Leicester City Women Football Club

Season Review Part 7: February

Having played just one league game since the end of November, February would be another month filled with cup fixtures for the Foxes. After reaching the FA Cup 4th Round in January, Leicester’s original trip to Plymouth was postponed meaning when they met the following week, both sides knew a trip to WSL2 side Durham was at stake.

Plymouth 2 – 3 LCWFC
Date: Sunday 11th February 2018
Competition: FA Women’s Cup (4th Round)
Venue: Devonshire FA
Goalscorers: Natasha Knapman ’49, Katie Middleton ’90 | Charlotte Greengrass ’13, Rosie Axten ’60, Leigh Dugmore ’90

Leicester City started February with a trip south to face Plymouth Argyle in the fourth round of the SSE Women’s FA Cup. The Foxes also reached the fourth round last season before exiting the competition in a 2-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion, Plymouth Argyle had reached the fourth round for the first time in their history.

The game was slow to start on a pitch which was showing full effects of the rainfall which had postponed the original tie scheduled for the week before. Shortly after the 10 minute mark, it was the Foxes who found themselves in front, a deep free kick into the box was headed goal wards by Charlotte Greengrass to open the scoring.

Leicester could have extended their lead late into the first half, Sophie Domingo working some space on the edge of the area before crossing for Rosie Axten who saw her shot well saved by the Argyle ‘keeper.

It was Plymouth who dominated the early stages of the second half and deservedly levelled the scores as top scorer Natasha Knapman netted from the edge of the area much to the delight of a large home crowd.

Having got themselves back level, Plymouth almost took the lead 5 minutes later when Captain Katie Middleton rose well from a corner but headed narrowly wide of Serena Clarke’s goal. The missed chance sparked Leicester back into life and the Foxes immediately were on the front foot and earned themselves a penalty when Sophie Domingo was challenged just inside the area. Rosie Axten stepped up to calmly send the keeper the wrong way and put Leicester back in front with half an hour of the game remaining.

Jonathan Morgan’s side almost doubled their lead with 15 minutes left to play, Substitute Leigh Dugmore arriving early to head a corner straight into the hands of the Plymouth keeper.  Dugmore did get herself on the scoresheet later on in the game, as the clock ticked towards stoppage time, Hayley James getting past her defender on the right hand side before pulling the ball back across goal for Dugmore to slide the ball home.

Still time for another goal inside stoppage time, as Plymouth Argyle pulled one back inside the last minute, Katie Middleton arriving well at the back post to head the ball home after a deflected cross to give the hosts’ the faintest glimmer of hope. That hope would last just 15 seconds after the restart before the referee blew the full time whistle and Leicester City Women progressed into the fifth round of the FA Women’s Cup for only the second time in their history.

 

Durham 5 – 2 LCWFC
Date: Sunday 18th February 2018
Competition: FA Women’s Cup (5th Round)
Venue: New Ferrens Park
Goalscorers: Zoe Ness ’12, Ellie Christon ’17, Abigail Cottam ’44, 65, Emily Roberts ’85 | Leigh Dugmore ’40, Sophie Domingo ’45

Leicester City arrived in Durham through to the fifth round for only the second time in their history and faced a Women’s Super League side for the the first time since losing 5-1 to Sheffield FC in 2015. Eight places separated the two sides and the hosts made their league advantage count as they opened the scoring after just 12 minutes.

The Wild Cats’ early persistence and aggression off the ball proved dividends when Abigail Cottam’s cross somehow found its way to an unmarked Zoe Ness, who calmly slotted her side in front. City were dealt another blow after a quarter of an hour as they found themselves 2-0 behind courtesy of an Ellie Christon strike. Cottam was again the provider showing great awareness to flick to ball to the onrushing Christon, who sealed her driving run with her first goal of the season.

A serious looking injury to Leicester’s Shauna Cossens followed shortly after and, after a long break in play, Durham almost extended their lead to three but neither Emily Roberts or Annabel Johnson could convert from close range.

Somewhat against the run of play, the away side reduced the deficit after 40 minutes. A low cross from Rosie Axten was expertly laid off to Leigh Dugmore on the periphery of the penalty area and the midfielder powerfully drove the ball into the bottom corner.

Two quickfire goals at the end of the first-half saw the sides go into the break with still just one goal between them. Durham had originally resorted their two goal advantage with a superb Cottam volley but a composed Sophie Domingo finish kept the Foxes in the game.

Jonathan Morgan’s side started the second half confidently and arguably enjoyed their best spell of the game after the restart. Despite forcing the Durham keeper into two fantastic saves and seeing a goal disallowed, any hope of a revival was soon quashed, as Durham again reminded the 227 in attendance of their WSL status as Cottam dinked the ball over the goalkeeper.

Zoe Ness proved tricky for Leicester throughout the tie and did well on the right wing to get a cross in towards Emily Roberts, who side-footed the ball into the back of the net to make it 5-2.

Nottingham Forest 1 – 1 LCWFC
Penalties (4-5)
Date: Sunday 25th February 2018
Competition: FA WPL Cup (Quarter Final)
Venue: Basford United FC
Goalscorers: Natasha Hudson ’55 | Ellie May ’34

Having exited the FA Women’s Cup last Sunday, the Foxes still had a chance to reach a national cup final, with Nottingham Forest Ladies standing in their way from reaching the semi-finals.

Leicester dominated the early stages of the game but were made to wait until 10 minutes before the break before opening the scoring, Ellie May getting her first goal of the season, a high cross into the box was brought down well by Hayley James and Ellie May stepped onto the ball and fired home.

Leicester almost doubled their lead inside first half stoppage time, Leigh Dugmore drilling a low shot into the box but Becky Thomas was equal to it in the Forest goal.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with Leicester dominating much of the play only to see Becky Thomas again deny the Foxes with a string of fine saves. The hosts’ then found themselves level with 10 minutes of the second half gone, as Natasha Hudson found the ball at her feet inside the 18 yard box and fired the ball low into the net to bring the home side level in the tie with their first real chance of the match.

Despite the Foxes still dominating the chances, the woodwork twice came to the rescue of Nottingham Forest to deny first Leigh Dugmore and then Sophie Domingo before Becky Thomas pulled off another fine save inside stoppage time to keep her side in it and send the game into extra time.

Neither side had a clear cut chance in extra time, despite Leicester again controlling the possession, the hosts’ seemingly happy to take the game all the way to penalties.

It was penalties that was needed to separate these two sides, with Leicester stepping up first, with four scored and one saved each the shoot-out headed into sudden death, with Rachel Brown confidently putting Leicester back in front before Charlotte Clarke kept Nottingham Forest’s following penalty out with the help of the post to send Leicester City Women into the semi finals!

February in numbers

LCWFC Goals: 6
Top Goal Scorer: Leigh Dugmore (2)
League Standing: 4th