Blues grab late equaliser against impressive Imps

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April 24, 2013 by bclfc

A deflected Kirsty Linnett strike five minutes from time gave Blues their second successive 1-1 draw in the FAWSL, this time at home to Lincoln Ladies. England winger Jess Clarke put the away side in front in the second half, and it looked like that would be enough for the three points, until Linnett was first to react to Mel Lawley’s excellent cross minutes from the end. Lawley herself could have snatched the win for Blues, but she blazed over in the dying stages of the game.

Blues started with the same eleven that began their WSL campaign away at Chelsea the previous week, and the early stages of the game was very scrappy, the vast majority of the game being a midfield battle between the two sides. Jo Potter tested England keeper Karen Bardsley twice from similar free kicks early on, but Lincoln grabbed a foothold and began to control the tempo, Remi Allen impressing in the centre of midfield. Blues were forced into a change midway through the first half, Lawley coming on to replace a dazed Izzy Christiansen, who suffered a nasty looking blow to the face after closing down a clearance in the Imps half. The young winger tried to carry on but it was clear she was suffering, and Lawley was brought into the action just before the half hour mark. Jade Moore hit a 20 yard effort just over the bar, but the best chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to Rachel Williams just before half time. England and Lincoln Captain Casey Stoney failed to react to a ball over the top which fell to Williams, but the striker dragged her shot harmlessly wide.

Linnett was introduced at half time for her home debut, replacing Emily Westwood and moving over to the right wing, with Lawley left and Williams down the middle. However it was the visitors who started the second half better. Blues struggled to keep possession on what was a blustery day in Stratford, which made it difficult for the likes of Potter and Moore to control the game as they did so often last season against teams at the DCS. Jess Clarke was looking dangerous up against Rachel Unitt, and she almost broke the deadlock on the hour, cutting inside from the right onto her left foot and bending a shot which looked destined for the bottom corner, until Hourihan pulled off a superb save low down to turn it round for a corner, from which the opening goal came. Carla Cantrell’s corner was headed back into the danger zone from ex Blue Precious Hamilton, and Clarke was quickest to react to the loose ball, swiveling and turning the ball past Hourihan. Hamilton forced another good save from the Blues stopper, and Cantrell put a free header from 8 yards wide in a spell where Lincoln could have been out of sight, but at 1-0 Blues always had a chance. Potter’s set pieces were proving to be threatening as always, and two in quick succession almost brought Blues level. The first was a cheeky attempt to catch Bardsley out from range, but the keeper was alive to her efforts. The second was floated into the area, and Linnett got to the ball before the onrushing Bardsley, but unfortunately for the home side the flick on just evaded Unitt at the back post. Katie Wilkinson was brought on for her home debut on 68 minutes in replace of Emily Simpkins, as Blues went for the goal to bring them level.

With time running out, it looked like Lincoln would hold on for an impressive victory, but as ever Blues kept going and got their rewards with five minutes remaining. Lawley, who had ran at Lincoln right back Sophie Walton a number of times during the second half, finally got the better of her, twisting inside the full back skilfully before delivering a tempting cross which Linnett was first to, and her shot deflected off Stoney’s shin before flying past a helpless Bardsley. The ever tireless Williams was again a devilish threat to the Lincoln back line, and on the stroke of full time she nipped in ahead of Amy Turner, before laying in Lawley inside the box. The England youth international steadied herself but sadly for the hosts her shot was off target, in which was the final action of a tight game. After an opening day defeat to Liverpool, the visitors will be disappointed not to have held on for all three points, but relieved that they are off the mark. In what will surely be a very tight season ahead, Blues will be relieved to have not been beaten, but will hope they are not looking back on missed chances in the opening two games of the season.

The next Blues fixture is a Continental Cup fixture, away to Bristol Academy on May 2nd, a 7pm kick off. The next home game for Blues Ladies is also a Continental Cup group game, which is a repeat of this match, with the Lady Imps revisiting Stratford on May 19th, a 2pm kick off.

Blues: Hourihan, Weston, Bassett (c), Harrop, Unitt, Christiansen (Lawley 27), Moore, Simpkins (Wilkinson 68), Potter, Westwood (Linnett 46), Williams. Subs not used: Earps, Torkildsen, Ballard, Haines.

Lincoln: Bardsley, Walton, Stoney (c), Turner, Martha Harris, Clarke, Allen, Megan Harris, Roberts (Bowden 69), Cantrell, Hamilton. Subs not used: Horwood, Kay, Bradley

Player of the match: Rachel Williams

For more on Blues Ladies visit http://www.bclfc.blogspot.com, or follow @celder7 and @c_pugh17 on Twitter

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