City Women eased into the semi-final of the Women’s FA Cup following victory over Sporting Club Albion, continuing their 100% win record for the season.
Blues’ manager Nick Cushing rested key players Jill Scott, Karen Bardsley and Toni Duggan, handing starts to two academy players, Zoe Tynan and Alethea Paul. It was thought that Jill Scott was possibly carrying a niggling injury due to the body-on-the-line play she’s displayed throughout the season, but fears were laid to rest when she was spotted vaulting over two security barriers at half time to get a coffee.
City dominated from the off, with Nikita Parris beating her full-back down the left wing, only to see her shot land wide of the post after being touched by an Albion player. The resulting corner saw Albion’s defence block efforts from Houghton, Bronze and Asllani in quick succession. The excellent play from Parris within the opening minute to start the move would prove to be an early warning as to what she had in store for the rest of the game.
Piling on the pressure, City were rewarded with the opening goal after 7 minutes following a sweeping ball from Asllani into space for Parris to run onto. The pacey striker accelerated past the Albion defence with ease, driving towards goal with purpose and slotted home into the top corner, albeit with the ball taking a slight deflection on the way in.
The first half continued to be filled with Parris’ magic runs down each flank – she was everywhere. It felt as though she wanted to prove a point, and was central to City’s play that led up to the second goal of the game. Parris took advantage of Albion’s slower defence, setting off on a blazing run down the right. Determined to score again, she fired off a shot towards goal, but Albion goalkeeper Rebecca Thomas was equal to it, saving well down low. However, she could only parry it to Jane Ross, who turned neatly in the box to side-foot the ball into the net from close range after 21 minutes.
HT: City 2 – 0 Sporting Club Albion.
The second half kicked-off and, as the half progressed, the difference in fitness levels between the two sides became apparent, with Albion’s forward line struggling to get in behind the Blues. The confidence this afforded City at the back allowed the full-backs to bomb forward. Lucy Bronze was the standout, fizzing in crosses across the box after making several lung-busting runs into the Baggies’ penalty area. The openings City created were growing in number and it was a disappointment that the goals that City deserved failed to materialise.
City’s best chance of the second half fell to, well, what seemed like half of the team after 66 minutes. Zoe Tynan sent in a great corner, which was met by Steph Houghton’s head, only to be cleared. Back in it went to Bronze seconds later, whose effort was cleared off the line (again!), and only an instinctive save from the Albion ‘keeper could deny City’s third attempt to finish the chance. It was harder to not score, but City somehow failed to take advantage.
Albion gave City a late test, with midfielder Trina Greaves shooting from 40-yards out after spotting Hourihan off her line. It was a brilliant effort that had the City keeper scrambling back towards her goal. Hourihan watched the ball all the way, though, and produced a great save to tip the ball on to the crossbar, saving City’s blushes in the process.
FT: City 2 – 0 Sporting Club Albion.
City weren’t at their best, but got the job done with a professional performance. The academy players gave a good account of themselves, taking the game in their stride and settled in to City’s calm, controlled way of play. Tynan looked particularly good in the middle, finding herself in acres of space throughout and linked defence and attack well. Questions were asked of the youngsters before the game, with some wondering whether they were up to the job of playing in the first team, but they coped well under the pressure and proved doubters wrong.
The win sees City through to the semi-finals of the Women’s FA Cup, where they could face Arsenal, Chelsea or Sunderland. The draw takes place on Tuesday 5th April, with ties to be played on Sunday 17th April at home-team-nominated neutral venues.
WOTM: Nikita Parris. City’s catalyst, playing with energy for 94 minutes. With direct, driving runs at pace up both wings throughout, she took the game to Albion and was rewarded for her efforts with a well-deserved goal early on. She was the creative force behind City’s second, too. Gave her best performance in a City shirt to date.
Hear Nick Cushing’s thoughts on the Blues’ potential semi-final opponents and academy players, and Abbie McManus on City’s hunt for FA Cup glory:
XI: Hourihan, Bronze (Kemp 78’), Houghton (C), McManus, Stokes, Tynan, Corboz (Stanway 69’), Asllani, Ross, Parris, Paul.
UNUSED SUBS: Roebuck, Duggan, Holland
Sporting Club Albion:
XI: Thomas, Darby, Clarke, Highman, Poole, Conroy, Greaves (Parnell 84’), Holmes (Wright 86’), Cottam, Dugmore (Yellow Card 82’, Smith 84’), Clough.
UNUSED SUBS: Edmunds, Bate.
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Written by Jill Peacock