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Lancaster 4 – 1 Chester
Lancaster romped to victory over Chester as Claire Smallwood scored twice to lift Lancaster above Chester in the league. Lancaster went into the game joint bottom of the table, but this resounding win will no doubt do their confidence the world of good.
Two weeks prior to this game, Lancaster had recorded a 5-1 win against the same opponents, and from the first whistle they went all out for an early goal.
The strike partnership of Smallwood and Lucie Thompson created chaos in the Chester defence, as Smallwood found herself through on goal in the opening minutes, attempting to take the ball round the goalkeeper who read it well and blocked.
Almost immediately after, Smallwood was again in acres of space as Marie Fougner Wang played a defence splitting pass through to her, but she could only fire straight at the goalkeeper.
It wasn’t long before Lancaster broke through, however. From a corner, Thompson volleyed in at the back post to give the home side a deserved lead.
Lancaster had their goalkeeper Katie McTague to thank for keeping them in the lead at 1-0, as she made a great reaction save to deny the Chester striker who had weaved her way through the Lancaster defence.
Then at the other end, the Thompson-Smallwood partnership combined again to give Lancaster a comfortable lead. Thompson played in Smallwood, who made up for her earlier miss by coolly sliding it under the goalkeeper to make it 2-0.
Two quickly became three as a good cross by Sarah Hobson was only half cleared and fired back in off the crossbar by Hannah Buck to seemingly put the game out of sight.
Some parity was restored by Chester, as striker Irene Cerezo Martinez smashed home from close range just before half-time.
To their credit, Chester had come into the game more as the half wore on, and continued to play good football in the second half.
At times, Chester looked like forcing their way back into the game as winger Emily Griffiths shot just wide from a tight angle.
But once Lancaster had withstood this brief period of pressure, Smallwood put the result beyond all doubt with a moment of brilliance. Smallwood picked up the ball just inside her own half, outpaced the Chester defence and curled it into the top right-hand corner.
It was a terrific finish, but equal quality was displayed at the other end of the pitch as McTague kept Chester out with another great save to deny Martinez.
As Lancaster hit Chester on the counter-attack time and time again, Smallwood had the chance to get her hat-trick late on, but drilled it wide from just inside the area.
All in all though, a satisfactory afternoon for Smallwood and Lancaster, who will look to continue their rise up the league table in 2012.