City Women (Parris 7, Ross 22) 2-0 Sporting Club Albion
Competition: FA Women’s Cup
Venue: Academy Stadium, Etihad Campus (att: 1,270)
Date: 3 April 2016 (14:00)
City Women continued their 100% start to the season with yet another comfortable win, this time against Women’s Premier League outfit Sporting Club Albion. The Blues were made to work hard, however, by the Midlanders, the half-expected rout against the underdogs – who actually pay to play two divisions below City – never materialising.
It all began in familiar fashion, as a strong Blue line-up peppered with debutants controlled early proceedings. Keeper Marie Hourihan made her first competitive start for City, as Karen Bardsley was rested, whilst youngsters Alethea Paul and Zoe Tynan also ran out for the senior team for the first time. It didn’t take long for City’s early dominance to count, either, as the Blues found the net on seven minutes, courtesy of Nikita Parris, who struck her second goal of the season, made after the pocket forward raced towards Albion’s goal. Parris was fortunate that an attempted clearance from Eleanor Clarke deflected back off her, but you don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth in an FA Cup quarter-final. Certainly, the CFA crowd – another decent attendance well over four figures – weren’t complaining.
With City deservedly 1-0 up with less than ten minutes gone, you’d have been forgiven for fearing the worst for the Baggies. As Albion manager Graham Abercrombie told BBC Sport last week, ‘…the [SCA] players will be rubbing shoulders with their heroes.’ Yet the Midlanders responded well to conceding, as strikers Leigh Dugmore and the impressive Abi Cottam tested City on both flanks. Skipper Steph Houghton was on hand to ensure there was no unexpected slip-up for the Blues, however.
Parris then led an enterprising break on twenty minutes, running most of the pitch before crossing into the box, only for no-one to connect. City didn’t have to wait long to double their score though, as two minutes later Parris again nettled the Baggies, forcing goalie Rebecca Thomas into a save. City had another slice of luck as the rebound fell nicely to Jane Ross, who duly obliged to score her second goal in as many games.
With the Blues faithful in full voice, and the half-hour approaching, Parris was again involved in attempting to add to City’s total, the Liverpool-born forward heading well from a corner, only for Dugmore to clear off the line. Houghton tried to repeat her set-piece skills from the first league match of the season with a free-kick soon after, but Thomas saved well. The dying embers of the first half saw the Blues turn profligate with their chances, shooting from distance when a little more control was needed.
If it was all Parris in the first 45, it was definitely all Daphne Corboz at the start of the second. The third quarter of the game saw three chances go begging for the USWNT under-23 midfielder, who was thrice thwarted by Thomas. In the midst of the City pressure, both Ross and Demi Stokes pulled up with injuries, the latter having to momentarily leave the field. Despite the Baggies’ battling game plan, City nevertheless pressed on relentlessly, forcing a goal mouth scramble from a corner, with Thomas denying Lucy Bronze to keep Albion in the game – just.
With twenty minutes on the clock, the industrious Corboz made way for FA Cup hero Georgia Stanway, who got City off to a flying start in the competition with a screameragainst Liverpool. Another debutant soon followed, as Amelia Kemp replaced Bronze. There was time for Albion to have their first real chance, as Trina Greaves hit the bar with a decent effort from 25 yards. City weren’t in the mood for consolation goals, however, and the game ended two goals to the good for the Blues.
Overall, it was job done in efficient fashion yet again for City. With Parris in this sort of form, it surely can’t be long before Mark Sampson gives her a call. It’s exciting to see Corboz having such an impact in the middle of the park too. Hourihan will be pleased with her clean sheet, and City gaffer Nick Cushing will be delighted at having had the chance to blood another triumvirate of academy players. Albion proved a sterner test than perhaps many were expecting, defending resolutely for periods, though City will have to take all their chances and be less wasteful in the semi-final. With Arsenal, Chelsea and Sunderland all still in the hat, Wembley is tantalisingly on the horizon, but City still have work to do.
City Women: Hourihan, Bronze (Kemp 78), Stokes, Houghton (c), McManus, Tynan, Corboz (Stanway 70), Asllani, Ross, Parris, Paul
Unused subs: Roebuck, Duggan, Holland.
Sporting Club Albion: Thomas, Darby, Clarke, Highman, Poole, Conroy, Greaves (Parnell 84), Holmes (Wright 86), Cottam, Dugmore (Smith 84), Clough
Unused subs: Edmunds, Bate.
Official Player of the Match: Houghton
My Player of the Match: Parris – she can be frustratingly inaccurate at times, but Nikita is also a pocket dynamo who terrorises the opposition. Get her in the senior England team quick, Mark.