England 0 Germany 3 (Scott og 5, Sasic 11,45)
att: 45,619; at Wembley Stadium
Three first half goals saw Germany spoil England's party at Wembley Stadium as the former World Champions proved too strong for Mark Sampson's side.
After weeks of intense publicity for the England women's team's first appearance since the stadium was rebuilt, they were outclassed by an impressive German side in the opening 45 minutes. England improved a lot in the second half but, despite their efforts, could not quite produce a goal for the record 45,619 crowd.
It was also a memorable occasion for Karen Carney, who was making her 100th appearance for her country. Before the game she was presented with a golden cap by FA Head of Women's Football Rachel Pavlou, assisted by Pte Charlene Rooney, a former captain of Larkhall Athletic.
It could have been a sensational start though as England won the ball straight from the kick off and Jordan Nobbs unleashed a shot from 30 yards which crashed against the bar with Almuth Schult beaten.
Germany counter attacked less than a minute later with Melanie Leupolz breaking down the right, the England defence backed off as she burst into the area and her shot brought out a fine save from Karen Bardsley.
There was no respite for England three minutes later though as Melanie Behringer floated a corner into the area and Simone Laudehr won a header which took a huge deflection of Alex Scott and went inside the far post for the opening goal.
Things got even worse as Fara Williams tried to intercept a through ball but only succeeded in diverting it past Steph Houghton and into the path of German captain Celia Sasic. Once again the England defence did not try and close her down and Sasic duly carried the ball into the area and slid a left foot shot past a hopelessly exposed Bardsley.
Alexandra Popp had a header saved by Bardsley following more good work by Sasic as Germany, looking in ominous form, dominated the midfield areas and possession.
England did have a shout for a goal as Nobbs met a Scott cross with a looping header which almost dipped over Almuth Schult but she was able to gather safely.
Germany were to get the ball in the net through from another set piece but this time an offside flag came to England's rescue, Leupolz heading in from Behringer's kick but she was a yard offside.
Sasic forced Bardsley to make another save after being picked out by a good ball from Lena Goessling but England responded well with Williams hitting a volley at full stretch but Schult dived and gathered well low down.
However on the stroke of half time, Germany underlined their superiority with a superb third goal. After exchanging several passes inside the England half, Laudehr slid a pass out to the right which was dummied by Leupolz and Kemme sent in a delightful cross for Sasic to give Bardsley no chance with a downward header.
Germany made three substitutions at the break and the tempo of the game slowed as a result, seeing fewer opportunities at either end.
Sasic was close to a hat-trick when her header was saved by Bardsley as she met an Anja Mittag cross at the far post but the heavy pitch was now starting to take its toll on the two sides and the Germans looked happy to sit on their three-goal lead.
Fran Kirby almost worked an opening on the edge of the area but lost her footing and the Germans were able to clear, then Jodie Taylor raced onto a long clearance for her first touch of the ball after coming on but dragged her shot wide of the far post.
As the game went into injury time, England had their best chance of the game after a good run down the right by Bronze ended with her cutting the ball inside for Jill Scott who skipped past a defender but lashed her shot into the side netting with only Schult to beat.
It was not the result England would have wanted on a special occasion but they will have learned several valuable lessons if they are to close the gap on the teams at the highest level.
England: Karen Bardsley, Alex Scott (sub Jo Potter 83mins), Demi Stokes (sub Alex Greenwood 83mins), Fara Williams (sub Jill Scott 70mins), Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze (sub Laura Bassett 90mins), Jordan Nobbs, Karen Carney, Lianne Sanderson (sub Jodie Taylor 80mins), Toni Duggan, Eniola Aluko (sub Francesca Kirby 61mins). Subs not used: Siobhan Chamberlain, Claire Rafferty, Jade Moore, Carly Telford, Jess Clarke.
Germany: Almuth Schult, Tabea Kemme (sub Luisa Wensing 45mins), Josephine Henning, Jennifer Cramer (sub Babett Peter 87mins), Annike Krahn, Simone Laudehr (sub Pauline Bremer 75mins), Melanie Behringer (sub Dzsenifer Marozsan 45mins), Lena Goessling, Alexandra Popp, Celia Sasic (sub Verena Faisst 87mins), Melanie Leupolz (sub Anja Mittag 45mins). Subs not used: Laura Benkarth, Lisa Weiss, Meike Kamper, Bianca Schmidt, Kathrin Hendrich, Lena Petermann, Sara Dabritz.
Swindon Town 1 Forest Green Rovers 0
Swindon Town won the top of the table clash with Forest Green Rovers through a single Meg Vella goal to open up a three point lead in the FAWPL South West Division One table.
Going into the match level on points and with identical goal differences, it was the Wiltshire side who made the crucial breakthrough on 40 minutes in a hard fought contest between two well organised and highly committed teams who will surely be rivals in the promotion race throughout the season.
