Ladies First Team vs. Fylde (3 : 0)
FA WNL Northern Division
A Rhema Lord-Mears' brace plus Milly Wortley’s fourth goal of the season secured Sheffield FC Ladies a hard-earned victory over third placed Fylde Ladies FC in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier division.
The Coasters and Sheffield had had contrasting seasons going into the game - Fylde sat in third place, their impressive season to date recording just four defeats in their 16 previous fixtures. Sheffield, on the other hand, started the day precariously above the drop-zone, looking to add to their four wins this season.
Injuries had resulted in a number of changes for the hosts: Lauren Santoro made her first start since December’s SSE Women's FA Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest, and Megan Clarkson started just her fourth appearance for Club, and her first at the Home of Football.
From the off, both teams set out to attack, Lord-Mears proving Sheffield's biggest threat in the early stages with a couple of good chances worked in Fylde’s final third, although neither shot truly tested Brittany Jackson in the visitor's goal.
A number of ex-Sheffield players lined up for the north-west club, and it was one of these, in the form of Emily Hollinshead, that threatened Santoro’s goal most. Good power by the winger allowed her to work the space, and her cross-cum-shot whistled past the far post.
Then came Sheffield’s first big chance - excellent work by Lord-Mears on 18 minutes saw her pick the ball up in her own half before driving forward and unleashing a thunderbolt from 25 yards, too powerful for Jackson to keep out, and into the top corner.
One up, and nearly a second. A brilliant ball into the channel for Molly Havard, was equally well delivered to the energetic Lisa Giampalma, but her shot was matched with an exceptional stop by the face of Jackson.
Fylde had the better of the remainder of the half from this point, knocking the ball around really well on the greasy surface. A number of corners and half-chances failed to really test Santoro in goal though who controlled her area well particularly on aerial balls.
Desperate to keep their excellent 2019 form going, Fylde came out strongly in the second half, and put the home side under real pressure. But for a couple of good Santoro saves, and an exceptional Molly Johnson challenge, the scores would have been level.
As the rain continued to beat down, Sheffield weathered the storm on the pitch, and doubled their lead on 74 minutes. Wortley received a pass in from Giampalma, and weaving in and out, the young midfielder calmly slotted past Jackson and into the bottom corner from 8 yards.
And moments later, it was three. Lord-Mears received the ball on the right, cut inside and hit another fierce shot which, in the increasingly difficult conditions, skidded under Jackson's body and into the back of the Fylde goal.
The visitors pushed for a way back into the game, but ultimately to no avail as the Sheffield back-line held firm, securing a valuable clean-sheet to add to an impressive forward display from the front line.
Sheffield FC manager, Calum Oakenfold, gave his thoughts after the game:
“It was a great result for us today. We've seen what a good season Fylde are having, and knew it would be a very tough test, but the players really understood what we were asking and carried it out excellently."
“We’re building on the results we’ve had recently, so to get another win and add to that is fantastic. The attitude and work rate was fantastic from the whole team, right the way through. We battled hard for the game in difficult conditions, but ultimately I think we got the result we deserved.”
Photos courtesy of Joe Smart.
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