Football Sport

Early goal blitz enough to sink resilient York

Two strikes within the first ten minutes proved enough to take free-scoring Northumbria top of the table at the expense of battling York this afternoon.

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BUCS Northern Conference 3B, Wednesday 11th February 2009

Two strikes within the first ten minutes proved enough to take free-scoring Northumbria top of the table at the expense of battling York this afternoon. However, the script could easily have been different, with the hosts hitting both post and crossbar in the same frenetic opening to a match which faded badly as fatigue crept in. York will remain in their present mid-table position, but a number of games in hand, caused by a spate of postponements both before and after the Christmas vacation, means an improvement in fortunes cannot yet be ruled out.

York's principal objective entering the fixture was to restrain Northumbria's prolific strikeforce, which had netted 21 goals in five BUCS League games, including eight against Hull University and seven against Leeds Trinity and All Saints. The opening stages suggested the away team's rich vein of form would continue, with York goalkeeper Hayley Smith called upon on three occasions within the first four minutes, including a brave double save from close-range.

Just seconds after the lively Gaby Stewart had looped an effort against the outside of the Northumbria upright, a three-minute vacuum in York's defensive concentration cost them the points. Firstly, a defence-splitting pass from an advanced midfield position, combined with some hesitation at centre-back, allowed Northumbria's alert number ten to commit Smith and clip the ball home. The visitors' second, from their next attack, was almost a replica: the defence again caught square as the same player helped herself to a second.

Womens Football v Northumbria, 11-02-09, Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

(Justyn Hardcastle)

In an indication of the openness of proceedings, York were anything but shell-shocked, pouring forward in numbers to support the forward line. However, it was an individual piece of brilliance from left winger Caroline Brasken that should have halved the deficit: collecting a long-ball down the channel, the Finn shimmied inside and then out, worked a yard of space and chipped a shot against the crossbar to yellow-shirted frustration. Moments later, after Stewart had been brought down by the goalkeeper, Brasken launched the bobbling ball over when an empty goal loomed.

Northumbria were largely content to play on the counter-attack, which was an effective strategy, producing a succession of corners, which were often left uncleared. Smith was forced to parry another close-range effort from one of these set-pieces after 27 minutes.

The second half proved something of a non-event, with Northumbria content to nurture their points without threatening to extend it, and York struggling to break through a well-marshalled away defence. York played large swathes of the period without striker Stewart, who didn't give the Northumbria defenders a moment's grace with her Carlos Tevez-esque harrying, but limped off to the home side's detriment. Sarah Stallard and Becky Segal were very effective in cutting off the Northumbria supply line, but there was little on offer going forward for York. Their best opportunity arrived when Sarah Milner's free-kick forced a save, the ball squirming across goal, agonisingly evading outstretched York legs.

By the time Milner's next set-piece sailed over in the dying moments, the chance to salvage the match had long passed. Without any substitutes to refresh their style of play, York lacked a cutting edge once tiredness inevitably settled in. The team will continue their league programme with another home fixture next Wednesday, against Leeds Trinity.

Speaking to Nouse afterwards, Captain Carey Kalym said, "I thought we played really well and should have at least come away with a draw, especially as we came close on several occasions. I really thought we were going to come back into the game in the second half, but I think fatigue, injuries and a lack of substitutes didn't help the situation."

York Line-up: 1. Hayley Smith, 3. Zoe Ponton, 5. Amelia Dulee-Kinsolving, 6, Sarah Stallard, 17. Becky Segal, 10. Jess Gregson, 11. Carey Kalym (c), 12. Jennie England, 19. Sarah Milner, 20. Caroline Brasken, 18. Gaby Stewart

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