For their first official game of the 2016/2017 season in the Greater Manchester Women’s League Beechfield United Ladies were at home to Bolton Lads and Girls Club.
Before the match the players and officials of both teams held a minute’s silence for Zoe Tynan a player for both Manchester City and Everton Ladies who passed away suddenly last week. Beechy had just eleven fit players available for this Division One fixture and this meant three girls playing in unfamiliar positions plus the new team coach decided to try out a 4-5-1 format.
United’s first real attack came via a strong run down the left flank by Alicia Stretton who’s shot on target hit the post then following great link-up play between Sophie Wainwright and Rachel Griffin the latter saw her effort saved by the keeper.
Bolton Girls produced some good attacking moves and keeping the pressure on United took the lead in the 27th minute when a Bolton forward fired the ball over Beechy keeper Rachel Howarth’s outstretched hands and into the net following a corner.
Three minutes later after some good play down the right wing from Rachel Griffin United were back level when the ball was crossed into the area by Sophie Wainwright and a fierce shot by Ashleigh Spragg rebounded out of the keeper’s hands and Debbie Wright forced the ball over the line for 1-1.
Straight from the kick-off Bolton Girls were on the attack and forced a corner and Rachel Howarth pulled off a great save do deny the visitors the chance to retake the lead. Play quickly switched to the other end of the pitch and a chance was created for Debbie Wright whose powerful effort forced another mistake from the Bolton Girls keeper and Sophie Wainwright netted the rebound putting United 2-1 up.
The whole team was working hard to take full control of the game with United’s defence being well marshalled by Gemma Winterburn. More good teamwork resulted in Alicia Stretton making a strong run down the left flank and after she drifted into the penalty area produced a neat finish for United’s third goal.
For the first seventeen minutes of the second half Beechy had some serious defending to do as Bolton Girl’s piled on the pressure but United survived and finally produced a worthwhile move that resulted in Rachel Griffin racing down the right wing and her pinpoint cross was met by Alicia Stretton who hammered the ball into the top corner of the net for 4-1.
Following another first-class Beechy attack the Bolton Girls keeper made a fine save to deny Rachel Griffin a goal but the visitors hadn’t surrendered yet and reduced the arrears with their second goal.
By this stage the Beechy Ladies had run themselves into the ground but they were able to find another gear and attacking non-stop were rewarded when a cross from Debbie Wright set-up Alicia Stretton who completed her hat-trick and the scoring.
This was a superb all-round team performance from all eleven Beechy players who celebrated a fully deserved 5-2 victory. Voted Play of the Match was Lauren O’Neill.
United’s Team: Rachel Howarth, Rebecca Watkins, Lauren O’Neill, Gemma Winterburn, Krystal Hayward, Rachel Griffin, Sophie Wainwright, Gemma Ottiwell, Ashleigh Spragg, Alicia Stretton, Debbie Wright.