Salford City Lionesses’ winning campaign continued on a soggy, windy afternoon up in Wardle as Rochdale AFC Ladies were beaten 14-2.
The elements were no friend in this game as severe winds bit across the hilltops, accompanied by piercing, icy rain at times, and as a result it took the game a while to get going. In truth there was probably little ‘neat’ football played in the style that we’ve been used to seeing from the Lionesses but they weren’t deterred and found a way of battling through the conditions.
A switch of ends before the game meant that Salford were shooting up hill and into the wind and rain in the first half, giving Rochdale the advantage of the wind. However it was the Lionesses who created the first chance after 13 minutes. Annabel Ainscough passed a well weighted ball up the right-hand side which Beth Tattersall whipped into the area. Laura Tobin arrived to meet it just inside the near post and about eight yards out, but she couldn’t quite connect and the hosts cleared their lines.
Salford continued to try their luck at moving possession through the thirds but if it wasn’t the wind blowing the ball back, it was a muddy pitch making passing difficult and unpredictable. In the 17th minute, Phoebe Duckworth made her way forward on a diagonal run from the left and was fouled rather cynically on the edge of the area in a central position. Feeling confident, Abby Bennett stepped up and struck a powerful low shot into the bottom right-hand corner to give the visitors a lead.
A clever bit of thinking from the midfielder not to battle the storm, however they would play their part aplenty throughout the game, starting with Salford’s second. Again Duckworth was involved and this time on the right as a cross was lifted into the area, high, and dropped in the six-yard box where Rochdale’s number five was unfortunately positioned to have the ball bounce off her back and into the net.
Within a minute though Dale had one back as a clearance at the back for Salford was caught in the wind and dropped for the right winger who drove into the area and slotted a low shot into the far post to make it 1-2.
Having missed an earlier opportunity, Tobin was keen to make amends and just before the half hour mark she arrived in the box in good time and caught Mia Pemberton’s cross from the left cleanly to restore Salford’s two-goal cushion.
The howling wind continued to intensify, but it wasn’t a distraction for Dale’s keeper who can be commended very highly for keeping the score down. However she was again beaten by her own player in the 38th minute as Feiruz Abdullahi slammed a shot in from the right that was destined to go wide until it came off the defender attempting to make a block and wrong footed the number one before nestling into the goal.
Half Time: Rochdale AFC Ladies 1-4 Salford City Lionesses
There was an unsurprisingly short turnaround for half time with little shelter from January’s finest conditions, and both sides eager to get the game over and a warm shower. Not waiting around, Salford were sharply out of the blocks and within a couple of minutes – now shooting downhill – made it 1-6.
Duckworth already had an assist to her name and went one better on this occasion, driving down the right and steadying herself to cross the ball into the area but instead of the ball coming off a defender it was the wind that blew the cross underneath the crossbar and in for a spectacular goal from a narrow angle. It wouldn’t be the last spectacular either, but for now Pemberton slid a pass down the left-hand side for Abdullahi who latched onto the ball, skipped past a challenge and side-footed the ball in for number six.
More swathes of attack followed for the Lionesses who boasted the momentum and 10 minutes later Duckworth made it 1-7 with a lovely curling effort from the top of the area which left the keeper with little chance. Even in fine conditions reaching that one may have been a struggle…
Duckworth had another a minute later, this time a thumping effort from a more central position that dropped just under the crossbar and rolled down the back of the net. The wind may have adjusted the path of the shot but there was no doubting the power, and there was starting to become a lot less doubt about the outcome of the match as on the hour mark as Pemberton hit a shot after cutting in from the left-hand side, and a bounce at the near post deceived the Dale keeper to beat her at the near post.
This was becoming a very destructive 10-minute spell with Abdullahi making it 10 in the 62nd minute. Bennett was the one this time who broke forward and committed both a defender and the keeper before laying the ball off for Abdullahi who had a simple tap-in.
Rochdale’s determination wasn’t hampered and they pulled one back in the 64th minute as a long ball up the left-hand side caused a bit of confusion at the back for Salford, and the forward was allowed to get one-on-one before keeping her cool to again slot into the far post. Three minutes later a mistake of their own led to Rochdale falling further behind. Pemberton swung a cross in from the left-hand side which the keeper spilled, and patience paid off for Abdullahi who was waiting at the back post to tap into the empty net.
More attacks formulated as some occasional spells of sun broke through the clouds, but it wasn’t until 76 minutes that Salford scored a 12th, and it was Duckworth again who hit a shot from the top of the area after being played through the middle which had too much power to stop.
Into the last 10 minutes and a hint of frustration was starting to creep in for Rochdale with a foul on Bennett on the edge of the area resulting in a free-kick. This time Ellen Thornton put herself forward and the confidence paid off as she attempted an audacious chip from just 20-yards that bounced off the underside of the crossbar and in, maybe the most sublime bit of play all afternoon!
The final bite of the afternoon was from the visitors as a nicely worked move was finished off by Tobin who hit a confident striker into the bottom left to round the game off.
Full Time: Rochdale AFC Ladies 2-14 Salford City Lionesses
It wasn’t the best of afternoons to play football on, and the conditions were far from ideal so well done and thank you to both sets of players, staff and supporters for playing and staying out to watch the match!