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West Ham Utd Res 1 Bradford City Res 2
Holders Bradford City will defend the FAWPL Reserve League Cup in an all-Yorkshire final against Sheffield FC after defeating West Ham United with a late winner at the Hammers' Beckton training centre.
There were five minutes remaining when an Abigail Lee free kick gave the visitors a lead which they protected for a 2-1 victory after a very even and highly competitive encounter on the all weather surface.
West Ham got off to the best possible start with a second minute lead. Playing with the strong breeze, Hammers were awarded a free kick centrally, 25 yards out. Gemma Abela hit a strong effort which went straight through keeper Stephanie James' hands to give the hosts a great start. They very nearly stretched the lead when Emily Masters had an effort deflected wide at the last. Abela took the corner which was headed clear by Zoe Roberts guarding the far post. Aleah Headley then had a snap shot from 20 yards which beat James' dive before clipping the post and going wide.
Bradford found an effective outlet with Abigail Brown on the left and her cross shot flew inches wide of Helena Brodie's post on 12 minutes. James atoned for her earlier error with a fine save on 22 minutes, diving to turn away a Masters shot after a defensive slip. Abela also had a shot held after a good run but Bradford were very close to an equaliser when Sarah Dobby, who played outstandingly well throughout, played a perfect through ball for Chloe Pennisi to crash a shot against the left hand post.
Perhaps the turning point of the tie came right on half time when Abela again did well to beat the last defender then lob James. The ball hit the left hand post and was scrambled away to safety as Bradford went to the break grateful to be trailing by just one goal.
The importance of that let off was emphasised within five minutes of the restart. City won the ball high up the pitch and a one-two gave Lee the chance to equalise with a low shot from the edge of the area.
Using the still strong breeze in their favour, the visitors were frequently able to press the Hammers deep into defence and also benefitted from a number of free kicks in dangerous areas. Brodie made a fine save at her far post to turn away a dangerous ball at the onrushing Abigail Barker's feet on 56 minutes and held another good effort from Chloe Broadbent.
West Ham tried hard to respond but the Bradford defence was much sharper than previously and was at the other end that the closer chances came. Lee bounced a 25-yard effort off the crossbar and over on 71 minutes and Brodie made another good save on 83 minutes when a free kick fizzed across the area. As extra time loomed it was another set piece which settled the match. West Ham were penalised on the left corner of the box and Lee measured a perfect free kick over the wall and high into the near post angle and Brodie could only help into the net on 85 minutes.
The visitors had one final scare when West Ham won a free kick in a very similar position to Lee's successful effort, but the ball flew wide of James' post and City were able to celebrate a comeback victory and a West versus South Yorkshire derby in the Final.
West Ham Utd Res: Helena Brodie, Ciara Bland, Natalie Strange, Danielle Sillitoe, Sophie Reed, Sasha Kelly, Olivia Sammons, Aleah Headley, Emily Masters, Gemma Abela, Whitney Locke. Subs: Steph Burder, Amy Gullefer, Abbie Solly.
Bradford City Res: Stephanie James, Katy Woodcock, Zoe Roberts, Abigail Lee, Jessica Pearson, Laura Midgley, Chloe Broadbent, Chloe Pennisi, Abigail Barker, Sarah Dobby, Abigail Brown. Subs: Victoria Rich, Lauren Tate.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Katy Woodcock takes on Natalie Strange
(middle) Abigail Brown goes in bravely against Ciara Bland
(bottom) Laura Midgley gets in a challenge on Whitney Locke
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