Southport FC Women opened their league campaign with a trip to the team who were technically reigning League champions. BRNESC, based in Aintree, won the 2018/19 Liverpool County FA Women’s League and with last season’s competition being annulled, still hold that title. Games between the two sides in the past have always been competitive but the Yellows have previously never got the better of today’s hosts. An exciting friendly a few weeks ago saw the two sides record a 5-5 draw so this was never likely to be a bore draw.
It was a hot day in the shadow of Aintree Racecourse, and Women’s Manager Noel Warham handed starting debuts to Katie Edwards, Emily Norcross and Ashleigh Bibby, while Alex Capp was primed to make her first appearance from the bench. Sophie Birnie captained the side at the start of her eighteenth season with the group.
The visitors made a fast start and took an early lead when a corner from Norcross wasn’t cleared and Jess Ashe-Wright poked the ball in at the far post after only four minutes. Only a couple of minutes later and the lead was doubled through the same combination but this was a far better goal. Ashe-Wright’s run met the dead ball delivery on the half-volley and it flew into the net.
The home side were stunned into action by this quick-fire double salvo and were unfortunate not to half the arrears, when a free kick from the left hit the post with Tamika Hunter-Barnett in the visitors’ goal beaten. However, she showed great agility and reactions to save the follow up from the home side’s stand out player, Ella Thwaites and preserve her clean sheet.
BRNESC continued to press the visitors in an attempt to get back into the game and the defence had to be particularly alert, although Norcross was unlucky not to extend the visitors’ lead after a flowing move saw her power a shot against the crossbar. The Yellows were not to be denied, and they scored their third goal on the half hour. Rebecca Redford did brilliantly to win possession in midfield, and she fed the ball into Hannah Brookfield. She clipped an inch-perfect ball into the path of Bibby who kept her composure to hold off the defender and calmly finish with aplomb for her first goal for the Club.
There were no further goals in the first half and the start of the second half saw the home side put the visitors under pressure. Hunter-Barnett did particularly well to push the ball onto her post when stopping a close-range effort. On a hot day, the Yellows rang the changes with the fresh legs proving particularly valuable against a young and energetic side who used their own subs well. Bibby probably had the visitors’ best chance after the restart with a low shot beaten away by the home keeper.
The next goal was always going to be crucial and when it came it was a Southport goal which probably sealed the victory. Georgia Davies swept a pass out to Norcross, who beat her marker to the ball with a strong tackle, before advancing into the area and firing a powerful shot into the corner.
BRNESC got the goal which their play deserved when they fired low into the net after a ball from a throw in had for once not been promptly cleared, and there was still time for Charlotte Ross to narrowly power a shot wide after excellent work from Edwards, Davies and Sophie Speariett. However, the final whistle signalled an excellent first win of the season – and a first competitive win against a competitive and spirited side.
A positive start to the season and a strong performance by the “Yellow Women”, but they don’t have time to rest on their laurels as the tough games keep coming as they open their home campaign with the visit of Tranmere Rovers to Halsall’s Memorial Ground next Sunday.
Half Time: 0-3; Full Time: 1-4
Goalscorers: Ashe-Wright 4, 9, Bibby 30, Norcross 68
Team: Hunter-Barnett, Edwards, Leadbetter, Sharrock, Birchall, Redford, Birnie (c), Ashe-Wright, Brookfield, Norcross, Bibby, Davies, Speariett, Leedham, Ross, Capp.
Player of the Match (voted by the opposition): Emily Norcross