Ladies First Team vs. Stoke City (0 : 3)
FA WNL Cup
Three second half goals were enough to put Northern Premier Division table toppers, Stoke City, into the next round of the FA Women’s National League Cup at the expense of Sheffield FC with two goals from Hannah Keryakoplis either side of Cassie Hyde’s strike.
The game started in a flurry with Stoke looking to continue on their rich vein of form, having picked up two wins from their previous two games. The hosts made their intentions clear early doors, feeding the strikers at any opportunity and continually asking questions of the Sheffield defence.
Keryakoplis went close with a ball sent over the back line, but the striker couldn’t guide the bounce goal wards. Strike partner, Ashleigh Hayes, was next to knock at the door when a misplaced back pass allowed the forward the opportunity, but Club keeper Lauren Santoro stood firm to keep the scores level.
Millee Clarke almost caught the Stoke defence unawares when her cross almost looped in at the back post, but the Stoke keeper, Stacey Wright, had other ideas and managed to prevent a Club lead with a good save.
As the half wore on chances, were limited in spite of Stoke’s best intentions to feed their front two, and the teams went into the break on equal terms.
After the break, it was Sheffield who started the brighter, moving the ball well and finding space to play. Immediately from the restart, Millee Clarke was in behind with just City’s keeper to beat, but her attempted lob drifted inches wide of the onrushing keeper.
In spite of the bright start, Sheffield were not able to capitalise, and 10 minutes in, it was Stoke who would strike first. Faye McCoy profited from a defensive error and powered an effort goalward with Santoro saving onto the post, but unfortunately for Club, Hannah Keryakoplis was unopposed and on hand to volley home from ten yards and 1-0 to Stoke.
With the goal behind them, the momentum was well and truly with the hosts, and it was not long before one became two. A corner quickly turned into a goal mouth scramble and centre half Cassie Hyde was on hand at the front post to poke home for 2-0.
The game would be put to bed with just over 15 minutes remaining when a Stoke counter-attack would see Keryakoplis fed goalwards where she was able to wrong foot both the Sheffield centre half and keeper and slot home inside the near post.
Sheffield didn’t roll over and battled hard to the end, still looking to salvage something from the game. Jade Butcher had a golden opportunity with five minutes to go, climbing highest to get on the end of a Molly Johnson corner delivery, but the header was too close to Wright who made a strong save to preserve her team’s clean sheet.
Kyle O’Reilly, Sheffield’s manager, provided his thoughts after the match:
“Overall, we can’t have too many grumbles at the score line today. We knew exactly what to expect from Stoke, but we started sloppily and could have been a couple of goals down early on. Thankfully, we weathered the storm and got in at half-time on level terms.”
“Second half, we started well, seemed much more relaxed on the ball and, as a result, found ourselves playing higher up the pitch. At times, we put some good stuff together, but not consistently enough to really ask many questions of our opponents. In the end, Stoke’s persistence paid off and they rightfully move into the next round, and we wish them well in that.”
“In spite of the result, there are positives: we’ve been able to give senior starts to four youngsters who all worked their socks off, and overall, the group will learn from the experience of playing against a strong, physical and direct opponent who are very good at persisting and chipping away at you for 90 minutes. We now have to build on that experience and refocus for an important FA Women’s National League fixture this week-end.”
Photos courtesy of Paula Johnson.