ALTRINCHAM FC LADIES (1) 1
WARRINGTON WOLVERINES (1) 1
a.e.t., Altrincham won 5-4 on penalties
Cheshire Women's & Youth League Challenge Cup First Round
Sunday, 25 January, 2015.
ALTRINCHAM FC LADIES: Lizzie Brereton, Sam Briggs, Louise Edleston, Heather Scott, Chloe Brereton, Gail Simpson, Annie Nelson, Georgia Plant, Aimee Gibson, Emma Booth, Tracey Blanchard Webb. Substitute: Becci Hailes
Report courtesy of Phil Taylor.
The Ladies welcomed the unbeaten League leaders to Mersey Valley for this League Challenge Cup First Round fixture. The pitch was damp and sticky but many thanks and much credit are due to Mersey Valley for their hard work in getting the surface playable.
Although historically results have gone the way of Warrington, games between the two sides have been entertaining affairs played in the correct spirit by two teams who like to play passing football.
Alty, lined up in a 3-4-3 formation. Lizzie in goal, with a back three of Heather, Louise and Sam. Annie, Chloe, Gail and Georgia across midfield. The attacking threat was provided, on this occasion by Tracey, Aimee and Emma.
Altrincham kicked off and were immediately on the offensive. In the very first minute Georgia advanced purposefully down the Alty left before delivering a ball into the box, where it took a desperate clearance to prevent Aimee latching on to it.
Keeping the pressure on and not allowing Warrington time and space to play, Altrincham forced a free kick on four minutes which resulted in Chloe, making her first start in some time, shooting just wide. The early breakthrough the Altrincham pressure deserved was not long in coming. After only seven minutes of play an insightful ball from Emma released Aimee, who drove the ball home.
Warrington are not top of the league and unbeaten for no reason, though, and were immediately on the attack, attempting to restore parity. Sam had to clear well to thwart a well-constructed attack but, on twelve minutes, the scores were levelled, a long pass splitting the home defence into an excellently timed run from the visiting striker who finished well, giving Lizzie no chance to make a save.
The play was now end to end as both teams tried to stamp their authority on proceedings. A free kick by Warrington, which passed over the Alty crossbar, being followed almost immediately by an impressive interception and pass by Emma which Aimee was just unable to finish.
At time, and despite the somewhat gluey surface, the football from both sides was a joy to behold, one move after twenty minutes involving slick interpassing between Georgia, Tracey and Aimee resulting in another effort which passed narrowly wide of the mark.
Again, a minute later, an incisive ball by Heather found Tracey, who was just unable to prevent her shot clearing the crossbar. All of the Altrincham players were performing excellently. Although a back three is not totally new, the defenders were staying tight and winning their challenges. Heather and Sam had the flanks sewn up tight whilst Louise was imperious in the middle of the three making a number of effective challenges.
Anything which went over or through the back three was tidied up efficiently and effectively by Lizzie. In midfield Gail, as per usual, was going about her business quietly and effectively, very ably supported by Chloe, playing in a somewhat unaccustomed central midfield role, who was breaking up play, winning headers and tackles.
The two wide players, Annie and Georgia were stretching play and causing the visiting defence all manner of problems with their strong running, pace and skill. Up front, Tracey, playing “in the hole” was, as usual, unsettling defenders with her incessant running and inspired link play whilst Aimee and Emma were proving more than a handful for the Warrington centre backs.
On thirty five minutes Lizzie made the first of a number of excellent saves, pushing away a shot at her near post. Three minutes later Heather applied great pressure to a Warrington attacker forcing her to shoot well wide. Clearly Warrington tails were up and Lizzie responded magnificently to deny a one-on-one chance which had been well created by the visitors.
Alty were being put under pressure but were resisting superbly with every player from front to back working hard to help the team through this challenging period. Where possible, the hosts were trying to get forward and the strong running of Georgia, Annie and Tracey, particularly when in possession, moved the ball away from the Alty goal and relieved the pressure somewhat.
