A crisp, sunny afternoon at St John Fishers School saw Harrogate Town AFC Ladies entertain Altofts Ladies, looking to avenge an early season 1-0 defeat.
The importance of this fixture was difficult to underestimate – defeat would suggest Towns chances of winning the League Championship would be pretty much all over, whereas victory would enable Town to move back to top spot in the League and leave their destiny in their own hands.
In the end, Town produced their most exhilarating performance of the last 18 months with all 14 members of the squad participating in an outstanding victory that was a great advert for Ladies football.
The game started at a furious pace, with no prisoners taken on either side, with both teams testing each other in the first ten minutes. The first real chance came on 10 minutes when Jade Pennock, conjuring memories of “that” Maradona wonder goal, dribbling through the Altofts midfield and defence before placing her shot agonisingly wide of the post.
Five minutes later, in a similar scenario, Pennock latched on to a bouncing through ball and with the keeper coming out to narrow the angle she smashed the ball into the top corner of the net – ecstasy on the field of play and first blood to Town. The second goal followed soon after, following a pinpoint corner from Katie Rowland, a melee in the box, and a combination between Grace Foyer and Lindsey Whitton, with the latter lashing the ball into the back of the net from 6 yards. With Town now in irrepressible form it was no surprise when, with 30 minutes on the clock, Sophie Tinson completed a dazzling run, smashing a left foot finish past the goalkeeper who was given no chance.
Town were now in dreamland but Altofts Ladies weren’t for giving in – tackles flew in from both sides as control of the midfield became a war of attrition. The referee did well to keep things under control and it was left to player of the match Lucy Faraday, in what can only be described as a dream debut, to calm things down and bring some order to proceedings.
Meanwhile Town continued to create chances with both Rowland and Hulme causing problems down both flanks, and Town would undoubtedly have extended their lead had the Altofts keeper not been on top form.
The halftime whistle came and Town were comfortably ahead 3-0 but knew that it would be important to maintain the first half tempo throughout the second half – and so it came to pass!
In a turnaround from the week before against Guiseley, Town started the second half on the front foot and were 4-0 up within the first 60 seconds. The ever-impressive Jade Pennock robbed the centre half of the ball in midfield following a crunching tackle, and left with the keeper to beat, she finished with clinical precision in the bottom left hand corner.
Wingers Katie Rowland and Caz Hulme then deservedly got on the scoresheet with great strikes before the hour mark to put the game to bed. Town still had chances as Rachael White was twice thwarted by the Altofts goalkeeper, making two exceptional saves from two crisp volleys. With the Town defence in outstanding form goalkeeper Kelly Jackson wasn’t really called into action until the last minute when a free kick in a dangerous position was well handled as Town saw out the game and recorded their fourth consecutive League clean sheet – a testament to the “Scrooge like” meanness of Foyer, Whitton, Davies and Jackson.
In short a thoroughly well deserved win for the battle scarred Town Ladies, with an all round team performance that left supporters looking forward to the forthcoming “derby” fixture against second placed Harrogate Railway Ladies on Sunday 10th
December at the CNG Stadium which is bound to be a special day for women’s football in the Harrogate area. Kick off for the game is 1.30pm and we would encourage as many fans as possible to come down to the CNG stadium and witness what will be an historic occasion.