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Bradford City lifted the Reserve Section League Cup after beating Cardiff City Ladies on a penalty shootout in the Final at Stratford.
The Welsh girls went into the game as champions of the Midlands Division, being undefeated all season and were up against a strong Bradford City side, but heroics by the Cardiff girls on the day resulted in the game ending goalless only to be settled on penalties.
The game held at Stratford FC on a lovely surface in front of a good partisan crowd started lively enough, when in the opening minutes Cardiff had a scare when midfielder Kierra Deeks took a nasty knock to the leg by bravely blocking a shot, but as was the tone of the day for the Welsh girls she just got up and got on with the game. Bradford looked strong up front early on with the partnership of Caroline Omboyi and Melanie Garside-Wight looking menacing, but Cardiff's midfield had a nice blend of youth and experience with Deeks settling in with Zoe Atkins, Leah Williams and Holly Provis all looking lively and stroking the ball around nicely.
As both teams tried to settle the nerves it was end to end and it wasn't until the 15th minute that the first serious threat on goal came, when Atkins spun on the edge of the area to fire a shot that was comfortably held by Stephanie Jones in the Bradford goal. Bradford also had chances from a series of corners but Laura O'Sullivan was equal to any dangerous in swinging corners by collecting the ball confidently, she was then called on to snuff out a dangerous through ball but calmly pinched the ball off the end of the toe of Abigail Barker.
Defensively, Cardiff were outstanding marshalled by Kat Lovett in the central role with Fran Dalton, Beth Price and Annie Pritchard as full backs both going forward at every opportunity to support the strikers. Bradford had a glorious chance to take the lead from a free kick that O'Sullivan did well to punch clear and from the rebound Caroline Cropp hit the foot of the post.
Midway through the half Cardiff had a purple patch, but couldn't capitalise on the possession gained and chances created as shots were squandered, and a good opening when Corinne Mitchell won the ball in midfield and set Deeks free to lay on a lovely weighted ball for youngster Williams up front but Jones in the Bradford goal did well to read the play and come out to gather well as the half closed scoreless.
Cardiff upped the tempo in the second half and played the ball around well but again lacked ideas up front as Atkins and Jade Plumley both squandered chances. Annie Pritchard tried her luck with a long range effort and Holly Provis did well to link up with Atkins before screwing her shot wide.
The hero of the half was O'Sullivan in the Cardiff goal as she first saved low to her left from striker Caroline Cropp before acrobatically tipping over a fierce strike from Garside-Wight just on the 90 minute mark as the game went into extra time.
Cardiff's last throw of the dice came as Plumley made way for fresh legs and coach Charlotte Preen entered the frey to lend her experience and instantly made her mark with a lovely ball that opened up for Provis but her shot went wide. Price then made an outstanding tackle on Rosie McDonnell who was through on goal in the dying minutes, as the game went to the lottery of penalties.
Preen set an example by slotting home the first one, but it was Pritchard who failed to convert the second penalty, the kick was well placed but Jones read it well diving to her right to save, Provis, Atkins and Williams all hit the net for Cardiff but Bradford scored all of their spot kicks, to take the cup up north.
It was perhaps fitting that Garside-Wight, a great servant with Doncaster Belles in the past, scored the winning penalty with what may be the final kick of her illustrious career and she stepped up to collect the trophy along with City captain Jess Pearson.
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