Salford City Lionesses made it through to the Manchester FA Women’s Challenge Cup quarter-finals after a convincing win against Manchester Rovers.
Chelsea Wharton and Laura Tobin both scored a hat-trick while Fliss Winters and Mia Pemberton both scored twice, and Abby Bennett, Becky Topping, Feiruz Abdullahi, Annabel Ainscough and Ellen Thornton each found the back of the net in a 15-0 win.
From the outset it was the hosts who dominated the possession and chances, and within a couple of minutes Beth Tattersall was denied from close range by the Rovers keeper, but it was only the seventh minute when Wharton struck her first of the afternoon; a dipping shot from the top of the box low into the bottom-left hand corner after Rovers struggled to clear a cross fully.
Three minutes later the midfielder would set herself up for a hat-trick after Rovers again struggled to deal with Salford’s intensity. Bennett had a cross-come-shot saved well by the keeper as it threatened to drop underneath the crossbar from wide on the left, and although the resulting corner wasn’t well delivered, possession came back to Bennett who again tested Rovers’ reactions with a goal-bound cross that was cleared. Unfortunately for Rovers, it again wasn’t convincing enough as Wharton won possession just outside the area before shifting the ball onto her left and curling a second into the left-hand post.
Wing-back Bennett was having a prosperous game on the left-hand side and ventured forward in the 13th minute, swerving her way past four players before squaring a ball across for her opposite wing-back Winters. The connection was sweet enough, and duly Winters watched as it settled in the back of the net.
A clinical period for Salford but it had been a wake-up call for Rovers who were losing sight of the game very quickly. The defence was busy again in the 14th minute as Tattersall and Tobin were both denied by brave blocks on the line, but a minute later Tobin’s persistence paid off. A swift move down the right-hand side culminated in the ball dropping for Tobin who lifted a shot up and over the Rovers keeper.
The visitors were finding it difficult to get much of a foothold in the game with the occasional break forward snuffed out by the increasingly tight unit at the back of Thornton, Nic Hamilton and Rach Smith, each keeping their discipline despite seeing such little of the possession in front of them.
Indeed as Salford kept numbers up the pitch, they kept the numbers up on the scoresheet. In the 22nd minute Winters, who won the competition with FC United of Manchester last season, drove forward on the right and picked out Tattersall at the back post. The captain’s shot was well blocked, and while Rovers were doing their best in the first phase it was the second phase that was a consistent Achillies Heel as the re-bounded effort fell for Tobin who had a tap-in to make it 5-0 and also set herself up for a hat-trick.
It almost came in remarkable fashion from a corner three minutes later as the forward dived towards the cross. Rovers again cleared that chance but didn’t close down Bennett on the edge of the area who looked up quickly, from left of centre, and hit a shot that dipped just under the cross bar and leaving the keeper with no chance, and even a keeper of top-flight quality would have struggled to keep that one out such was the accuracy of the trajectory.
The game was only half an hour old when Topping, on as a substitute and making her second appearance of the season, scored her first Lionesses goal. Abdullahi refused to give up on a through ball and chased it all the way to the touch line where she kept it in and pulled a pass back at Tattersall arriving in the area. Unselfishly, the captain looked up and squared across to Topping who thumped a low shot into the bottom-left hand corner.
Abdullahi’s footwork has been mesmerising at times this season, and it was on show in the 35th minute when, surround by four players in the area, she found space for a shot that had too much on it for the keeper to stop.
At this point it could have been easy for the Lionesses to take their foot off the pedal, but there was a hunger for goals and Pemberton scored a fine effort for her first since the opening day. It came after Bennett had a shot parried behind for a corner on the right which Pemberton took short into Abdullahi, whose shot on the turn at the near post was blocked. Possession fell back to Pemberton who took a shot in her stride coming in from the right and curled a great effort across goal and into the back post.
Half Time: Salford City Lionesses 9-0 Manchester Rovers
Credit where it’s due to the visitors who came out for the second period with smiles on their faces when the game may have been out of sight. Rovers have been in good form and had kept a club record five clean sheets in a row coming into today, but while that was now at an end they were still harbouring hopes of becoming the second team this season to score against the Lionesses.
That positivity soon faded as in the 47th minute Winters shot low into the far post to reach double figures for the hosts, but the defence were to thank for keeping it at 10 for a period as they denied Tobin a minute later, then Bennett after a super solo run down the left and Thornton from the resulting corner.
The hour mark brought with it another goal, this time Ainscough finishing off a clever move by the Lionesses. Winters had broke down the right-hand side a played a pass in towards Tobin at the top of the area, but the forward left it to run for Topping, taking out two defenders, and Topping nudged possession onto Ainscough in space on the left to guide home underneath the keeper.
10 minutes later Thornton, keen not to let the forward-minded players in the team take the plaudits, headed in a corner from Pemberton to score for the second game in a row.
The final 10 minutes then became something of a competition for hat-tricks, which Tobin won as she tapped in a saved effort from nearly on the line, but in the 81st minute Wharton also completed hers and in style and she received the ball on the volley before slamming an effort into the top corner. There aren’t many players who could profess to having scored a hat-trick entirely from outside the box…
Pemberton’s second came with 84 minutes on the clock, and after a nice phase of combination play with Abdullahi. Started on the left, the winger played a ball down the line for Abdullahi whose first instinct was to turn and drive towards the area. Having found her own route to goal blocked, she looked up and picked out the run of Pemberton who cooly swept into the far post to make it 15.
In the dying stages, the Rovers defence were still hanging on to keep the scored as it was and brave goalkeeping denied Tattersall and then Bennett, before Bennett stabbed the third effort wide of the post.