Neither stubborn resistance from a gallant Northwich Vixens side, nor outside interference from a dog off its leash, could prevent Burnley Ladies maintaining their unbeaten start to the season.
A Laura Hesketh hat-trick ultimately secured a 5 – 2 victory against their Cheshire opponents.
With inspirational captain Jo. Holt unavailable due to injury, versatile Vicky Smith slotted into the centre half position and her equally adaptable namesake, Aimee Smith, started at left back.
The influential Em Forrest, playing just behind the main striker, ensured that Burnley dominated the early stages, creating chances for both Hesketh and speedy winger Kelly Ronson, as well as having her own effort blocked by the Northwich keeper’s legs.
Deservedly, Burnley took the lead on five minutes when Hesketh raced through the centre of the Northwich defence and fired right-footed into the roof of the net.
On the half hour, a defence-splitting ball from full back Becky Sidley put Forrest through on goal and she rifled a low shot past the keeper.
The visitors halved the deficit when a free kick gave Burnley keeper Emily Rodgers no chance as the unexpectedly high bounce beat her dive.
Burnley almost restored their two-goal lead just before the break when Hayley Newham threaded a perfect pass beyond the defence for Hesketh to draw a great save from the Northwich stopper.
Carly Salkeld replaced the injured Ronson at half-time and continued to be a threat on the right flank. Five minutes after the interval, silky interplay in central midfield between Jo Rohman and Newham set Hesketh free and the prolific striker made no mistake as she slotted the ball under the keeper.
Northwich rallied and only timely interceptions from Claire Pearson and Vicky Smith, and well-judged sorties from her line by keeper Rodgers, maintained Burnley’s two-goal advantage. On the hour, the game’s intensity was punctuated by humour when Sidley was floored by a crude four-footed tackle – from a dog encroaching onto the field!
Northwich refused to accept defeat and in the 65th minute scored a second goal following a mix-up in defence.
Stephanie Meeks entered the fray as substitute with a quarter of an hour remaining and found Hesketh with a superb 40-yard pass, only a desperate tackle preventing the Burnley striker’s third goal.
The visitors’ steely resistance was finally ended in the 80th minute when Rohman headed in Burnley’s fourth goal from a Lucie Berwick cross.
The tireless Hesketh completed her hat-trick late in the game after being put through by Forrest.
The player of the match accolade was deservedly awarded to Berwick (picture courtesy Peter Chadburn, Burnley Camera Club).
The next match for Burnley Ladies is on Sunday, when they travel to play Preston North End at the Preston Sports Arena.