Burnley FC Women’s title chase, together with back to back league promotions took a momentous leap towards reality through a commanding performance and 3-1 victory against Barnsley FC Ladies at Padiham FC’s Ruby Civil Arena.
Four more points are needed from four games to mathematically seal the league title.
Only second placed Chester le Street Town LFC are in catching distance, and they must win all their remaining games to stay in contention.
The last two seasons have been an exciting voyage for the Clarets Women under the stewardship of first team manager Matt Bee.
In the event the Clarets had to dig deep in the early stages of the match to contain a first-class team who were determined to break the Clarets promotion dream.
The game started at a brisk pace. Both teams tested the others desire to gain the upper hand and any mistakes would most surely be punished.
Barnsley pushed the Clarets into a defensive position but confident play through the back four of Vikki Eastwood, Sammy Fleck captain Jo Holt and Danielle Cooper soon turned the tables and Barnsley then had to take their turn to defend.
Burnley’s Evie Priestley was brought down in the penalty area, but the defender was correctly judged to have made a well-timed interception and Sarah Greenhalgh threatened the Barnsley goal with a header from a corner that sailed over the bar.
Barnsley soon replied through their wing-back Sophie Bell who shot from the corner of the 18-yard box but was marginally wide and later a run into the box by skilful Drew Green resulted in Clarets keeper Lauren Bracewell intercepting with her feet.
The Clarets were slowly building pressure on the visitors but forward passes on the downward slope were often out of reach of the strike force or Barnsley successfully sprung the off-side trap.
When needed, both teams’ defences capably protected their goal mouths, that is until a sublime piece of skill from player of the match Greenhalgh broke the deadlock on the run up to the interval.
Lizzy Hamer played a high ball towards the visitor’s box. Greenhalgh controlled the ball and then flicked it over a defender’s head before cutting past a second defender. She turned to her left foot to strike the ball into the goal before mounting an exuberant celebration.
The Clarets came out in the second half looking to increase their advantage. Priestly took the initiative by evading defenders in the box and setting Greenhalgh up for a shot that was just too high.
Barnsley settled back into the game and dominated possession for a time but found the Clarets defence supported by midfield veteran Justine Wallace difficult to penetrate.
Lizzy Hamer was working tirelessly and her clearance from the 18-yard box resulted in a fastmoving attack by the Clarets. She pushed forward and interlinked with Greenhalgh who headed on to Priestley in the box. Priestley calmly controlled the ball with defenders on each side and shot at an opening to double the score. 2-0.
Priestley was central to many more attacking moves and Barnsley looked on the back foot. Embley, Greenhalgh and Hamer all pressured the visitor’s goal, but the next came from a disputed penalty decision.
Greenhalgh ran into the box passing the final defender who slide tackled her from behind and the referee awarded a penalty. Greenhalgh stepped up and deceived the goalkeeper to increase the score to 3-0.
The final twist in the game resulted from a shoulder to shoulder incident between Bracewell and Barnsley striker Shannon Durkin when Bracewell shepherded the ball out of play. A penalty was awarded and despatched by Danielle Whitham. Final score 3-1.
Next week Burnley FC Women travel to Lancaster City’s Giant Axe stadium to play Morecambe FC Ladies. Kick-off is 2pm.