Burnley FC Women start the year with a win
Burnley FC Women began the new year in fine form, securing a win at Middlesbrough Women FC.
A frozen pitch in the North East meant a morning change of venue from Bedford Terrace to Stockton FC, in both sides first game of 2022 in the Northern Premier Division of the FA Women's National League.
The Clarets arrived at the fixture having made changes to the squad due to injuries and Covid-19.
Defenders Sammy Fleck and Olivia Wilson returned positive tests, so missed the fixture, meanwhile captain Lauren Bracewell, following recovery from Covid-19 and in line with protocols, was unavailable.
Bracewell's absence saw 18-year-old Lucy Farrell in goal, while Hollie Kelsh was named on the bench after a sustained period of time out of the game due to a heart condition.
The visitors started brightly with forwards Sarah Greenhalgh and Evie Priestley troubling the home backline.
Within the first 10 minutes, Priestley almost opened the scoring when her shot hit the crossbar.
Middlesbrough enjoyed good possession as the game went on, and on the quarter of the hour mark, forced a great save from keeper Farrell.
Burnley had plenty of chances as the half progressed and limited the home team to half chances.
The breakthrough came just before the whistle blew for half-time when Greenhalgh managed to get her shot away in the box to give the Clarets the lead.
The second half saw Middlesbrough on the attack, and Armani Maxwell saw her shot on target, but Farrell calmly saved.
Minutes later, Clarets midfielder Millie Ravening picked the ball up outside the box took aim, doubling Burnley's lead.
With the two-goal cushion, Burnley continued to dominate possession as both teams worked hard to win battles all over the pitch.
The home side thought they had clawed one back when Emily Cassidy put the ball in the back of the net, however it was ruled out for offside.
Later, a Clarets corner saw a scramble in the box as the home side failed to clear the ball. Alert to the danger, the ball fell kindly to Lizzy Hamer who tapped home to make it three.
The visitors made a flurry of changes as the half went on. Dani Cooper made way for debutant Kelsh, who received a rapturous applause from her teammates and coaching staff.
Katie Thomas came on for Lucia Molinari, and with 10 minutes to go, a final change saw Olivia Greenhalgh come on for Megan Dykes.
A challenge by Nicola Worthington, who captained the team in Bracewell's absence, outside of the box saw the referee award a free kick to the home team. The ball beat the wall and hit the underside of the bar, and Jess Foster headed home the rebound.
But it was mere consolation as Burnley started the year with the win.
The Clarets women are next in action on Sunday at home to Sheffield FC Women.
The game will take place at Lancashire FA's County Ground, kick-off 2 p.m.