Womens FA Cup sixth round
Doncaster just got a little bit closer! Lincoln Ladies today became the first club to book their place in the FA Cup semi finals. It’s the furthest the club have reached in the famous old competition since the 2008 season, when they again reached the last four. If Lincoln continue to play like this then there is every chance that they could go one better, and reach the club’s first ever FA Cup final.
Today Lincoln faced opposition from a lower division in the form of Leeds United Ladies. However Leeds are having a great season in the National Premier division. They are sitting in third position in the table, into two cup semi finals and are scoring goals for fun. Although they are in a lower division, they did have the advantage of having been playing competitive football together since August whereas Lincoln only had 90 minutes of competitive football under their belts, that being the victory over Chelsea in the last round. Just to really add some spice to the game, Lincoln manager Rick Passmoor left Leeds to join up with Lincoln in the summer. Furthermore Lincoln have the former Leeds players Carla Cantrell, Remi Allen, and Sophie Bradley among their ranks. So all in all it had all the hallmarks of a classic cup tie as the pundits would say.
Some meetings go down in history as the place where it all started. Rugby League was formed at the George Hotel in Huddersfield, Robin Hood and his merry men are said to have hatched their plans around the Major Oak, deep in the heart of Sherwood Forest, and so on. Today at Sincil Bank, before the match, the first ever meeting of the Lincoln Ladies supporters club took place. Names were put to faces and representatives elected in what was a very successful first meeting. More details will be announced in due course. I was very impressed with the work that has already been put in; things are really taking off. From small acorns great oak trees grow and all that.
Today we were treated to an early kick off as it gave the ground staff an extra few hours to get the pitch ready for Lincoln City’s clash with Cambridge United on Monday. Despite this, there was a decent turnout with quite a few fans making the journey from West Yorkshire to support Leeds. Although it was a bit chilly at least the sun was out which is a huge improvement given how bad the weather has been for the past few days/weeks/months/since I can remember.
Given that Lincoln have a small squad and wasn’t a huge surprise that the lined up was exactly the same one that despatched Chelsea in the last round. The danger girl for Leeds was their number 9 Carey Huegett who has bagged an impressive 19 goals this season in all competitions.
Lady Imps line up was (4-4-2) Karen Bardsley in goal. A back for four of Bonnie Horwood at right back. Casey Stoney and Sophie Bradley in the centre, and Martha Harris at left back. A midfield consisting of Jess Clarke on the right, the central pairing of Megan Harris and Remi Allen, with Emily Roberts on the left. Up front the Imps had Precious Hamilton, and former Leeds striker Carla Cantrell.
|Oi! never mind tweeting the game has started! ;-p|
Leeds United took the kick off but Lincoln were all over them right from the start closing them down and forcing them into mistakes. The home side penned in their visitors, and in the early moments both Precious Hamilton and Jess Clarke got in great crosses that Leeds failed to deal with, but unfortunately for Lincoln nobody was there to follow up. Shortly after Lincoln had their first real chance at goal when Carla Cantrell received the ball with her back to goal, turned on the spot and blasted just wide of the post. Jules Draycott in the Leeds goal was diving that way so I will give her the benefit of the doubt and say she may have had it covered, had it been on target. There was no let up for the visitors as a few minutes later Bonnie Horwood played in a great through ball to Jess Clarke, who beat the full back only for her shot to hit the side netting. One of the keys to winning football matches is to score when you are on the front foot and in the 15th minute Lincoln got the goal their play had deserved.
Leeds had been causing much of their own downfall by giving the ball away in their own third of the pitch, but their luck ran out with Lincoln’s first goal. A long ball was sent forward which Precious Hamilton gave chase to. The defender tried to shield it back to the keeper as it bounced, but Precious got round her and with the keeper stranded she calmly headed it over her and into the back of an unguarded net to give Lincoln the lead. Lincoln continued to win a series of corners but were unable to add to the score as Leeds dug in and weathered the storm. The game had started to become scrappy so to try and mix it up, the Imps wingers Clarke and Roberts switched flanks to give the Leeds full backs something else to think about. On 28 minutes Leeds mounted their first real attack which gave Karen Bardsley her first action of the game when she took the resulting goal kick.
It was Roberts who set up the next really good chance for Lincoln; she forced yet another corner, which Carla Cantrell swung in, but Leeds only partly cleared it as far as Casey Stoney, whose looping header hit the bar, and the ball was scrambled to safety. The Imps almost doubled the lead on 38 minutes when Carla Cantrell played a great ball to Precious who, after a wonderful piece of skill which flicked the ball around the defender, she hit a tame shot straight at the Leeds keeper. Then on 42mins it was 2-0, as Precious grabbed her second of the game when she broke clear of the defence and unleashed a fantastic effort into the top corner to give the score a more realistic outlook.
Leeds came out for the second half in much more determined mood and could have made it 2-1 in the first few moments when they won a free kick down the Lincoln left which was swung in, and went all the way through to the back post where it was (thankfully from a Lincoln point of view) headed over. This did seem to be the wake-up call Lincoln needed, and they were soon on the front foot again and on 66 minutes they thought they had added a third goal when Jess Clarke set up Carla Cantrell, but she was adjudged to have been in an offside position. Jess was at it again moments later, when she dispossesed Leeds full back Emma Lipman (who was one of Leeds’ better players on the day) and ran to the by-line, but not for the first time in the afternoon her cross evaded everybody.
Then on 73 minutes Leeds created their best attack of the game. A fantastic through ball split the Lincoln defence and let Leeds’ Danielle Sheen clean through on goal. Thankfully Martha Harris got back and produced a fantastic last ditch tackle to send the ball out for a corner; a corner that Leeds promptly hit straight into the side netting.
It took Lincoln until the 79th minute to make the game safe when Jess Clarke was bundled over in the box. Remi Allen stepped up, sent the keeper the wrong way and put Lincoln in the semi finals of the FA Cup. I didn’t get chance to take a picture of the penalty but I did draw a quick sketch of it in my note pad for you all.
Lincoln completed the score-line just four minutes later when Carla grabbed the goal that her efforts deserved with a thumping volley into the roof of the net from 12 yards out. Moments later, Precious could have had her hat-trick but her effort was hacked off the line.
All in all this was a solid performance from the Imps. Right from the off they imposed themselves on the game and closed Leeds down, making it very hard for them to play. In my humble view I think Leeds froze a little on the day and didn’t really do themselves justice. They did work incredibly hard, but they just had no real answer to Lincoln’s pace on both flanks. Their keeper Jules Draycott had a great game and was easily the player of the match for the Whites. For Lincoln it was more difficult to pick a player of the game, but I will go for Precious Hamilton as it was her great finishing that got Lincoln going and her all round play was fantastic. Pushing her for the award would have been Jess Clarke or Carla Cantrell; who seems to have really improved this season. Again like in the last round, nobody had a bad game and long may that continue.
The Lady Imps have a week off next weekend as its international week with England locking horns with Canada. The following weekend (Sunday the 14th) The FA WSL finally gets underway with Liverpool making the trip over to Sincil Bank for the first match of the season (2.00pm ko). The week after sees us travel to Birmingham City Ladies for a Continental Cup tie (again a 2.00pm kick off). The supporters club will be running transport to the match so to book your seat just email Tom at email@example.com.
As I have been writing this drivel, the semi finals for the FA Cup have been made and the draw is as follows.
Bristol Academy or Everton Ladies v LINCOLN LADIES
Liverpool Ladies v Arsenal Ladies or Birmingham City Ladies