On a Fairford Town pitch in remarkable shape given recent weather, the visitors opened brightly but it was not long before Swindon started to find their rhythm and passing range. Forest Green were resolute in defence all through the game but the hosts were still able to carve out chances. Vella released Beth Thompson on the right and her inviting cross was headed just over by Sally Butterfield on 10 minutes.
Michelle Rich delivered dangerous corners from both flanks and a Chyna Collings far post header was narrowly wide on 21 minutes. Two minutes later, Thompson fired in a low shot which evaded keeper Georgina Macey's grasp but slowed in the muddy goalmouth and was retrieved just in time.
Both teams were mainly restricted to long range efforts from open play by excellent covering from both midfield units and defenders. It was always likely that a set piece or piece of luck might prove the decider. In fact, both came into play for Swindon's opener.
Rich delivered her sixth corner of the half which was initially well defended. The ball fell to Vella on the edge of the area who hit a low shot on target, a deflection off a defender's heel wrong footing the keeper on 40 minutes.
Forest Green went close to equalising right on the break with their best effort of the half, a Sammy Hallsworth cross shot flying narrowly wide of Robyn Levett's left post but Swindon had just about deserved their lead for the extended pressure they had exerted on the visitors.
A one-goal lead would never allow Swindon any comfort and again Forest Green started brightly, Levett moving quickly from her line to gather at Charlotte King's feet. The Swindon keeper showed good handling from a 20-yard Hallsworth effort whilst her opposite number got down well to hold a Vella shot on 66 minutes. Swindon sub Meg Attenborough shot just over the bar with a first time effort from 25 yards out on the right on 74 minutes but both defences were very sound and chances were at a premium.
Forest Green pushed forward as time ran out, looking for a vital equaliser. Several promising moves were thwarted either by an offside flag or a final pass being intercepted and they never managed to break clear or threaten the home goal directly. At the other end, the second Swindon sub Sarah Uzzell had the ball in the net late on but play was brought back for a foul on the defender. In truth, Swindon saw out the six added minutes with some authority and style to record an important win.
It was easy to see why both teams are high in the South West Division One table, well organised with a core of players experienced and successful at this level. The margins between victory and defeat were pretty small. On the day, the hosts probably had more players who played at the top of their game and created more successfully down the wings and from excellent set piece delivery and thus completed a League 'double' over their Gloucestershire visitors.
Swindon Town: Robyn Levett, Lisa Coe, Kelly Nightingale, Sam Quinn, Laura Morgan, Chyna Collings, Beth Thompson, Michelle Rich, Sally Butterfield, Ellie Maynard, Meg Vella. Subs: Sarah Uzzell, Meg Attenborough.
Forest Green Rovers: Georgina Macey, Abbie Sadler, Natalie Holbrook, Rosie Bidder, Amy Baker, Jodie Shepherd, Sammy Hallsworth, Ellie Olds, Charlotte King, Kirsty Richardson, Sophie Okey. Subs: Hayley Kent, Sarah Stacey, Naomi Marshall.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Beth Thompson tries to get past Sophie Okey
(middle) Kirsty Richardson battles with Chyna Collings
(bottom) Ellie Olds and Chyna Collings go to great lengths to win the ball!
Cardiff Met Ladies needed to survive an early scare as they won 4-1 away to Llandudno.
The university side maintained their six point lead at the top of the Welsh Premier Women's League but found themselves a goal behind on sixteen minutes when Katie Bowe put Llandudno in front. Emily Allen equalised three minutes later and Ellie Sargent added a second before half time, but the game remained in the balance until the last five minutes as Emily Brown and Erin Murray netted further goals for the league leaders.
PILCS moved into second place by running out 6-0 winners over Newcastle Emlyn. Lyndsey Davies had a great day in front of goal as she scored a first half hat-trick and added a further two after the break, with a goal from Amy Thrupp rounding off the victory.
Cardiff City FC are up into fourth place following an 11-0 victory against Aberystwyth Town. Lisa Bird found the net five times during the first half and Amy Wathan joined her on the scoresheet. After the break, Alicia Davies put City further ahead before Kirsty O'Donnell bagged a brace and Danielle Green and Mali Summers completed the tally.
Wrexham follow on after edging out Port Talbot Town 1-0. The only goal of the game came in the 63rd minute when Phoebe Davies settled matters in Wrexham's favour.
The England women's team is now just days away from the ground-breaking match with Germany at Wembley - an occasion that Toni Duggan's been running through her head over and over again.
But the striker isn't obsessing about scoring the winner before a sell-out crowd; she's more concerned about singing the national anthem.
It's the first time the Lionesses have played at the national stadium and there'll be 55,000 urging them on against the European Champions. The friendly match will also have a huge TV audience.
"I've thought a lot about the national anthem because dealing with that is going to be massive," says Toni, who's netted 14 goals in 23 appearances for her country. "All those people at Wembley - it's going to be emotional and will really show how far we've come.
"Even speaking about it now, I'm so excited. It's probably the only thing I've planned for and thought about. How will I react when the anthem is played? I was going to say I've been practising the words! I'm sure the girls will be singing it loud and proud and our families will be in the stands.
