On a freezing, blustery Sunday afternoon at the University of Central Lancashire’s Preston sports complex, United’s Women kept up their impressive run on three fronts with a fine 3-2 quarter-final victory over Sir Tom Finney FC in the Argyle Sports Cup.
United sit atop the Division 1 South Table and their Lancashire opponents top of Division 1 North, so a close encounter was always on the cards. So it proved in an excellent advert for the women’s game that ebbed and flowed in tandem with the prevailing weather. Jess Battle scored an excellent hat-trick for FC, maintaining her excellent scoring record since joining the reds with Hannah Taylor and Lucy Swift scoring for the hosts.
United got the game underway and a frenetic opening minute saw end to end action with Chloe Williams quickly off her line to gather ahead of the closing Lucy Smith whilst Beth Tattersall lofted a ball into the swirling breeze dropping into the area for Chloe Wild to force Amy Weaver into a good initial save and secondary clearance.
Weaver was soon in action again diverting a Chambers free kick behind for the game’s first corner which Fran Davies prodded goalwards from a Chambers delivery and the Sir Tom Finney defence scrambled clear.
The pace of Tattersall down the right caused trouble for the home side all afternoon and on six minutes her dangerous cross found Chambers beyond the back post who forced Weaver into another good block.
The breakthrough came midway through the half after Laura Went lost out in a race for the ball with United’s keeper and Williams quickly set United off on the front foot as Morgan McWhirter worked the ball into midfield for Jade Parker to flick on to Chambers who in turn fed Battle to break through the blue backline, drift past the rush and dive of Weaver before calmly slotting past a defender on the line from a tight angle.
Just minutes later McWhirter released Chambers down the left who worked a one-two with Wild before powering a low cross through the six yard area as Parker slid in on the far post, narrowly missing out on the crucial contact.
The hosts earned a corner following excellent defending by Chelsea Patient which was well cleared by Fran Davies after a concerted spell of pressure on the edge of FC’s area. On the half hour Tattersall rode two challenges as she surged down the right cutting the ball back to Wild who fired across Weaver but just beyond the far post.
Another corner to Sir Tom Finney FC saw Williams smother well at her near post under pressure from the swarming forwards and as McWhirter thwarted the dangerous Hannah Taylor at the expense of a further corner, Williams rose well to catch superbly under her bar.
In the last minute of an enthralling first half Chambers threaded a ball through to Battle after Parker’s clever run had created the space for Battle to exploit. The striker chipped the ball over the defence and Wild half volleyed her effort just wide of the far post.
As expected, the home side started the second half determined to gain parity in the tie and enjoyed good early possession forcing a corner which Chambers cleared well. United weathered the early storm as Tattersall and Wild both went close for the reds using both the slope and wind advantage to good effect.
Patient robustly disjointed another home attack finding Parker whose cross was well held by Weaver. As the blues launched another attack a combination of Davies and a back tracking Tattersall thwarted the danger and Olivia Greenhalgh released Wild who again went close to adding to the score line. Just past the hour, excellent combination play between Amy Vyas, Wild, Battle and Chambers saw the captain’s blocked shot roll harmlessly into the grasp of Weaver but the sense of United building momentum was very tangible.
So it proved on 66 minutes as McWhirter cleared long for Battle to gamble, anticipating the bounce and breeze to good effect and driving beyond the back pedalling defence to fire over the onrushing Weaver and into the back of the net to double the reds’ advantage.
A superb response by the home side and two minutes later they had halved the deficit after FC failed to clear a pinball episode in their area and Taylor produced a sweet strike across the dive of Williams into the bottom corner.
United soaked up continued pressure and Chambers went close at the other end as they looked increasingly to hit their hosts on the break. So it proved with ten minutes to go as Wild produced an excellent pass into the path of Tattersall who looked like she had taken the ball too far but got her shot away across Weaver and as it cannoned off the far post Battle was on hand to tap home for her hatrick, her second in three games, restoring FC’s two goal cushion.
A nervy last few minutes tested United’s resolve and with time running out and the reds penned back to a rear guard action, they conceded a free kick on the right edge of their area. The ball was swept into the danger area where Swift fired home from close range giving Williams no chance.
The reds managed the game well, retaining possession down in the corners and after two minutes of stoppage time referee, Mark Hughes, called time on a fantastic contest.
Next Sunday United are on the cup trail once more, this time to take on Leigh RMI in the Manchester FA County Cup. At the time of writing we have no game on 26th February but keep an eye on the website for any fixture changes. Thank you.
Report by Rob Fullen
FC Player of the game: Chelsea Patient – with Jess Battle’s scoring prowess enhancing game by game, Chelsea and her fellow defenders provided the platform at the back. Chelsea’s timing and aggression in the tackle and drive to push forward against tricky centre forwards was superb and consistent all game. Chelsea was also voted our player of the game by today’s opposition.
Teams 12th February 2017: Attendance: 76
FC United of Manchester Women: 3 (1)
13. Chloe Williams
20. Morgan McWhirter
2. Fran Davies
5. Chelsea Patient
4. Olivia Greenhalgh
12. Amy Vyas
18. Chloe Wild
15. Jade Parker
10. Beth Tattersall
11. Kirsty Chambers (Capt)
14. Jess Battle (Goals 22, 66, 80 mins)
3. Abbie Carrington (for No20 69 mins)
6. Mia Holden (for No15 57 mins)
8. Adora Yau
19. Allisha Marsh (for No12 74 mins)
Sir Tom Finney FC: 2 (0)
1. Amy Weaver
2. Amelia Parsons
3. Courtney McPherson
4. Nat Jacques
6. Amy Foxcroft (Capt)
7. Hannah Taylor (Goal 68 mins)
14. Amy Hindle
8. Maxine Smith
9. Laura Went
15. Lucy Swift (Goal 88 mins)
11. Emily Park
5. Keira Davies (for No8 63 mins)
10. Kaye Widdicombe
12. Indi Ganley Boast
Referee: Mark Hughes
Asst Referee: Jordan Dennett (Yellow flag)
Asst Referee: N/K (Orange & Yellow Flag)
Venue: UCLAN Sports Arena, Tom Benson Way, Cottam, Preston, PR2 1SG