U’s secure draw with high-flying Luton Ladies
Cambridge United Women picked up a well-deserved point in the FA Women’s Premier League South East, following a 2-2 draw against Luton Town Ladies in an entertaining affair at Ely City FC.
The away side came into the game off the back of a 100% record and having conceded just one goal in their opening three matches, found the U’s to be their toughest opposition yet.
It was the Hatters that got off to the best possible start when Natasha Fensome capitalised on an under strength header back to goalkeeper Verity Crook with the Luton striker touching past the keeper and drawing enough contact to send her over for a penalty. Zara Carroll duly dispatched from the spot to send the visitors in front.
Crook saved well moments later to keep it at one and a clearance off the line from the resulting corner by Laura Bright also proved important as Cambridge restored parity with 18 minutes gone. Laura Baker was allowed space to drive forward from midfield and the shooting opportunity opened up invitingly from which she made no mistake, firing in a superb 30 yard strike over the goalkeeper.
The hosts were now on top and putting sustained pressure on their high-flying visitors. Bright almost gave her side the lead with a stinging shot after a flowing move that the Luton keeper tipped round the post at full stretch. Then a swift counter attack, an aspect that is fast becoming a Cambridge trademark this season, led by the superb Laura Mills, resulted in Emma Jenkins drawing a smothering save from the keeper after Sophie Thompson’s through ball.
The pressure paid off however, and it was Thompson in her first start of the season, who latched onto a weighted pass behind the defence and rolled the ball into the far corner to give the U’s the lead just before half time.
The second half was a more open contest as Luton tried to find a way back into the game with United looking to get the two-goal cushion. Mills had a shot just outside the box curl inches wide of the far post, only for the Luton to hit back and be denied by the woodwork after Fensome latched onto a speculative ball forward and saw her instinctive shot strike the foot of the post.
Substitute Becky Taylor was unfortunate to see her firm header from Lucy Du Plooy’s corner go just an inch over the bar. But with 15 minutes left, Luton found the equaliser when the home side conceded possession too easily in their own final third and Erica Byron capitalised. The Hatters player sent a 35 yard strike through Crook’s fingertips and into the roof of the net.
Both sides will feel they had a golden opportunity to seal the points in the final 10 minutes. Faith Hewitt volleyed over the bar with only the Luton keeper to beat after a goalmouth scramble, Crook made sure of the point with a flying, full stretch save from a Fensome shot which looked destined for the back of the net.
Following the game, Manager Steve Edwards conceded that a draw was probably a fair result for both sides: “I thought the game was a great advert for the league with two attacking sides who both wanted to win the game so much.
“We couldn’t maintain the levels we would want for long enough in the game but I think that’s a culmination of three games in eight days, which at this stage of the season, has been a challenge for us. However, to come out of all three games unbeaten and to be the first team to take points off Luton this season is something we can take a large amount of pride from.
“It is a shame we weren’t able to hold on for the win and we could even have nicked the points at the end, but I think the draw was a fair result. We have come a long way over the last few weeks and we are looking much more competitive and resolute as a side, and we always look like scoring goals when we go forward.
“That first league win is just round the corner for us if we keep these levels up and we now have a week to recover and work on a few things at training before we go again next Sunday at home to Denham.”
LINE UP:- Verity Crook, Robyn Phillips (Becca Fay 16 mins), Kayleigh Anne Burt, Nicola Geoghan, Lucy Du Plooy, Emma Jenkins (Becky Taylor 58 mins), Laura Baker, Laura Bright, Faith Hewitt, Laura Mills, Sophie Thompson