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Reds Women go top after beating Merseyrail

Reds Women go top after beating MerseyrailFC United Women went top of the North West Women’s Regional League with this hard-fought win over a rapidly improving Merseyrail Ladies, who came into this game on the back of six wins from their last seven outings in all competitions despite occupying third from bottom place in the league table.

There’s a history of tough encounters between the two sides so it should have come as no surprise that, despite having the bulk of the possession and attacking play, the Reds found their Merseyside rivals tough to break down. FC manager Kamran Hussain had his strongest available pool of players available with only long term injury victims Corie Mather and Emily Marsh out of contention. Team captain Kirsty Chambers returned after missing last week’s Argyle Cup win over Northwich Vixens with a back problem, as did Jordon Bailey after the injury sustained two weeks ago in the home league win over Wigan Athletic.

And it was the two returnees who combined to open the scoring on 20 minutes with Bailey running onto a pinpoint pass from Chambers to go round the keeper and score. Merseyrail came back stronger in the second half and had a few chances to snatch an equaliser but were held at bay mainly due to the efforts of Chelsea Patient - making her 100th appearance for FC - and the ever-reliable Fran Davies in the centre of defence before Cara Fields rifled a shot in off the underside of the crossbar to clinch the points in the 90th minute.

After a cagey opening period, Kaylea Cunliffe twice threatened the visitors’ goal. In pursuit of a long ball into the box, she was edged out by Merseyrail keeper Nicole Cassar who was protected by defender Gemma Lancaster. But within moments Cunliffe was back in the danger area to meet a low ball into the box from Jordon Bailey on the right with a right foot shot on the turn that was blocked by the timely intervention of Katie Burke.

It was clear from early in the game that Chambers wasn’t going to be kept out of the action. The Reds captain played Bailey in with a penetrating pass. Cassar was again alert enough to come out and snuff out the threat but, in doing so, collided with team-mate Rachel Atherton resulting in a stoppage while the Merseyrail keeper was attended to by the physio.

The first apparent threat from the visitors came after Cara Fields lost out in midfield to Shannon Beckwith who ran on to put in a dangerous cross from the right which striker Sophie Perry (a hat trick scorer when Merseyrail won 5-1 on the Broadhurst 3G in December 2016) stabbed wide with just Chloe Ainsworth in goal to beat. However an offside flag would have ruled out a goal.

FC United took the lead in quick-fire fashion as a long ball found Chambers on the left. A low pass curled behind the defence and fell perfectly for Bailey to outpace her markers and take the ball round the keeper to angle a shot into the net.

Chambers had the next opening to herself as Aimee O’Keeffe cut the ball back but the shot from the right side of the area only found the side-netting. However moments later, a Chambers cross from the left was laid back by Cunliffe for Kate O’Gara to go close from outside the area.
With the visitors struggling to create any clear-cut opportunities, Beckwith tried her luck from 25 yards or so out but fired just over.

Merseyrail captain Lancaster made a timely sliding tackle to block Chambers out at the expense of a corner, which was played back for Natalie Richardson to curl in a shot from the left that was heading for the top far corner until it was beaten away by keeper Cassar.

Chambers then drilled a low ball in from the left that bounced up off a defender and fell for Richardson to meet on the volley but fire just wide.

With the second half less than a minute old, Bailey continued to be a thorn in the side of the visitors, again getting away on the right to put a ball into the middle. Richardson got in a shot to which Cassar’s handling was less assured but nevertheless did the job of keeping the ball out for Atherton to complete the job with a clearance.
It wasn’t too long though before FC keeper Ainsworth was called into action at the other end to block a shot from Shelley James with her legs. Soon after, Kaisha Sohl fired from distance and the ball took a couple of bounces that could have made things awkward but Ainsworth managed to get everything behind the ball and save comfortably.
It was proving to be a busy period for the home defence as Perry put a ball in from the left which needed Ainsworth to gather under threat from half time substitute Bryony Hanson.

