Lady Clarets denied by late winner on big day

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Having clawed back a two-goal deficit, the Lady Clarets went down to a late winner in their SSE Women’s FA Cup third round tie with Cardiff City.

Burnley, playing the biggest game in their history, failed to reach the last 32, after dominating the latter stages at the Ystrad Mynach Sports Excellence Stadium to a side who reside two tiers above in the Womens Southern Premier League.

The Lady Clarets started the game with some trepidation and found their early moves quickly shut down by a determined home side, who used the brisk tail wind to play long balls to their wingers.

Holly Hunter and Sammy Fleck in the Clarets defence had these covered until a long ball picked out Cardiff striker Cori Williams, who smartly headed down to play a one two before lofting over keeper Lauren Bracewell to open the scoring on six minutes.

The Clarets soon mounted their first piercing attack with Sarah Greenhalgh crossing into the box, forcing a Cardiff defender to make a desperate clearance that flew just wide of the post.

Greenhalgh also tried her luck with a lob from 20 yards, though the ball fell just wide.

Cardiff picked up a goal kick that held up in the wind midway in the Clarets half, and also tried to lob Bracewell, but she recovered to tip the ball wide.

Soon Cardiff were awarded a free kick from 25 yards, and it was struck hard over the defensive wall and a foot over the bar, though Bracewell had it covered.

The Clarets were breaking out against the strong wind and exposing some weaknesses in the Bluebirds. Leah Embley and Evie Priestley both succeeded in winning challenges and creating chances.

Justine Wallace struck wide and Greenhalgh was inches from intercepting a cross in front of goal.

The Bluebirds found it easier to hold the ball forward, probably helped by the strong wind. A corner was headed at goal past Bracewell, but was cleared off the line by Vikki Eastwood.

The Clarets grew into the game and soon Embley, Wallace and Greenhalgh were in action in front of goal, but their shots lacked power and the Bluebirds had a few let offs. Greenhalgh met a Lynette Craig corner at the far post, forcing a good save from their keeper.

A Bluebirds free kick from 30 yards rattled the bar but again Bracewell was well placed to cover it. In the final stages of the half, striker Williams cut through the Clarets defence and shot wide of Bracewell, but she dived acrobatically to pull off a class save.

At the start of the second half, the Clarets were lifted by the addition of Lizzy Hamer, who made her first appearance in some months, and was soon in action pressing at the Cardiff goal.

Priestley, Embley, Greenhalgh and Hunter all joined the attack, Wallace hit a free kick that was collected by the keeper, but the Bluebirds responded when they were awarded a free kick which was launched to the back of the box and was converted to double the lead.

The Clarets picked themselves up after the disappointment. Captain Jo Holt made a rousing call to the players and soon they were mounting pressure on the home side.

The breakthrough came when Priestley headed home from a Craig cross.

With nearly 30 minutes remaining, the Clarets continued to press, but had to wait until 82 minutes when Greenhalgh collected in the area and shot wide of the keeper to level the score.

In the closing stages, the Clarets continued to play to win, but were caught out when another free kick was awarded close to the corner area.

The kick was floated over but Bracewell did not manage to collect the ball, and it fell to Williams who scored her second goal and the goal that sent the Clarets crashing out of the SSE Women’s FA Cup.

The FA Cup journey started for the Lady Clarets in the first week of September, and saw 232 teams knocked out, and only 24 remaining at the start of the weekend in round three, ahead of the 20 Women’s Super League teams who entered at the fourth round stage.

On Sunday, the Lady Clarets play Wigan Athletic Ladies away in the NWWRFL and hope to reignite their league campaign, and they can take great credit from a remarkable cup run, the furthest they have ever gone in the competition.