For Lewes’ Paula Howells, scoring wonder goals is becoming a regular occurrence.
The attacking midfielder was not renowned for her long-range shooting prior to this season but has netted two incredible goals from outside the area already this campaign.
Her latest effort, which came in Lewes’ 4-1 victory against Coventry United last weekend, saw her cut in from the right flank on her favoured left foot and unleash a thunderbolt to put the home side 2-1 in front.
Since then, the goal has been shared extensively on social media and Howells is lapping up the praise from her peers.
“Yeah, I don’t think the coaching staff and my teammates have stopped talking about it to be fair,” she told GiveMeSport Women.
“So I’ve been tagged in every sort of video that I can on social media. I haven’t managed to catch a break from seeing it.”
Having also scored from outside the box against Charlton, Howells is still unsure on which of her strikes from distance was her favourite. However, she did admit that she’s far more of a “long-range” shooter than a “tap-in” poacher.
“I think I preferred the Coventry one, but it’s difficult actually. Because the Charlton one was my first but the Coventry one was a bit further out.
“It’s definitely not something I work on but I would say I’m more of a long-range [goals] type person than tap ins. I seem to panic when I get too close to the goal so I’m a bit more comfortable, the further out I am.”
Howells has been pleased with her own personal performances this season, especially given her injury struggles in the past. And the 24-year-old is also satisfied with how the team are fairing so far.
Lewes are seventh in the Women’s Championship table at the moment but are just two points off fourth place. In this way, Howells says it’s important the team don’t read too much into league position and instead focus on each individual game.
“We try not to take too much a view on where we are in the table because it’s so open. We know that anyone can beat anyone and it’s still so early that we’ve got so many games to go. We’ll just take each game as it comes and the points will add up.”
Howells moved to Lewes back in 2019 and stressed how the standard of the league has improved since she joined. Last season, the likes of Leicester and Durham raced clear at the top of the table. Yet, this year, there are already no undefeated teams in the league.
“I think the investment that has been put into the Championship this year has made a massive difference. Obviously, we’ve gone more full-time now and even the team at the bottom of the table are full-time, which speaks volumes for all the teams in the league and how far they’ve come.”
Indeed many teams in the league are beginning to transition to full-time now, including Lewes. The club also prides itself on its ‘Equality FC’ campaign and Howells emphasised the men’s and women’s teams even train with each other every week.
“We have an 11 vs 11 on a Thursday to get us ready for the game on Sundays. We have members of the men’s team come and play with us and you don’t see it as the men’s and women’s team, it’s just one team as a whole.
“And the men never see it like that either, they actually want to come and train with us. It’s not something I’ve seen at other clubs, so It’s really great.”
While Howells is a Lewes player, she revealed she’s been an Arsenal fan her whole life. Growing up, Thierry Henry was her hero and the midfielder has modelled her own style of play on parts of the Frenchman’s game.
“I just think he was such a classy player. Everything he did, he did with class and he was so confident in every aspect of his game.
“He was always striving to better, and he wasn’t really a player that you’d see flying into tackles and being hard as anything or coming off bruised or anything like that. So that’s definitely something I like to base my game on.”
Henry may have been Howell’s biggest influence from the men’s game but there are plenty of women who have inspired her through the years, including US icon, Carli Lloyd.
It’s her former coach Rachel Yankey who she credits most, however. The ex-Arsenal legend managed the attacking midfielder at London Bees and Howells lauded the English star as a huge “role model” for younger players.
“She [Yankey] was an amazing person to work with. And I think off the pitch as well, I’ll always want to be a role model for younger players, so she was always a massive inspiration.”