our Mums for Mother’s Day was a wonderful touch."
On the recent Aston Villa result and how the side are developing: "Of course it wasn’t the result we had hoped for but Villa were set up well and very good both going forward and defensively. But as everyone can see we have a very young squad, and as each week, each game comes and goes it gives us as a football team the time to reflect, grow and be able to take positives and negatives into each week and each game. This team might be young, but learning very quickly. There has been a major improvement compared to the start."
On her relationship with team-mate Fran Ali: "Thick as thieves? Is that an old school saying? Haha. Honestly, Fran is a pleasure to be on and off the pitch with, she has the funniest personality and brings a lot of character into the changing room. Her experience is just what we have needed to add to our growing squad. I like to call her ‘Iniesta’."
The final run in and the next two games against Durham and Manchester United: "Of course both these teams have excelled this season and have played phenomenal football, but for us we have to review and approach each game with the same mentality we do whoever we play. I'm more than sure they will both be tough games, but we shall go into each game with the same preparation we do every week."
On the work Chris and the backroom staff are doing so far: "Without Chris and the rest of the management and staff’s effort and consistency this season on and off the pitch we wouldn’t have improved half as much as we have. They also added to the squad which has helped us gain experience and growth within the team, plus the training sessions they put on for us on the pitch and at the gym are showing the improvements within the team of the good job they are doing."
And finally, the fantastic Millwall fans: "Our fans have been dedicated week in, week out even when times were hard and the results were very poor. They have stood by us and supported us what ever the outcome. Football teams need their fans so a big thank you is in order to them. I hope to see them in future games this season and next."
Durham WFC were formed in 2014 as a merger between South Durham & Cestria Girls and Durham University, competing in their first ever Women's Super League season during 2014. The side took a while to find their feet in their debut WSL 2 season, but finished strongly and eventually finished 6th, a magnificent achievement for a side formed just months before the League began. A successful second season followed with Durham finishing 7th despite an injury-ravaged campaign, giving the Wildcats plenty of confidence heading into 2016.
Durham continued to flourish throughout the following seasons and a fifth place finished followed in the Spring Series and saw the club continue to develop both on and off the pitch. That growth was rewarded at the 2017 FA Women's Football Awards, where the Wildcats were awarded the prestigious FA Women's Super League 2 Club of the Year prize for their excellent progress as a club.
The 2018-19 season has seen the Wildcats keep building on their recent successes and the side are just outside the top two in fourth place on 35 points, four points behind second place Tottenham Hotspur Ladies. With ten wins this season, including being the first side to beat powerhouse Manchester United, Durham will be looking to go one better next season in the Women's Championship and challenge for the title.
Team: Durham Women FC
Competition: Women's Championship
Venue: New Ferens Park
Date: Sunday 21st April