Lucy Fitzgerald and Kallie Balfour scored in each half as London City Lionesses secured a 2-0 victory over Coventry United at Princes Park to claim their third victory of the season.
It was a dominant display from the hosts, who clinched their second successive FA Women’s Championship victory with a dominant display over the 90 minutes.
Fitzgerald’s opening goal gave the hosts the advantage midway through the first half, as the Lionesses made the most of their early pressure to take the lead before Balfour sealed the three points with a sublime solo effort in the closing stages.
PIVOTAL POINTS IN THE MATCH:
The Lionesses hit the ground running, with speculative efforts from both Freda Ayisa and Fitzgerald in the 2nd minute and 5th minute respectively, going just wide of the target. The visitors began to come into the game as the first half went on, with Shannon O’Brien having a golden opportunity to open the scoring when put through on goal, but the United striker was crowded out after rounding home goalkeeper Shae Yanez.
The Lionesses made the most of that let-off when they broke the deadlock on the 22nd minute, as Fitzgerald picked up a loose ball in the Coventry half before slotting in Atlanta Primus down the left.
The return pass put the ball on a plate for the 19-year-old to net her first of the season, as she slid the ball under the onrushing Wood to give her side the advantage.
The hosts continued to dominate the rest of the first period in Dartford, with Wood keeping Fitzgerald and Primus at bay. Ayisi almost added a second goal to her name in the 45th minute as she blazed her effort wide, keeping the deficit at one heading into the break. Far from content with just the one goal to her name, Fitzgerald continued to be a menace throughout the second half, with the visiting defence putting their bodies on the line to keep her from doubling her personal tally on the hour mark.
Lily Agg thundered a strike against the crossbar later in the half before substitute Balfour made an immediate impact after coming on. On the 78th minute, Balfour went on a weaving run down the left-hand side before firing in at the near post to double the lead.
And from there, the Lionesses never looked back, with a vital three points seeing them move further away from the Championship relegation zone.
HEAD COACH’S REACTION:
When questioned on the importance of getting the three points in a tough fixture, Head Coach Mel Phillips responded “Really important. I'm incredibly proud of the team and the way that they performed. It was a tough one.
“A physical, scrappy, transitional match and I think it was really important for us to just kind of get our feet back on the ground after taking a month off. So, every player contributed today and really proud of the performance”.
After making a few changes in the line-up, Phillips said “It's important to get players on the field who have been playing well. Everyone in the squad has done such a good job with the time away to put themselves in a position where we've so much depth on the team that everyone's deserving. I think it's good that we're able to reward that in today's match”.
Was she pleased with Fitzgerald’s performance?
“Fitzy’s been playing with a bit of fire to her at training lately. She's been playing with an edge and just a ton of will within her game and working on small details and adjustments that she's been able to implement come 11 v 11. So, really pleased with the way she played today.”
With Dartford being in Tier 3, the Lionesses have been unable to welcome back unlike many of their fellow FA Championship clubs. Would Phillips look forward to welcoming fans back to watch matches like this?
“Absolutely. I think it's a really great step that the women's game has been able to allow fans back in certain stadiums, and we just continue to celebrate that. Our time will come, and we'll be ready for it. Looking forward to inviting all our family, friends and supporters back in”.
“It was a good game, important to get the three points. We knew it would be a tough one, coming back after a long time out, but just being able to come out and play and enjoy it was the main thing. To come away with three points is really good for us” said Lionesses forward Atlanta Primus.
How will the team build on today’s performance for the upcoming game against Liverpool?
Primus’ answer “It's a good steppingstone. Liverpool is going to be a tough game, but I think if we focus on what we can do, we go back out next week and prepare, and coming away with the three points will give us confidence going forward. So, we take every game in our stride and just look forward to it.”
Was she disappointed not to be on the scoresheet today?
Primus replied “It is always a little bit disappointing. Especially when I've had a few opportunities. But overall, it's about the team and if we get three points, I don't care who’s on the scoresheet. I think everyone played well; we had more chances that we could have taken but we're creating chances which is the positive thing. And I'll be back out on the training pitch this week scoring some goals, hopefully, and preparing for Liverpool”.
SETL Player of the Match – Leanne Cowan
The Lionesses come up against Liverpool in their next fixture in the Championship. Kicking off at 2pm on the 13th of December, you can follow the build-up and match progress via Twitter.
London City Lionesses (4-4-2): Shae Yanez, Chantelle Mackie, Ylenia Priest, Harley Bennett, Leanne Cowan, Poppy Wilson, Freda Ayisi, Lily Agg, Lucy Fitzgerald, Juliette Kemppi, Atlanta Primus Substitutes: Annie Rossiter for Kemppi 65’, Lilly Pursey for Ayisi 76’, Kallie Balfour for Fitzgerald 76’, Hannah Short 82’ Substitutes not used: Hope Smith ,Elizabeth Ejupi Goals: Fitzgerald 22’, Balfour 78’ Bookings: Agg 46’ Coventry United (4-4-2): Sue Wood, Hayley Crackle, Nikki Miles, Anna Wilcox, Holly Chandler, Alice Hassall, Becky Anderson, Katy Morris, Phoebe Warner, Shannon O’Brien, Beth Merrick Substitutes: Amber Hughes for Morris 46’, Fran Orthodoxu for Hassall 56’ Substitutes not used: Ashlee Brown, Anna Colville, Jenna Roberts Referee: Jamie Pope