FC United Women turned in a dominant performance in blustery conditions on the 3G pitch at Broadhurst Park to see off the challenge of West Kirby Ladies and book a place in the quarter-finals of the Argyle Sports Cup.
Two goals from Jordon Bailey, either side of one from Beth Hayes put the Reds in command just past the quarter hour. A second from Hayes and one from skipper Kirsty Chambers meant that the tie was virtually over by half time despite a cleverly executed direct free kick by West Kirby captain Lyndsey Rodger getting the visitors on the scoresheet. Chambers then made clever use of the windy conditions to bend in a ball from wide on the left and complete the scoring early in the second half.
Bailey’s double-strike meant that she’d hit the target in a sixth consecutive game for FC United Women; equaling the record of Jade Parker, which has been surpassed by only Kirsty Chambers (8) and Jess Battle (9).
Chambers was in the thick of the action from the start. In the opening minute, Abbie Carrington played a ball down the left wing for Chambers to run onto and whip over a low cross that Jordon Bailey was just unable to make full contact with as it sped across goal. A few minutes later, Corie Mather - making her first start since returning from a long injury lay-off - sent over a high cross from the right.
The flight of the ball in the wind seemed to deceive West Kirby keeper Katie Seager who had to improvise an attempted clearance kick that lacked distance and fell to Chambers whose goal-bound shot was blocked by a timely lunge by Ellie Barber.
However the Reds were back on attack within a minute or so and took the lead when Cara Fields found Chambers free on the left side of the area to fire a low ball towards the far post where Bailey slid in to score.
The lead was doubled when Samantha Ball played a pass over the defence for Beth Hayes to run clear onto and, despite having to allow for a strong wind, perfectly measured a lob to score with Seager coming out to meet her.
Bailey, whose pace saw the opposition struggling to cope, raced clear on goal to make it 3-0 with just 16 minutes on the clock.
Despite something of a torrid opening period for herself and her team, Seager produced a couple of good interventions to deny the home side further goals. First of all denying Bailey a hat-trick goal with her outstretched left leg and then a fine block to deny Chambers who’d got free on the left and skipped inside a defender before getting in a shot.
The Reds went close again when a quick passing move saw Ball send Hayes away downfield. The ball was worked across the penalty area via Fields for Mather to get in an angled shot from the far side of the area that flashed wide across goal. But more excellent link up play brought about a fourth goal for FC as Mather set up Bailey to put in a low cross for Hayes to sweep the ball into the net for her own second of the afternoon.
With half time approaching, FC United were awarded a free kick in the West Kirby half after Ball had been clattered in a challenge by Rodger but got immediately to her feet to take the kick quickly finding Chambers in space on the right of the area to hit the roof of the net with an angled shot to make it 5-0.
However, before the break, Rodger proved a handy free-kick specialist herself. Having just tested Chloe Ainsworth in the FC goal with a wind-assisted effort from 25 yards, the West Kirby captain was given another opportunity when Carrington - not long after drawing complaint from the opposition for a tackle that left Barber requiring attention from the physio - was penalised for barging into Chloe Spree in a challenge on the edge of the area. This time the kick was a well-placed chip over the wall that landed out of reach of Ainsworth in the bottom left hand corner.
Manager Kamran Hussain made a couple of precautionary changes at half time, sending on Kaylea Cunliffe and Caitlin Clancy for Bailey who was slightly hampered by injury and Mather who had given a good account of herself but whose recovery from injury to full fitness is still a work in progress.
Within a minute of the restart though, FC extended their lead to 6-1 when Chambers got away on the left with Cunliffe taking up position in the area for a cross but then finding herself not needed as the captain put in a ball that sailed into the net on the wind, just inside the far post.
The wind also seemed to play a part as Ball tried her luck with a chipped free kick that saw Seager have to adjust her stance as the ball sailed goalwards, managing to grab the ball at the second attempt with nearby FC players claiming the ball had crossed the line. The match officials clearly disagreed.
Seager was more decisive though when Hayes, one of two remaining FC players (Bailey having been withdrawn) seeking a hat-trick, was put clear for a shot on goal that was turned away by the keeper’s outstretched left hand. FC maintained the pressure with Natalie Richardson seeing her shot blocked by Kate Anderson, followed up by a Cunliffe shot that Seager punched away.
The scoring touch seemed to have deserted FC United as further chances went begging. Ball was able to knock the ball round the keeper only to see it run away out of play. Cunliffe then played a one-two with Maxine Smith before rolling a shot wide to the left of goal.
Two more chances saw the Reds go close in the final few minutes. Chambers found Hayes in the area who, with her back to goal, hit a right foot shot on the spin but couldn’t quite get enough on it and the ball flew wide. Chambers herself then had a late chance to become the first FC Women’s hat-trick scorer this season but again Seager used her legs to block the shot.
The win sets FC United up for a quarter-final tie away to either Blackpool FC Ladies or Warrington Wolverines who are scheduled to resolve their 2nd round tie on Sunday March 8th. The date for the quarter-final will be confirmed thereafter.
In the meantime, the table-topping Reds return to league action next Sunday March 1st with a short trip to play old rivals West Didsbury & Chorlton. (This is a change to the schedule as previously publicised)
Report by Phil Bradbury
FC Player of the game: Kirsty Chambers - the Reds captain led from the front, scoring two goals and setting one up.
Argyle Cup 2nd round
Teams 23rd February 2020: Attendance: 48
FC United of Manchester Women: 6 (5)
1. Chloe Ainsworth
2. Fran Davies
24. Abbie Carrington
4. Samantha Ball
5. Chelsea Patient
6. Cara Fields
7. Corie Mather
8. Maxine Smith
23. Beth Hayes (Goal 14 & 26 minutes)
10. Jordon Bailey (Goal 7 & 16 minutes)
11. Kirsty Chambers (Capt) (Goal 38 & 46 minutes)
9. Kaylea Cunliffe
22. Caitlin Clancey
(for No10 & No7, half time)
25. Natalie Richardson (for No6, 58 minutes)
20. Kate O’Gara
West Kirby FC Ladies 1 (1)
1. Katie Seager
2. Kate Anderson
3. Lucy Carlin
4. Keri Sampson
5. Jade Jones
6. Lyndsey Rodger (Capt)
7. Ellie Barber
14. Charlotte Locke
9. Sarah Newton
12. Chloe Spree
11. Gill Herring
10. Hayley Crawford (for No11, 58 minutes)
Referee: Ken Allen
Venue: Broadhurst Park 3G
Match statistics (by Paul Hinson) - FC shown First:
Shots on target: 15-3, Shots off target: 21-1, Free-kicks: 5-16, Corners: 10-1, Offsides: 9-0
Video footage & historical stats: Neil Boothman
Matchday photography: Mark Lee