Acle Ladies 1 Lowestoft Ladies 2
Lowestoft Ladies put in a gritty and hard working performance to beat Acle Ladies 2-1
Lowestoft Ladies put in a gritty and hard working performance to beat Acle Ladies 2-1, with goals from Marcia Prettyman and Ellie Froud. The victory was also made possible by three fantastic saves by Lowestoft keeper Nikki Wigg, to keep Acle at bay.
After meeting in the league a couple of weeks ago, Lowestoft travelled to Acle for the reverse fixture, in the hope that they could maintain their winning start to the season and make it five from five, while also shaking off the headache from their FA Cup first round defeat last Sunday.
Charlotte Eastwood was back in the squad but Lowestoft were missing a few key wide players and had to show their adaptability to send out a strong team.
Lowestoft started the game with Natasha Thomas filling the wide berth on the right, hoping to take advantage of her quality crossing and ball skills.
Lowestoft were playing a high line and pressing Acle early on, in the hope of getting a quick start to the game and a quick advantage. It very nearly paid dividend right away, with Broghan Scully stealing the ball in the centre of the pitch and slipping in Clieo Stephenson, but her shot just curved away from the post and goal.
Acle were playing their part also though, as the opening exchanges went from end to end, with a long range effort tipped wide by Nikki Wigg and from the resulting corner the Acle number 4 sent a free header right across the face of goal and wide of the post.
Chantelle Keevil was looking alert at left back, putting in some good tackles early on and blocking that route off for Acle. While Jody Wells was regularly trying to thread balls through from a slightly deeper role, to her pacey strike partner Clieo Stephenson.
Acle had a spell of football which pushed Lowestoft back and stopped them playing the high line but Lowestoft didn't take long in riding out that spell and getting the game under control again with some pressing football and a hard work rate.
Natasha Thomas was getting in down the right channel and putting in some good balls, while Ellie Froud, Broghan Scully and Charlotte Eastwood were now taking hold in midfield, with just a goal missing from the Lowestoft performance at that point.
Marcie Prettyman was being willed forward from right back to keep the pressure on but at times she just needs to have a bit more confidence in her ability, as she doesn't realise what a good player she is and how she can affect the play up the pitch. Her confidence though received a massive boost, as when looking to deliver from near the corner flag, her cross turned into a shot, going right through the keepers hands and into the net, to send Lowestoft 1-0 up. (38 mins).
Acle nearly stuck back immediately though, with a free kick from the right corner nearly headed in at the near post by the number 12.
Acle pressed towards the end of the half and Lowestoft had their keeper Nikki Wigg to thank for going in ahead at half time, as she producing a superb one handed save to deny the Acle number 9 and then from the following corner, she commanded her box and punched the ball away to clear the danger.
The second half started as the first had ended, with Nikki Wigg called into action again, as the Acle number 12 found herself in on goal early on but after shooting across goal, Wigg saved brilliantly to deny her.
Lowestoft had a chance to extend their lead with Ellie Froud being found with a ball across the box but with time and space, Froud sliced her shot wide with her weaker left foot.
Acle were pressing more in this half, as they knew they needed to breach the Lowestoft defence but some great closing down by Lowestoft made it difficult for Acle.
Acle then faced an even stiffer task to get back into the game, as with Lowestoft winning the ball well just outside the area, Ellie Froud worked an opening and produced a super finish over the keeper and into the goal, to send the Lowestoft Ladies 2-0 up (61 mins).
When you're just one up in a game, a second goal always takes the pressure off a bit and without doubt this goal had done that, as the Lowestoft confidence increased and the whole team started to purr like a well oiled machine. The midfield were in control and Clieo Stephenson was working really hard up top and was denied a goal with two shots being blocked on both occasions and also nearly getting on the end of a great Laura Dyson cross from the left wing.
Just as things were looking in control though, a ball was sent forward by Acle and even though Chantelle Keevil had been faultless up to this point, she lost out in a tussle with the number 9, who
got away from her and sent a low shot across the goal and past Nikki Wigg, to bring Acle back into the game at 2-1 (69 mins).
Lowestoft didn't let this goal knock them though and they clearly had the confidence in their own ability, stepping up their work rate and team ethic to make it difficult for Acle.
Laura Dyson had been asked to fill a gap on the left today and in fairness she'd played really well, especially when cutting in to support the midfield play. One of her movements into midfield saw her find some space in front of goal but just as she was looking to take advantage, an excellent tackle came in from the Acle number 5.
With not too long left on the clock there was a key point in the game, as the ref missed a handball and after waving the play on, Acle sprung forward and with the ball going across to the number 16, her strike from just a few yards out was met by Nikki Wigg, making a wonderful block with her body, when the equaliser looked certain.
Acle continued to press for the equaliser but Lowestoft showed that they're not just about good flowing football, as they can also roll their sleeves up and dig in. This desire and attitude saw them through to the final whistle and a tough but well deserved victory.
Lowestoft had won in the possession and footballing stakes of this game and had got a deserved victory with their hard work and determination but Acle are no mugs and if not for three excellent saves by Nikki Wigg, then the scoreline may have been different.
Chantelle Keevil had a strong game at left back with some good clean tackles and decent possession and Laura Dyson did well in an unfamiliar left sided role for her. The Lowestoft midfield worked really hard and I thought Clieo Stephenson put in an excellent shift up front, keeping the Acle defence and keeper on their toes all game. Natasha Thomas showed how important she is to the team with her ever reliable skill and quality crossing.
However, when it comes to the Lady of the Match today, it has to go to the Lowestoft keeper Nikki Wigg. On the balance of play, Lowestoft would have felt hard done by if not getting all three points but Nikki Wigg did play a big part in ensuring that her teams efforts were rewarded, making three high quality saves.
That's five from five now for the Lowestoft Ladies, as they continue to excel in woman's football.
At half time I briefly caught up with Sian Manthorpe, who was stretchered off a few weeks ago with ankle ligament damage. Sian is now off her crutches but is still a number of weeks short of being able to resume playing. I'm sure I speak for all supporters in wishing her a speedy recovery.