"That's what it means to us and to our families. They've come to fields in the middle of nowhere in front of one man and his dog. They've been there in the cold and now they're at Wembley. Some of them might be in boxes, some of them in a lounge. It's just touching for me, not just to be playing, but to see how your family get treated as well."
An already historic occasion could've been even more significant for the women's game. Ticket sales surprised many and with transport problems in the capital, the decision was made to cap the attendance at 55,000. That figure, already putting the recent men's game against Norway in the shade, could've risen to 90,000 such has been the interest.
It's a point not lost on Toni, who says: "I'm about to play in front of all these people at Wembley, people who've paid for tickets. It's not just an event that's free. We've put in the hard work and we've got our rewards.
"Hopefully it can continue and off the back of this game we can get a lot more support from everyone. I'm really looking forward to it, I'm so excited.
"It really is a dream come true. You've got to appreciate that as a women's footballer, when we were young we went through tough times. People were saying the game would never get there and now look."
Along with her England duties, it's been an action packed year at club level for Toni since joining Manchester City from Everton Ladies. "I've loved every minute of my first season," she says with a smile.
"It's been a rollercoaster but it ended on a high with the win in the Continental Cup. It was a massive achievement for the club, for the team and for everyone that's got behind us. It was a nice way to pay them back with silverware."
Toni and her club teammates can now look forward to training alongside the men at the hugely impressive £200m City Football Academy. The 23-year-old pays particular attention to Sergio Aguero - one of two strikers who've made a big impression on her career.
"I get to see Sergio every week and he's a great player. When I was younger I was always watching Michael Owen. At his peak he was the best around. I'd be out in the street replicating the goals he scored, like in the FA Cup Final. He's definitely one of my idols.
"Now I get kids tweeting me or contacting me on other social media saying they want to be like me, copying my hairstyles. That's what makes it really touching and makes you realise how far you've come yourself and how far women's football has come.
"I never had those role models when I was younger. I probably knew Rachel Yankey and Faye Smith but I didn't really get to see them other than the cup final once a year - that was about it."
Times have changed with Toni Duggan and her England team mates the new poster girls for a generation. And there are busier and surely better times ahead. After the Germany game, Toni and the rest of the squad will have a break before returning to their clubs for pre-season training. A busy domestic season will then be followed by the World Cup next summer, and Toni cannot wait: "I've never been to Canada and my family are planning to come out as well. It's so exciting!"
Interesting times ahead then for a goalscorer who's admired for her movement and fleet of foot on the pitch. Maybe a rumoured background in Morris dancing has something to do with her skills?
"It was years ago and I only did it for about a year," she laughs. "But it is true though yeah. If you asked the other girls though, they wouldn't say I'm the best on the dance floor. They think it's a lie!"
Toni Duggan was talking to Continental Tyres, official partner to England Women and the FA WSL.
It has been an incredible week for Glasgow City, seven days which have seen them reach the UEFA Women's Champions League quarter finals for the first time in their history, complete another treble by beating Spartans 5-0 in the Scottish Cup Final, and then learning they have drawn Paris Saint Germain in the last eight in Europe.
Jo Love has played a huge part in the success by scoring a crucial goal against FC Zurich and adding a further two in the Cup Final. She reflected on an amazing few days and looked ahead to the prospect of facing the powerful French side:
Many congratulations, another year, another treble for Glasgow City, does it feel better every time you achieve it?
It certainly does, as it gets harder for us every year. The teams in our league are getting better and making massive improvements all the time, but it's pleasing for us to see we are still that step ahead at the minute. We never get tired of winning and are always striving for more success.
After your recent league defeat to Spartans, was there an extra incentive for the team going into the Cup Final?
Of course there was! We knew we had let ourselves down that day and we were determined that we would take our chances this time round. In the league, and luckily for us, that game never cost us any harm. With a Scottish Cup Final, you don't get another chance to make it right.
Do you feel that the 5-0 scoreline reflected the way the team played on the day?
I think so. I feel we started sluggish, however we prevented Spartans from creating much and ultimately took our chances. It could have put a spoiler on the whole season if we hadn't won!
Fiona Brown opened things up with a superb first goal, she is looking a great prospect who has been in top form recently?
Fiona has always been a great player and one our team has feared coming up against when she played for Celtic! It's a delight to have her at the club and I'm sure she will go far in the game. She is still only young and has a great future ahead of her. I also have to mention Denise O'Sullivan, who scored at the weekend too; she's had a cracking season for us. It takes a whole team however, and I think everyone at our club is a credit to Glasgow City.
This of course completed a perfect week for the club, have you had time to reflect on the Champions League and Cup Final wins?
There was a quote that was used, coming to the end of our season there ("Those who create history do not have time to write about it") and we feel that this rather suited us at the minute! We've been fortunate that there has always been other games for us to concentrate on; like Champions League straight into the cup final. Now we have stopped for a couple of weeks break, we can all let our achievements sink in and be proud of, not just the perfect week, but almost the perfect the season we just had.
