One of the first NIFL League games since March 7 got underway at New Midgley Park last night as Linfield commenced a delayed and shortened league campaign with a hard fought 2-0 win against Crusaders.
Prior to the game new captain and former international captain Ashley Hutton received the 2019 season Danske Bank NIFL Women’s premiership champions flag from Steven Mills of NIFL.
It was a behind closed doors game as football takes its first tentative steps in emerging from the global health crisis that has put so much of life on hold in the past six months.
Overall, it was an open, exciting and end to end game after a perhaps unsurprising fairly nervy and cagey start from both sides.
Rebecca McKenna shot over the bar on 22 minutes and five minutes later Linfield goalkeeper Nicole Adams made a great save with her feet when a Crusaders forward was bearing down on goal in a one on one.
On the half hour mark Linfield came close when a Rebecca Bassett from a corner was well saved by the visiting keeper.
Just before the break a great strike from distance by Casey Howe was well gathered by the Crusaders keeper.
Half time - Linfield 0 Crusaders 0
Crusaders enjoyed a good period in the early stages of the second half and Linfield keeper Nicole Adams was called upon to make another one on one save, this one even better than the first when she parried the goalbound shot behind for a corner.
On the hour mark a Crusaders shot came back off the cross bar with the follow up effort from close range going over the bar from close range as Linfield lived dangerously for a spell.
Linfield introduced three young subs - two of them debutantes Kathryn McConnell and Ebony Leckey in addition to another debutante Vicky Carleton in the starting line up.
And having weathered a spell of Crusaders pressure Linfield found a way of winning. A Linfield effort came back off the post but on 75 minutes young Fermanagh girl Casey Howe broke the deadlock with a fine composed finish from a tight angle.
Sent clear down the right Casey slotted the ball home past the advancing keeper at the Boucher end of the New Midgley stadium.
Linfield grew in confidence following the goal and Casey Howe added a second goal on 83 minutes. This time she cut in from the left wing and drilled a low shot from just outside the box which found the corner of the net at the near post.
An important and hard fought win against an enterprising Crusaders side who were well marshalled throughout by international skipper Julie Nelson.
A lot of positives for a young Linfield side that never gave up and found a way to win.
Several fine saves by Nicole Adams paved the way for Casey Howe to seal the win with her 2 fine goals.
Final score - Linfield 2 Crusaders 0
Next week’s league match behind closed doors sees Linfield on the road away to Glentoran who won 3-0 away to Cliftonville last night.
The Linfield team was
1 - Nicole Adams
2 - Mia Fitzsimmons - replaced by 27 - Kathryn McConnell
3 - Louise McFrederick
5 - Ashley Hutton
7 - Victoria Carleton - replaced by 22 - Ebony Leckey
8 - Casey Howe
9 - Rebecca Bassett - replaced by 16 - Cora Morgan
17 - Hayley O’Donnell
18 - Rebecca McKenna
19 - Abbie Magee
25 - Naomi Donnan
10 - Alison Smyth
23 - Katie Dickson