Women’s FA Cup clash between Brighouse Town and Newcastle is no ‘David and Goliath’ tie
With a gigantic 160 league places between them, if Brighouse Town met Newcastle United in the men’s FA Cup it would represent one of the all-time great draws, pitting an eighth-tier minnow against a major Premier League brand.
In the women’s game, they meet as fourth-tier equals. In fact, it’s Brighouse who are the higher-ranked of the two women’s sides and therefore the favourites for Sunday’s Women’s FA Cup second-round meeting with underdogs Newcastle at the Yorkshire Payments Stadium.
“A few reporters have been speaking to me about a ‘David v Goliath’ tie and I always laugh because, although Newcastle have got the name, we’ve not finished below them in these past four years that they’ve been in our division,” Brighouse manager Rob Mitchell told Telegraph Sport.
“If people don’t know about the women’s game, they’re always taken aback and it’s quite funny to watch and listen to.”
Second in the table this term, it’s not just the eighth-placed Newcastle that Brighouse are sitting above in the Women’s National League Division One North; Yorkshire neighbours Leeds United, Barnsley and Bradford City all find themselves below Mitchell’s successful side too, but he wants women’s teams’ performances to be judged in their own right, not by how good their male counterparts are.
“Whenever people in our division are trying to sell games or explain what league they’re in, they never say ‘Brighouse Town are in our league’, they always mention Newcastle or Leeds, that habit of connecting the men’s game to the women,” he added. “What matters is Newcastle are a good side, hard to break down and strong on the counter attack, so we’ve got to be wary of that. We want to go as far as we can and hopefully we can further enhance our name within the women’s game.”
Lying in picturesque Calderdale, Brighouse is more famous for hillside scenery, an all-conquering brass band and being home to rock group Embrace, whose tune ‘World at your feet’ was England men’s official world cup song of 2006. In women’s football, the club’s reputation has been heightened by four consecutive years in at least the top three in their division, accompanied by repeated good cup runs. On Sunday, they will be trying to reach the third round for the fourth time in five years; recent campaigns have seen them knock out Burnley, Derby and Wolves.
“The players have worked really hard with their Strava runs, online fitness work and their yoga, but while they are physically fit, when it comes to match fitness, they’re not there yet. They’ve only had two sessions after three months off,” Mitchell said. “To be asked to play at short notice, although we’re really happy we can play, it’s also a little bit of a tough ask on the girls. Now, if we want to keep playing, we’ve got to win.”
Progressing in the cup will now be the only way sides like Brighouse can keep playing competitive football this Spring, because their league seasons have been curtailed for a second season running. That denied Brighouse a chance to earn promotion on the field, but they now hope to achieve it through an application.
“It was definitely a blow, a big disappointment, particularly after last year as well,” Mitchell said of the curtailed season. “Personally I felt they could have waited and finished last season’s games, rather than starting a new one. Instead, we just seem to be just going round in circles.
“On points-per-game, over the last two seasons, we’re the top ranked team in the north Division, so if they do allow upward movement on merit, I’d like to think we’re in with a really good chance of securing a little cheeky promotion. We’ve put a strong case forward with the facts and figures. We have got decent facilities, a good structure in place and we’re financially secure. Our ethos is very much to be a family club, for the whole community, helping us build a good fanbase, which in turn means we can look after our players.
“We’re all focused on trying to get to tier three, which would be an unbelievable achievement for a club of our size.”
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