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Tractor Girls Open Pre-Season With 6-1 Win
Sunday, 9th Jul 2023 15:33 by Matt Makin

Ipswich Town Women got their pre-season campaign under way with a 6-1 victory against FA WNL Division One South East side AFC Sudbury at the club’s training ground this afternoon, also beating the Yellows 4-3 on penalties after the conclusion of two 30-minute periods of play.

Following several departures since the close of the 2022/23 season, it was a much-changed line-up appearing at Bent Lane, most notably Nina Meollo coming in between the sticks to replace erstwhile Town keeper Sarah Quantrill, with youngsters Nia Evans and Leah Mitchell making the starting XI.

New signing Maisy Barker was named on the bench, alongside young defender Evie Williams and an unnamed trialist. Although in attendance, club captain Blue Wilson, Lucy O’Brien and Eloise King all failed to make the squad due to fitness or injury issues.

The first half started lively with Ipswich looking to make an immediate breakthrough on three minutes, Holly Turner shooting just wide when through on goal.

It was the Yellows, however, that would break the deadlock three minutes later, slotting home at close range after a defensive mix-up in the Town box.

Sudbury almost doubled their lead immediately when the ball bounced off the back of an unaware Megan Wearing, with the resulting shot stinging Meollo’s palms.

On nine minutes, the home team was back on terms. Sophie Peskett and Holly Turner linked up well on the right to make space for the latter to put in a cross to the back post, which Nia Evans was able to bury for 1-1.

Shortly after the leveller, Ipswich manager Joe Sheehan made the first of his rolling subs, replacing Maria Boswell and Summer Hughes with Barker and Williams.

It didn’t take Town long to take control of the game and on 14 the Tractor Girls took the lead, Peskett exploding down the right-hand side before whipping the ball into the Sudbury box for skipper Bonnie Horwood to rifle home at close range.

Two minutes later Town made it 3-1, Kyra Robertson poking the ball from midfield into the path of an onrushing Peskett, who was able to superbly lift the ball over the advancing keeper and into the back of the net.

On 23 minutes Sheehan made further changes, bringing off Wearing and Mitchell and replacing them with Boswell and Hughes, with Boswell and Williams playing centre-back and Hughes at left-back, the latter having started the game on the right of the back four.

As the first half drew to a close, striker Natasha Thomas found herself with the ball in space on the right and drove into the Sudbury box with Hughes arriving in the middle, but chose to shoot, and the ball was pushed out by the Sudbury keeper for a throw-in.

Shortly after, Town won a free-kick on the edge of the box; after working the ball from right to left it was whipped into the box by Evans, but Peskett was unable to get a head on it and the keeper was able to punch clear, before the referee signaled for half-time.

Sheehan made more changes to the side at the break, with Roberston and Peskett making way for Wearing and Mitchell, with the Wearing joining Boswell in the middle of defence, Mitchell moving into centre-midfield alongside Horwood, and Hughes now playing further up and on the right.

Three minutes into the second half Ipswich made it 4-1, Hughes capitalising on a defensive area on the edge of the box to pass the ball into an empty net.

A few minutes later, a neat passage of play between Hughes, Evans and Barker won Town a corner from which the Tractor Girls extended their lead, Thomas tapping in virtually on the line.

On 40, Turner was able to control the ball with her chest from a throw-in to Evans on the edge of the box, with the resulting volley sailing just wide of the top corner of the goal. Two minutes later Sheehan changed things up again, replacing Horwood and Evans with Peskett and Robertson.

Peskett, who looked very much back at her pre-ACL injury best, drove forward with blistering pace in the 48th minute only to see the ball smothered by the Sudbury keeper.

Moments later, Leah Mitchell was given space to shoot from just outside the area, the keeper pushing the ball to the feet of Turner, but she recovered well to push the Town forward’s effort wide.

As the second 30-minute period drew to a close, Sheehan made his final substitutions, taking off Thomas and Turner and bringing on Horwood and Evans, the latter acting as a lone forward for the remainder of the game.

With six minutes of time remaining, Town scored their sixth and final goal of the game, Horwood rising well to head in a Peskett cross.

Peskett looked to add more goals to the game in the final moments, shooting wide from distance and creating a chance for Hughes which was dragged wide.

Following the conclusion of the 60 minutes, the teams engaged in a penalty competition to round off the fixture with Horwood, Evans, Boswell, Wearing and Peskett all stepping up for the Blues. Town won the competition 4-3, with only Wearing missing her penalty.

Although against lower league opposition, Ipswich looked bright in their first outing since the squad returned for pre-season with new signing Barker impressing and Peskett showing her quality on and off the ball over 60 minutes.

Youngster Mitchell also impressed, both in defence and midfield, and Hughes reminded all present of her versatility, playing left-back, right-back and right winger at different points in the game.

Ipswich will be testing themselves against Championship opposition next week, making the journey to the Sparrows Lane training ground to take on Charlton Athletic in their next pre-season friendly.

Starting XI: Meollo, Boswell, Mitchell, Wearing, Hughes, Robertson, Horwood, Evans, Peskett, Turner, Thomas. Used Subs: Williams, Barker. Unused Sub: Trialist.

Photo: Ross Halls

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