How did those last ten minutes against FC Zurich rank among the highlights in your career?
I will never forget them! To go through such a wide range of emotions isn't good for you, let me tell you!! The good thing about our team is that we always believe. I have never felt joy like it once the final whistle went…didn't know whether to laugh or cry! That's a game I will remember for the rest of my life, and I'm glad it was for all the right reasons.
We now know that you will have to play Paris St Germain, what do you think about the prospect of taking them on?
PSG will be a really tough draw but there wasn't going to be an easy draw in that pot. Going by the reaction, everyone seems to be delighted. We have the ambition to do well and we will enjoy being tested against one of the best teams in the world.
Photo - Andy Buist
East Midlands League
On Wednesday night, Mansfield Hosiery Mills inflicted a first defeat of the season on Underwood Villa in Division One North. Amy Jones was on target twice along with Kate Pawlitta to give Mansfield a 3-1 victory which lifts them up into fourth place, one position behind Underwood.
Eastern Region League
One match was played in the Premier Division on Sunday, AFC Dunstable picking up an important 2-1 win against Haringey Borough. Tamara Bayne and Danielle Carty netted the goals for Dunstable, with Haringey replying through Marianne Sheena.
In Division One South, Offley & Stopsley leapfrogged Stevenage Ladies Res into third place by beating them 3-1. Holly Flynn, Charlene Moreton and Rianne Townsend-Brown were on the scoresheet for Offley while Stevenage's consolation came from Kierra Gabriel.
London & South East League
Fulham FC Foundation have opened up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier Division with a 9-2 victory over Kikk Utd. Kirsty Percival hit a hat-trick for the league leaders with Gemma Fraser, Chloe Greer, Emma Lawrence, Verity Snow, Megan Lovelock and Megan Ward adding the others (see match report).
There was also a solitary match in Division One (London), Tottenham Hotspur Development moving themselves towards mid-table as they edged out Regents Park Rangers 3-2. Amy Sinden was on target twice along with Chloe Ahmet, with Regents Park replying through Laura Cruz and Dominique Smith.
North East League
County Cup duties and postponements ensured that just one game took place in the league on Sunday. In the Northern Division, Lowick Utd closed to within three points of the top two by defeating Prudhoe Town 3-1. Amy Hately, Jodie Robinson and Michelle Stewart all netted a goal apiece for Lowick after Prudhoe had taken a first half lead through Catherine Johnson.
North West League
Crewe Alexandra put an end to league leaders Blackburn Community's nine-match winning start to the season as they beat them 5-3. Michelle Saunders bagged a hat-trick along with Levi Lander and Amanda Fallon as Crewe ended Blackburn's 35-match unbeaten run to consolidate themselves in third place, behind Blackpool Wren Rovers who remain in second following an 8-1 victory away to Birkenhead. Nikki Berko led the scoring with a four-goal haul, Anisha Bateman weighed in with a brace and there was one apiece from Carly Loughran and Fiona Dransfield. Lauren Oatley scored twice along with Rhiannon Davies and Charlotte Banner as Blackpool ran out 4-0 winners at Northwich Vixens whilst Preston North End and Bolton Wanderers finished level at 1-1.
The top of the table clash in Division One (North) went the way of Penrith AFC who defeated CMB Ladies 3-1. All of Penrith's goals came in the first half, Nat Broad netting twice along with Demi Fisher to take them six points clear of their opponents. Stockport County Blues were 2-1 winners away to Carlisle Utd whilst Workington Reds celebrated their first victory of the season in style, 5-0 against Leigh RMI. Georgia Wilson and Hayley Bracken each scored twice for the Reds with Chloe Henderson also on target.
In Division One (South), Stockport County Res are up into third place after they edged out Liverpool Marshalls Feds Reds by the odd goal in seven. AFC Liverpool sit level on points with Stockport but two places below them following their 3-2 success away to Macclesfield Town.
South West League
Ilminster Town narrowed the gap on Eastern Division leaders Bishop's Lydeard to four points with a 2-1 win away to Cleeve West Town. Jenny Frost and Lesley Spearing were on target for Ilminster with Cleeve's consolation coming from Anneka Hawkins. Meanwhile, Rosie Bostock hit a hat-trick as Keynsham Town Res lifted themselves off the bottom by winning 3-1 at Taunton Town, who replied through Laura Currie.
In the Western Division, Charlestown defeated Launceston 4-2 to move to within three points of table toppers Marine Academy Plymouth. Kelly Semmens netted twice along with Amber Hadrill and Rhiannon Player, Launceston's goals being scored by Chloe Williams. Dobwalls claimed their first league victory of the season when beating Illogan Ladies 4-2, thanks to a Sam Blake hat-trick and Lindsey Harris.
