FOUR goals from the phenomenal Laura Hesketh earned Burnley Ladies a 4-2 victory at Preston North End and third place in the North West Women’s Premier League.
With several players unavailable, the Burnley side had a very youthful appearance with seven of the players involved being 18 years old or younger.
Burnley started the game sluggishly and were fortunate not to concede goals in the first five minutes of the game, Preston hitting both the post and bar.
After these early scares though, Burnley regained their composure with Leah Morrisey and Aimee Smith winning headers in the heart of the defence and full backs, Rebecca Sidley and Vicky Smith making some decisive interceptions.
As the first half progressed, Burnley’s midfield engine room started to create, with Hayley Newham and Lucie Berwick providing opportunities for Hesketh (pictured) but the Burnley striker was thwarted by a combination of the Preston keeper and the eagle-eyed linesman flagging for offside.
The dependable Em Forrest sprayed passes to all areas of the pitch, one delivery finding Berwick whose goal-bound shot was blocked by a last-ditch tackle.
Despite this pressure Burnley fell behind on 35 minutes when a ricochet in midfield fell to the Preston striker who struck a volley from 25 yards that looped over Rogers in the Burnley goal. The lead was cancelled out five minutes later when Forrest found Hesketh unmarked in the penalty area, the Burnley striker drilling the ball low into the net past the keeper’s left hand to make it 1-1.
Just prior to the interval keeper Rogers made a solid save from a 25-yard effort and cleared the ball long. The cheetah-like Hesketh latched onto the opportunity and fired low into the net under the Preston stopper’s despairing dive to give the Clarets a somewhat fortuitous 2-1 half-time lead.
As a consequence of a facial injury sustained in the first half, Vicky Smith was substituted in the 55th minute, being replaced by Olivia Waddington who slotted seamlessly into the centre of defence.
On the hour, Hesketh completed her hat-trick with an opportunistic goal. The influential midfielder Jo Rohman started to dominate, combining thumping tackles with darting runs to support the strikers. A neat header from substitute Debbie Trayner released Hesketh again but she was denied by a last-ditch tackle.
Preston pulled a goal back after 80 minutes when a fierce free-kick delivered from Burnley’s left flank was spilled by keeper Rogers, the referee waving away protests that she had been impeded.
With five minutes remaining, Preston’s resistance was finally extinguished when man-of-the-match Hesketh ran half the length of the pitch, rounded the keeper, and rolled the ball left-footed into the net.
Burnley host Blackpool Wren Rovers in the quarter final of the LFA Challenge Cup on Sunday, kick off 2 p.m. at Bank Hall.