Salford City Lionesses suffered a first ever league defeat at the hands of Chester FC Women who scored twice in the last 10 minutes to wrap up a 3-1 win.
The Lionesses were probably the better side on the afternoon in terms of possession and chances created, but The Seals were more clinical when their opportunities came, such is the way of football sometimes and it will be a lesson for Shauna Duffy’s side.
Both teams were level on points going into the afternoon, with Chester having played a game more, so it was an early opportunity for the Lionesses to gain some ground and within a couple of minutes Abby Bennett was searching for the opening goal with a shot from 25 yards, however it beat both the keeper and the post.
The hosts were keeping Salford at an arm’s length, although saw very little of the ball themselves, and in the 11th minute Feiruz Abdullahi was next to have a go as she again missed the target from Beth Tattersall’s assist.
Last season’s top scorer was making life difficult for Chester at the back, and a couple of minutes later they almost conceded a comical own goal as a misplaced back pass caught goalkeeper Ana Duran off guard. Luckily for the stopper and the culprit defender the pass trickled wide of the post.
Kayleigh Baker is still looking for her first goal after a move to the Lionesses in the summer, and she had two bites at the cherry in the 19th minute as a corner dropped for her. The centre-back’s initial shot was blocked though, as was the second as it re-bounded kindly for her. Ellen Thornton also threatened from a corner but headed Bennett’s cross wide.
Duran was being kept busy and in the 23rd minute had to react quickly to close down Tattersall who entered the box on the left with possession. The captain took the shot on, but it was smothered by the Chester keeper and the score remained deadlocked. Next it was Abdullahi’s turn as Belle Ainscough passed in field for the striker from the right, but her shot from a tight angle rippled the side netting.
After a lengthy break in play while a Chester player received treatment, the hosts started strongly and Ashleigh Bullock struck a fierce shot that was saved by Jess Duke, but normal service was soon resumed in the 34th minute as Charlie Shaw belted in an effort which was blocked and cleared.
However just a minute later the opening goal came, deservedly, for Salford. Tattersall played in Abdullahi on the left-hand side of the area, and she kept her cool to slot a shot past the oncoming Duran for her fifth goal in four games this season.
Something about going behind stirred Chester though, and with play back underway they won a free kick just inside their half. Lucy Adderley spotted Duke slightly off her line and went for goal, but Duke recovered well to tip the attempt over the bar and the corner was cleared.
Unfortunately it only served to prevent what was coming a little longer, and with five minutes to go until the break Chester were level as Rachel Lever crossed in for Sarah Gill to head past Duke having sneaked into the area unmarked.
HALF TIME: Chester FC Women 1-1 Salford City Lionesses
The second half resumed much in the same pattern as the first had taken with Salford dominating the possession. Tattersall was again trying to use her pace to get in behind and in the 53rd minute dispossessed Chester in the middle before driving down the right-hand side, but her shot was blocked in the area and ricocheted off her for a goal kick to Chester.
Bennett struck a central free-kick just wide of the top corner, not a bad effort, and the pressure continued for a while in the Chester half, but the hosts were hanging on and limiting Salford to half chances. Laura Tobin drilled a shot goal wards in the 72nd minute but Duran made an instinctive save.
There was a feeling that something spectacular or a moment of magic was needed for something to fall for the Lionesses and Ainscough nearly provided it 13 minutes from time. She burst forward from right back on the mazy run, evading a number of defenders and upon reaching the area she took the shot on, however it was deflected just wide of the far post and Chester dealt with the resultant corner.
It would prove to unfortunately amount to the best chance the Lionesses could muster, and as they pushed forward to find a winner they were caught out at the back. First up in the 81st minute Bullock made a run in behind on the left and composedly passed a shot into the far post, via the woodwork.
Five minutes later the points were wrapped up as Sarah Redman headed in at the back post from a corner.
The Lionesses still tried to look for a way back into the game; Molly Etchells and Jess Lawson both made runs in behind with no end product and Bennett had another free kick which went over, but there was nothing to show for the effort and the full time whistle was greeted with jubilant celebrations from the hosts.
FULL TIME: Chester FC Women 3-1 Salford City Lionesses
Sometimes it is the way in football, it can hurt at the time but the only way to change what’s happened is to put it right at the next chance. For the Lionesses that will be in two weeks’ time when West Kirby Ladies are the visitors to Partington Sports Village.