Southern Region League
In the one match to go ahead in the league on Sunday, Tower Hill moved themselves out of the bottom two in Division One and into a mid-table position with a 4-0 victory over Ascot Utd. Samantha Bevan-Talbot scored a first half hat-trick for the Witney-based side and Katherine Wright added the fourth.
Bradford City extended their lead in the Northern Division to seven points after winning 5-0 away to Leeds Ladies. Aqsa Mushtaq netted a brace along with Chloe Broadbent, Abigail Lee and Zoe Roberts. Second placed Newcastle Utd went down to a 3-0 defeat at home to Sheffield FC for whom Nikki Hogg (2) and Chloe Dixon were on target.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have taken over at the top of the Midland Division after beating FC Reedswood 6-0. Jade Cross hit a hat-trick with Harriet James, Samantha Berry and Jordon Pendleton adding the others. Previous leaders Coventry City were defeated 2-1 by Derby County whose goals came from Cecilia Webb and Dayna Randall.
Whitney Locke scored a hat-trick and Jade Smith a brace as West Ham Utd won 5-3 at Brighton & Hove Albion to go four points clear in the Southern Division. Lauren Knight netted the only goal for C & K Basildon in their 1-0 victory over Gillingham whilst Crystal Palace beat Chichester City 6-1.
Arsenal have a three point lead in Group One of the FA WSL Development League Cup after defeating London Bees 4-0. They lead from Millwall Lionesses and Reading FC Women who won 1-0 against Watford with a goal from Eloise Wilson.
Group Two leaders Liverpool scored ten without reply past Durham Women, spearheaded by a four-goal haul from Ashley Hodson. Claudia Walker contributed a brace with Mollie Green, Katie Zelem, Jessica Davenport and Beth Donoghue adding one apiece. Sunderland keep pace with the Reds after Tyler Dodds and Elizabeth McCubbin gave them a 2-1 victory over Manchester City. Emily Hollinshead and Laura Mitchell scored for Everton as they drew 2-2 with Doncaster Rovers Belles, who replied through a brace from Molly Storey.
Poppy Jones, Abbey-Leigh Stringer and Iszora Rageh all found the net as Birmingham City won 3-0 against Notts County to keep them three points ahead in Group Three from Yeovil Town, who were 1-0 victors at Bristol Academy thanks to a Katie Horsburgh goal. Aston Villa beat Oxford Utd 6-0 with Natasha Baptiste on target five times, Beth Merrick adding the other.
Bristol Academy can confirm that Natasha Harding has left the club for a move to Washington Spirit who play in the NWSL.
Speaking about leaving Bristol, Natasha said: "I want to say a massive thank you to Bristol Academy for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the club for the past three years.
"Thank you to the supporters who have been incredible. I also want to thank Dave Edmondson for this year, he has developed me as a player even more and as a person. Last but not least I would like to thank each and every one of the girls. They mean the world to me and I will miss each and every one of them.
"However, I am very excited to start a new chapter with Washington Spirit and believe that this challenge will be great for my career."
Bristol Academy Manager, Dave Edmondson said: "It is with a mixture of sadness and excitement that we say farewell to Tash as she heads to Washington Spirit in the NWSL.
"Tash will be missed both on and off the field as much for her drive and commitment as her pace and attacking threat but the opportunity to experience life and play in the NWSL is one she can't pass up.
"Tash will remain close to the heart of BAWFC and she knows we will follow her progress in the states and we wish her well in this new endeavour.
All the staff and players at Bristol Academy WFC would like to thank Natasha for her valuable contribution to the club and wish her the best of luck for the future.
When Steph Houghton makes history by leading out her country before a huge Wembley crowd and the watching TV millions, she won't be feeling pressure, just overwhelming relief that she managed to get tickets for her family and friends.
Fifty five thousand tickets were snapped up for the forthcoming England v Germany tie - the first time the women's team has played at the national stadium - and that figure would've been easily surpassed had transport issues not curtailed capacity.
"I had a real panic with the ticket situation," Steph said. "But I've managed to get all the tickets I needed, so I've got about 30 people coming down from the north east. They always come and watch me whether it's playing for Manchester City or England. They wouldn't miss this game for the earth.
"I'm still getting loads of messages on twitter about tickets - I can't get any more tickets - it's ridiculous!"
Such was demand for the friendly fixture against the two-time World Champions; it's reckoned the attendance would've overtaken the 73,000 who watched Team GB women beat Brazil during the London Olympics. Steph scored the winner that day and believes the women's game is now benefiting from that legacy.
"It's amazing to sell so many tickets," said the 26-year-old centre-back. "But I think it shows just how much promotion we've had for this game and how much women's football has come on, especially over the last two years since the Olympics.
"The interest has grown and the media are trying to push it so it just shows that, as players, we're doing a really good job on the pitch. Behind the scenes, people are promoting it the right way to allow fans to come and enjoy it."
It's been a whirlwind year for the former Sunderland, Leeds and Arsenal star. Now a full time professional, Steph captained City to Continental Cup victory last month and is enjoying the state-of-the-art facilities at the new City Football Academy.
