Pre-season ends with promise

AFC Unity completed their run of pre-season friendlies in a gutsy comeback from 3-1 down to take a 5-4 loss to Sheffield Wednesday’s Division Two development side.

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Taking an already-thin squad of just thirteen players to the game, more injuries were incurred in the first half, leaving AFC Unity 3-1 down at half-time – part of a pattern this pre-season.

“We’ve been trailing by two goals at half time in each pre-season game,” said manager Jay Baker. “The spirit to fight on has been there from the beginning of the summer, but to bang in three goals in the second game, and again in the third game, is incredible.”

With two goals apiece for vice-captain Rosie Oates – leading the team well on this day in the absence of the injured Jane Watkinson – and Nathalie Silver, who has now scored three goals in two games, AFC Unity battled against the odds to finish the game at a 5-4 loss.

“The guts in this game was unbelievable,” Baker said. “Every single player left nothing on that field. For them to fight on, dig deep, and get a result like that speaks volumes about the spirit of this team. You can never rule them out of anything – they will always fight back no matter what. They always believe.”

Following on from the Now Then magazine interview with co-founders Jay and Jane – where the manager flippantly stated the aim is “to not finish bottom” – he now has a much more seriously optimistic perspective as the start of AFC Unity’s first-ever season approaches, especially given the newly-created three-tier league system:

“We expected to be in Division Two, and we will be soon enough. Yes, that means we’re going for promotion at the first time of asking. Why not?” asked Baker.

“We may have started this club from scratch and built the team in just a few short months, but you look at how far we’ve come through this pre-season, and how much better we’ve gotten, even as we’ve played tougher opponents along the way, and I think we are as good as anyone else in Division Three.”

He added: “Let them call us underdogs; we will play football, we will never give up; we have an ethos and a spirit in this club I believe you’ll find nowhere else. That’s the difference.”

Photo credit: Melanie Naylor

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AFC Unity run Color Me Rad!

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Players Sandy Yere, Claire Watkinson and Jane Watkinson, with AFC Unity supporter Kellie See joined together on August the 16th at Graves Park, Sheffield to take part in a 5K run whilst being sprayed with lots of different colours.

The team was sponsored by friends and family, with donations helping AFC Unity’s long-term sustainability as a new, friendly and community based women’s football club.

AFC Unity would like to thank everyone that sponsored the team running the race and for helping AFC Unity grow and grow.

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2014/15 season league/fixtures announced!

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The Sheffield & Hallamshire FA recently announced changes to its Women’s County Football League for the 2014/15 season – and this has of course impacted on AFC Unity as the pre-season period winds down.

With so many changes experienced by several clubs, it was revealed that rather than two tiers – and AFC Unity being entered into Division Two – there will instead be three, meaning that AFC Unity will be starting off in newly-created Division Three, now the bottom level. But AFC Unity’s manager doesn’t seem to mind.

“We thought our pre-season fixtures were against teams in our own division this coming season,” said Jay Baker. “Instead, only one of the three will be on our level, and while we lost to them, we’ve already drawn against a Division Two team as we go through this time of development, starting a team – and club – from scratch. In this sense, it bodes well, regardless of how we do against Second Division Sheffield Wednesday Development in our last friendly of pre-season on the 24th of August.”

Alongside AFC Unity, Division Three will now consist of Beighton Magpies, Brampton Rovers, New Bohemians, Rotherham United Development, and the team the manager referenced as having lost to – Hemsworth South.

While the season was originally scheduled to open on September 7th, AFC Unity’s game on that date is instead being rescheduled, meaning that the club’s first-ever league game will be at Brampton Rovers on September 14th. The following week, on September 21st, AFC Unity will hold their first-ever home game – at Hillsborough College – by hosting none other than Hemsworth South.

“That’s the one,” said Baker. “That’s the one we want as many people as possible to come to.”

The full fixtures will soon be listed on this website.

Pre-season continues with a draw at Sheffield Rangers

AFC Unity showed impressive development with a 3-3 draw in their second pre-season friendly against Division Two’s Sheffield Rangers.

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As in their first game, AFC Unity found themselves with a 2-0 deficit at half time, but their response was incredible – pulling two goals back after piling on the pressure, only to concede a goal from a free-kick to allow the hosts to again take the lead. However, a late equaliser meant that AFC Unity got a draw away from home in only their second game – against a team in a division above them.

“I’m really proud of each and every player,” said manager Jay Baker. “This is what I knew we were capable of from the very beginning, and to be honest everything went according to plan; the draw is a bonus. Sheffield Rangers are an established team with a good set-up, and play some really good football, which is why they’re likely to be aiming for the top spots in Division Two this coming season. To hold them to a 3-3 draw at theirs when we’re being newly-entered into Division Three is definitely an achievement.”

The pre-season continues with a game at Sheffield Wednesday’s development team on August 24th.

AFC Unity’s goals came from Claire Watkinson and Nathalie Silver.

Photo credit: Kellie See

The concession stand…

AFC Unity’s long-term business and strategic plan aims to help make the club a sustainable organisation with a long future ahead of it.

Aside from community projects, there will be fundraising events and socials, as well as membership packages that will be made available as the 2014/15 season starts. However, merchandise is increasingly being requested, and of course this is an effective way to meet demands of supporters while raising revenue.

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As a pilot programme, AFC Unity recently utilised Teespring to launch a basic, limited edition t-shirt bearing the official club logo – with proceeds going right back into the club. It’s essentially a way of crowdfunding in a way that gives something back to those who contribute.

The Teespring initiative was a great opportunity to experiment in this way, while adding some funds to the club’s resources, and learn from the experience to find out what works best. The feedback has been almost as valuable as the contributions themselves, and AFC Unity have been able to harness this to add to the club’s marketing strategy. As a result, many things are planned for the near future, alongside the launching of a brand-new online forum for players and supporters alike.

AFC Unity would like to thank everyone who has supported us thus far, and look forward to announcing developments in the near future!