With the Barclays Women's Championship fast approaching, we continue our look at who Saints will face across the 2022/23 season.
LewesHome ground: The Dripping PanAnother South Coast Championship team, like Saints, Lewes built their women’s team from scratch, climbing the women’s football pyramid from the South East Women’s Football League to their debut in the Championship for the 2018/19 season.They are well known off the pitch for their commitment to diversity and equality; nicknamed Equality FC, they became the first semi-professional or professional football club to pay their women’s and men’s teams the same.Securing a respectable eighth place following the conclusion of the 2021/22 season, Lewes boast a number of experienced players, with midfielder Rhian Cleverly leading the side from the back line.Saints met Lewes in a pre-season friendly ahead of their promotion winning season, beating the Championship side 1-0, courtesy of a Rosie Parnell headed goal in the 63rd minute. They’ll be hoping to repeat this result or better it when they meet as equals this coming season.
DurhamHome Ground: Maiden Castle Sports ParkDurham have been a mainstay in the Championship since its inception, consistently placing in the top half of the table; most recently third in 2019/20, second in 2020/21, before dropping to sixth at the end of the 2021/22 season.Having announced this summer that, like Saints, they would be moving to a full-time training schedule, Durham will be hoping for a better finish than that of last season.Beth Hepple has been Durham’s main threat in front of goal, scoring ten goals across the season, putting her as the fourth highest league goalscorer for 2021/22 and meaning that nearly a quarter of all goals for Durham came from their number seven.
London City LionessesHome ground: Pride ParkFounded in 2019, London City Lionesses is the only independent fully-professional women’s football club in the Capital.Improving on their sixth place finish in the 2020/21 season, London City Lionesses were second only to promoted Liverpool in the most recent campaign, finishing four points ahead of potential promotion rivals Bristol City.Saints faced the Lionesses in a pre-season friendly ahead of the 2021/22 season at Snows Stadium, drawing 2-2 with goals from Lucia Kendall and Sophia Pharoah cancelled out by Amy Rodgers and Jamie Lee-Napier.
Sheffield UnitedHome ground: Technique StadiumThe Blades made their debut in the Championship in 2015, placing fifth ahead of now WSL side Aston Villa in their first season.In 2020/21, Sheffield United made it to the knock-out stages of the Continental League Cup, placing second in their ground behind Villa but ahead of an off-colour Liverpool. They were knocked out by Manchester City 4-0 in the quarter-finals.Neil Redfearn oversees Sheffield United Women. Following a managerial career in the men’s game, he led Doncaster Rovers Women to league victory in the WSL 2 in 2018, before short stints at Liverpool Women and Newcastle United U23s. He’s now spent two seasons with the Blades, with consistent results in the league.A key player for Redfearn’s Blades is Courtney Sweetman-Kirk. The former Everton and Liverpool forward was the third highest scorer in the league during the 2021/22 season, scoring 10 goals - over a quarter of the side’s overall total.SunderlandHome ground: Eppleton Colliery Welfare GroundA side with plenty of history, Sunderland were promoted to the Barclays Women’s Championship by application following the curtailment of the 2020/21 season due to COVID. Internationals Lucy Bronze, Jordan Nobbs and Beth Mead all plied their trade at Sunderland before becoming WSL stars, and the club has a record of developing young talent.Their debut season in the Championship saw them finish ninth in the table, while fellow promoted side Watford were handed relegation.Melanie Copeland’s side have a number of players that can cause damage going forward, with Emily Scarr, Kiera Ramshaw and Neve Herron scoring four apiece across the league season.