Following their second consecutive defeat on home soil, Sheffield United manager Carla Ward wasn’t shy in expressing her anger towards the refereeing decisions, which saw her side come out on the wrong end of a five-goal thriller.
United welcomed Charlton Athletic to the Olympic Legacy Park, and laid the pressure on early against their promotion-chasing opponents. With, forward Ebony Salmon snatching at an early volley on her first start for the club.
Although, Ward’s side dominated the ball in the opening minutes, a lack of goal scoring chances proved costly, as the Addicks opened the scoring in the 25th minute. A controversial cross from Amber Stobbs, which appeared to bend over the line for a goal kick before entering the six-yard box, was tucked home by Charlton’s Kit Graham.
Early into the second half Graham rued missing an emphatic chance for the visitors, heading the ball over an open net, following a neat skill move to take the ball around Nikki Davies. However, moments later Lily Agg scored from close-range, coming after another debatable refereeing decision.
There was a response from the Blades, as Bex Rayner got the final touch on a tantalising corner-kick from Veatriki Sarri to restore them back into the game. Unfortunately, with just over 10 minutes to go, United were hit unexpectedly as Charley Clifford scored an incredible free kick from distance to make it 3-1.
Even more controversy was set to hit Legacy Park. Firstly, United were awarded a penalty in the 90th minute when Captain Ellie Gilliatt was fouled, with the resulting spot-kick smashed home by Salmon.
Six minutes into stoppage time, Salmon herself was chopped down in the penalty area, but the referee signalled for a corner despite no clear touch of the ball from the defender. This proved to be the last action of the fixture, ensuring a frustrating end for Ward and her team.
In reaction to the result, Blades boss Ward said: ”I’m disappointed, not with the girls, I thought the girls didn’t deserve to lose today”.
“It’s the same every week, the referee has again played a big part in the outcome. At half-time the referee apologized to us because obviously their first goal was out. But, that’s just one of those things, I respect that she apologized but it happened again”.
Ward even took the issue further stating the FA need to look into the officiating of women’s football by stating: “This is a clear message to the FA, if we are serious about women’s football we have to get better officials. It’s not fair on the Charlton girls or my girls. What’s the point putting all that work in to turn up and get that level of officiating it’s embarrassing”.
Additionally, Blades Captain Gilliatt responded to the controversy by stating: “I don’t feel a great deal went in our favour today. The first goal went out of play massively, it went behind the goal and came back in. They even turned around for a goal kick, but a goal was given”.
Despite Ward and her team’s frustration, a quick response is in order as they must set-up for their fourth round FA Cup fixture this weekend away at Loughborough. Where they will be hoping the headline of the upcoming fixture will be the conclusion of a fantastic performance, and not a refereeing horror show.