"If you're a young girl now, you've got so many opportunities in women's football. There's a very exciting feeling around women's football and not just among the players.
"The staff and coaches that are coming in to the game want to do it properly and professionally. It's great for the international set up as well as we've got young girls getting coached properly from a young age so hopefully in the future we'll have a lot of stars coming through," Steph added.
After the Germany game, all the players will enjoy their end of season break before reporting back for club duty in the New Year. Then a busy club season will run into next summer's World Cup in Canada.
"The next six months is going to be crucial in how we prepare. We'll have a few friendly games and we've just got to make sure that all the hard work we do in the gym or on the training pitch is worth it when you step out on a World Cup stage."
It's been a long road for the modern day 'Gregory's Girl' - Steph played in the boy's team at her County Durham primary school - and she's convinced the game is on the cusp of something special.
"We aspire to be the best professionals on and off the pitch and we are lucky that we can call this our job. If you'd said that to me five or six years ago I'd have laughed.
"But it has changed. We now have to make sure we have a really competitive league in England and internationally we're consistently qualifying for big tournaments which shows improvement. We've got bigger steps to take."
Steph Houghton was talking to Continental Tyres, official partner to England Women and the FA WSL.
England and Northern Ireland will be in the same qualifying group for next summer's UEFA Under-19 Championship Finals in Israel.
Switzerland and Norway complete the group line up and the matches will take place in Northern Ireland between 4-9 April 2015, with only the top-placed nation in the group making it through to the finals, which will be held in Israel in July.
Scotland meanwhile have a tough task to get past Germany, Belgium and Ukraine if they are to keep up their good record of qualifying for the Finals in recent years.
Elite qualifying round draw:
England Under-17 have been drawn alongside Republic of Ireland, Hungary and Holland in the Elite Qualifying Round for this season's UEFA Women's Under-17 Championships.
John Griffiths's side eased into this final stage by winning all three first round qualifiers, against Moldova, Bulgaria and Russia. The matches will take place in Republic of Ireland between 9-14 April. The finals will be staged in Iceland in June.
Scotland meanwhile were confirmed as the third place qualifiers for the round and they have been drawn in the same group as France, Poland and Slovakia.
England finished fourth at last year's Euros, a tournament hosted on home soil to help mark the FA's 150th anniversary. Germany won the title, beating Spain in the Final at Chesterfield.
Elite qualifying round draw:
Bristol Academy and Glasgow City will both face stiff opposition in the quarter finals of the UEFA Women's Champions League.
Academy face the difficult task of travelling away in the first leg to play twice European Champions FFC Frankfurt whilst Glasgow City face one of the toughest and most glamorous ties, drawing French giants Paris Saint Germain, playing at home in the first leg.
Frankfurt have an outstanding record in the competition and brushed aside Italian side AS Torres Calcio in the last round. Their side has featured former Academy midfielder and Wales captain Jessica Fishlock, who is currently on loan with the German giants from Seattle Reign.
The well renowned French side meanwhile defeated two time former winners, and four time finalists in the last five years, Olympique Lyonnais in the last sixteen and will present City with one of their biggest ever challenges in Europe's most elite club competition. Both British teams are appearing in the quarter finals for the first time in their history.
Commenting on the draw, City Head Coach Eddie Wolecki Black said: "At this stage of the competition you are always expecting a tough tie. There was never going to be an easy game in the quarter finals of the Champions League. What I can say is that it is good for travel, we will get plenty information on them and what an exciting game for any player to have at any stage of their career.
"There is no doubt we are massive underdogs in the tie, but as PSG proved in the last round sometimes underdogs can win. It is a massive game for our club and also for our game and home City and hopefully one which Scotland can embrace and get behind us in numbers."
The ties are set to be played on 21/22 and 28/29 March and ticket details for the home legs are set to be announced shortly.
Quarter final draw in full:
FFC Frankfurt (Germany) v Bristol Academy (England)
VfL Wolfsburg (Germany) v FC Rosengard (Sweden)
Glasgow City (Scotland) v Paris Saint Germain (France)
Linkopings FC (Sweden) v Brondby IF (Denmark)
FAW Women's Cup holders Cardiff Met Ladies have been drawn away to Swansea City in the quarter finals, in what will be a repeat of last season's Final.
This is the only all-Welsh Premier Women's League tie but the three other sides all have home ties against opponents from a lower league.
Quarter final draw: (ties to be played on Sunday 15th February)
Cardiff City FC v Denbigh Town
Llandudno Ladies v Cyncoed Ladies
Swansea City v Cardiff Met Ladies
Wrexham v Pontypridd Town
England striker Lianne Sanderson has re-signed for Arsenal.
The 26-year-old forward came up through the Gunners' Centre of Excellence to win five league titles, four FA Women's Cups and the UEFA Women's Cup in her first spell with the club.
