Sunday 11 March 2012
FA Women's Cup match
After a barren winter without so much as a kick of a ball in English womens football, the Lincolnshire sunshine set the scene for the Lady Imps as they embarked on their second season as a professional team.
However, they were unable to kick off with a win, as last year’s domestic treble winners, Arsenal secured a 1-0 victory in a close game in the fifth round of the FA Women’s Cup at Ashby Avenue.
Lincoln boss, Glen Harris named three new players in his starting line-up through Australian pair Collette McCallum and Player of the Match, Laura Alleway. Former Doncaster Rovers Belles midfielder, Precious Hamilton also made her debut for her new club.
Laura Harvey fielded a very familiar Arsenal side, with the heart of the England team on display for the Gunners. The one new addition for Harvey’s team was the returning Kelly Smith on the bench, who rejoined the North Londoners after spending recent years playing in the United States. An ankle, however, prevented her from making her comeback.
It was the visitors who started the brightest, with a flurry of shots in the opening stages, and on 10 minutes Kim Little came close to putting the Gunners ahead.
Naimh Fahey made a driving run down the left, sending a low ball into the box. Little was there to gather with her back to goal, before hitting the ball on the turn. Lady Imps’ ‘keeper, Nicola Hobbs was able to keep the scores level with a composed diving save.
However, it only took Arsenal until the quarter of an hour mark to find the back of the net. A lacklustre pass from Lincoln captain Casey Stoney gifted the ball to Dan Carter on the edge of the box.
Under pressure, Carter was able to scramble the ball to Ellen White on the inside right wing, where the England star drilled a powerful shot at goal. Hobbs was able to get both hands to the ball, but it was not enough to prevent the shot finding the far corner.
It was almost 2-0 six minutes later when Steph Houghton had the home fans ducking for cover. Her looping cross from the far right left Hobbs reeling as it dipped perilously close to towards goal. The home team were granted a reprieve from the crossbar though, as the ball skidded off the woodwork and trickled out for a corner.
Eventually Lincoln were able to settle and create a few chances for themselves. Jess Clarke and Precious Hamilton looked the most dangerous in front of Arsenal’s goal, but they were never able to craft anything more than half chances before the interval.
Arsenal were able to take the 1-0 lead in with them at the break, but despite a shaky start from the Lady Imps, they were growing into the game more and more as each minute passed.
The second half was a much less eventful affair, with sporadic half-chances littering 45 minutes which Lincoln spent camped on the edge of their opponent’s final third.
Harris tried to force openings by bringing on striker Carla Cantrell in the closing stages, but Harvey’s team were able to cling on to their slender lead and book their place in the next round.
Despite the loss, Harris was focusing on the positives from his teams resilient display. He said:
“We’re obviously gutted that we’re out of the cup, but if you look at it, we’ve pushed the treble holders all the way. I think we’ve frightened them to death, honestly. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from the girls.
“Early doors we had a little too much respect for them. Once they got the goal, it was a case of rolling our sleeves up”.