The fantastic opportunity of playing at Morecambe’s Mazuma Stadium turned into an afternoon of disappointment for Reds Ladies as they suffered a heavy defeat in their Division One North fixture.
On a weekend when Ladies teams up and down the country were playing at clubs’ first team venues, Morecambe Ladies staged their first match at the thirteen years old stadium with a crowd of 654 suitably entertained.
No doubt that the hosts emerged deserved winners but the final margin was tough on beleaguered Reds who have endured a difficult season.
They contributed to their own downfall at times but also served up some of the best football they have played for a while. Most of their problems stem from a lack of good communication, cohesion and decision making and not so much the basics of the game.
Get those right and the other tasks will fall into place.
The hosts opened the scoring after twenty-four minutes when Reds, playing in their sky blue outfit, failed to clear their lines properly following a corner. Yasmine Swarbrick was lurking with intent and had time to control the ball before sending it through a crowded goalmouth and into the net.
Reds responded well, though, and were back on terms within five minutes. And with goals proving hard to come by this term, they will remember this one for some time. A good passage of play got them through the Morecambe back line with three swift passes culminating in Chloe Henderson sliding the ball past Erin Lightfoot for a sublime equaliser.
But the joy was short-lived with Morecambe regaining the lead two minutes later and, if Reds’ goal was special, the home side’s second was too. Natalie Broad released Swarbrick through the inside right channel and she finished with aplomb.
Luck then turned against Reds with an unfortunate own-goal. Sydney Bragg was off balance when the ball struck her and deflected into the net, just before the half time whistle.
Kacey Rodgers had the ball in the Morecambe net soon after the restart but strayed offside in the build-up and the goal was disallowed. Keeley Holliday shot from distance but the effort was comfortably saved by Lightfoot as the visitors looked for a route back into the game.
Broad had a fine shot saved by Laura Miller at the other end but it had been an even contest for much of the second half before Morecambe extended their lead in the eightieth minute. The ball fell to Broad via a fortunate ricochet and she calmly slotted the fourth at the far post.
Then in the final minute of normal time, player-of-the-match, Swarbrick completed her hat-trick with a brave finish, condemning Reds to their ninth defeat of the season.
Frustrated manager, Paul Mackenzie, summed up the disappointment with an honest post-match assessment.
“We need to do many things better but I know we have a team in there somewhere with a brighter future. We have to fight through this lean spell, regroup over the summer, get certain players back and go again next year.”
Team: Laura Miller, Alice Kemp, Naomi Foster, Linzi Donaldson, Leah Cottier, Hannah Ridgewell, Sophie Douglas, Hannah Geen, Morgan McGrady, Chloe Henderson, Emi Rudd. Substitutes – Kacey Rodgers, Sophie Nutter, Keeley Holliday, Laura Ivison and Sydney Bragg (all used).