Burnley FC Women v Loughborough Foxes

FA WNL Premier Division North

Padiham FC’s Arbories Ground (Ruby Civil Arena)

Sunday 8th March 2020

Following defeat away to Stoke City FC Women last weekend, Burnley FC Women needed to get back into a winning mentality and try to make back some lost ground on Sunday.

After a tricky first half in which both teams had strong chances but none were converted, Burnley took the initiative when Olivia Greenhalgh got her first goal as a Claret and late on a Loughborough defender deflected a Levi Rathburn cross into her own goal to give the Clarets a well-earned 2-0 victory.

Some early chances by Loughborough threatened to make the task somewhat difficult but a fine goalkeeping display by Emily Gibbins in the Clarets goal frustrated the visitors as she maintained a clean sheet.

The game started at a fast pace with both teams pressing forward in turn. Loughborough had the first good chance when a long ball floated into the Clarets area and a glancing header off a striker forced a quick reaction by keeper Emily Gibbins and ensured the effort was deflected over the bar. Gibbins then cleared a loose ball with her feet from the resulting corner.

The Clarets first attack saw Evie Priestley toppled in the area when she challenged a defender, but the referee waved away claims for a penalty.

Loughborough had the better of the early chances and continued to threaten the Claret goal, winning free kicks and a series of corners that were often cleared by desperate defending as the ball fell dangerously in the 6-yard box.

The Clarets finally got a foothold in the game and started to challenge the visitors. Emily Wilkinson raced down the left side and weighted a great cross for Priestley in front of the Keeper. An awkward bounce hit her arm and keeper Alex Stephens won possession.

Stephens was also instrumental in blocking the next Clarets attack. Priestley threaded a point perfect ball through the visitor’s midfield to Lizzy Hamer who raced towards goal. Stephens intercepted her yards outside her area and blocked the effort.

Further chances developed, Levi Rathburn drove a ball across the box where both Priestley and Nic Worthington slid in but were unable to connect and flick the ball into the net. The Clarets began to further strengthen their grip on the game, Priestley shot wide under pressure from a defender when she received in front of goal and Sarah Agger stretched the visitors defence with runs down the right flank.

Priestley gained the best chance as Hamer passed through and she went one on one. Stephens stood firm and saved Priestley’s shot with an extended arm.

Loughborough had a late chance in the half when their player of the match Laura Steel shot from the edge of the area and Gibbins reacted with a great diving save to maintain parity.

In the second half the Clarets grasped the initiative, but good chances were few. In one effort Rathburn fed through to Priestley in front of the goal but Stephens pounced and cut out ball. The visitors broke out and Gibbins was called into action to save at the near post.

Manager Matt Bee made a couple of substitutions to uplift the game. Kelly Halligan’s appearance soon impacted as she chased down a loose ball and crossed into the goal mouth where Olivia Greenhalgh neatly flicked the ball wide of Stephens and into the net. 1-0

The Clarets continually pressed forward leaving the visitors trying to break out, but good chances were few. Kenedy Owen shot from distance forcing Stephens to make a diving save and a goal mouth melee was cleared. Nicola Shirtcliffe worked down the left flank delivering balls into the visitor’s box, but Loughborough defended well.

Cara Bickett and Mel Brown were both solid in the centre of the Clarets defence and quickly repelled any threats to get Burnley back on the offensive.

The Clarets finally got a second goal as the game entered injury time. A long kick out from Gibbins was collected by Rathburn who ran wide of the keeper and passed across goal towards Priestley. A retreating defender got a touch on the ball and it deflected into the open goal. Final score 2-0.

A few weeks await Burnley FC Women with two home games at Padiham FC’s Ruby Civil Arena;

Sunday 15th March vs Hull City Ladies. Kick-off is at 2pm, followed by Wednesday 18th March vs Huddersfield Town Women. Kick-off is at 7:45pm. Entrance is £3 for adults, £1 for under 16s.

Photos credited to Keith Hamer Photography and Mike Worthington.