Lady Clarets stay in title hunt – but miss out on cup final

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Burnley FC Ladies maintained their North West Women’s Regional Football League Premier title push last Wednesday with a 4-0 win over Manchester Stingers in Whalley Range.

But the Lady Clarets missed out on a place in the Argyle League Cup Final after losing to Stockport County in the last four at Nelson and Colne College on Sunday.

In Manchester, the Lady Clarets continued their good league form against a physical Manchester Stingers.

Goals from Holly Hunter, Lynette Craig, Rebecca Hayton and Leah Embley sealed the result and the three points put the Clarets joint second with fellow league hopefuls Stockport County.

Stingers made a strong start to the game and pressured the Clarets.

Players from both teams struggled to maintain their footing on a heavy and wet pitch, but the Clarets got the breakthough after stringing together a range of passes that stretched the Stingers defence.

Defender Hunter concluded the move when she received the ball from Georgia Payton on the corner of the 18-yard box and drove in past the keeper.

Craig scored with a superb curling shot that tucked inside the far post after Hayton collected a loose ball and set her up.

With a two-goal advantage, the Clarets were not troubled in the second half.

Hayton added a third when Vikki Eastwood crossed from the bye line. Hayton’s shot struck a defender before she collected the ball and fired hard from a sharp angle, beating the keeper at the near post.

In the closing minutes, Embley raced from inside her own half with a chasing defender and struck with precision to finalise the score at 4-0.

Then on Sunday, the Clarets were paired with title rivals Stockport County in the semi-final.

And County were victorious after a commanding second half display.

A late Clarets flourish failed to produce a much-needed goal and the game ended in a 2-1 defeat and disappointment.

In the opening minutes, a collision involving Clarets goal keeper Lauren Bracewell (pictured) saw her receive lengthy attention to her hand before she could resume, albeit in some pain.

The Clarets had an early chance when Lizzy Hamer set Embley off on a forward raid, but her shot went wide.

Shortly after, a Stockport striker hit a long range shot that passed slightly over the bar, though Bracewell had it covered and soon after was on hand to collect another shot from close range.

The Clarets responded with an Eastwood shot from the edge of the area that was deflected wide, and the following corner cut through the goal mouth, begging for a Claret boot to make contact.

Payton was gifted a chance when Embley passed forward to her, and just needed a touch to deflect the ball around the keeper but was unable to make contact.

The Clarets mounted more pressure and were awarded a free kick on 25 yards when a defender used her arm to control the ball.

Player of the match Justine Wallace stepped up and rifled the ball out of reach of the keeper.

Stockport responded and Bracewell was called into action to acrobatically tip a shot over.

Embley replied for the Clarets with a shot that drifted narrowly wide, but Stockport were denied again by Bracewell when she tipped another shot wide of the post.

In the second period, the Clarets were to suffer defensive frailties that would cost them the game.

An interception allowed a Stockport striker to collect and run at the Clarets goal.

Covering defenders did not block her shot, and she scored into the bottom corner.

The same Stockport striker added another from a cross that she side-footed in when the Clarets should have marked tighter.

Stockport continued as the stronger team, and Bracewell had to make yet another diving save to keep the Clarets in the game.

Stockport’s solid defending kept the Clarets in check.

In the latter stages the Clarets mounted some pressure – Jo Holt headed wide from a corner and Sammy Fleck headed over from another.

Evie Priestley hit the bar with only the keeper to beat, and a follow up shot was wide.

The Clarets tried to find ways through Stockport’s solid defence, but were met with well-timed and forceful challenges.

A final goal mouth scramble was cleared by Stockport, and at the final whistle the Clarets had to concede defeat.

The Clarets travel to Poolfoot Farm on Sunday to play Fleetwood Town Wrens.