Narrow win takes Town through

WOMEN'S SOCCER: Middlesbrough 0 Ipswich Town WFC 1. Ipswich Town Women progressed into the second round of the FA Nationwide Premier League Cup thanks to an injury-time strike from 18-year-old Sarah Dooley.

By Elvin King


Middlesbrough 0 Ipswich Town WFC 1

IPSWICH Town Women progressed into the second round of the FA Nationwide Premier League Cup thanks to an injury-time strike from 18-year-old Sarah Dooley.

Leanne Parker recovered from the back injury so Town's manager Sean Thacker kept the same starting team that won so impressively at Langford with the exception of Nicola Scott deputising in goal for the injured Faye Lunn.

Scott was forced to make an early save from a Middlesborough counter attack, but was largely a spectator in the first half as Town dominated possession but struggled to break down the home defence.

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Michelle Allum had the visitors' only two real efforts at goal as she fired an early shot wide before rattling the crossbar from distance.

On the stroke of half time, Town were denied a penalty when a Boro defender handled the ball at a corner. The assistant referee flagged and signalled for a penalty but the referee waved away the appeals.

The second half was continuously interrupted in the opening minutes due to a spell of injuries and treatment.

When the game got going again it was Middlesborough who should have taken the lead when a long ball beat Town's offside trap and although the home forward went around Scott the angle was too tight and the ball hit the side-netting.

Town lost the services of Norma Ives through injury and brought on the experienced Lisa Culley and then reverted to a 3-5-2 formation as Emma Gregory came on for her first team debut in place of Allum.

This kick-started Town again as they started to move the ball around quicker and create chances.

Farrow fired her free-kick just too high and then provided the cross for Culley's header to force a reflex save from Boro's enormous keeper.

Farrow then delivered a vicious corner which flashed across the face of goal with no Town player able to add the finishing touch.

Town's two-goal hero at Langford, Helen Bass, should have given Town the lead after Shelley Pleasance had run the length of the pitch and squared the ball. But Bass's shot was straight at the keeper who minutes later denied Farrow again, tipping over her shot.

Town had one scare as the home team broke away and looked set for a winning goal but Scott raced from her line to make a vital saving tackle.

As the tie looked set for extra time, Town struck an injury time winning goal as Angela Arnold got down the right wing to pull back a cross. Culley held off her defender and set up Dooley to drive her shot into the bottom corner and send Town into the second round.

Despite victory Thacker felt his team never played as well as in the recent weeks, "Although I felt we were clearly the better team, we made hard work of the victory and never really played well until the final 20 minutes, when our superior passing and fitness allowed us to take complete control of the game.

"Until then we must have had 70% of the possession but lacked the necessary cutting edge in the final third.

"Defensively we were solid with Shelley Pleasance, Leanne Parker and Holly Williams particularly strong, while Sarah Dooley capped her game with the winning goal having been moved further forward near the end. It was also pleasing to give Emma Gregory her first taste of first team football as well.

"There were a couple of key moments in the first half which may have settled us down and allowed us to give a better performance but the luck went against us.

"Michelle Allum's terrific early drive came back off the bar and a penalty appeal for handball was turned down.

"The referee made a point of finding me after the game and apologised for ignoring his assistant's signal for a penalty believing him to be signalling for offside!

"I think that is the first time I have had that happen and I didn't really know what to say, but at least he was big enough to admit his mistake!"

"I suppose it was asking a lot of the players to play to their best after the arduous trip up here.

"We left Ipswich at 6.30am and spent around six hours on a coach."

"The spirit in the squad is good at the moment after three straight victories following a difficult start to the season.

"It seems incredible that we didn't win away from home for more than a year and have now won three away games in three weeks!"

Ipswich: Scott, Dooley, Parker, Ives (Culley 62), Pleasance, Farrow, Arnold, Williams, Balaam, Allum (Gregory 68), Bass. Unused substitute: Spanner