In fact the final chance of what had been a pulsating first half fell to Altrincham, a strong header by Chloe being well saved.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM FC LADIES 1|
WARRINGTON WOLVERINES 1
Keith and his management team declared themselves extremely happy with the first half in which Alty had more than held their own, giving Warrington lots to think about. All that could be asked was that the players go out and deliver a second half like the first had been.
There was a small adjustment with Tracey moving further forward and Aimee moving into “the hole”. This is a role which she had fulfilled with some success on a number of previous occasions. It was apparent that Warrington had been somewhat galvanised by their half time discussions as they were very swiftly on the offensive, having kicked off the second half.
Becci, who had been introduced after half an hour of the first hal, had to make a telling contribution defensively, as early as the forty-eighth minute, to neutralise a Warrington attack. Altrincham were however equally intent on trying to secure a place in round two and once again some slick and incisive interplay involving Aimee, Tracey and Emma resulted in the latter shooting narrowly wide.
The Altrincham defence and midfield really came to the fore at this point, an impressive clearance by Sam being followed soon after by an excellent tackle from Louise and yet another good save by Lizzie. Gail and Chloe were working really hard in the centre of the park, closing down and getting their challenges in, whilst the two wide players tracked back to provide additional support. The front three were also working hard to close down the Warrington options.
Warrington, as one would imagine given their record and League position, are a very good side and the pressure was building. In the sixty-second minute Louise perpetrated a magnificent challenge to stop a Warrington attack in its tracks whilst, three minutes later, the impressive Chloe produced a superb defensive header to alleviate the danger at a corner.
Lizzie was again called into action in the seventy-fourth minute, pulling off yet another excellent save at her near post. This was turning out to be such a tight and competitive game that it would, in all likelihood take either a piece of magic or a lapse in concentration to decide it, both teams were playing so well as the game flowed from end to end.
Altrincham, it is fair to say, had been required to demonstrate more defensive fortitude in the second half with every player putting in everything they had. On eighty minutes it seemed, howeve,r that the deadlock had been broken when a Warrington shot travelled toward the back of the net. However Georgia appeared as if from nowhere to hook it off the line and away to safety.
This invigorated the home side and, once again, a good passing move, this time involving Heather and Tracey released Becci on the right flank whose cross was claimed at the near post. The quality of the football being played on what was becoming an increasingly difficult surface was a credit to both teams and also to referee, Mr Morais, who was officiating sensibly and allowing for the effects of tiredness and conditions.
Altrincham almost made a breakthrough in the ninetieth minute when a deft touch by Tracey very nearly freed Aimee but the Warrington keeper was brave and decisive in coming off her line to claim the ball. So ninety minutes was reached with the teams unable to be separated and extra time beckoned.
Despite the effort which players from both teams had put in previously, the first half of extra time did not show any drop in pace or commitment. Altrincham forced a corner on ninety four minutes from which Louise got a shot away which went just wide. The game continued to ebb and flow both teams attacking and defending with vigour.
On ninety-six minutes Lizzie again plunged to her left to make a superb save, only to produce an even better one a minute later, again beating away a fierce strike. In the final minute of the first period of extra time Lizzie came out bravely at the feet of a Warrington attacker, suffering what at the time seemed a nasty injury. Following consultation with first-team Therapist, Alan Ainsley, who was a spectator at the game, she continued, albeit in some discomfort.
It would be fair to say that the second period of extra time, in the main, belonged in an offensive vein, to Warrington with some extremely impressive defending from the hosts. Two minutes in, Louise executed yet another superb clearance. Almost immediately afterwards Lizzie produced probably the best save of the day, leaping and stretching to turn away a shot which was creeping under the bar in the far corner of the net. From the resulting corner Heather cleared off the line to maintain the equality of the score.
The tension and the commitment continued right until the end, Lizzie making yet another good save before the final Altrincham attack. A ball through the middle was converged upon by Tracey, a Warrington defender and the visitor’s keeper. Unfortunately Tracey was on the wrong end of things and was felled. This was a worrying time as both Alan Ainsley and a trained paramedic, who was with Warrington, raced onto the field to help John attend to the stricken player.
