With only six miles separating the teams’ home grounds, the draw for the first round proper threw up a local derby between Sporting Khalsa and Wolverhampton Wanderers Women. The teams had previously faced each other once before, back in September 2020 when both sides were in the Women’s National League Division One (Midlands). Wolves won that match 5-0 and were promoted to the third-tier Northern Premier Division where they are unbeaten so far this season. Sporting Khalsa, who beat sixth-tier Thrapston Town to reach the first round, will have to be on the top of their game to cause an upset.
Sporting Khalsa emerged from humble roots as a Sunday League side to become established as one of the most progressive grass roots outfits in the West Midlands. Established in 1991, Sporting Khalsa began playing senior football in the local Walsall & District Sunday leagues and, for two seasons between 1995 and 1997, the club played Saturday football at a semi-professional level. In 2005, Sporting Khalsa became the first Asian semi-professional football club in the country to take ownership of its own ground. Sporting Khalsa Women and Girls was established in 2015 following a merger with FC Reedswood.
Bella, Mya, Talula and Lala, members of the Sporting Khalsa under-eights team and team mascots for the match. “What has brought you here today?” We like supporting Sporting Khalsa. “Do you have any favourite players?” I like No 2, she’s putting all the pressure on. “Do you think Sporting Khalsa are going to win today?” Yes, they’ve got a chance.”
After a minute’s silence for Remembrance Day, the match kicks off. With just six minutes on the clock, Wolves keeper Shan Turner is beaten by a fantastic diving header from Megan Cann to give the home side the lead.
After going behind, Wolves step up a gear creating a number of chances but are kept at bay by the woodwork, quality keeping by Stacey Garnham and sterling work by the Sporting Khalsa defence.
The visitors break through with two goals in first-half stoppage time from Tammi George (below left) and Amber Hughes (below right) to go into the break 2-1 up.
They’re good girls, they play really, really well. Sometimes they play better than these (pointing at World Cup qualifier on TV). To be fair, I think they should be on telly – Nikki Evans & Kaz Bennett, Wolves fans (below)
Hughes continues to cause the Sporting Khalsa defence problems in the second half, scoring in the 56th minute and completing her hat-trick seven minutes later.
With the home side having to chase the game, Hughes gets her fourth and George her second, with substitute Anna Price also on target as Wolves complete a convincing 7-1 victory and a place in the second round. They will host fellow third-tier side Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
Goalkeeper Stacey Garnham is voted Sporting Khalsa’s player of the match by the manager, Kelly Williams.