Despite a disjointed performance, Burnley Ladies proved too strong for Birkenhead and ultimately ran out 3 – 1 winners in their North West Regional Premier League fixture.
The ladies in claret and blue started the game fluently, youngster Bryony Bancroft evading the off-side trap to fire narrowly over, and Becky Hayton volleying wide from a sublime cross from the wily Justine Wallace.
But Burnley’s passing deteriorated and, after 20 minutes, they were punished for losing possession in midfield, the speedy Birkenhead striker breaking free to slot home the opening goal.
The Clarets regained the ascendancy, a cross from overlapping full back Becky Sidley broke to Charlotte Hartley, the winger’s strike producing a point-blank save from the keeper.
A sublime diagonal pass from Em Forrest set Bancroft clear on goal only for her to be halted on the edge of the penalty area by a crude foul.
Birkenhead almost doubled their lead on the half-hour, a careless defensive error allowing the Merseyside striker a free run on goal only for her to be denied by an athletic save from keeper Sophie Valentine.
Within two minutes Burnley were level. A free kick from skipper Jo Holt was deftly flicked on by Wallace into the path of Hayton, who finished neatly from close range.
In the 40th minute the referee awarded Birkenhead a contentious penalty. Valentine again saved Burnley, easily holding on to the spot kick.
Burnley almost edged ahead shortly after the break when Hartley created a chance for Jo Rohman, but the midfielder’s left-foot strike was tipped over the bar by the Birkenhead stopper.
But the lady Clarets were not to be denied and gained the lead in the 50th minute. A penetrating run from left back Emily Wilkinson split the Birkenhead defence, and her accurate cross found the feet of Hayton, the prolific striker drilling the ball low to the keeper’s right from 18 yards.
The Merseyside outfit almost equalised with a free kick and were only denied by a superb safe from Valentine, diving low to her left to tip the ball around the post.
For the last 15 minutes Burnley were in control. Wallace almost converted from 30 yards after a miscued clearance, Hartley struck the underside of the bar and a long-range effort from Holt drifted wide.
On the rare occasions when Birkenhead threatened, the centre half pairing of Holt and Leah Hart held firm.
Burnley bagged their third goal in the last few minutes with the most fluent move of the match. The impressive Wilkinson located Hayton with a precise diagonal pass, and the striker’s cross was deftly converted from six yards by substitute Jane Sexton.
On Sunday, the lady Clarets entertain Mersey Girls in a Women’s FA Cup tie at Barden Sports and Athletic Club, kick-off 2 p.m.
Amy Foley celebrated gaining a place at the FA’s Lancashire Player Development Centre with a hat-trick as Burnley Under 13s returned to winning ways with a comprehensive 8-0 victory against Euxton Villa on Saturday.
Chloe Blackburn also grabbed a hat-trick, and player of the match was Lucy Holtom.
The Under 15s maintained their perfect record as they defeated nearest rivals Preston North End 5-1 at Towneley.
Second half goals from Evie, Leonah, Ella and Katie meant that the Preston goal was just a consolation.
The Under 15s have now opened up a six-point gap at the top of the league after just four games.
The Under 14s lost their unbeaten start to the season, with a second half deflected effort giving Wigan Athletic the three points.
The Under 12s suffered a narrow 5-3 to the league leaders Academy, and the Under 9 Clarets remain undefeated, winning at Rainford, with five girls on target.