Melton Town are set to break new ground when they host Leicester City’s fast-emerging women’s side in a pre-season friendly next week.
City’s side have risen to the second tier of women’s league football in just five years and will play a men’s side for the first time next Tuesday (kick-off 7.30pm).
Town co-manager Tom Manship, whose daughter plays with the Leicester City girls’ academy, believes the match will be a footballing first.
“Their manager said it’s never been done and we want to try new things here,” he said. “I think it will be a big occasion.
“I’ve been to watch Leicester a few times and they can play.
“They are very good technically, and went to Man City last season so I don’t think they’ll be bothered about coming to play Melton Town.
“We want to show our respect for the women’s game - that’s what we’re all about.”
City boss Jonathan Morgan sees the game as an exhibition match rather than a battle of the sexes, but admitted to a few doubts when initially approached with the idea by Manship.
“At first I was a little bet sceptical because it’s a physical men’s team and I have to protect my players,” he said.
“But after we spoke to Tom in more detail, it was clear it was going to be more of an exhibition and a chance to showcase women’s football.
“It’s going to be a proper game, but between two very technical teams.”
Morgan, whose side played the internationals of Manchester City in the Women’s FA Cup last season, hopes taking on a men’s squad will give his team of semi-professional and full-time professionals a more intensive run-out than usual.
He also hopes the match will open a few more eyes to the skill levels of women’s football, while riding the wave of interest created by this summer’s World Cup.
“Playing in a match of a higher intensity and faster tempo will help them, and we want to make that more of their natural mindset,” Morgan added.
“We play our home matches at Quorn and train at Brooksby so Melton is also a key area for us in terms of potential new supporters.”
Manship has also lined up a home friendly with Notts County, on Thursday, July 25, in a tough pre-season schedule, which pits Town against higher-league opponents.
They got their pre-season up and running on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Shepshed Dynamo which featured goals from Harry Allcock and Josh Hill.
The match also gave Town supporters a chance to run the rule over new signing Zac Munton, the Bourne Town striker brought in to replace Nathan Arnold who has gone back to full-time football with Altrincham.
Manship has also signed left-back Nathan Benjamin from St Andrew’s and is busy looking at further new faces during pre-season.
“We didn’t have a left-footed left-back last season and that was an area we needed to address to add some balance to the team,” he explained.
“Nathan was by far the best player we saw in that position last season, and Zac was third-top scorer in the league for a mid-table team, and that takes some doing.”
But what is perhaps equally heartening for Town is the lack of change among their squad rota.
After their near-miss in the league and county cup, supporters feared last season’s recruits may return to the higher tiers.
But Arnold, along with Laithan Hammond, is one of just two departures.
“A lot of my players have been offered an extra 20 to 40 quid, but they like the project we have here,” Manship added.
“There is potential throughout our squad and competition breeds excellence.”
Before the Leicester City match next week, Town next host UCL Premier side Deeping Rangers on Friday (kick-off 7.30pm).