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Milton Keynes City 1 Newbury Ladies 2
Newbury Ladies clinched promotion to the Southern Region League Premier Division with their eleventh League victory in a row to land the Division One title with a game to spare.
They were made to work hard to secure the points needed to outdistance the last of their rivals by a spirited Milton Keynes City team who levelled the scores with fifteen minutes to go, threatening to delay the champagne celebrations.
Fittingly a superb late strike by skipper Leanne Creese saw the visitors home and ensured a happy Newbury group could enjoy their moment of triumph at Tattenhoe Lane playing fields.
In truth, only a disaster would have prevented Newbury from winning the league after such a stunning set of results, with Fleetlands needing seven wins out of seven and Newbury to lose their two final matches for their huge lead to be overturned. With a strong breeze blowing across the pitch both teams took a while to settle, the only threats at either end coming from well delivered corners causing last ditch defending in the opening ten minutes.
Gradually Newbury started to threaten the City goal from open play. Leanne Saunders had a long range effort well held by City keeper Sara Madden-Connor who was then quick off her line to clear from Nicole Beesley. Ellie Reed got in a powerful header from a Creese corner but Madden-Connor again showed good handling on 26 minutes. At the other end, Stacy Ellett tested Chloe Hunt from 20 yards as MK City had a decent share of the ball through the midfield.
Newbury nearly took the lead as first the keeper then covering defender Laura Geyton did well to block goalbound efforts on 36 minutes. However. the best move of the half saw Newbury in front four minutes later. A lovely pass by Rachel Panting released Read on the right and her low cross was turned in by Lorna Parr from close range.
Read nearly doubled the lead from outside the area but the ball struck the bar and although Roxy Karbownik went close for City just before the break, Newbury deserved their interval lead.
The hard fought nature of the match continued and it was not until the hour that Newbury's Sam Atkins went close with a shot just over the bar. Beesley then lobbed the keeper but the ball fell wide of goal where Panting fired a cross shot inches wide of the far post. Milton Keynes worked a good opening for Dani Metcalfe but Hunt did well to block her shot at the edge of the area. Encouraged by this, the hosts started to build pressure and a run and cross by Shannon Brown brought about the equaliser. Michelle Morrall challenged Hunt and the ball looped over the keeper and into the net on 75 minutes.
Both teams went for the victory as the clock wound down but it was a fine moment of quality which settled the match. There seemed little danger when Creese received the ball 40 yards from goal on the right. Cutting infield past one challenge, the Newbury skipper worked enough space to hit a drive which flew into the bottom right corner of Madden-Connor's net from 25 yards for the winning goal. The City keeper was injured in diving to try to stop the shot but recover to deny Read with another instinctive save from close range in added time.
Milton Keynes City, in their first season at this level since promotion from the Thames Valley County League, are having a good season in Division One. After a poor start,. including a 5-1 home defeat by today's opposition, Newbury have embarked on a title winning streak which has lasted since late October in the league. After several years in Division One in which they have not challenged for promotion, Newbury will get to test themselves regularly against local teams who they have only met in Cup competitions.
Milton Keynes City: Sara Madden-Connor, Dani Metcalfe, Steff Crook, Stacy Ellett, Michelle Morrall, Shannon Brown, Laura Geyton, Mia Skaarup, Danielle Relph, Roxy Karbownik, Aimee Barrable. Sub: Gemma Taylor.
Newbury Ladies: Chloe Hunt, Lorna Parr, Naomi Purviss, Sophie Self, Leanne Saunders, Leanne Creese, Kirsty Parfett, Sam Atkins, Ellie Read, Rachel Panting, Nicole Beesley. Subs: Gemma Burnett, Sam McConnon, Sue Hewett.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Shannon Brown tries to prevent Ellie Read from getting through
(middle) Rachel Panting is tackled by Dani Metcalfe
(bottom) the Newbury Ladies players celebrate after the game!
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