Tracey was eventually removed from the pitch where treatment continued for some time before an ambulance was called as a precautionary measure. All at Altrincham would wish to sincerely thank both Alan and our friend from Warrington for their prompt assistance and excellent care.
So the tie was to be decided by the lottery of a penalty shoot out.
Neither side deserved to lose the game, which had been a magnificent advertisement for Women’s Football.
Warrington took the first penalty which was stroked home with aplomb. The first Alty penalty was taken by Lizzie who, attempting to put it somewhere unsaveable, sadly narrowly missed the target. However, Lizzie more than made up for this by saving the second Warrington kick, diving full length to her right to push it around the post.
Georgia stepped up next to drive in an unstoppable penalty. Warrington’s third penalty was driven hard but over the bar. Aimee took responsibility for the third Altrincham kick, firing in an unstoppable penalty to give Alty a 2-1 lead The fourth Warrington penalty was comprehensively finished as indeed was Emma’s effort to keep Altrincham ahead. The final of the Warrington five penalties, once again was efficiently despatched leaving Altrincham needing only to convert their fifth spot kick to go through.
Annie stepped forward and drove a firm shot goalwards. The Warrington keeper stood her ground however to deflect the ball away.
As it had been from the outset it was proving almost impossible to separate the teams as the shootout moved into sudden death. The sixth Warrington penalty struck the post and deflected away whilst Heather was unable to convert Altrincham’s sixth effort. Lizzie got a hand to the seventh Warrington effort but was unable to keep it out. This meant that Becci had to score to keep Alty alive ; this she did confidently putting the ball in the corner. The fifteenth penalty of the shootout, taken by Warrington, was arrowing into the net until Lizzie flung herself upwards to knock it over the bar.
If Altrincham could convert their eighth penalty then their place in the second round would be secure. Up stepped Chloe, whose shot evaded the Warrington goalie and the tie was complete.
Both Management and Players' Player awards went to Chloe, whilst Warrington adjudged Lizzie to have been the most impressive Alty player.
However, every single one of the Altrincham players had been magnificent and all would have been worthy winners of any accolade. This had been an exceptional Cup tie played out between two footballing teams in excellent spirit. Tracey was released from hospital later on Sunday and is recovering well.
Next up for the Ladies is a trip to Crewe next Sunday.
Fitness and Conditioning Coach John McManus commented "I was very impressed with the Ladies' fitness but not surprised. The squad work very hard on the training ground which pays dividends on match days".
It should be noted that Warrington have a whole session per week dedicated to strength and conditioning, yet the Altrincham players matched them for the entire game.
And the final say on the game comes from Manager Keith Edleston., "Having watched a fair amount of football, from junior teams up to senior team level, I can honestly say last Sunday's game versus table-topping Warrington Wolverines (who have only lost one game in two years) put me through so many emotions I didn’t think were possible in a 90-minute game. With a squad of only 12, due to work/other commitment,s I thought we might be “up against it” but how wrong was I?
From the first minute to the last we competed with passion and belief that we weren’t going to get beaten and, coupled with our usual style of football, we took the game to them. Extra time came and went with the score still locked at 1-1 and penalties were going to be needed to separate the teams, who had been well matched throughout. The nerves we all had were put to bed and the game was won and the joy as all the players jumped on each other at theend to celebrate was fantastic to see.
I was so proud of each and every player who, throughout the season, has worked hard in training, some have had to bide their time for a chance but, on Sunday, went and took it with both hands. Also a quick mention about our Tracey who in extra time had a big collision with the Warrington keeper and had to go to hospital as a precautionary measure. Tracey is now up and about and I would like to thank all that helped her from both ourselves and Warrington to make sure that she was OK. This now gives me a selection headache for our next game but I think it’s one that I would prefer to have than not. See you down at Mersey Valley for our next home game. Up the Alty!
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM FC LADIES 1|
WARRINGTON WOLVERINES 1
after extra time, Altrincham won 5-4 on penalties.