Blackpool Girls 1 Manchester City Girls 2
On Monday 25 March the referee blew his whistle at Burscough FC for the eagerly awaited, once postponed, cup final between Blackpool FC Girls and Manchester City Girls FC.
With the teams sitting in second and first place respectively in the Under 11s League, everybody knew that this was going to be a very tightly contested game of football. Little did anyone know just how apt the previous sentence was going to turn out to be.
Blackpool kicked-off and for the first few minutes of play both teams were testing out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It started in Blackpool's favour as Sheneill Lymer sets-up Aleysha Montgomery in the Man City box but she just fails to connect with the ball to give the Blackpool that early goal advantage. Then a good block tackle by Daisy Molyneaux stops Man City from breaking forward towards the Pool goal.
Man City then came close to scoring but a quick double save by Lucy Williamson kept things level. Man City were giving it their all but the outstanding resilience of Blackpool's defensive patnership of Katie O'Donnell and Molyneaux prevented anything from getting through.
Up at the other end Lymer had a run at goal but the ball just skimmed past the left-hand post. The effort kept Man City on their toes and re-enforced the fact that the fixture was not going to be the walkover that some were predicting. Blackpool FC Girls had arrived to give them a run for their money.
Another effort at goal by Lymer this time went straight into the waiting Man City keeper's arms. City respond by firing a shot at the Blackpool net but this also went straight at the keeper.
Sophie Burns worked hard to put pressure on City and Lymer collected a loose ball to play in Laura Burnell but her effort was well saved again by the City keeper.
Time and time again in the run up to the end of the first half the fantastic trio of Williamson, O'Donnell and Molyneaux held strong at the back and cleared the ball out to the equally strong midfield of Montgomery, Sophie Slater and Burnell.
Half-Time: Blackpool FC Girls 0 Man City Girls 0
Blackpool took a few minutes to settle down in the second-half and Man City took advantage of this, breaking free to send a fantastic shot from just outside the box into the back of the net.
Blackpool looked to hit back immediately but shots at goal from Slater and then by Imogen Purdon just couldn't get past the City keeper.
Another two good saves by Blackpool's number one kept the score at 1-0, before an all out charge from The Seasiders saw them rewarded for their 100 per cent hard work, determination, passion, desire, effort and sheer guts. Slater blasted home the equaliser for Blackpool in the final few minutes of normal time.
Blackpool, full of confidence with a minute to go, see Lymer break away through on goal but her effort is well saved by the keeper and the referee blew for full time.
After a few minutes consultation the referee declared that extra time of 10 minutes each way would be played, followed by penalties if necessary.
The first 10 minutes ended in a stalemate, with shots and saves happening at both ends. A good strike at goal from Darcy Barratt ended up hitting the woodwork, then Hannah Bettison tried her luck but her effort went wide.
Both teams could smell the victory but it was Manchester City in the final moments of second-half extra time who found the winner after a couple of counter attacks. With the last kick of the game a City player squeezed the ball past Williamson, despite her valiantly trying to palm it out to safety. The ball crossed the line to bring the final score on a very, long and cold evening 2-1 to City.
Final Score: Manchester City Girls 2 Blackpool FC Girls 1
Blackpool Scorer: Slater
Player of the Match: Katie O'Donnell
After the game manager manager Mac Barlow said:
"It's probably the best game I've been involved with in my time at Blackpool FC Girls, every player did what was asked and we played some incredible, fantastic football and matched the team who are top of our league and who have been unbeaten all season.
"My players desire, passion, determination, work rate and commitment was a pleasure to see, from a coaches point of view those attributes are difficult to instill into players. I asked every player for the performance of the season and they certainly delivered.
"We played out from the back, played through the midfield and our link-up play was very good. We're now starting to get the movement off the ball which we have been working on for quite some time, they've certainly gone up another notch in terms of their application and the way we play which is a pleasure to see.
"I know the players will be gutted to lose in the way they did, however they've made me the proudest coach in football. I'd rather play like that every week and lose to the odd goal.
"It's nice to win cups and leagues, however we're here to develop players who will progress to our Ladies First-Team and get them to national level. I have no doubt in my mind that a number of this squad will go on and play for our Ladies First-Team squad in the future.
"Well done girls you all should be very proud of your performance."