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Strickland double downs Stoke

23 April 2016

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Ainsley Strickland scored twice as Rovers Ladies moved up to joint-second in the Northern Division table with a 2-1 victory over Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

The young forward netted in the opening minutes of each half, as Gemma Donnelly’s side leapfrogged their opponents and moved level on points with Sporting Club Albion.

Rovers opened the scoring with virtually their first attack of the game on four minutes. Saffron Jordan’s low cross into the box was put behind for a corner, Ellie Cook won the header and Strickland prodded the ball home.

Stoke grew into the game as the half progressed, with their first real chance coming on 26 minutes, as a forward danced her way through the Rovers defence, before firing straight at Danielle Hill.

On 33 minutes, Cara Bickett totally underhit a back pass, but Hill made a superb save to thwart the Stoke forward in a one-on-one.

However, Hill was powerless to prevent the hosts from equalising on 37 minutes, as a long ball into the box was headed home.

On the stroke of half-time, Hill ensured that the scores remained level at the break with a superb point-blank save and Kelsey Pearson made the block on the follow-up.

It proved vital, as Rovers regained the lead virtually straight from the restart, as Strickland rounded the Stoke keeper, before finishing with aplomb into the top corner from a tight angle.

Rovers almost added a third from a corner on 55 minutes when Cook’s header towards goal was blocked and Ella Toone fired over the rebound.

Again the home side responded, with Hill called upon to gather two Stoke shots in quick succession, before making a smart low save just past the hour mark. 

Rovers felt they should have had a penalty on 68 minutes when Toone’s shot appeared to be blocked on the line by a Stoke hand, but the referee waved played on and a minute later, Lynda Shepherd saw a shot cleared off the line.

As Rovers enjoyed a good spell of possession, Toone tried her luck from long range, but the ball flashed narrowly over.

On 86 minutes, Jess Holbrook ballooned over the bar from 25 yards, before Stoke broke straight down the other end and forced another fantastic save from Hill. Eight minutes of added time were played, but Rovers survived a couple of late scares to secure the precious points.

Assistant manager Amanda Goodwin said: “I was really happy with how we started the game. We were focused from the off, we got the early goal, which settled our nerves, but then we allowed Stoke back into the game and they equalised just before half-time.
“We still felt positive at half-time and the key would be to remain composed on the ball, to keep possession and just to play our game. Again, we got another early goal through Ainsley and from then on we took control and played some really good stuff.
“Overall, I was really happy with the performance and delighted to get the three points that we needed. There were also some really good individual performances within the team. We’re now looking forward to another big game against Nottingham Forest on Sunday.”  

ROVERS: Hill, Flynn, Bickett, Cook, Pearson, Shepherd, Holbrook, Fleming, Strickland (Foster 79), Toone, Jordan.

Subs not used: Hope, Fenton, Taylor.

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