Hull City Ladies travelled to the Cumberland arena this afternoon to take on Crewe Alexandra Ladies in the 3rd qualifying round of the Women’s FA Cup and came away triumphant 1-4 after an indifferent display.
Crewe the only side to take points off the Tigresses this season set up defensively has they had in the league encounter, inviting Rachel Gay’s side onto them as they sat deep in their own half hoping to catch the visitors on the counter attack. The Tigresses though were slow out of the blocks and looked lacklustre and a shadow of themselves in recent performances, despite having virtually all the play in the opening exchanges.
Despite not been at their potent best, Gay’s side were forcing the play and had a flurry of early corner kicks but to no avail as the Alex defence dealt with the danger. With their first foray into Tigress territory on 10 minutes, Alex through Megan Booth attempted a speculative lob from 30 yards out that failed to trouble Amy Halloran in the City goal.
The Tigresses then saw tame efforts from Ellie Tanser and Ellie Harding dealt with from yet more Tigress corners. Hope Knight and Eden Pedersen on the flanks were trying to spark the Tigresses attacks but nothing was coming off, firstly Knight found Harding but the midfielder’s touch was a little heavy and the chance was cleared. Then Pedersen overlapping on the left found Rebecca Beech with a deft pass who in turn squared a first time ball along the six yard line but the onrushing Knight was beaten to the ball by the keeper.
The game was settling into a frustrating routine of Tigress squandering chances and Crewe sitting back, reminiscent of the league encounter. The crispness of recent weeks was missing from the Tigresses play. Pedersen & Knight combined again with the former floating over a free kick that Knight headed goalwards but her effort was easily saved.
Crewe seemed to grow in confidence and ventured forward occasionally, but again the Tigresses missed chances through the impressive Natalie Bell and Knight after good work by Beech. Then came the first half sucker punch, as the ball was cleared into midfield Crewe left back Leanne Derry fired a screamer from 35 yards out that rocketed past Halloran into the roof of the net to give the hosts an undeserved lead.
The Tigresses continued to press and created yet more chances, with Pedersen causing the hosts defence problems with her runs down the flank and from one of these runs she won a corner with a minute of the half to go. The youngster stepped up to take it and swung in a perfect ball right under the crossbar and onto the head of Knight who made no mistake to level the scores at the break. 1-1.
The Tigresses returned from the break with the harsh words of Gay and Danny Johnson ringing in their ears and started the half a lot brighter and with more purpose. Passes were now finding their targets and the first chance fell to Olivia Jackson after Jo Symington pulled a neat ball back but Jackson’s effort slipped inches wide of the mark. After Knight had been pulled back near the corner flag, Symington floated in a dangerous free kick that Ellie Tanser rose above the defence and met it with a powerful header but was again inches over the bar.
Youngster Nat Bell was having a growing influence on the game, she covered every blade of grass as she worked tirelessly to get the Tigresses in front, but two efforts early in the half failed to trouble the home keeper.
Knight got to the byline and sent over a telling cross but Harding couldn’t keep her header on target and the substitute Katie Thompson used her pace to beat her defender and lift in a cross that Bell met with a decent header that the keeper parried out to Symington who’s first time shot slid wide of the mark. Another Thompson surge down the right saw the winger fouled and from her resultant free kick Tanser powered a header goalward but her effort was blocked for a corner kick.
A moment of magic broke the deadlock has midfield general Tanser played in Knight down the left with a peach of a pass with the outside of her foot, Knight’s shot was blocked back to her and intelligently she laid the ball back to Beech who coolly slammed the ball into the Alex net from 18 yards out.
As the game entered the last quarter the Tigresses were in complete control, Tanser, Bell and Jackson in the middle of the park were winning all the second balls and the central defensive partnership of Natasha Cooke and the impressive youngster Amy Kay were impossible to break down.
The confident Tigresses were in full flow now and with 10 minutes to go their play was rewarded with a fantastic goal. Thompson won the ball on the right and found substitute Meg Render overlapping superbly and her first time cross was met with a bullet of a header from fellow substitute Rachael Ackroyd from 16 yards out and into the back of the net before the home keeper could react.
Bell then nearly capped her outstanding performance with a goal as her first time volley from a Knight pass skimmed the bar with only minutes remaining. Symington then surged into the box but her powerful effort was deflected away for the Tigresses umpteenth corner.
With the referee about to blow his whistle Thompson capped a fine second half team performance when she cut in from the right flank, skipped past two mesmerised defernders and slotted the ball under the keeper to make the final score:
Crewe 1-4 Tigresses.
The Tigresses progress in the FA Cup and now thoughts turn to Wednesday’s important league fixture at local rivals Leeds United.
We talked to Rachel Gay immediately after today’s game, watch her interview below
Photos courtesy of Dave Hare