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Luton Town 3 Norwich City 2
Luton Town moved into second place in the FAWPL Division One South East after edging out visitors Norwich City by the odd goal in five after an exciting, open match at Stockwood Park.
Trailing for almost 20 second half minutes to a lively Canaries outfit, Town raised their game to overturn the deficit and take the three points, overtaking Milton Keynes Dons for the moment in pursuit of leaders Crystal Palace.
After an even opening period, Luton took the lead on 17 minutes when prolific striker Natasha Fensome found some space on the left edge of the area and placed a shot beyond the diving Jade Nicholson for the opener.
City were soon level when Ebony Wiseman got free on the right and cut the ball back for Paige Shorten to drill a powerful low shot past Rachel Evans on 24 minutes.
Megan Bartlett went close for Norwich from distance four minutes later but Fensome missed a great chance for the hosts when, having rounded Nicholson, she fired wide of the near post on 32 minutes. Shorten sent an ambitious volley on the turn just wide and Wiseman went close from distance as Norwich finished the half the better.
Twenty seconds after the restart, the Canaries went ahead when a Wiseman shot rebounded kindly for Chelsea Garrett who finished well from close range. Evans, in the home goal, then made a crucial save, leaping to turn away a Shorten lob on 53 minutes to prevent a third Norwich strike and, from that moment, the tide gradually swung in Luton's favour.
Fensome was involved in almost every Luton threat, whether holding the ball up for colleagues or striking on goal herself. Joanne Rutherford sent in a cross which Fensome fired over, then Nicholson made a brave save to keep out a cross shot on 62 minutes, Erin Wilson completing the clearance. At the other end, Shannon Carroll made an important saving tackle and Wiseman was only just crowded out after a mazy dribble into the area.
A fine equaliser by Luton's Jessica McKay just after the hour came when her first time lofted effort from wide on the left sailed in beyond Nicholson from fully 30 yards. Luton looked the more likely winners as the game became stretched. Fensome was denied when Kate Parsons cleared a shot from the line on 69 minutes. Using two wingers themselves in Abbie Gower and Bartlett, City kept the home defence well occupied at times but the better chances fell to Luton.
Luton substitute Tamera Bayne was denied on 78 minutes by a fine save from Nicholson but from the resultant corner, well delivered by Zara Carroll under the Norwich bar, the ball found a way into the net and gave Luton the lead on 78 minutes.
Another Zara Carroll corner nearly led to a fourth goal, Fensome volleying over when well placed, but Luton then defended their lead well against some late Norwich pressure to register a hard fought victory,
Both teams were missing some key players but those available played with a highly committed and attack minded approach over the whole 90 minutes to end the year with plenty of promise for 2016 for both clubs.
Luton Town: Rachel Evans, Michelle Byrne, Shannon Carroll, Zara Carroll, Rachel Carter, Natasha Fensome, Samiaira Khan, Rachel Kosky, Jessica McKay, Shannon Pratt, Joanne Rutherford. Subs: Tamera Bayne, Erica Byron, Kezia Hassell, Hollie Staples.
Norwich City: Jade Nicholson, Eva Evans, Brooke Osborne, Ebony Wiseman, Kate Parsons, Erin Wilson, Megan Bartlett, Paige Shorten, Chelsea Garrett, Katie Knights, Abbie Gower. Sub: Ellie Bird.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Abbie Gower holds off Shannon Carroll
(middle) Ebony Wiseman is chased by Jessica McKay
(bottom) Rachel Kosky tricks her way past Brooke Osborne
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