Cheltenham Town Ladies travelled to Yate Town last Thursday to face St Nicholas LFC in the FA Women’s Premier League (WPL) and came away with all the points.
In a bizarre game the Ladies produced their best showing of the season and gave 17-year-old Caty Stirling Lee a WPL debut while the match ended three minutes early due to an electrical fire and floodlight failure.
Given the club’s recent off field news the players could have been easily distracted, but in testament to their professionalism they remained fully focussed on the game ahead and thoroughly deserved the victory.
Caretaker boss, chairman Andy Liddle, made few changes to the team last time out, but switched Sarah Walters to centre back, Ella Hitchcox to wide left and Sally Butterfield became lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation.
Although the team quickly settled into their passing game it was Bec Panniers who was first called into action making a good stop on 11 minutes. But a handball on the St Nicks goal line led to skipper Jen Brown Wealls dispatching her penalty to put the side 1-0 up.
The confidence that had been missing in previous games came flooding back and the Ladies produced some slick passing moves and doubled their lead in the 33rd minute when Louise Fensome curled the ball into an empty net.
St Nicks relied on the counter attack as their main attacking ploy but the Cheltenham back four were resolute.
An injury to Ria Salleh just before the break led Andy Liddle to bring on Holly Kay for the second period but this did not affect the pattern of play with Ella Hitchcox, Sally Butterfield and Kayleigh Hateley all spurning good chances.
The Cheltenham team were now playing with good confidence and the passing and movement was the best seen this season. Hitchcox and Sally Butterfield were causing the home defence real problems.
On the 75th minute Sam Morris came on for Hately, who had worked tirelessly in midfield, and as with the earlier change the player slotted in to her position superbly.
A minute later Fensome sealed the victory with a 20 yard screamer, picking up a loose ball and sending a tremendous shot into the top right corner.
With 85 minutes on the clock Stirling Lee was given her debut replacing the excellent Panniers but this was cut short when with three minutes remaining the referee had to end the match due to a fire started by a floodlight failure.
The Yate Town staff could not isolate the affected floodlight and had to switch off the entire system. After some discussion between the officials the referee let the result stand. The Ladies have moved up to seventh position in the table.
Caretaker manager Andy Liddle said: “The bizarre ending to this match will of course grab all the headlines but it shouldn’t dim what was a truly superb performance by the team. From front to back we were outstanding.”
CTLFC: R Panniers (C Stirling Lee 85), L Bull, N Purvis, S Walters, J Wiltshire, E Hitchcox, K Hateley (S Morris 75), L Fensome, J Brown Wealls, R Salleh (H Kay 46), S Butterfield.