Having visited Mill Farm to watch Fylde Ladies F.C. on two occasions already in their 2016/17 campaign, and with plans to attend their final game of the season against Middlesbrough; I had grand thoughts in my mind of a Fylde trilogy for X-Reds.
Then a couple of weeks ago when looking up their results and upcoming fixtures, I spotted a new fixture listed against recently crowned Women’s Premier League North champions Blackburn Rovers. The full time website was showing that this game was to be played in Swindon however, undeterred, I began to make plans on how to get there before realising: why the hell would Fylde be playing Blackburn in Swindon.
As you will be unsurprised to hear and much to my relief, the game was not to be played at the County Ground in Swindon, but the County Ground in Leyland.
When I remembered the plans for completing the ‘Fylde trilogy’ in the game against Middlesbrough I briefly considered just going to this game as a supporter, before remembering that now it is fully acceptable (kind of) to split the final part of a trilogy into two parts. So that is what this is, part one of part three with part two of part three coming in a couple of weeks.
Fylde are a team that I’ve come to, unapologetically, really like; with the trio of X-Reds they have in Yasmine Swarbrick, Olivia Wild and Eve Kennerley and the overall atmosphere at the club. I’ve even got a Fylde scarf and a handy bottle opener keyring. So despite Blackburn having an X-Red in their ranks in Jess Holbrook (Ellie Stewart also now on the Rovers playing roster but ineligible to play in this game), I headed to the game – the Lancashire Women’s Challenge Cup final no less – in full support of the Coasters.
Manager Conrad Prendergast made four changes to his team from Fylde’s last game away at Nottingham Forest; Yasmine Swarbrick – who scored in this fixture last year – and Eve Kennerley named on the bench along with Laura Walker.
Danielle Brown returned between the posts while Development Squad graduate Leah Foster led the line up front – supported by Olivia Wild playing further up the pitch than usual, playing just behind Foster yet ahead of the midfield.
The back line had England youth international Olivia Wilkes at right back, Alice Forshaw on the left and captain Charlotte Farrell partnered by Jenna Carroll in central defence.
Danielle Young, Chloe Adam, Kim Turner and Hannah Forster completed the line-up for the Coasters.
With the air of a typical Cup final, a tense first half was played out in Leyland with not much in the way of clear cut chances for either side.
In the opening ten minutes Foster closed down Blackburn goalkeeper Danielle Hill, winning the ball and cutting it back to Forster yet the defence recovered well and were able to clear their lines.
Then at the other end Holbrook struck an effort that took a deflected to land safely in the arms of Brown.
The biggest chance came when Faye McCoy, who scored twice in the derby at Mill Farm late last year, seen a header cleared off the line by Turner and, almost immediately, up at the other end Wilkes’ cross appeared to hit a defenders hand only for the referee to wave away Fylde’s calls for a penalty.
Fylde came quick out the blocks in the second half, leaving Rovers temporarily stunned, Wilkes sent a fizzing cross along the 6-yard box yet it couldn’t quite reach Wild – who had made a great run to the back post – and the defence were able to clear.
A series of Blackburn set pieces were then turned away by Fylde; Wilkes heading one clear, Brown catching one and a third headed onto the crossbar after being swung in by Holbrook.
With 35 minutes to play, a welcome sight came from the bench as Swarbrick was introduced in a straight swap for Foster. Then, five minutes later, came Kennerley. The duos impact was immediate and their fighting spirit clear as they battled for every ball.
Swarbrick up front and chasing everything and everyone, closing down the ‘keeper and dropping back to defend and Kennerley giving the Coasters a bit more steel in the middle of the park, winning the ball and constantly looking to move it forward.
Unfortunately for Fylde, Blackburn would eventually capitalise on one of their set pieces. McCoy heading the ball over the line and providing the league winners with the cup winning goal.
In the games closing stages as the Coasters chased an equaliser – and came close through Wilkes driven strike from distance – both Wild and Carroll were forced off through injury.
It is a crushing blow to lose a final, to lose a final by one goal, to lose to your local rivals.
However this Fylde side can take pride in how they applied themselves, going toe-to-toe with Blackburn who have lost only once all season and there are plenty of positives the Coasters can take into their final few games of the season, and then on again into 2017/18.
Fylde face Middlesbrough at Mill Farm in their final game of the season on Sunday 14th May, 2017 – 2pm kick-off.
