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Treble Heaven for FC’s Women in thrilling League Cup Final Victory

Treble Heaven for FC’s Women in thrilling League Cup Final Victory

What is there left to say about the valiant, all conquering exploits of our Women’s Team this season? What superlatives remain unused? Let’s give it a go:- Last summer, Luke Podmore and his team set themselves an ambitious target of winning the league, retaining the Manchester FA Challenge Cup and retaining the Argyle League Cup; the final, in the box achieved after a thrilling 3-2 victory against higher league opposition, Stockport County at a sun drenched Runcorn Linnets FC on Sunday afternoon.

In summary, the reds led at the break after taking an 11th minute lead courtesy of a direct Fran Sullivan corner pegged back by Stockport’s Captain Nicola Connor on 26 minutes with Jess Battle grabbing the vital second just before half time. Incredibly, her 47th of the campaign, equalling Feiruz Abdullahi’s haul to lever us out of the Greater Manchester League in the 14/15 season. Former FC stalwart Shellby Wolstencroft looked to have sent the game heading for extra time with an 83rd minute equaliser but the red’s surged back, displaying amazing character and fittingly Captain Kirsty Chambers fired home the winner 3 minutes from time.

Pre match, in glorious sunshine, the ‘Brew Crew’ and a cast of extra’s bearing additional sustenance, held a picnic on the Linnet’s car park for the red army faithful before gradually filtering into the ground to build the FC atmosphere as kick-off approached.

Stockport got the game underway kicking down the slight slope with the sun at their backs. Sarah Bergin made an early foray down the right crossing into the near post area with Chloe Ainsworth getting an early touch and gathering well.

On 9 minutes United produced their first goal threat with Chambers firing wide from a tight angle and from the goal kick, regained possession in midfield. Olivia Greenhalgh played a clever ball wide, intended for Jess McCarrick but headed behind for a corner by former FC first season starlet Claire O’Reilly. The set piece was defended behind by the Stockport defence for a second successive corner; this time ruthlessly delivered by Sullivan and despite a desperate attempt to clear on the back post, the direct effort was already over the line sparking joyous 11th minute celebrations.

Stockport responded in robust fashion and earned their first corner resulting in Chloe Ainsworth being fouled and injured in her attempt to catch the ball. Unfortunately after a lengthy spell of treatment the FC keeper was withdrawn to be replaced by her custodian colleague, Gemma Jackson on the quarter hour. County maintained their pressure, Chelsea Patient blocking a shot bravely and after an excellent tackle by Fran Davies the resulting corner was headed over the bar by Jodie Hancock. There was a sense that the equaliser was imminent and in the 26th minute Captain Nicola Connor rose highest to head home a corner from close range.

The remainder of the half was very finely balanced with both sides fashioning chances although FC’s better possession and control of the ball was beginning to tip the scales in their favour. On 40 minutes Chambers tested Lauren Blackett at her near post with the keeper holding well but two minutes later could do nothing to prevent FC retaking the lead. Having earlier having a goal ruled out due to a hand ball, Battle made no mistake from ten yards as the ball was worked superbly to the right side of County’s penalty area where the in-form striker half volleyed past Blackett to hand the red’s a crucial half time lead.

The second half reflected the finely poised encounter with both sides searching in vain for the vital breakthrough; a third goal for the red’s would surely leave Stockport with too much to do but an equaliser would change the dynamic in Stockport’s favour and with time ebbing away it was indeed County who fashioned the equaliser. O’Reilly floated a dangerous free kick into the danger zone and amid a desperate tangle of half shots and fluffed clearances the diminutive ex FC star striker, Shellby Wolstencroft seized the moment and stabbed the loose ball home from close range.

County had the momentum and must have harboured thoughts of taking their lower placed opponents to extra time. However United had other ideas and responded superbly with the fresh legs of Chelsea Flanagan and Nicole Hatcliffe forcing Stockport onto the back foot. Three minutes from time and the pressure finally told with Flanagan working the ball wide and through to Chambers. The Captain, took the ball to the bye line then cut back in field and toward goal creating a narrow angle and surprising Blackett by shooting instead of squaring and the moment of defensive indecision was enough for the ball to flash past the keeper into the back of the net.

The tension was unbearable as United sought to see out the game but deep in stoppage time handed County one last chance to force an extra half hour, conceding a soft fee kick wide on the left. The ball was launched goalward and the relief palpable as Gemma Jackson held well and moment’s later referee Luke Davies blew time on a superb contest and great advert for the women’s game.
As the raw emotion and enormity of the season’s achievements sunk in to the collective red conscience it was cemented by a joyous double trophy celebration as the Argyle League Cup was presented along with the League Title trophy. Fans and Football United as cameras worked over time and the pre match picnic resumed post match for supporters, players and coaches to keep the celebrations going.

What an end to a fantastic season for FC’s all-conquering Women’s Team and undoubtedly, to echo the chorus from the Linnet’s main stand, ‘every single one of us is very proud of you’. It’s been emotional, thank you.
Report by Rob Fullen

FC Player of the game: Kirsty Chambers – a Captain’s display among so many good performances on the day (and indeed all season) and to hold her nerve to fire in the late winner to deliver a historic treble was fantastic to behold.

Teams 13th May 2018: Attendance: 168

FC United of Manchester: 3 (6)
13. Chloe Ainsworth
2. Fran Davies
3. Abbie Carrington
4. Olivia Greenhalgh
5. Chelsea Patient
18. Cara Fields
7. Fran Sullivan (Goal 11 mins)
8. Rebecca Foster
9. Jess Battle (Goal 42 mins)
17. Jess McCarrick
11. Kirsty Chambers (Capt) (Goal 87 mins)
6. Alice Forshaw
10. Nicole Hatcliffe (for No4 63 mins)
1. Gemma Jackson (for No 13 15 mins)
14. Jennifer Lomax
15. Chelsea Flanagan (for No18 70 mins)

Stockport County FC Ladies: 2 (1)
1. Lauren Blackett
2. Hanna Wilson
3. Claire O’Reilly
4. Jodie Hancock
5. Nicola Connor (Capt) (Goal 26 mins)
6. Sophie John
7. Sarah Bergin
8. Kathryn Jones
9. Chloe Mapp
10. Grace Wardle
11. Vicky Lomas
12. Orla Conlon
13. Niamh Attfield (For No1 90+3 mins)
14. Leah Anna Jones
15. Shellby Wolstencroft (For No11 46 mins & Goal 83 mins)
17. Adora Yau

Referee: Luke Davies
Asst Referee: Ken Jones
Asst Referee: Dave Chappell
4th Official: James Marsh
Venue: Runcorn Linnet’s FC, Murdishaw Avenue, WA7 6HP
Official FC photography – Mark Lee & Samantha Coates
Social Media Updates from Mikey Partington
Film Footage & Historical Stats from Neil Boo
Match Stats by Paul Hinson from: www.liveteamstats.com
FC United stats first column:
Goals: 3...........2
Shots on target: 6...........3
Shots off target: 9...........6
Corners: 6...........3
Completed Passes: 288......168
Possession: 63%......37%

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First Posted ~ 17:40 Wed 16 May 2018
News ID ~ 7906
Last Updated ~ 15:42 Thu 17 May 2018