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FC United Women win third successive County Cup with victory over Salford City Lionesses

FC United Women win third successive County Cup with victory over Salford City Lionesses

FC United Women won the Manchester FA Women’s Challenge Cup for the third successive season with a 4-0 victory over Salford City Lionesses on Wednesday evening.

Emily Marsh put United in-front three minutes prior to half-time, before three goals in the last ten minutes courtesy of Kirsty Chambers, Olivia Greenhalgh and Aimee O’Keeffe saw the Reds run out comfortable winners in the end.

Having won the trophy in 2017 and 2018, Luke Podmore’s side were looking to make history at Brookburn Road and win the County Cup three times in a row for the first time in Club history.

With various ineligibilities and suspensions, the FCUMW boss had to alter his side from the win at Tranmere Rovers Ladies ten days earlier, with Ainsworth, Marsh and O’Keeffe all returning to the starting XI.

Despite being the holders and in what now felt like familiar surroundings, it was the Lionesses who had their tails up most in the opening exchanges, forcing the Reds into several defensive mistakes that didn’t come to anything.

FC’s first attack of promise came after seven minutes when Rebecca Foster found Kirsty Chambers still inside the box after a corner that wasn’t quite cleared, but the skipper couldn’t bring the ball under control before being tackled.

United survived a scare on 20 minutes after Ainsworth’s miscued kick on the bobbly surface looped up to former FCUMW winger Beth Tattersall who nearly got past the ‘keeper, but for Francesca Davies’ intervention.

That was the wake-up call that Luke Podmore’s side needed, with United seemingly going up the gears in the minutes that followed. Kirsty Chambers drove forward before unleashing a strike that flew just over the crossbar, just a minute before the Reds’ best move of the game that culminated in O’Keeffe firing inches wide of the target.

United’s intensity continued to provide goalscoring opportunities, with Jess Battle finding the net on 35 minutes but for the Assistant Referee’s flag calling her offside. Battle then looked to score legitimately shortly after, but her touch took her wide of the goal before her intended pass to Chambers was intercepted.

Battle was again involved shortly before half-time, winning a corner that would eventually lead to a deserved opener. After the original ball into the box was cleared, Olivia Greenhalgh drove down the right unchallenged before firing across for Emily Marsh to bundle over the line. The goal means that Marsh is the only FCUMW player to score in every round of this year’s County Cup run.

Set pieces were providing the danger again after Carrington headed over, less than a minute after the restart, but it was only Marsh’s goal that separated the two sides after a well-fought first 45.

FC started the second in the same manner as they finish the first and were miraculously denied a second goal of the evening. Jess Battle saw her attempt cleared off the line, as did Chambers with her rebound, before the skipper lifted the third attempt over the bar.

It was a let off early in the half for Salford, in their blue change strip, but they nearly got themselves level just after. Ainsworth was alert to race off her line to smother at Tattersall’s feet, but the Lionesses didn’t stop their charge there, hitting the bar in the next passage of play.

FC’s goal-scorer Emily Marsh then looked to have picked up a knock and was replaced by Corie Mather soon after in United’s first substitution of the Final.

The Reds had to maintain concentration at the back and continued to do so with another Abbie Carrington tackle to stop a Salford attacker bearing down on goal as the game headed into the final 20 minutes.

The Lionesses’ best chance came just minutes later after a corner pinballed around the box only for it to be glanced wide of the post, with the assistance of Ainsworth’s touch, from inside the six-yard area.

That turned out to be the final real scare for the Reds who went from strength to strength in the closing stages of the game. Skipper Kirsty Chambers, who had scored in both of the 2017 and 2018 Finals, extended that run and doubled the Reds’ lead. After cutting in from the right, she curled a shot past the goalkeeper and into the far bottom corner to spark jubilant celebrations.

Olivia Greenhalgh then followed suit in the penultimate minute of the 90, finding the same corner after a neat piece of control, to all-but put the game out of sight.

Aimee O’Keeffe rounded off another superb evening for FCUMW at Brookburn Road after her effort made its way into the net deep into stoppage time. That proved to be pretty much the last kick of the game as referee Leoni Harland called time on the encounter soon after, with FC completing the defence of the County Cup once again and winning the trophy for the third season in succession.

Next up for United is a return to the Millbank Linnets Stadium (WA7 6HP) for the Argyle Cup Final and a repeat of last season’s corresponding fixture, with Stockport County LFC once again the opponents. The Reds will be also hoping to both defend that title and lift it for the third time in three years in the 4pm KO. We hope to see you there!

FCUMW Player of the Match: Abbie Carrington – United’s no.3 put in both a solid defensive performance to help preserve a Cup Final clean sheet, as well as providing a consistent attacking threat from the left that continued to provide opportunities throughout the evening. Carrington played more than her part in helping the Reds to three successive County Cup titles.

FC United of Manchester Women 4 (1): Ainsworth, Marsh (Goal 42 mins), Davies, Carrington, O’Gara, Greenhalgh (Goal 89 mins), Foster, Chambers (c) (Goal 84 mins), Fields, O’Keeffe (Goal 90+6 mins), Battle
Subs: Jackson (On for Fields 86 mins), Mather (On for Marsh 56 mins)
Salford City Lionesses 0 (0): Duke, Yau, Hamilton, Ainscough, Thornton, Rhodes, Tattersall (c), Wharton, Abdullahi, Tobin, Bennett
Subs: Pemberton

Venue: West Didsbury & Chorlton AFC, Brookburn Road, Manchester (M21 8FE)
Competition: Manchester FA Women’s Challenge Cup Final
Referee: Leoni Harland
Assistant Referees: Laura Bowater, Dylan Wimbury
Fourth Official: Paul Bentley

Report by Mikey Partington

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First Posted ~ 16:28 Sat 18 May 2019
News ID ~ 8401
Last Updated ~ 15:06 Tue 21 May 2019