DANIELLE LOWE looks at the challenge Notts County and Chelsea face
THE FA Cup final is a game where so many dreams can be made and so many memories created. And the Women’s FA Cup, being held at Wembley for the first time, is no exception to that.
With nearly 30,000 tickets sold — more than the last two travelling finals combined — the teams will be motivated by the roars from the crowd. It also shows, partly helped by the World Cup results, that if the women are given a large enough stadium they will have a pretty good shot at filling it.
Chelsea go into the match as favourites and the more experienced team. With several England internationals, including Eni Aluko and Claire Rafferty, they are more than used to Wembley.
And for those of the Chelsea team that aren’t, they went to the stadium on Thursday night to walk around the place and get a feel for the atmosphere and surroundings, something that the Notts County team can only do hours before the competition as they travelled to London yesterday.
Despite having experience among their team, they will not be able to play the recently transferred and international fan favourite Fran Kirby as she is cup-tied after playing for Reading. No doubt she will be cheering her teammates on and has helped them prepare mentally and on the training ground in the last week.
There is some concern for Notts County as goalkeeper Carly Telford has been rushed back from injury as their only keeper eligible to play, slightly before she was due back. Telford was the only one registered in their FA Cup squad four months ago and under the rules they are unable to bring in an emergency replacement.
It is expected that Telford will start in goal — she said last weekend that if she iced her shoulder enough she should be ready — otherwise an outfield player will have to spend 90 minutes between the sticks.
County also have a fair amount of international experience and have players that have had the chance to at least sit in the dugout at Wembley, including England international Ellen White and Canadian Desiree Scott among them.
Laura Bassett also features in the line-up and is hoping to put in a perfect performance and regain some trust in high pressure situations after that devastating own-goal at the World Cup, where she stretched for the ball to clear it knowing that if she didn’t a Japanese striker would have put the ball it into the net and just got the angle wrong.
It stopped England from having a chance to progress to the final in Canada.
Bassett has bounced back since then though and helped her team to secure points in the Women’s Super League (WSL) and will no doubt just be focussing her mind to the task in hand now.
Since the creation of the competition during the 1970-71 season, Chelsea have featured in the final just once, in a heart-breaking penalty shootout against Birmingham City in 2012 at Ashton Park in front of a crowd just over 8,000.
County have never appeared in the final and have only existed in their current form since 2013 after Lincoln, which was created in 1995, relocated and realised a name change was the only appropriate course of action.
To mark the special occasion there are no WSL games to be played until next weekend, allowing all the teams to have a break, watch the final at Wembley — if they want to — and resume playing on an even field.
Having a break also helps fans of the women’s game to be able to afford to go to the final and it not affect their league attendance.
While tickets are relatively cheap, especially if they were purchased at the early-bird rates, travel is of course more expensive and prices for an adult are three times the average league game ticket.
Both teams are expected to give it their best shot and a goal or two can be expected at both ends of the stadium, though Chelsea are expected to go one better than 2012 and become the first women’s team to lift the FA Cup trophy at Wembley.
Tickets will be available on today from the east ticket office at Wembley, from midday, and are £15 for adults and £5 for children. A family ticket is available for £30, making it a more affordable way to take young children to an FA Cup final or Wembley in general for the first time in a more child-friendly environment.
If you are unable to make it to the game there will be build-up, commentary and analysis of the full game available to view on BBC1 from 2.45pm.