Salford City Lionesses came from behind to draw 3-3 at Warrington Wolverines in their first North West Women’s Regional League Division 1 South fixture.
Two goals in a three minute spell for the hosts gave them control before a stunning lobbed effort from Abby Bennett pulled one back for the Lionesses.
Little over a minute later the hosts’ lead was restored but Bennett again cut the deficit to one goal before half time, this time from the penalty spot.
Feiruz Abdullahi equalised in the 55th minute with a calm finish, and there was a great chance for Salford to take all three points with 15 minutes to go but Chelsea Wharton was denied by the Wolverines’ keeper.
Despite the draw, manager Shauna Duffy is confident that the Lionesses can use it as a starting point to grow from.
“We didn’t start very well, in particular we were struggling to get out of our own half to start off with so fair play to Warrington, they came at us really quick, hard, but we just had to settle into our game plan and as soon as we started to settle we started to dominate the game.
“Going into the second half we were more positive, more confident with how we wanted to play, how we wanted to get ourselves forward and that showed.
“We got the comeback, that’s what was asked of the girls at half time – get yourselves on an even playing field, get those goals, get them in the back of the net, and we’re only going to grow in confidence from there – and I think that showed; we were just unlucky towards the end not to finish our chances and I think that just left us a little bit short.
“I think going forward we can only brush that one under the carpet and grow from that, and it was a really good test to start off the league.
“I’m glad that was our opening game because we’ve got a lot to learn going forward now.”
The Lionesses in fairness started the game the brighter side, and Beth Tattersall found space and time at the top of the area in the third minute but could only fire wide before Wharton had a central free kick from 25 yards that landed on the roof of the net.
However it was the Wolverines who took the lead in the 13th minute. A throw-in was taken quickly on the right-hand side and Rach Dickenson kept her calm to place her shot into the bottom left-hand corner. That was doubled in the 16th minute as Salford stopped expecting a free kick to be awarded for a foul on Bennett, but Warrington played on and played in Steph Doran who curled a shot tight to the post, and beyond the reach of Duke.
Part way through the first half Duffy made a couple of changes as Abdullahi was introduced, and last season’s top scorer was soon on the attack as she picked up possession in the middle, drove forward and passed to Tattersall whose shot was saved.
Bennett tried her luck a minute later with a shot that was lifted over the bar, but only she will be able to tell you if it was a case of finding her range as just past the half hour mark she spotted Emma Wells off her line and audaciously lobbed her from 30 yards to pull the Lionesses back into the game.
The euphoria didn’t last long, however, as Warrington restored their two-goal cushion as a through ball split the Salford defence, and Rachel Unsworth slotted past Duke.
Plenty more action was still to come and with five minutes to go Bennett was on the end of a neat exchange of passes to open up for a shot, but the low effort was saved. Undeterred, she continued to have a go at the Warrington defence and in the 43rd minute she was taken down on the right-hand side of the area. The number 11 picked herself up, placed the ball down and stuck her shot into the bottom right with the keeper committed the other way to again put Salford within a goal of Warrington.
Half Time: Warrington Wolverines 3-2 Salford City Lionesses
Unfortunately half time had to come as the Lionesses had improved and finished the half better than they started it, but thankfully they came out in the same manner and within six minutes Wharton test Wells again with a free kick that was parried onto the roof of the net, but Warrington cleared the corner.
In the 55th minute though the Lionesses’ positivity paid off after Tattersall slipped a pass down the left for Abdullahi who had peeled free, and timed her run perfectly to calmly connect and place a low shot past the oncoming Wells to bring Salford level.
Similar quick passing exchanges were opening up more chances for Salford, and Tattersall was next to have a go as she shot wide just after the hour mark.
Nic Chatterley went closest for Warrington as she found her way into the area from the right, but Duke denied her twice with a double save at the near post before the resulting corner was cleared.
It was then the hosts’ turn to defend as Wharton hit a shot from outside the area which was blocked, and somehow ricocheted through to Abdullahi in the six-yard area. A good recovery challenge from a defender put the striker off her first shot, and the second was then blocked by the defender, on the goal line, although she probably didn’t know too much about the effort.
More space was opening up behind the Warrington defence and Tattersall was using her pace to exploit it. In the 75th minute she was taken down in the area, and Wharton this time stepped up to the 12-yard mark, however her spot kick to the right was read by Wells who got across and down to make the save.
She had an easier save to make six minutes from time as Bennett struck a free kick from distance, and both proved to be pivotal as both sides left with a point each.
Next up for the Lionesses is another away game, this time at Liverpool Feds Reserves next Sunday (KO 14:00 at Jericho Lane Football Hub, L17 5AR).