Ladies First Team vs. Sporting Club Albion (4 : 2)
FAWPL Northern Division
This was a typical opening match of the season – far from the prettiest football ever, but both sides showing a fierce determination to win the game. The opening period of the first half was relatively even with little serious sight of goal for either side, but it was Sporting Club Albion who started to take the initiative a little better in the second period of the first half, although without creating any nailed on chances. Always threatening from set pieces thanks to good height in their team, Sporting won a good number of corners which were very well defended by Sheffield, but the best chance of the half was created off a cross from the left which dropped in between the Sheffield defenders for Robyn James who forced Claire Wallhead into a brilliant diving save to palm the ball round the post.
In hindsight, the game probably turned on this incident as Sheffield won and scored two penalties in six minutes at the end of the first half. Great work by Suzanne Davies to carry the ball across the top of the box from the left side saw her powerful shot hit the raised arm of Emily Owen and up stepped captain Carla Ward to confidently drive the ball into the bottom left corner from the penalty spot. With just a minute of time left in the first half, Sheffield doubled their advantage when a clever turn by Leanne de Silva in the box drew the foul as she was clumsily felled by a Sporting Albion defender, and Carla Ward replicated her effort of a few minutes before to make it 2-0.
The start of the second half saw early chances fall to both teams: Wallhead again pulling off a fine close range save from an initial free-kick, before Jodie Michalska had a decent effort after more good play from Davies. Sheffield were still being asked to do the greater defending with Kayleigh Mitchell and Alicia Johnson both putting in important clearances to deny Sporting a foothold in the game. With 63 minutes gone, Sheffield got an opportunity to practice their new attacking corner routine and Ward’s whipped delivery from the right was met by Jodie Michalska who rose highest at the back post to nod the ball over the line for 3-0, much to the delight of the Sheffield bench.
A few minutes later, another great defending tackle from Johnson mopped up another Sporting attack and Amy Turner collected the ball and, seeing Carla Ward running into the space behind the Albion defence, played a brilliantly weighted early ball forward to pick out the captain who drove forward and lobbed the ball over the on-rushing keeper from 25 yards and into the bottom corner for her first ever league hatrick for the Club.
If Sheffield thought this game was over, they were wrong as a goal back from Sporting Club Albion just four minutes later re-energised the hosts and made for an interesting last 15 minutes. Davies and de Silva, both who had suffered knocks in the game, were withdrawn as a precaution, replaced by Aimee Johnson and Clare Holmes. A second goal for Sporting Albion just moments later to bring the scores to 4-2 really cranked up the intensity and Sheffield had to stay disciplined for the remainder of the game amid the increasing physicality and desperate tackling of the hosts, one of which led to the first yellow card of the game as Ward was clattered form behind with an off the floor challenge. Thankfully, Sheffield remained strong and saw out the final moments well to register a well-earned three points.
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