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Resolute Reds Women close the gap

Resolute Reds Women close the gap

A late, late strike by Kate O’Gara, added to a first half goal from Kaylea Cunliffe, clinched a hard fought victory over Tranmere Rovers Ladies, allowing FC United Women to move within three points of their opponents at the top of the North West Women’s Regional League Premier Division with four games in hand.

Having come so close to taking the three points when the teams met at Ellesmere Port a week ago, Tranmere would have lacked neither belief nor determination. This was evident early on as Georgia Walters went on a probing run for the visitors. Although the initial move foundered, FC struggled to get the ball away and eventually it found its way back to Walters for a shot that Chloe Ainsworth saved for the first of what turned out to be four corners in quick succession.

Jess McCarrick helped relieve the early pressure with a similar run downfield and a shot which Rovers keeper Katy Maddock saved on her knees. FC stayed on the attack with Cara Fields sending over a cross from the right that was allowed to run untouched to the far side, where Robyn Hartley returned it into the middle but again no one was able to get a touch on it.

And within moments, action moved back to the other end as Lucia Molinari - last week’s scorer for Tranmere - squared a ball into the area from the left, which was met by Olivia Hulmston near the penalty spot who shot wide.
Molinari almost reached a loose ball with a clear sight of goal but was denied by Fran Davies getting across quickly to clear.

The early pace seemed to slacken for a while until the 23rd minute when the deadlock was broken. A corner kick was swung over from the right, the ball both Hartley and McCarrick put in aerial challenges sending the ball upwards before it fell perfectly for Kaylea Cunliffe to lash into the net with a right-footed volley.
Rovers looked to strike back quickly and almost unlocked the home defence through Ceri Holder playing a quick exchange of passes with Walters on the edge of the area before finishing with a shot that lacked the power to trouble Ainsworth.

Reds captain Kirsty Chambers is never out of the action for too long and had a couple of chances. The first was set up by Fields and Cunliffe deftly exchanging passes but the shot was wide. A while later Chambers went for a more ambitious effort directly from a free kick 30 yards out but Maddock gathered the ball comfortably.
There was a momentary flashback to last week as Molinari managed to nip in between keeper and defender in pursuit of a loose ball however this time there was no hesitation as Ainsworth was quickly off her line to smother the danger.

The FC keeper still had more work to do before the break. Fran Davies misjudged an attempted header to a long ball downfield, leaving Hulmston in the clear to get in a shot that was saved for a corner. The kick was swung over close to the goal. Ainsworth managed to get both hands on but knocked the ball upwards but was prevented from being able to re-gather as she was floored by Molinari as a melee ensued that ended with the ball in the FC net. However the goal was disallowed by the referee who judged the challenge on Ainsworth to be illegal.

FC’s goal was under threat within seconds of the restart as Walters cut in along the byline on the right and flashed a shot across the area. However there was a chance for Maxine Smith, on as a half time substitute for the Reds, who found a hard, low cross from Hartley on the left heading her way but unfortunately with too much pace to get it under control and the ball dropped handily for Maddock in goal.

There was a period where FC came under sustained pressure with a Tranmere equaliser looking on the cards, exemplified when the apparently ubiquitous Walters got above Jess McCarrick to get in a header that flew wide. She got another chance when a shot from Hulmston flew across goal and was picked up by Elisha Price who fired in a return cross from the right, to which Walters’ header found Chloe Ainsworth well posit
oned to save.
Kate O’Gara got a rare sight of goal for FC with a dipping shot just wide from distance.
But the onslaught at the other end resumed with Walters again evading the attention of defenders but seeing her shot saved. Rovers sub Danielle Reilly then survived offside appeals to whip in a dangerous cross from the right that saw Caitlin Clancy opt for safety first and knock behind for a corner.

Chloe Ainsworth had her work cut out as Tranmere pressed for an equaliser that it would be hard to say they didn’t deserve. With seven minutes left on the clock, she was on hand to save when a ball was laid back by Walters for Hulmston to shoot first time. Moments later, Walters was forced into an impromptu piece of ‘keepie up’ to retain control under pressure from defenders before firing in a shot on the turn that again couldn’t beat the FC keeper.

Then luck, as well as good anticipation, played a part as Ainsworth found herself stranded off her line as a ball pinballed around the FC area but reacted well to make a good block-save to a shot from Reilly.

FC seemed to be hanging on grimly for the points but the game was finally put to bed in the second minute of injury time as Clancy got in a cross from the left. Maddock got both hands on the ball but appeared to be impeded by team-mate Amie Neale, preventing her from taking a clean catch, leaving the ball free for O’Gara to knock out of the keeper’s reach into the net.

The win preserved FC’s 100% home league record and marked a 150th win for FC United Women in all competitions (104 league, 50 in cups)

Report by Phil Bradbury
FC Player of the game: Chloe Ainsworth - mainly for a succession of second half saves to preserve a clean sheet and FC’s precarious but eventually match-winning lead.

Teams 24th November 2019: Attendance: 66

FC United of Manchester Women: 2 (1)
1. Chloe Ainsworth
2. Fran Davies
3. Emily Marsh
4. Samantha Ball
5. Chelsea Patient
6. Cara Fields
17. Jess McCarrick
20. Kate O’Gara (Goal 90+2 minutes)
9. Kaylea Cunliffe (Goal 23 minutes)
16. Robyn Hartley
11. Kirsty Chambers (Capt)
8. Maxine Smith (for No4, half time)
12. Ellie Whittle (for No16, 73 minutes)
22. Caitlin Clancy (for No11, 66 minutes)

Tranmere Rovers Ladies FC: 0 (0)
1. Katy Maddock
2. Heledd Roberts
3. Amie Neale (Yellow card, 90+1 minutes)
4. Kiah Sullivan
5. Lindsey Smith (Capt)
6. Lucia Molinari
7. Georgia Walters
8. Ceri Holder
9. Olivia Hulmston
10. Rachel Rigby
11. Elisha Price
12. Danielle Reilly (for No8, half time)
14. Lauren Davies (for No11, 66 minutes)
15. Steph Holmes

Referee: Laura Bowater
Venue: Broadhurst Park
Official FC photography: Mark Lee & Samantha Coates
Film Footage from Neil Boothman
FC United stats first column:
Goals: 2...........0
Shots on target: 6...........9
Shots off target: 10..........10
Corners: 3...........9
Match Stats courtesy of Paul Hinson (liveteamstats.com)

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First Posted ~ 10:52 Wed 27 Nov 2019
News ID ~ 8570
Last Updated ~ 10:52 Wed 27 Nov 2019