Yellawomen mount stirring fightback in table-topping clash
Ascot United Women recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2 with visitors Bournemouth Sports in a fantastic advert for the Southern Region Women’s football league on Sunday. In an early-season clash between first and second, impressive Becky Miles put the Dorset side two-nil up early on, but substitute Sarah Leonard (pictured, library photo) came off the bench to score one and set up another to ensure her side stayed top of the league.
Returning players a welcome sight
After missing a raft of players in the prior weekend FA Cup defeat, manager Darrel Evans was able to welcome back Dom Carrington and Leonard, although top scorer Nicole Brown’s ankle injury kept her on the side-lines alongside Chloe Connor, leaving the starting line-up containing Amelia Kimble and Hayley Cruickshanks; Sophie Allen also back in goal.
Second-placed Sports arrived with seven points from three games compared with the leaders nine from three; a win for the visitors would therefore see Ascot displaced at the top. But, you have to win your home games as the saying goes, and with the fixture schedule front-loading Ascot’s games at The Racecourse, they equally knew the importance of pushing for victory as they store up a backlog of road trips of their own.
Bournemouth’s Becky is Miles ahead
However, The Yellawomen were on the end of an early onslaught and soon found themselves two-goals down as the influential Miles helped herself to a brace, and might have scored more.
The game was just three minutes old when she clipped an exquisite right-footed shot with the outside of her boot that faded away from Allen and into the bottom right, and that was the sign of things to come.
She fired over soon afterwards when unmarked following good work from Abi Lander on the right, but would not be denied in the 15th minute when she raced through and buried a low shot past Allen to double Sports’ lead.
After a brief respite she was as it again – albeit wildly slashing over after Lander and Emma Davis had earlier linked up well – and might have completed a hat-trick with the last action of the half only for Allen’s superb diving save to keep her out.
Ascot improve and keep Bournemouth at bay
In between that, the home side had enjoyed their best spell and after Leonard had forced a corner, Kate Fox’s dangerous delivery was well clawed away by visiting ‘keeper Sam Chrippes before Laura Spark’s cushioned header in the ensuing play bounced a couple of yards wide.
Ex-Yellawomen Hanna Bennett’s cross bounced off the roof of the crossbar as Sports threatened again, but Ascot nearly cut the half-time deficit when Leonard showed her marker a clean pair of heels and did everything right only to see Chrippes stand up brilliantly to save her low shot; Cruickshanks unable to hook the loose ball home.
There’s something in the water
Whatever Ascot ingested at half time, it certainly worked as they came out a totally different side and were duly rewarded.
The signs were there in the 57th minute; Kate Fox played the ball into substitute Tiff Skinner, she held the ball up well and laid it off to Carrington, who clattered the crossbar from long range.
Claire Couzens, also impressive from the bench, was involved as Carrington tested Chrippes again with a scooped shot that lacked enough pace to really trouble the Sports’ keeper – who tipped her effort around a post – but it was game on in the 63rd minute when Ascot and Skinner were rewarded for their high-press when Leonard raced through to clip an exquisite effort over Chrippes to set up a grandstand finale.
Fitness shows but Bournemouth battle
The Yellawomen were clearly now on top against a tiring Dorset side, but there were anxious moments when substitute Faye Hawkins beat onrushing Allen in a footrace, but she could only drag her effort wide of the left hand-post.
Allen was, however, exceptional in goal and later survived a barrage of late corners and set pieces to ensure her side came away with a point. And, that point was secured as early as the 74th minute when Leonard set about the home defence like a wasp, teased defender Abbie Vernon into bringing her down, and that paved the way for Kimble to smash the resultant penalty low into the bottom left; few ‘keepers in the world would have saved it.
Both sides then went toe to toe – incredibly so on a hot afternoon and with no water breaks – Leonard threatening first with a right wing cross that Chrippes plucked off Kimble’s head.
In fairness, whilst another Ascot goal would have brought the roof down, it would have been harsh on Sports who mounted their own late charge; Allen watching as Bennett’s free kick in the fourth minute of injury time deflected up and over her crossbar.
It was a sensational affair, well officiated and leaving the home fans now licking their lips ahead of what lies ahead next weekend.
What’s next for Ascot?
Reading FC! Next Sunday – Racecourse – County Cup. ‘Nuff said.
Ascot United: Allen, Luckhurst-McCord, Spark, Todd, Fox, Holden, Cruickshanks, Carrington, Kimble, Vince, Huntley. Subs (rolling): Killick, Yewings, Leonard, Couzens, Skinner.
Reporter’s Star Player: Sarah Leonard (Ascot United). Impact substitute who scored one and created one in an all action display.
Attendance (estimate): 60