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Bristol Ladies Union Development landed their first trophy after recovering from an early setback to beat Abbeymead Rovers 3-1 in the Gloucestershire FA Women's Cup Final at Oaklands Park.
It was Abbeymead who settled the quicker of the two sides and they took the lead after four minutes of play. Following a misjudgement by Union goalkeeper Erin Pruett, who picked the ball up outside the penalty area, Anni White floated the resulting free kick into the area and Tina Cox planted a firm header into the corner of the net for the opening goal.
The early strike clearly boosted Abbeymead and they dominated possession, passing the ball around confidently with White controlling matters in midfield. The pace of Stacey Leaver up front was troubling a nervous looking Union defence but the Gloucester-based side were unable to add to their lead while they were on top.
Union had mustered only one attempt on goal, a shot from Ceri Harland which flew over the bar, but they got over their nervous spell with midfield duo Lucy Sharp and Elodie Fechino gradually bringing their side into the game.
As half time approached, Union produced the strike they needed to get back on terms. Much was owed to captain Vicky Bater who made an interception on the halfway line and carried the ball forward before finding Laura Brown on the edge of the area, where she cut inside a challenge from Vicky Fyfe before unleashing a powerful strike which soared into the net before Ashleigh Scantlebury could move.
The game was turned on its head on the stroke of half time. Lucy Sharp did well to trick her way past two players on the left and after her cross had initially been cleared, Fechino picked up the loose ball and produced another excellent strike which dipped over Scantlebury to put Union ahead for the first time.
Abbeymead had been unlucky to be behind at the break but after the restart, Union emerged a different side and much more assured in possession. They forced a couple of early corners but it was Abbeymead who had the first opportunity, White and Natalie Whitehouse combining well to set up Chloe Taylor. Pruett appeared to momentarily stumble whilst coming out but did enough as the young striker lifted her shot just wide.
Brown brought out a save from Scantlebury at the other end but the Abbeymead goalkeeper could do nothing to prevent Union from taking a firm grip on the game just after the hour. Brown did well to hold the ball up on the edge of the area before sliding an inch perfect pass into the path of Charlie Andrews who sidefooted into the net from eight yards.
Leila Bartley fired over the bar from a corner as Union sought more goals. Sophie Cooper was proving a good outlet on the right while Andrews and Poppy Warren were both busy attacking from midfield to support Brown, who was having a fine match up front.
Abbeymead needed to attack in order to get themselves back into the game and it almost came with nine minutes remaining. Whitehouse played a neat pass to release Leaver whose shot brought out an excellent save from Pruett, Taylor reacted quickest to get to the rebound but was denied by a great piece of defending from Alyta Norman who got across to block her goalbound effort.
Pruett again saved well from a long range strike by Erin Beale and after Fechino had gone close with a header at the other end, Leaver was again very unlucky not to score with a 20-yard strike which sailed inches past the post.
Union were able to see out Abbeymead's valiant late efforts and almost scored again late on, Brown's header hitting the side netting from a corner, but the celebrations were not long in coming for a victory they deserved overall from a game was remarkably saw only one free kick given for a foul in the entire 90 minutes.
Bristol Ladies Union Development: Erin Pruett, Leila Bartley, Vicky Bater, Elodie Fechino, Mia Bussey, Alyta Norman, Laura Brown, Poppy Warren, Ceri Harland, Lucy Sharp, Charlie Andrews. Subs: Sophie Cooper, Ellie Richards, Alice Bonham-Carter.
Abbeymead Rovers: Ashleigh Scantlebury, Kelly Saunders, Sandra Saunders, Jodie Tester, Vicky Fyfe, Tracy Squibb, Paige Ible, Erin Beale, Stacey Leaver, Anni White, Tina Cox. Subs: Natalie Whitehouse, Chloe Taylor, Lucy Keogh.
(top) Tina Cox heads Abbeymead in front
(middle) Laura Brown takes on Jodie Tester
(bottom) Bristol Ladies Union Development with the trophy
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