Hull City Ladies returned to league action for the first time since mid October against mid table Chester-le-Street Ladies this afternoon.
The inactivity in the league for the Tigresses had seen Brighouse Ladies steal a march at the top of Northern Division 1 opening up a five point gap before today’s game albeit the Tigresses had two games in hand.
The county Durham based side started the game a lot brighter then the Tigresses and the centre back pairing of Ellice Jackman and Natasha Cooke were having some difficulty dealing with the Chester-le Street front two.
As early as the fourth minute Chester squandered a great chance to take the lead when keeper Sarah Walters dithered on a back pass and was dispossessed on the edge of her area. The striker was held up long enough by Jackman to allow Walters to get back and save the shot.
In their first real move of the game the Tigresses through Ellie Tanser won the ball in the centre circle and she threaded a sublime pass out to the right for excellent Katie Thompson to go racing onto, but under pressure from the Chester left back, Thompson couldn’t keep the ball in play.
Chester-le-Street continued their up tempo start and were first to the ball on most occassions and the pressure told, a terrific run by the Chester number 8 was only halted by a magnificently timed challenge from Jackman who chased back and slid in to repel the threat.
Minutes later Chester won a free kick inside their own half, as the ball was lofted forward the Tigress defence stood static, the number 9 beat the offside trap perfectly and coolly slotted the ball home to open the scoring.
Going behind stung the Tigresses into action and they were back level within 2 minutes. Good interplay down the left side resulted in a City corner, Jo Symington called for the ball from the kick and Thompson played a 1-2 with her captain. Thompson let fly with a shot from the left edge of the box, the keeper parried the ball out from under her bar and the on rushing Tanser latched onto the rebound and hammered the ball home to make it 1-1.
As the game settled down, the Tigresses were building their way into it, the early nervousness ebbed away. More assured on the ball the Tigresses started to show some quality but Chester-le-Street battled gamely and were still creating chances. Walters in the City goal had overcome her early nerves and dealt with ease the Chester attacks.
With about 30 minutes on the clock City won a free kick, impressive young right back Eden Pedersen found Thompson who inleashed shot, but the Chester keeper got down well to smother the shot.
The first substitution came on 35 minutes, when unusually the referee was replaced by the linesman has she had felt her hamstring ‘go’.
The busy Liv Jackson was next to chance her arm when Thompson looked up spotted the midfielder who took the ball and sent a shot goalward but again the keeper was able to save comfortably. Chester-le-Street then went on the attack and as the Tigress defence closed in they shouted for a penalty for a push in the back, but the replacement ref waved away the appeals.
As the half drew to a close Hope Knight who by her standards was having a quiet game, latched onto a pass down the left and unleashed a shot that went narrowly over the bar. Moments later it was City’s turn to appeal for a spot kick has Knight went down in the box from a strong challenge, but again the ref waved it away.
Half Time 1-1
With the words of Rachel Gay and Danny Johnson ringing in their ears the Tigresses moved up a gear in the 2nd half. Within minutes of the restart Jackson played a lovely ball down the sideline to the industrious Nat Bell who sent over a first time cross into the box but the Chester defence held firm.
Player of the match Thompson was becoming more influential, a telling pass from midfield found the winger who cut back a cross that Tanser hit first time. The shot was heading wide until Rebecca Beech flicked it on but again the keeper was up to the effort.
After Knight and Thompson had combined for an effort, Chester-le-Street broke upfield and only a foul from Natasha Cooke brought the attack to a stop. Cooke was rightly booked for the challenge, from the resulting free kick, Walters got down well to send the effort round the post.
A moment of controversy followed minutes later when Knight let fly with a rasping shot that the keeper half stopped and from were we were standing looked like it was over the line before the keeper dived on it, but the referee and linesmen said otherwise.
Minutes later Thompson was on the attack again as she chased a ball down the right flank, as she challenged the keeper the ball fell to her she found Beech but the strikers shot was blocked away to safety.
The deadlock was broken on the hour mark with a brilliantly worked Tigress goal. Knight started it on the left as she surged into the Chester half she found the overlapping Symington charging down the flank and the captain’s cut back to Thompson was met perfectly. The ball rifled low and hard into the bottom corner of the net from the 18 yard line.
Four minutes later Thompson so nearly returned the favour when a teasing cross was met perfectly on the run from Symington but her header flew high over the bar when she was unchallenged and clear in the box.
It was all City Ladies now, as first Cooke headed narrowly over from a Thompson corner, before Beech played Thompson in with a clever flick round the corner but she held on a little too long and the defence cleared. Beech turned provider again when she found Bell in the box who fed Knight but her shot narrowly went wide of the post.
Beech then went on a great run at the heart of the Chester defence but she couldn’t keep her shot down. With the game drawing to a close Thompson forced a corner after her shot was parried out and from the resultant corner substitute Rachael Ackroyd sent a good header on target but the Chester keeper again stood firm.
As Chester looked to snatch an equaliser the City defence that had stood strong in the second half, repelled a couple of attacks but again it was the Tigresses who so nearly added a third when some great interplay between substitute Sophie Stamp and Bell nearly created a lovely goal, but Bell pulled her effort just wide. With seconds on the clock Jackman played a lovely pass from the back over the top of the Chester defence, Ackroyd timed her run perfectly but her attempted lob over the onrushing keeper slipped just wide.
So despite a scratchy performance the Tigresses ground out the invaluable win to keep the pressure on Brighouse at the top of the league. The Tigresses are now just two points behind on 22 points with a game in hand.
Hear what manager Rachel Gay had to say about today’s game below.
Northern Division One results:
Brighouse Ladies P-P Morecambe Ladies
Crewe Alex Ladies 3-1 Barnsley Ladies
Liverpool Marshall Feds 3-0 Newcastle United Women’s FC
Photos courtesy of Dave Hare.