Burnley FC Ladies 4, Preston North End 1

Laura Hesketh
Laura Hesketh

AN emphatic second half comeback saw Burnley Ladies maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

The Clarets started the game slowly, and some hesitancy in defence nearly gifted Preston an early goal.

For the next 10 minutes, Burnley laid siege to the Preston goal. Striker Laura Hesketh (pictured) burst through the Preston defence on two occasions, but both efforts soared over the bar.

A surging run and cross from left full-back Kelly Ronson was met with a sturdy header from Haley Newham that drifted the wrong side of the post.

Stylish midfielder Jo Rohman chipped an intelligent pass over the Preston backline, with Hesketh only inches away from beating the keeper to the ball.

Hesketh then latched on to another super pass from Ronson, took the ball around the keeper, only to run the ball out of play before she could find the net.

On 15 minutes, completely against the run of play, Preston opened the scoring.

A breakaway by the Preston winger down Burnley’s left flank resulted in a powerful cross-shot that keeper Emily Rodgers, did well to parry, but the Preston striker was quickest to react to put the visitors ahead.

Stunned by this setback, Burnley failed to clear their lines and almost immediately conceded a second goal.

However, from this point onwards the Burnley defence regained its composure, with young Aimee Smith in central defence making decisive interceptions and distributing confidently.

For the second quarter of the game Burnley battered the Preston goal. Hitchen ran half the length of the pitch, leaving defenders in her slip-stream, only for the keeper to make a point-blank save.

A piercing run down the right wing by full back Becky Sidley led to Em Forrest creating another chance for Hesketh, who arrowed a shot just over the bar. A rapid interchange of passing between Holt and Hesketh teed up Steph Meeks, whose strike from 18 yards faded narrowly past the upright.

The Preston keeper was performing heroically and made further saves from Smith and Rohman, while Meeks drilled a fierce drive into the side-netting.

The second half continued with Burnley in the ascendancy. Lucy Berwick, with her left-foot wand, had repeatedly provided dangerous crosses, from both open and set plays.

On 50 minutes, one such cross caused havoc in the Preston defence, and Meeks equalised with an athletic overhead kick from the edge of the six-yard box.

Further pressure on the Preston goal led to Hesketh out-pacing her marker to coolly slot the ball past the keeper’s right-hand into the corner of the goal to give Burnley the lead.

This second goal seemed to knock the fight out of Preston and from this point the only question was how many more Burnley would score. Within five minutes of the restart, Meeks played a long, precise pass into the stride of Hesketh, who ruthlessly slotted the ball into the left hand corner of the net.

New signing Claire Pearson made her debut from the bench after 75 minutes and quickly made an impact on the game, forcing a corner with her first touch. Five minutes later, Hesketh turned provider for Pearson to convert from six yards. Burnley had further chances, with youngster Carly Salkeld threading some neat passes from the central midfield position, but good fortune saved Preston from further deficit.

As the game neared its conclusion some lapses in concentration provided Preston with a couple of opportunities, but Burnley were rescued by block tackles from Holt and Forrest and at the final whistle the Clarets were well worth their victory.

Meeks was deservedly nominated as player of the match.

The three points moves Burnley into fourth place in the North West Women’s Premier League, with games in hand on most of their rivals.

Their next game is on Sunday when they visit Denton Town.