Leicester City Women 0 Lewes FC Ladies 1
In what was one of their finest team performances in recent seasons, Lewes Ladies claimed a place in the final of the FAWPL Plate final following a fine victory at Leicester City Ladies.
At times during this season, the Rookettes’ work-rate has not been reflected in positive results but it was a different story at Aylestone Park against their FA WPL North opponents, fourth in the table and only four league defeats all season.
City may have slightly edged possession during the first half, which is not to take anything away from the hard work of the Lewes players, but the game changed in the 51st minute when Sophie Domingo was shown a red card for a high tackle on Bex Thompson.
Both sides started out in a determined mood but Tammy Waine had to be alert to halt the run of the threatening Domingo in the second minute.
Six minutes later, the hosts were unfortunate not to take the lead when Nat Johnson’s shot from a corner was cleared off the line by Claire Capon’s outstretched leg, the defender knowing little about it until the ball bounced to safety.
Sian Heather and City’s Alex Madden both tested each other’s goalkeeper from a distance but with little effect, although Lauren Dolbear was called into action in the 21st minute, having to smother a more accurate shot from Madden following a defensive mix-up.
The game became a strategic battle of wits, with both formations cancelling each other out. The Lewes midfield were engaged in a tough battle with their counterparts which was something Kelly Newton and Katie McIntyre both particularly seemed to enjoy.
The best chance of the first half fell to Leicester in the 35th minute. Tammy Waine was booked for colliding with Madden and Shauna Cossens saw her free kick loop over the diving Dolbear but rebound off the far post, as Danni Lane’s defensive tackle ensured Jess Seaton could only screw the loose ball wide.
Capon and Sian Heather combined for Lewes in the 38th minute but Capon’s early shot was easy for City keeper Vanessa Kinnerly. Dolbear saved well from Cossens whilst Madden’s air shot whilst in a dangerous position, ensured half time arrived with the game all square.
Six minutes into the second half, the game changed. Thompson’s leg buckled as she fell under Domingo’s dangerous challenge just outside the area and referee Paul Kilbourne wasted no time in showing Leicester’s most dangerous player a straight red.
The players took time to settle but following a cry of “You’ve nothing to worry about Leicester” from the bench, City were confident it would only be a matter of time.
However, the impetus was switching to the visitors, with Danni Lane in particular making, use of the additional space in midfield. Patient work with Heather allowed Lane the chance to run at the City defence but as she reached the by-line, the cross was too deep even for Rebecca Carter, playing as the lone striker with characteristic energy.
The three players combined moments later with a similar outcome as the ball bobbled agonisingly wide of the far post out of Carter’s reach.
Lewes kept the pressure up and were rewarded in the 64th minute when Carter’s cross into the six yard area was met by Georgia Bridges who, despite the close attentions of Hayley James, was able to head the visitors into the lead.
Leicester’s game changed completely, with their composed and controlled passing game from the first half being replaced by one of mistakes and frustration.
Buoyed by the host’s troubles, Lewes pressed on. James’ last ditch challenge denied Lane after another neat combination with Heather and even Newton was allowed a header from a corner but steered it high.
City pushed at the end but couldn’t find a way through the Rookettes’ immaculate defence, with every player doing their bit at the back. The closing minutes went agonisingly slowly for the noisy Lewes support but the final whistle came with relief for the players and fans alike.
The players celebrated on the pitch at the end, no doubt reflecting on a result which had moments of good fortune but was more down to the spirit and determination of a group of players who gave everything for the cause.
The FA WPL Plate final will be held at Brackley Town FC, Northants on Sunday 23rd April v Huddersfield Town Ladies from FAWPL North. KO tbc.
Leicester City: Vanessa Kinnerly, Sophie Domingo, Jess Seaton, Nat Johnson, Holly Morgan ©, Charlotte Greenglass, Hayley James, Nicole Nymoen, Alex Madden, Shauna Cossens, Kayleigh Hillier.
Subs: Katie Wordell, Chan Robinson, Ellie Towers
Lewes: Lauren Dolbear, Claire Capon, Rachel Palmer, Katie McIntyre, Tammy Waine, Kelly Newton ©, Sian Heather, Becky Thompson, Rebecca Carter, Danni Lane, Georgia Bridges.
Subs: Kellie Larkin, Fliss Love, Hayley West, Lucy Apps