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Following on from Sunday’s impressive FA Women’s Cup win over Tranmere, FC women kicked off their campaign in the North West Women’s Regional Football League with a 4-1 away victory over Manchester Stingers at a wet and windy Whalley Range.

First half strikes from Olivia Hooper and Kirsty Chambers followed by a brace during the second period from Jess Battle ensured the league campaign got off to the best possible start.

The game was shortened to 40 minutes each way owing to a lack of confidence in the daylight lasting long enough for a 90 minute game. The home side lost no time getting on the attack though with a couple of early efforts on the FC goal. The visitors first real counter effort saw Robyn Hartley – given a starting berth after a promising debut from the bench on Sunday – whip in a low cross from the left which the keeper gathered.

Jess Battle was just wide with her first effort on goal of the evening shortly before the scoring was opened on 16 minutes. Samantha Ball won the ball in the Stingers’ half and played it forward. A quick interchange of passes between Battle and Cara Fields on the edge of the area was broken up but the ball fell to Olivia Hooper who fired in first time and found net with a looping shot from some way out.

FC then seemed to settle to playing some quick moving, passing football and doubled the lead on 23 minutes as Kirsty Chambers took a pass in her stride down the right and cut inside to fire a low left foot shot out of the keeper’s reach and inside the near post.
There was no further scoring in the first half but chances aplenty. Cara Fields, typically busy in midfield and never needing any encouragement to have a pop at goal, tried her luck from a tight angle on the left but only found the side netting. Battle then had a couple of chances – the first blocked by Stingers’ keeper Olivia Fay after latching onto a through ball from Kate O’Gara and moments later she sprinted down the left before driving a shot wide across goal.

Stingers’ captain Faye Woodhead hit a long range effort wide but FC were quickly back on attack with Fields hitting a fierce drive over the bar just before the referee brought the first half to a curtailed end with FC ahead 2-0.

The hosts made three changes during the break. The light was fading as the second half got under way but there was no let-up in the action as Battle’s early run was blocked by Stingers’ Jen Ritson on the edge of the box.

Stingers were close to reducing the deficit after a corner resulted in a frantic scramble in the FC area. Jodie Holt got in a header from close range that Chloe Ainsworth had to be alert to save. Things were similarly chaotic at the other end minutes later as Fields managed to get in a shot while lay on the ground which the keeper blocked.

The home side continued their efforts to find a way back into the game with Nicola Armstrong firing across goal. FC manager Kamran Hussain looked to keep the pace up by sending on Yvette Loukes and Jess McCarrick for Hartley and Maxine Smith respectively within minutes of each other.

Chloe Ainsworth’s busy start to the season in goal for FC continued as she was smartly off her line to deny Armstrong with a clearance. Within moments, the ball was down the other end as Battle raced into the area in pursuit of a through ball and appeared to be tugged back by Amy Kennedy. The referee was unmoved by appeals for a penalty. However, within seconds, Chambers whipped the ball across the goalmouth from the left side of the area and Battle was on the spot for a simple tap-in to make it 3-0 on 57 minutes.

However only a couple of minutes after the restart, Stingers finally breached the FC defence. Ainsworth stretched to her right to make an outstanding save from Georgia Plant but within seconds, Plant got the ball back for a second chance. This time her angled shot eluded Ainsworth but hit the post and rebounded into the net off the unfortunate FC keeper pulling the score back to 3-1.

Jess Battle quickly sought to restore the three goal margin but was beaten to a ball by keeper Fay on the edge of the area.
Sensing that there might still be something in the game for them, Stingers started to exert some pressure on the FC defence. Natasha Priestley tried her luck from just outside the area but her shot was deflected for a corner off Hooper.

The game was put beyond reasonable doubt with nine minutes of the eighty remaining as the FC’s two Jesses combined. McCarrick picked out Battle with a ball down the inside right channel. Fay got her hands to the angled shot but it proved too powerful and found the net for 4-1.

Both sides had chances in the time remaining. Chambers fired over the bar on the run from a through pass from Ball. Then Ainsworth produced the save of the match to tip over a long range shot from Woodhead.

Now in near darkness, the final chance of the evening came as Chambers sent over a corner kick from the right to the far side of the area, where Ball headed back into the middle. The ball fell to Shauna Jein who hit a first time shot from close range but Fay showed smart reactions to block.

The Reds next face more local rivals in the shape of West Didsbury & Chorlton this coming Sunday, September 10th, at Broadhurst Park in their home league opener. Kick off at 2pm.

Report by Phil Bradbury

FC Player of the game: Fran Davies – superbly marshalling the back line in very difficult conditions.

4th September 2019:


Manchester Stingers: 1 (0)
1. Olivia Fay
2. Nadine Ruddock
3. Victoria Griffith
12. Jodie Holt
5. Charlotte Walsh
6. Victoria Dillon
14. Chloe Grundy
8. Faye Woodhead (Capt)
9. Alyson Harte
10. Nicola Armstrong
13. Jen Ritson
11. Georgia Plant
15. Amy Kennedy
16. Natasha Priestley
(For No3, No5 & No14, half-time)

FC United of Manchester: 4 (2)
1. Chloe Ainsworth (Own Goal 59 minutes)
12. Shauna Jein
2. Fran Davies
20. Kate O’Gara
18. Olivia Hooper (Goal 16 minutes)
4. Samantha Ball
11. Kirsty Chambers (Capt) (Goal 23 minutes)
16. Robyn Hartley
6. Cara Fields
8. Maxine Smith
9. Jess Battle (Goals 57 & 71 minutes)
14. Yvette Loukes (for No16, 49 minutes)
17. Jess McCarrick (for No8, 54 minutes)

Referee: Dan Barclay

Venue: Whalley Range AFC

Attendance: 37
(Match reduced to 80 minutes)

Official FC photography: Samantha Coates
Film Footage & Historical Stats from Neil Boothman
FC United stats first column:
Goals: 4...........1
Shots on target: 8...........5
Shots off target: 5...........2
Corners: 3...........5

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First Posted ~ 16:34 Thu 5 Sep 2019
News ID ~ 8481
Last Updated ~ 19:59 Sun 15 Sep 2019