At the other end, Chambers looked for the element of surprise with a swerving shot from a free kick out on the right that Cassar did well to save.

Kamran Hussain sent on Maxine Smith for FC who almost made an instant impression with a volley wide after Bailey had won the ball and sent in a cross from the right.
The end to end action continued with Merseyrail offering much more of a threat in the second half. A looping shot from Richardson went straight to the keeper but moments later Ainsworth had to drop to her knees to gather a low cross Sheree Thompson at the foot of the post.

A corner for the visitors was quickly cleared and picked up by Samantha Ball who immediately sent the ball downfield for Bailey to chase. FC’s number 10 was looking to go clear on goal before going down under challenge from Sohl. The referee’s decision to wave play on was questioned loudly on the pitch, touchline and stands.
Ball then had a shot from outside the area which Cassar managed to hold and within a minute, Fran Davies was called on to slide the ball clear from the feet of Perry.

Despite the increased threat from the visitors in the second half, FC still looked the stronger side and good value for their narrow lead. However the fear remained that Merseyrail looked well capable of snatching an equaliser. However the game appeared to have been put to bed when a corner was worked into the stride of Cara Fields outside the area on the left to crash in a shot off the underside of the bar, giving Cassar no chance to make it 2-0.

However a number of injury stoppages meant that there were 7 minutes added and it proved an eventful few minutes. O’Keeffe sought to make it three moving across the edge of the area to the right before firing in a shot that Cassar saved for a corner, which was partly cleared but FC stayed on the attack for Ball to hit a shot that looped up off Sohl and dropped into Cassar’s arms.

Sohl courted further controversy in the closing seconds after having given O’Keeffe a petulant shove off the ball behind the Merseyrail goal line and then cutting Bailey down on the run for a second time, the aftermath of which saw Jess McCarrick, on as a substitute for FC, sin-binned for dissent under a new rule introduced into the league this season - of which this was the first use in an FC United women’s team match. However McCarrick served only a few seconds on the sidelines before the final whistle blew.

The league campaign continues this Sunday as the Reds travel to play Morecambe on the 3G at Lancaster University, Bailrigg, Lancaster LA1 4YW

Report by Phil Bradbury
FC Player of the game: Fran Davies - another near faultless performance in the heart of the FC defence.

Teams Sunday 19th January 2020: Attendance: 95

FC United of Manchester Women: 2 (1)
1. Chloe Ainsworth
2. Fran Davies
12. Katie Sorenson
20. Kate O’Gara
5. Chelsea Patient
6. Cara Fields (Goal 90 minutes)
25. Natalie Richardson
15. Aimee O’Keeffe
9. Kaylea Cunliffe
10. Jordon Bailey (Goal 20 minutes)
11. Kirsty Chambers (Capt)
8. Maxine Smith (for No9, 56 minutes)
17. Jess McCarrick (for No 25, 76 minutes)
4. Samantha Ball (for No5, 77 minutes)
16. Robyn Hartley
22. Caitlin Clancy

Merseyrail Ladies 0 (0)
1. Nicole Cassar
2. Sheree Thompson
3. Rachel Atherton
4. Gemma Lancaster (Capt)
5. Kaisha Sohl
15. Katie Burke
7. Holly Parkinson
14. Tessa Littler
9. Sophie Perry
10. Shannon Beckwith
19. Shelley James
8. Bryony Hanson (for No15, half time)
20. Faye Byrne (for No4, 65 minutes)
12. Niamh Ritchie (for No12, 69 minutes)

Referee: Gordon Weir
Venue: Broadhurst Park
Official FC photography: Mark Lee & Samantha Coates
Video footage & historical stats: Neil Boothman

First Posted ~ 14:35 Fri 24 Jan 2020
News ID ~ 8620
Last Updated ~ 17:00 Fri 19 Feb 2021