Photo credit – SMP Photography
Previously on X-Reds:
Derby Day in Freezing Fylde
The perfect opportunity to catch up with ex-Liverpool defenders Megan Alexander (Bristol) and Mandy Van Den Berg (Reading); although Dutch captain Van Den Berg was unable to play due to an injury picked up on international duty.
It was brilliant to watch Megan play once again, the defender left Liverpool for Everton – the side she made her Reds first debut against – in January 2015 before moving to Bristol twelve months later.
The left-back made 19 appearances for the Vixens in 2016 as they earned automatic promotion from WSL2, and started here this afternoon.
When this blog first began reporting on Liverpool’s Development Squad, it was Alexander that stood out. In November 2013, the side beat Durham 6-2 and Alexander was named Player of the Match; “a particularly impressive second-half performance, a hat-trick of chances capped with a well taken goal.”
Alexander has a lovely attacking flair and since leaving Liverpool this has continued to develop alongside the defensive part of her game. To watch her play at Ashton Gate on Saturday evening, back in the top flight amongst a talented young Bristol side was great and, despite the result, the Vixens can walk away from the game feeling hard done by.
REPORT: BRISTOL WOMEN F.C. 1 READING WOMEN F.C. 3
Having dominated the opening 45-minutes Bristol fell to three second-half strikes and pulled a late consolation goal back; Reading simply taking their chances well.
The visitors also had Mary Earps between the posts, the ‘keeper recently named in the WSL PFA Team of the Year, and a back three consisting of Harriet Scott, Kirsty McGee and Anna Green.
When Bristol had the ball the Reading back three reverted into a back five, with Rebecca Jane and Rachel Rowe dropping back into defence with help from Rachel Furness in midfield.
Melissa Fletcher led up front for Reading, yet at times looked isolated despite support from Brooke Chaplen and Lauren Bruton – Charlie Estcourt completed the line-up in central midfield.
Bristol’s first chance of the game came down the left flank, Alexander attacking with intent and finding Claire Emslie on the overlap. Emslie’s cross was intercepted and Chloe Arthur fired over the crossbar.
The hosts passing was a joy to watch; quick, short passes leaving the Reading defence sliced wide open and forcing Earps into a low save with her foot. Emslie was a constant bright spark on the left and shortly into the first half, cut in and hit a shot that beat Earps but bounced back off the post.
Although it was Bristol with the more meaningful chances in the first half, when Fletcher closed in on goal at the other end she was quickly supported by Chaplen and Bruton only for Vixens goalkeeper Caitlin Leach off her line to gather up the ball.
Of the Reading defence it was McGee in the middle who impressed most and when on the ball looking to carry it out from the back. In the middle of the field Estcourt was twice robbed of the ball, first by Lauren Hemp and then by Jodie Brett who each looked to move the ball forward although still Bristol couldn’t make their efforts count.
Midway through the half Brett swung in a free kick that was met by Alexander, yet unfortunately her low drive was caught by Earps.
Reading finished the half strongly, Furness’ hit was blocked by the Bristol defence and fell to Jane out wide. Jane moved the ball back towards Chaplen who struck her effort over the bar.
Furness then threaded a ball through to Bruton who in turn looked for the run of Chaplen, with Bristol captain Hayley Ladd out to intercept.
As the half drew to a close Reading seemed to be consigned to shooting from distance, Fletcher latching onto a pass infield from Rowe and hitting a shot from outside the box that was blocked. Green also took a short free kick to Chaplen who had positioned herself just wide of the Bristol wall, again the final shot closed down.
Reading’s luck however would change in the second half following the introduction of Remi Allen for Estcourt. A set piece straight from the training ground two minutes in, with Rowe’s corner bouncing off the head of Furness towards the back of the 6-yard box and into the back of the net.
With the 1-0 lead the Royals continued to defence in numbers and then scored twice in quick succession – Rowe and Fletcher making it 3-0 just fifteen minutes into the half.
Another fifteen minutes passed and Bristol pulled a goal back, Hemp with the strike, but this merely a consolation and the Royals picking up their first three points of the season.
Liverpool face Reading in Widnes this Friday night and Bristol at the Stoke Gifford Stadium on Saturday 20th May. Good luck to both Megan and Mandy with the rest of their seasons!