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Chelsea 1 Lincoln Ladies 2
Lincoln Ladies made a successful start to their FA WSL Continental Cup Group Two campaign with a 2-1 away victory over Chelsea.
With all six close season signings starting, Chelsea struggled to find much fluency in their play and were second best for most of the contest against the Lady Imps. The home side were in contention for a point right to the last kick after an improved second half display, but Lincoln deservedly took the spoils.
With three new players having impressive games, Lincoln pressed forward for most of the first half. Meaghan Sargeant was solid alongside Casey Stoney at the back, Collette McCullum was busy in midfield but it was Precious Hamilton who took the eye, linking up effectively with Jess Clarke to keep the home defence at full stretch.
Long range efforts from Sophie Walton and Rachel Daly flew wide before Hamilton went close from a Clarke flick on. Clarke was denied by good defending from a fine Daly cross as Lincoln dominated the first half hour. McCullum shot wide when released by Remi Allen and the only complaint that could be levelled at the visitors was that Carly Telford in the Blues goal had not had more saves to make by half time.
Helen Bleazard was the most threatening Chelsea attacker and she signalled a more positive attitude right after the break by driving in a low cross which just evaded two attackers. However,a moment of quality gave the visitors the lead. Hamilton, breaking into the right edge of the box on 51 minutes, beat her marker to a bouncing ball and hooked a cross shot over Telford.
Chelsea did not take long to equalise. Dani Buet returned a clearance to Bleazard on the left of the area and she calmly finished past Nicola Hobbs on 57 minutes.
Back came Lincoln with Clarke rattling the inside of the far post from a narrow angle and the ball being cleared for a corner leading to a bizarre goal which proved be the winner. Lucy Staniforth whipped a low inswinging ball which may well have been going in at the near post but Telford, diving forward, was only able to punch the ball into her own net.
Substitutes Helen Lander and Ashlee Hincks gave Chelsea more threat up front, twice breaking clear on the right to threaten Hobbs' goal. But it was Telford who had the more difficult save to make, blocking a Hamilton shot well on 81 minutes to keep Blues in the match.
A final flurry of Buet crosses and a corner, with keeper Telford up in attack, were well dealt with to ensure that Lincoln returned north with all three points. The visitors looked a solid unit with every player contributing well. Daly was unfortunately stretchered off near the end after having had a fine match.
Chelsea surely have considerable room for improvement but the format of this season's Continental Cup gives them further chances to impress as the new recruits find their feet and injured players return.
Chelsea: Carly Telford, Sophie Perry, Gemma Bonner, Katie Sherwood, Dani Buet, Suzanne Lappin, Helen Bleazard, Sophie Ingle, Dunia Susi, Kate Longhurst, Victoria Williams. Subs: Helen Lander, Ashlee Hincks, Lara Fay, Claire Rafferty, Laura Coombs, Sarah Quantrill, Kylie Davies.
Lincoln Ladies: Nicola Hobbs, Casey Stoney, Meaghan Sargeant, Rachel Daly, Collette McCullum, Lucy Staniforth, Megan Harris, Remi Allen, Sophie Walton, Jess Clarke, Precious Hamilton. Subs: Bonnie Horwood, Sophie Barker, Holly Crosby, Carla Cantrell.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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