Salford City Lionesses’ quest for the quadruple was cruelly brought to an end on Wednesday night by FC United of Manchester.
The Rebels won 4-0, with three goals in the last 10 minutes, to retain the Manchester FA Women’s Challenge Cup for a third season, although the game was a much tighter affair than the score suggests.
As expected it was a competitive game with some big tackles in early on, and in the seventh minute Ellen Thornton put in a well-timed challenge to deny Kirsty Chambers as she broke down the left. Unfortunately, some other challenges weren’t so well-timed and in the 10th minute Feiruz Abdullahi was brought down by a tackle from behind and forced off with what was later confirmed to be a broken ankle – everyone at the club wishes her a full and speedy recovery.
Undeterred, Salford carried on without their top scorer and in the 20th minute former FC forward Beth Tattersall had a good chance after forcing goalkeeper Chloe Ainsworth into a mistake. She took the ball round the keeper and adjusted her feet but her shot was cleared from off the line by Abbie Carrington.
Chambers had a go in the 23rd minute, cutting in from the left and reaching the area where she unleashed a shot, but it sailed well over Jess Duke’s goal and a couple of minute’s later Aimee O’Keefe shot from a tight angle on the right only for it to trickle past the far post.
There was little evidence that two divisions separated these sides as the half wore on, but neither side were capitalising on the half chances when they came. With seven minutes to go FC thought they had found a way in as Jess Battle rounded Duke on the right and pulled a ball into the middle where there would have been an open goal, but Nic Hamilton put in an excellent clearance to deny the holders an opener.
However they did manage to find a break through in the 42nd minute. A corner was cleared out to the right and FC delivered back into the middle where Emily Marsh had stayed up, and slid the ball low past Duke. A blow for the Lionesses but it had been a testing half for them, and there was hope for the second period.
Buoyed by a goal scored at a clichéd ‘perfect time’, FC started the second half on the front foot and Hamilton was forced to make another excellent challenge in the area. The loose ball was then slammed towards goal by a red shirt where Adora Yau blocked it off the line, and Salford cleared their lines.
That was the impetus the Lionesses had been looking for and they started to dominate the game from that point. In the 53rd minute Abby Bennett played a through ball up towards Tattersall and the captain knocked it round her marker to go one on one with Ainsworth. This was looking promising however the FC keeper was alert to the danger and upon Tattersall reaching the area she threw herself at the striker’s feet to smother the ball.
The Lionesses would go even closer though three minutes later, a break down the left and Mia Pemberton found herself in a shooting position from a narrow angle. She clipped the shot near perfectly to get it up and down from close range, but it just came of the top-left of the post and it was fine margins that were keeping FC in the lead. Thornton then had a half chance but couldn’t get enough power in her shot to trouble Ainsworth severely.
More chances were to come, and the Lionesses were really on top of possession. In the 72nd minute they won a second consecutive corner which Pemberton took from the right. It was well crossed in an Hamilton, having watched it all the way, stooped to head goalwards, but somehow FC managed to scramble it clear and behind for another corner which was cleared.
However from there FC, having sat back for large periods, had managed to recuperate enough energy for a last push. With 10 minutes to go Battle smashed a shot into the side netting from a tight angle after getting in behind, and being forced wide by Duke.
Salford were defending to the last, but in the 84th minute Chambers doubled FC’s lead as she broke forward down the right, cut in, and placed a shot into the far post. Two became three in the 89th minute as Olivia Greenhalgh got in on the action, and after Duke made a brilliant reaction saved in the 92nd minute, O’Keefe put the game well and truly to bed with a fourth in the 96th minute.
Full Time: FC United of Manchester Women 4-0 Salford City Lionesses
A harsher-looking defeat than was warranted for the Lionesses who fought well against a more physically imposing FC United side. While the quadruple hasn’t been achieved, the success that the Lionesses have achieved this season should not be forgotten as they did the GMWFL treble of League, Challenge Cup and Division 1 Cup; all in their first season.
Well done to all the girls, Shauna, Danny, Zarah, Sam and Megan for their efforts this season, you have been a credit to the club and we hope to see more from you all in the future.