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Leverstock Green 3 Great Shelford 4
Great Shelford enjoyed an opening day win away to Leverstock Green with a hard fought and exciting 4-3 victory as the Eastern Region League Premier Division began the 2014-15 winter pyramid season a week before anyone else.
A storming opening ten minutes saw Shelford race into a 3-1 lead but the home side battled back, twice reducing the advantage to a single goal and going agonisingly close to grabbing a point with the last touch of the match. 2013-14 League Cup winners Great Shelford had finished fifth to Leverstock Green's seventh in last season's table and this match promised an interesting season ahead for both clubs.
Great Shelford had gone close even before their second minute opener from Kate Saunders who drilled a low 15-yard effort past Keira Fitzsimmons. Leverstock Green were level with their first attack, a fine turn and strike from Nicola Hollick.
Before ten minutes had passed, Great Shelford were two goals ahead. Both strikes came from lightning fast breaks which left players clean through. Firstly, Sophie Hopkins finished cleanly in the corner then she immediately turned provider for Charlotte Maybank with a fine reverse pass.
Leverstock Green simply could not cope with the pace of the scorers and Becky Charter on the right wing and were grateful for good work from Fitzsimmons to keep the score within reach in the first half hour. The Leverstock keeper made a fine save to turn a vicious shot from Hopkins onto the post and was out bravely to block twice from onrushing forwards. Hopkins then got round the keeper but hit the side netting from a tight angle.
When they got their own passing game together around the half hour mark, the home team started to redress the balance and exert some pressure. Giselle Randall had a good chance on 28 minutes but stabbed her shot wide. Gemma Coggins was also very lively for the hosts, putting in a number of dangerous crosses and, more importantly, the team had settled at the back. restricting Great Shelford to two long range Ali Wright efforts, both well held by Fitzsimmons.
Despite a two goal lead, there was no room for complacency for Great Shelford at the break. Hollick, Randall and Coggins had shown good understanding and movement and the next goal would be crucial. Randall set up the Leverstock Green second with a quick break and although replacement keeper Sophie Lanham made a brave stop, Coggins was able to slip the ball home on 55 minutes.
A goal from a corner restored Great Shelford's advantage after they had gone close on several occasions. Wright's shot squeezed home after deflections off the keeper and Natasha Sherriff on the line on 72 minutes.
Gemma Murray had been dangerous at corners and strong in defence but was powerless to stop Leverstock Green's third on 84 minutes, Hollick managing a shot which was adjudged to have crossed the line before being cleared, the goal arising from a corner which the scorer had won with a powerful run into the area.
Green now pressed strongly for the equaliser and won two free kicks in dangerous areas deep into added time. The wall blocked the first but the second was low. Lanham pushed the shot out towards the onrushing Heather Eaton who could only deflect the ball inches wide from two yards with the final touch of the match.
Early season fine tuning and absence of some players made for an open and exciting match. Leverstock Green improved greatly after a nightmare twenty minutes whilst Great Shelford showed good battling qualities when under pressure and real menace from their forward trio, picking up the points despite a depleted squad through injury and unavailability. 31 goals in five matches made for an exciting opening day in the Eastern Region Premier Division with Billericay Town and Barking joining Great Shelford as early pacesetters.
Leverstock Green: Keira Fitzsimmons, Faye Potton, Heather Eaton, Ellie Pickard, Natalie Burrows, Ellen Salter, Joanne Williams, Lucy Tape, Gemma Coggins, Nicola Hollick, Giselle Randall. Subs: Sarah Brydon, Donna McAvoy, Natasha Sherriff.
Great Shelford: Claire Creek, Abbie Davies, Alana Sugden, Sophie Lanham, Gemma Murray, Kate Saunders, Becky Charter, Ali Wright, Sophie Hopkins, Georgia Day, Charlotte Maybank. Subs: Amanda Binge, Lauren Martin.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Giselle Randall takes on Alana Sugden
(middle) Kate Saunders battles with Ellie Pickard
(bottom) Ali Wright gets in a challenge on Giselle Randall
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