Salford City Lionesses secured a dramatic victory in injury time in a top of the table against Curzon Ashton Women on Sunday.
Goals from Annie Thomas and Laura Tobin had given Salford the lead before being pegged back by Curzon. However, Feiruz Abdullahi got the decisive goal that ensured the Lionesses went seven points clear of their opponents.
In what they knew was going to be a difficult encounter, Salford started very brightly as Abdullahi broke past the Curzon defence in the first minute on the counter-attack. She had time and space in the box but fired her shot across the face of goal, leaving Curzon keeper Alex Moon to watch it out of play.
Only two minutes later, Abdullahi broke past Curzon’s defensive line again but she mis-controlled the ball as she entered the box, allowing a Curzon defender to get back and clear the ball but Salford were controlling possession in the early exchanges.
However, the breakthrough came for Curzon first as their striker ran onto a lofted ball over the top. The referee waved away appeals for offside as the ball was slotted away past Jess Duke, giving the home side the lead against the run of play.
Only three minutes later though, the Lionesses had drawn themselves level. A ball into the box had created a goal mouth scramble with both Tobin and Thomas going for goal before the latter got the ball over the line, scoring her maiden Salford goal on her first appearance for the Lionesses.
Thomas continued to create problems for Curzon down the left-hand side, forming a good partnership with left back Charlie Shaw. The winger eventually played a one-two with Tobin but couldn’t get the ball out of her feet as she wormed her way into the box, allowing the home side to clear.
Thomas continued to pressurise the Curzon defence. It took a well-timed tackle to prevent the winger striking from close range, before a separate effort whistled over the bar.
Before the end of the half, the Lionesses had a great opportunity as Abby Bennett’s cross into the area found a flying Tobin who’s glancing header was saved well by Moon in the Curzon goal, ensuring the score remained level at the break.
HALF TIME: Curzon Ashton Women 1-1 Salford City Lionesses
Like the first period, the second started with Salford testing the Curzon defence and also the woodwork as Bennett’s free kick from 20 yards crashed against the bar with the keeper rooted to the spot in what was a sign of things to come.
After continuous efforts to carve their way past Curzon, Salford retook the lead as the Curzon keeper dropped a high ball in the box. Tobin proceeded to control the loose ball and, as the keeper scrambled to recover, fired home with her left foot as the hour mark approached.
Salford kept up the pressure and came close to a third as Bennett had a crack from long range but, for the second time in the half, her effort hit the bar rather than the back of the net as the Lionesses looked to increase their advantage.
This proved costly as the momentum swung back in favour of the home side who nearly drew level when their striker had a left footed effort saved by Duke, tipping the strike on to the cross bar.
Curzon did end up getting their equaliser, with the aid of the woodwork this time as a venomous strike inside the box hit off the underside of the bar and past Duke, pegging back the Lionesses who had been on top for a majority of the match.
It left the Lionesses to look for a winner and the remaining 20 minutes of the game was all one-way traffic but neither Tobin’s nor Ellen Thornton’s headers could trouble the impressive Moon in the Curzon goal.
But right at the death, the Lionesses made their pressure pay as the ball fell to Abdullahi inside the area, she lost her defender giving her a one on one with the Curzon keeper. Salford’s number nine duly took her opportunity, slotting home to send fans, players and staff into ruptures.
FULL TIME: Curzon Ashton Women 2-3 Salford City Lionesses
The scenes at the final whistle showed the importance of the win and the relief to all those involved with the Lionesses as they overturned one of their fiercest rivals in the race for the title. Salford went seven points clear with that win but Curzon, who have three games in hand, will be hot on their heels.
The Lionesses play Didsbury FC Ladies at Partington Sports Village next Sunday.