She returns to Arsenal from Boston Breakers in the United States, where she also enjoyed spells with Philadelphia Independence and D.C. United Women. She most recently played for Apollon in Cyprus in their recent UEFA Women's Champions League campaign.
An England international, Sanderson has scored 13 goals in 40 appearances for her country. She also had a spell with Chelsea before departing to play in the United States.
Arsenal manager Pedro Losa Martinez is delighted to welcome her back to the club and told www.arsenal.com: "Lianne is a player of outstanding quality. She is quick, strong, a great finisher - she has everything that you could require from a top striker. I know her abilities well from her time in the United States and Spain, with Espanyol and I am confident that she will prove a big asset to the team."
Sanderson added: "I'm so pleased to be coming back to the club I call home. I've got some fantastic memories of playing for Arsenal such as winning the quadruple in 2007. I grew up learning the game at Arsenal since the age of 8 and I get a real sense of pride every time I pull on the Arsenal shirt so I can't wait to get started.
"I'm also really excited to be able to work with Pedro Martinez Losa as I know all about his qualities from his time in the USA. There is a great spirit at the club and I'm really looking forward to returning to one of the best clubs in the world."
Whilst their rivals were on County Cup duty, Sheffield FC took the opportunity to move to the top of the Northern Division on goal difference with a 5-2 victory away to Newcastle Utd.
Rebecca Lee and Jodie Michalska put the Yorkshire side two goals ahead inside the opening quarter of the match and although Beth Gardener reduced the arrears for the home side, Michalska netted a second on the stroke of half time. In the second half, Michalska went on to complete her second hat-trick of the season and Carla Ward joined her on the scoresheet, with Jess Havelock netting a second goal for Newcastle.
Two of the main title contenders came face to face on Sunday and their meeting did not disappoint as Cardiff City Ladies and Charlton Athletic battled out a 3-3 draw.
Cardiff started the game strongly and took a two-goal lead into the break, both scored by Kelly Aldridge. The Addicks hit back after the restart with a double from Charley Clifford levelling the scores by the hour mark, only for Cardiff to retake the lead through leading scorer Cori Williams. The South Wales looked to be on their way to an important win but Charlton were to have the final say and earned themselves a share of the spoils when Amy Howlett grabbed a late equaliser.
The result means that Cardiff remain in second place, two points behind leaders Brighton & Hove Albion but still possessing a game in hand, while Charlton are a further point adrift in third.
Northern Division One
The top of the table clash went the way of Liverpool Marshalls Feds who defeated local rivals Mossley Hill 2-1 to double their lead to six points. Faye McCoy scored both goals for the Feds, with Mossley's consolation coming from Sophie Perry.
Stockport County meanwhile continued their improving form with a 2-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers, thanks to a brace of goals from Georgia France.
Midlands Division One
One match went ahead in the division on Sunday and it resulted in a change of leadership. Leicester City Women took over at the top after running out 5-0 winners over Loughborough Students. Leicester led at half time through a goal from Sheryl Gayle and Fiona Worts added the second on the hour. Gayle then netted her second goal before Molly Baxter and Rosie Axten wrapped up the win for the new leaders.
South East Division One
C & K Basildon extended their lead at the top to four points with a 3-0 victory away to Bedford Ladies. Zoe Rushen netted two of the goals and Sara Sinclair was also on target.
Manchester City have completed the signing of England defender Lucy Bronze.
The right back joins the club from FA Women's Super League champions Liverpool Ladies, having previously plied her trade at Sunderland Women, North Carolina Tar Heels and Everton Ladies.
A key member of the Reds' two title-winning successes, Bronze also picked up the PFA Women's Players' Player of the Year award back in April and brings with her a wealth of domestic, international and Champions League experience.
The 23-year-old is eager to help her new side continue the success of their debut season in the top flight with more silverware, highlighting the Club's professionalism and aspirations as strong attractions.
"It's brilliant to be here," she smiled. "It's a new journey for me and I'm really looking forward to the start of the season.
"The way City are growing, the ambitions they have and what they want to do with the team is unbelievable. In the women's game, it's unheard of really so it was hard to turn them down.
"One of the key things is that the future of City is endless. They have so many plans in place to develop the team and you know they are going to happen because that's what the Club are about.
"Building on last year is what they want to do now and I'm part of that. I just can't wait to get started."
Although Bronze is familiar with a number of City stars, she insists she wasn't swayed by encouragement from her fellow compatriots, insisting the decision to make the move to Manchester was entirely her own.
"I know a few of the girls but I try to keep away from the players because you tend to get a lot of different opinions and a lot of different experiences," she revealed. "I try to go on my own views and what I see.
"Knowing people, knowing what City are about and knowing the way they like to play will make it easier for me to settle in, which I hope to do quite quickly."
A right back by trade, Bronze can also play anywhere in defence or even midfield and hopes her versatility will prove to be a useful trait for her new team.
"I'd like to say I'm a bit of an attacking defender," she reflected. "I want to keep things solid at the back but also bring a bit of flair to the attack and offer a bit more in the wide areas.
