Burnley FC Women celebrated the New Year with a 1-0 league victory over Chorley FC Women in their first fixture of 2019.
Evie Priestley struck the winning goal that also extends the Clarets’ lead at the top of the FA WNL Division 1 North table to six points, as challenging teams dropped points in other games.
The Clarets Women returned to action after a six-week layoff, and worries regarding fitness and fluidity were justified when Chorley picked up the momentum early in the game, as they looked to avenge their cup defeat to the Clarets in November.
Chorley won a corner in the second minute, but Clarets keeper Lauren Bracewell collected the high cross neatly.
The Clarets’ tenacity through determined challenges and interceptions prevented the home side from dominating and pushed them back.
A Sarah Greenhalgh interception turned into possession for the Clarets, and her pass through to Lizzy Hamer allowed a shot on goal, showing the Clarets were gaining a foothold in the game, though it was well wide.
The game flowed quickly from end to end.
A Chorley shot from distance flew wide, and both keepers were called into action to collect on the edge of their areas.
The Clarets had the best chance so far when Greenhalgh flicked on a goal kick to Leah Embley, who travelled down the wing and drove in on goal, where Chorley’s Abi Fenton slid in with a well-timed interception close to goal.
In the middle part of the half, Chorley gained the majority of possession, with the Clarets backline soaking up the pressure.
Chorley won a corner, where a header at goal was blocked, and the ball fell free, resulting in a goal mouth scramble.
The ball was pushed out wide, where Chorley striker Michelle Saunders lofted the ball over the bar.
Chorley continued the pressure, and a powerful long- range shot deflected off a Clarets defender and clipped the top of the bar and went out of play.
The Clarets replied at the other end. A cross ball picked out Dani Cooper, whose contact was directed straight at the keeper, and Greenhalgh received a through ball from Justine Wallace and shot as she closed on the keeper, flanked by defenders, with her effort skimming the post.
Another through ball picked out Greenhalgh on the wing, and this time her shot bounced off the cross bar.
Chorley’s last effort of the half was from a cross that was powerfully headed over Bracewell’s bar, though the Clarets responded when Greenhalgh struck at the other end with a shot that forced a diving save.
In the second period, Chorley came out and applied the initial pressure, but were undone when Greenhalgh charged down the wing and crossed to Embley, who chested the ball down into the path of Priestley.
Priestley picked an opening on goal, and shot out of the keeper’s reach.
The goal took the steam out of the game, as players from both sides looked tired after the frantic first half.
The Clarets tried some shots from distance, but these were slightly off target, though Chorley’s Lisa Topping was gifted a chance in a defensive mix up.
Thankfully Bracewell had the angle covered and collected the shot.
In the latter stages, the Clarets had the best chances.
Sammy Fleck headed a Clarets corner over the bar, and Greenhalgh forced another diving save when player of the match Nicola Shirtcliffe paced down the wing with the ball to set her up.
Both Embley and Charlotte Banner forced further saves from the home keeper in a late onslaught.
The score remained 1-0 at the final whistle.
On Sunday, Burnley FC Women travel to Chester-le-Street for another important league fixture.
The following Sunday, January 20th, Burnley face FA Women’s Northern Premier League leaders Blackburn Rovers Ladies in the Lancashire Women’s Challenge Cup semi-final – the first competitive encounter with the high flying local rivals in many years, at the Arbories.