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Jess Lawson, Salford City Lionesses, Salford City Lionesses 5-2 Didsbury FC LadiesSalford City Lionesses maintained their lead at the top of the NWWRL Division 1 South with a 5-2 win against Didsbury FC Ladies.

Striker Jess Lawson scored her first hat-trick for the Lionesses amongst goals from Beth Tattersall and Laura Tobin, but to begin with the game wasn’t so straight-forward.

Didsbury haven’t played too much yet this season, today being just their fifth league game of the campaign, but since an opening defeat to Warrington Wolverines they were unbeaten in three and had won their last two.

The visitors made a decent start too, putting pressure on the Lionesses and playing very much on the front foot. It nearly paid off in the sixth minute when an effort from outside the area was fumbled by Jess Duke, but the goalkeeper just about recovered in time to stop the ball crossing the line.

That disappointment was compounded a minute later when Salford took the lead with their first attack of the game. Duke rolled the ball out wide and possession was worked to Tattersall on the right-hand side who, after breaking into the area, unselfishly squared for Lawson who finished emphatically past Fran Singleton.

Perhaps unjust for Didsbury, and they will have been relieved to equalise within a minute. Jade Malone thumped a shot from around 20 yards out which dipped between the crossbar and Duke to level things up.

Salford steadily grew into the game, and Abby Bennett tested Singleton with a low drive that the keeper saved with 12 minutes on the clock. Seven minutes on and she did even better at full stretch to deny Lawson a second.

Things settled down for a period, but the Lionesses edged themselves back in front on the half hour mark when Tattersall finished off a quick move that originated from the back. More like the rhythm we’re used to seeing, they opened up a two goal cushion when Lawson – starting for the first time in nearly a month – dipped Singleton from 25 yards out, via the underside of the crossbar.

There was one more decent opening of note before the break as Feiruz Abdullahi diverted a cross from Tobin across the face of goal, but instead of finding the back post it flew just wide.

HALF TIME: Salford City Lionesses 3-1 Didsbury FC Ladies

It was a much better start to the second half for the Lionesses and Phoebe Duckworth had a similar chance to Abdullahi, which met a similar fate as she shot across the face of goal and wide.

However in the 52nd minute Didsbury had a goal back. There was a hint of offside as a ball was played forward from the back, but the visitors played on and a square ball to the right for Megan Armstrong was accurately flashed back across Duke into the left-hand post. An immediate response from the Lionesses saw Bennett again go close, but her shot from outside the area bounced wide. 

Only a couple of minutes later though the two-goal lead was restored. Abdullahi was brought down in the area after cutting back inside of her marker, and generously allowed Lawson to take the spot kick. Having scored an emphatic penalty at Burscough a couple of weeks ago, this one followed suit and Singleton had no chance of reaching a powerful shot into the roof of the net. 4-2.

The game really settled down from that point onwards, although remained somewhat entertaining with some flair and creativity despite the lack of chances. Still searching for a goal this afternoon Bennett tried her luck from outside the area but the shot dipped over the crossbar.

A fifth goal duly arrived after some pressure from Salford won a corner on the left. Lawson delivered a teasing ball right into the mix in the six-yard area, and after Didsbury failed to clear Tobin popped up to poke the loose ball past Singleton and round off the afternoon’s scoring.

FULL TIME: Salford City Lionesses 5-2 Didsbury FC Ladies

The lead at the top is now seven points after Curzon Ashton leapfrogged Warrington Wolverines into second with a 4-1 win there. The Nashettes still have three games in hand which are out of Salford’s control, but what is in the Lionesses’ hands is how they perform and although today wasn’t a performance quite at the best we know, it was effective and got the job done.

A mention too for the defence who have been better than the one clean sheet they have kept this season, and who finished the game this afternoon with wingers at centre-half and full-back. A few injuries are limiting the Lionesses’ options, but the versatility being shown is tremendous and can hopefully continue in the three games before the winter break. Next week is the reverse fixture as we travel to Didsbury before hosting Liverpool Feds Reserves and travelling to Northwich Vixens. 

Today though marked the halfway point of the season with 10 games played in the league and we sit top with eight wins, a draw and a defeat. 65 goals scored in that time too means that the half term report can quite happily come back marked ‘A’. Of course there are areas for improvement, but life at this level has been adapted too quickly and an exciting second half of the season awaits… 

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