Having represented England Women at every level from under-17s, Bronze has also achieved success on the international stage.
Alongside Toni Duggan and Isobel Christiansen, she played a pivotal role for the under-19s squad in their UEFA European Women's Championship triumph back in 2009. Since then, she has gone on to earn 15 caps for the senior side, scoring twice.
Reflecting on his latest capture, manager Nick Cushing declared: "We're delighted to sign Lucy because of her previous experience in the WSL and her international experience.
"She meets the profile of player we want at this club and has an exceptional mind set and mentality.
"Her strengths and style of play mean she's a great fit for us and the way we want to play football, we're more than happy to add her to our squad and look forward to working with her."
Support Fara Williams in the 2014 BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Awards.
Ten sensational sporting performances by the female superstars of British Sport are up against each other in the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Awards and the winner will be decided by public vote. It's up to you. Fara is among the TOP 10 shortlist for her fantastic, memorable, record-breaking performance this year with the other nominees including England Cricket Captain, Charlotte Edwards, World, Olympic and European Dressage Champion, Charlotte Dujardin, Olympic skeleton gold medallist, Lizzy Yarnold, Rugby World Cup-winning Emily Scarratt, history-making Grand Slam winning wheelchair tennis champion, Jordanne Whiley.
For the full list and all details see:
Clare Balding will announce the winner on the all-star BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Awards Show on December 9th, aired on December 10th, when the athletes and their famous ambassadors including Strictly's Judy Murray, Tumble's Lucy Mecklenburgh, Rugby's James Haskell and football's Robbie Savage will be among those celebrating everything wonderful about women's sport in 2014.
Fulham FC Foundation 9 KIKK Utd 2
Fulham FC Foundation increased their lead at the top of the London & South East Regional League Premier Division and gave their goal difference a healthy boost with a 9-2 victory over KIKK United at Surrey Sports Park.
A sparkling performance saw goals flying in from a variety of distances and at regular intervals as the visitors were put to the sword. Fulham had beaten KIKK by a single goal just two weeks previously but the depleted visitors simply could not match the pace and movement of the Fulham attack on this occasion.
The warning signs came as early as 30 seconds in when Kirsty Percival was denied by a good save from Tilly Hadley. However, the same player was on hand to power home a header in the fourth minute from a Gemma Fraser cross. Verity Snow was a constant threat for the home side and was close to adding a second on six minutes but KIKK had early chances of their own through Jasmine Campbell and Lydia Cooper, whose shot was well held by Lauren Allen. Snow added the second through a superb 20-yard strike into the top right corner on 27 minutes and Hadley made a good save to deny Percival a second goal.
The teams exchanged goals around the 35 minute mark. Chloe Greer converted a Lizzie Laws corner and KIKK reduced the arrears with a close range finish from Elisabeth Redmond. The visitors had played some nice football going forward but were constantly vulnerable at the back. Percival missed an easy chance before Meg Lovelock added the fourth with a shot that Hadley reached but could not prevent from crossing the line.
KIKK started the second half positively and Sophie Le Marchand had a shot well held by Allen but were soon under the cosh again. An own goal from a left wing corner on 54 minutes was a blow and soon after Fraser was left clear for a good finish for the sixth. Hadley made a good save from Emma Lawrence but Percival soon added the seventh with a nice curled effort from the edge of the area on 65 minutes.
KIKK and Redmond got their second after good work from Le Marchand on the right on 72 minutes but it was little consolation for the visitors as Fulham added two more clinical finishes in the last ten minutes. Firstly, Lawrence slotted home a right wing cut back on 82 minutes then sub Meg Ward curled in a neat finish off the right hand post for the ninth on 89 minutes.
Fulham were highly impressive with the pace with which they attacked and the quality of their finishing from a variety of players. Other teams such as Old Actonians, who visit Fulham in two weeks time, and Carshalton Athletic have games in hand on the leaders in a highly competitive league. KIKK gained a very creditable draw at third placed Carshalton only a week ago and are not far behind the leading pack but will wish to put this result behind them quickly.
Fulham FC Foundation: Lauren Allen, Chloe Greer, Jade Pilley, Joanne Loayza, Lauren Armstrong, Hannah Pearson, Kirsty Percival, Gemma Fraser, Lizzie Laws, Verity Snow, Emma Lawrence. Subs: Meg Lovelock, Meg Ward, Georgie Hodge, Sarah Wentworth, Jess Rowden.
KIKK Utd: Tilly Hadley, Lizzie Tucker, Nicola Burnett, Zubia Mughal, Jasmine Campbell, Sophie Le Marchand, Emily Lake, Elisabeth Redmond, Lydia Cooper, Emily Farley, Laura Lonnberg. Sub: Tara O'Halloran.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Nicola Burnett slides in to tackle Emma Lawrence
(middle) Verity Snow is challenged by Zubia Mughal
(bottom) Sophie Le Marchand holds off Lizzie Laws
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