Hull City Ladies were given a baptism of fire in their FA Women’s National League Premier Division debut today. They went down 4-0 to Stoke City Ladies but that scoreline doesn’t tell the story. It could have been so different.
The Tigresses came out of the blocks firing. The team was tweaked slightly from last week with Hope Knight returning and Emily Smith playing on the wing rather than at right back. It certainly seemed to be working early on as the Tigresses played some excellent football. The first chance of the game fell to Rachael Ackroyd. Hope Knight found Captain Jo Symington in the box and she saw two shots blocked, the ball came back to Knight and her cross found Ackroyd at the back post but the striker could only head wide.
City Ladies continued to play some very intricate football in midfield and were cutting through the Stoke defence with ease. Liberty Bott, who showed real quality again today in the number 10 role, lifted a ball over the top to Knight who drove into the box and cut inside her marker before firing a shot over the bar.
Despite the early dominance from the Tigresses it was the visitors who took the lead against the run of play. Faye McCoy hit a shot from 25 yards out, the wind made it difficult for Amy Halloran in the City goal and it flew over her and into the net to make it 1-0 to Stoke.
Despite the blow of going behind the Tigresses continued to dominate much of the possession and chances. Rachael Ackroyd thought she had equalised when her looping shot came down off the crossbar but the referee decided the ball hadn’t crossed the line. Midfielders Emma Westmorland and Ellie Tanser both had good chances soon after but could only shoot wide or high.
In the 37th minute Stoke showed the clinical edge that the Tigresses are going to need to develop quickly in this league. This was a poor goal to concede from City Ladies’ point of view. A cross from the right found an unmarked Kelsey Richardson in the box and she smashed her shot into the bottom corner to double the Potters lead.
Still the Tigresses didn’t let their heads go down and could have been level before half time. Bott saw a powerful shot well saved before Hope Knight hit a curling shot that crashed off the post and away to safety. That summed the half up for City Ladies.
HT Hull City Ladies 0-2 Stoke City Ladies
The away side improved in the second half and almost killed the game off early in the half. A breakaway saw them three on one with the goalkeeper but somehow Faye McCoy could only hit the bar from three yards out.
Soon after though the Tigresses should have been given a chance to get back into the game. A shot from Bott was clearly handled in the box but somehow the referee didn’t agree and waved away the penalty claims. Bott was involved again a few minutes later when she hit a magnificent dipping drive that smashed off the crossbar, the woodwork denying the Tigresses for the third time in the game!
Cruelly a few minutes later the game was put to bed by Stoke. A cross from the left was met at the back post by Holly Chipman who slotted the ball into the empty net. That goal sealed the win but it could have been massively different. To their credit City kept going and Stacey Wright was on hand to deny the Tigresses yet again. This time a cross from the left was met with a first time shot from Emily Smith that Wright parried round the post.
Stoke added a fourth just before the end. McCoy hit a free kick from distance that Halloran could only parry straight into the path of Hannah Keryakoplis who made no mistake from 6 yards to make it 4-0
FT Hull City Ladies 0-4 Stoke City
On paper that was a sobering opening day defeat for City Ladies but the reality was different. They played extremely well for large parts of the game, especially in the first half. They hit the woodwork three times and missed a number of other chances. Credit to Stoke they know this league and punished City for their missed chances but there was plenty to be encouraged about ahead of the visit of Derby next week.
We spoke to manager Rachel Gay after the game and you can watch the video below via our YouTube channel