Everton Ladies 2-3 Bristol Academy
Everton Ladies were once again on the wrong end of a high-scoring thriller against Bristol Academy – although the Blues will certainly feel they were contributors to their own downfall, with two own goals and a defensive mix up handing the Vixens all three points.
Having already lost by the odd goal against Bristol on two occasions this term, Everton were keen to avoid history repeating itself. But own goals from captain Jill Scott and debutant Billie Murphy, plus a strike from Natasha Harding, cancelled out a Toni Duggan penalty and a wonderful team goal from Kelly Jones.
The Blues lined up with three at the back, with Murphy joining 18-year old Paige Williams and the experienced Lindsay Johnson to make up the trio of centre-halves.
Bristol made the better start, with the ever-dangerous Natalia Sanchon threatening the Everton backline with clever running in the channels.
Everton goalkeeper Lizzie Durack had to be alert on eight minutes to push Bristol midfielder Alex Windell’s deflected drive around the post for a corner.
Five minutes later their dominance was duly rewarded when a long throw into the Everton area wasn’t cleared and the unfortunate Scott could only watch in horror as her attempted clearance cannoned off her knee and into the net.
The goal sparked Everton to life and they were level with their first attack when an excellent move down the Blues left saw Scott and Duggan combine before freeing wing-back Vicky Jones, whose perfect centre was met by her twin sister six-yards out.
Parity lasted just minutes however, as a defensive mix-up saw Chaplen play the ball backwards towards her own goal, allowing Harding to pounce and coolly slot past Durack for 2–1.
Everton manager Andy Spence would have been delighted with the response of his team though as the Blues – in particular the trio of Jones, Scott and Duggan – caused Bristol yet more problems. And it was the latter who saw a goal-bound shot hit Vixens skipper Corinne Yorston on the arm, giving referee Justin Hayes no choice but to point to the spot. Duggan, back in Blue after her European Championship campaign with England, stepped up and made no mistake from 12 yards.
The remainder of the first half saw both sides create chances. Sanchon continued to threaten the Toffees’ backline, while Durack had to be alert to snuff out the danger when Harding’s flick almost played in the marauding Windell.
At the other end, Bristol’s right side was enduring a torrid time with Vicky Jones clearly enjoying her wing-back role and linking up well with Duggan. A great one-two between the pair was only thwarted with a perfect last-ditch Grace McCatty tackle denying Jones, who was poised to test goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain.
The second half failed to live up to the entertainment of the first 45 minutes and heavy rain saw conditions worsen with mistimed challenges becoming more and more frequent.
Yet it was Bristol who overcame the inclement weather to find a winner, Sanchon attacking the byline and producing a cross which struck Murphy and flew past Durack.
Everton continued to press and Michelle Hinnigan’s wonderful finish was cruelly - but rightfully - chalked out for offside. The midfielder then tested Chamberlain with a 35-yard free-kick but the Vixens custodian was right behind the effort.
Both managers made positive changes as time wore on, with Spanish forward Laura Del Rio being introduced for Bristol, while Everton’s Simone Magill came on for the tiring Jody Handley. The latter’s pace very nearly gave the hosts the equaliser they craved but a crucial last ditch challenge from Jemma Rose – who was exceptional in a strong Bristol back-line – denied the substitute and secured victory for the visitors.
“Was 3 – 2 a fair result today? Probably not,” said manager Spence afterwards. “For the first 15 minutes Bristol were the stronger team, no doubt about that. But I thought we grew into the game and our goals were of the most outstanding quality.
“Some of the work we have been doing in training really came out in and I don’t think you will see much better teamwork for the goals in the WSL this season, in the winning of the penalty and Kelly Jones’ strike."