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Penalties had to be the difference as Salford City Lionesses were knocked out of the Manchester FA Women’s Challenge Cup by West Didsbury & Chorlton.

A thrilling 90 minutes culminated in a 3-3 draw with Salford taking the lead, falling behind, going back in front only to be pegged back again.

It’s always a lottery from 12 yards, and despite a heroic performance by Jess Duke between the sticks, West progressed after scoring two to Salford’s one after five attempts.

“I think overall you’ve got to be proud of the whole performance,” said manager Shauna Duffy afterwards. 

“I think going into half time we were positive, we were happy with how we were playing. We knew before the game that they were going to be the toughest opponents we’ve faced so far this year being the league above so it was always going to be difficult. 

“Coming out after that we played positively, we were trying to take more chances than in the first half and I think we were successful in doing that, obviously the goals started to come, we were playing with confidence and ended up going in the lead, but we were unlucky to concede and take the draw. 

“Given five minutes longer I think we would have got the win, we were putting the pressure on massively and we were really, really unlucky not to get the win at that point. 

“Penalties it is what it is, it’s always going to be 50-50 and it just wasn’t our day today so well done to West Didsbury & Chorlton for getting through to the next round.”


The game started perfectly from the Lionesses’ point of view as Abby Bennett broke the deadlock in the seventh minute. Possession came to the midfielder on the right-hand side of the area after West struggled to clear their lines, and a clinical strike nestled in the back of the net to give Lionesses the advantage over their higher league opponents.

However West were settling into the game, and unveiled one of their weapons in a long throw-in which came in from the right. Amy Vyas wriggled free to find space and bring the throw down, but her shot was saved by Duke.

Despite enjoying a lot more possession, West struggled to fashion any chances of real note. In the 23rd minute they hoisted a free kick in from the left but it was a routine save for Duke at the back post.

A minute later Salford won a corner thanks to Beth Tattersall, but it was delivered too close to the keeper and West broke forward. Jami Hodges found herself one-on-one with Duke, but dragged her effort wide to the disappointment of her team mates.

The equaliser which their control of the game had possibly warranted arrived soon after. Molly Etchells was enticed into bringing the tricky Hodges down right on the edge of the area, with Shauna Edmondson confidently stepping up and slamming a penalty into the roof of the net.

Laura Tobin had a chance to restore Salford’s lead before the break with a low shot from the top of the area that bobbled wide, and her opposite number 10 Ellie Caddick fancied her chances from a free kick 30-yards out but Duke was equal to the powerfully drilled effort.

All square at the break, but the Lionesses came out the brighter side in the second half with half time substitute Stacey Barley injecting some fresh enthusiasm to get forward.

Unable to convert half chances into any attempts, West punished the Lionesses with 58 minutes on the clock. Again it was Hodges causing problems as she made a run in behind the Salford defence and curled a shot past Duke.

A rare moment in the final third, but Salford heads didn’t drop although they couldn’t take advantage of three corners in succession a matter of minutes after. Feiruz Abdullahi was introduced to the game and set about making life difficult for West at the back.

She was instrumental as the Lionesses drew level with 20 minutes remaining, her run in behind and shot forcing goalkeeper Leah Fish to come out and parry the ball straight into the path of Tattersall. The captain has scored an impressive eight goals in her last two games and made that nine in three as she calmly stroked a shot into the open net to level things up once more.

From the restart Salford set about to win possession back and Abdullahi was denied by Fish again before Antonia Carta half-volleyed a shot wide after West failed to clear a corner convincingly.

This was a promising spell for Salford and in the 77th minute they deservedly took the lead for the second time in the game. This time Tobin provided the assist which sent Tattersall racing through one-on-one, afforded time and space behind the visitors’ defence, and Fish was left stranded as Tattersall picked her spot and nailed it with a well-taken shot.

Two goals in seven minutes had turned the game around, and last season’s finalists were looking good for progression until an equaliser for West in the 79th minute. A long ball up field was picked up by a suspiciously positioned Hodges, but the winger played on with no whistle audible, turned, and found the far post to make it 3-3.

Within a minute the ball was up at the other end again as Tattersall was denied a hat-trick before Abdullahi was kept out. She then had an effort smothered by the keeper after being played through, and Barley went close with an effort from the top of the area that bounced wide of the post.

Certainly on the balance of chances Salford have the better of the 90 minutes, but it was to be penalties at which point a game becomes a lottery.

Both keepers played their part with important saves, particularly Duke who got her hands to all three of West’s ‘missed’ efforts, but it was a save by Fish to deny Abdullahi which ended the contest and sealed the Premier Division side’s progression in the competition.

FULL TIME: Salford City Lionesses 3-3 West Didsbury & Chorlton 

There’s a lot for the Lionesses to take heart from, West are a strong outfit from the division above so to have had chances to win the game in normal time and restricted the visitors’ efforts to a minimum is a good testament. Maybe there was an element of revenge for West,  whose reserve side we beat on the road to the final last season.

On the other side that leaves just the league to play for, which is certain to be competitive from now until April. If today’s performance can be repeated on a consistent basis, then there’s little doubt that Salford will be up at the right end of the table.