Tractor Girls Win Again to Go Top
Sunday, 10th Oct 2021 19:02 by Richard Woodward
Manager Joe Sheehan’s 50th competitive game in charge of Ipswich Town Women was marked by another victory as his side saw off a competitive MK Dons team 3-0 at the Goldstar Ground to maintain their 100 per cent start to the season and move to the top of the FAWNL Southern Premier Division.
Sheehan made three changes to the side that beat London Bees 3-1 at the Hive last week. Bonnie Horwood returned from injury to regain her place in midfield along with the captain’s armband, while forward Natasha Thomas got the nod to lead the line and Lucy O’Brien took up a left-wing position.
Town nearly took the lead in the opening minute from a defensive lapse. Thomas harried the MK defence and intercepted the ball before hitting a long range effort off target.
The deadlock would be broken minutes later, however. A quick throw from the right found the pacy Zoe Barratt who broke through the MK lines. The ball was eventually worked out to O’Brien unattended on the left, who had the simplest of tasks to slot home against her former club.
Thomas, who was busy and industrious during the first half, had a sight of goal 10 minutes later but skewed her side-foot volley wide from Abbie Lafayette’s deep free-kick.
The Town forward wouldn’t have long to wait long before making another meaningful contribution though.
A speculative 21st-minute ball down the left should have been dealt with by the MK defence, but Thomas again pressured her opposite number into a mistake and calmly took it on before poking to the on-rushing Barratt to get Town a second, another ex-MK Dons player, and continue her excellent run of scoring.
On 34 the home side and the Town support were incensed as the officials failed to award the Blues a third after a goalmouth scramble from a corner. Several players had a go at forcing the ball over the line with Lucy Egan’s effort the one to cause controversy.
But MK grew into the game and looked much more assured than their lowly league position would have suggested pre-match. With five minutes left of the first half, the Dons forced a corner from a deflected volley and despite Town clearing the initial flag-kick, Sarah Quantrill was forced into action saving a long-range effort low to her left.
A minute later the exciting O’Brien should have done better having worked another great position down the MK right, but she failed to pick out Thomas who would have had an easy opportunity to add the third.
As it was, Town would go in at the break with a fairly comfortable 2-0 lead. But they struggled to impose themselves in the second half against a dogged MK.
Paige Peake’s audacious effort from the halfway line from kick-off was a rare highlight in a period punctuated by niggling fouls and sloppy passing from both teams. Eloise King in a deeper-lying midfield role in particular was subject to plenty of rough treatment from the MK midfield.
Sheehan had switched his wide players onto the opposite flanks at the break, yet O’Brien and Barratt had only limited incursions forward compared to the first half. O’Brien did get a sniff on 58, but her cross-cum-shot was palmed away by the MK keeper narrowly evading the lurking Thomas.
A raft of substitutions from both sides midway through the second half did nothing to help the hosts regain their dominance, but in the game’s closing stages their quality eventually started to tell. Sub Summer Hughes tested the MK defence with a solo run and firm shot with ten minutes to go.
Eventually into added time, a searching ball by Peake caused panic once again in the MK defence, with another sub Eva Hubbard stealing in to play in Barratt who kept her composure to finally score Town’s third - her second - slotting low into the bottom right corner of the net.
The Blues weren’t always at their dominant best, particularly in the second half, but still had too much quality for their opponents, who were willing to attack but never really tested Quantrill in the Town goal.
Town will have been disappointed not to have improved their goal difference after creating several openings against a team who were searching for their first win of the season.
Sheehan will have been satisfied to get a clean sheet though after a couple of fixtures of conceding consolation goals, having been impenetrable in the first six games of the season.
The Tractor Girls return to action in a fortnight at the Goldstar Ground against Bridgwater United.
Photo: Richard Woodward
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