A COMBINATION of skill and endeavour earned Burnley Ladies a deserved point in a thrilling 2-2 draw against high-flying Blackpool.
Without the services of their regular keeper Vicky Smith bravely volunteered to take the gloves and performed admirably throughout.
Burnley started the game strongly and star performer Laura Hesketh (pictured) had two chances in the opening 10 minutes. Playmaker Jo Rohman knitted a pass through, but the ball bobbled away from Hesketh as she was about to shoot. The speedy striker made a much firmer connection with her second chance, blasting narrowly over after Ainsley Strickland headed the ball into her path.
However, in the 13th minute, a superb turn and pass by Danielle Cooper released Hesketh, and her shot had too much power for the Blackpool keeper to give Burnley a deserved lead.
Blackpool rallied, and the aerial strength and timely tackles of centre backs Jo Holt and Leah Morrisey were repeatedly required.
The lady Clarets finished the half strongly, Hesketh turning provider to tee-up Strickland, who fired wide. Winger Carly Salkeld stole possession and slipped a neat pass through for Hesketh, who was fouled on the edge of the box. From the resulting free kick, the ball fell to Cooper, whose shot faded the wrong side of the post.
The second half started disastrously for the Clarets, and within a minute of the restart Blackpool were level when a cross from the left was converted from six yards. Four minutes later a defensive mix-up gifted the visitors the lead.
The lady Clarets regrouped and deservedly equalised after 50 minutes when a precision free kick from skipper Holt was headed home by Strickland.
The remainder of the match was a pulsating, end-to-end encounter. Young fullbacks Olivia Waddington and Becky Sidley worked tirelessly to repel the powerful Blackpool wingers. Smith saved with her legs form the Blackpool striker, and midfielder, Em Forrest, protected the Burnley backline with a series of thumping tackles.
Burnley dominated the final 15 minutes of the game. A corner from substitute Lucie Berwick was headed wide by Hesketh, and a penetrating run from Cooper was halted by a foul, Berwick’s wicked free-kick almost forcing an own goal. Rohman’s refusal to give up on a long ball forced a mistake from the Blackpool defence, but Hesketh’s effort cleared the bar.
Hesketh almost won the game for Burnley in the dying seconds when her left foot shot shaved the post.
On Sunday, Burnley travel to play Crewe Alexandra, kick-off 2 p.m.