The Ladies went into the game without several first-team players and with 10 new players making up their squad of 14 - which suggested a tough test against a Leeds team that have been a regular at this level for several years. But the hosts, playing at Atherton Collieries’ Kensite Stadium for the first time, got off to the perfect start to the season, thanks to their hard work in training and impressive team spirit.
The Whites got off to a scintillating start but were guilty of missing some clear, yet well created chances in the early stages. However, that wastefulness wasn’t punished as last season’s top scorer Michelle Kirkman-Ryan scored with her most difficult opportunity - finding the net with a spectacular overhead finish into the far corner.
The ladies continued to push and created plenty of opportunities without finding the clinical end product. But that didn’t last long as they added a second when the Leeds keeper failed to hold a cross and new forward Saf Newhouse converted to extend the early advantage.
With just half of the first half gone, Wanderers made it three in impressive style. Another new striker Emma Pilling put the hosts into a really commanding position with a superb 25-yard volley.
Now Leeds were on the ropes, and still Bolton continued to waste chances to truly seal the result. This encouraged Leeds, who eventually got a foothold in the game and soon got back into it with a fine goal from distance just before the break.
Despite playing at this higher level the team had made a wonderful start to life in the Premier and went into the break 3-1 up and somewhat disappointed not to hold a greater advantage.
The second half was a tighter affair, with Leeds having more possession in more dangerous areas. But 17-year-old debutant Sophie Jones and striker turned centre half and captain for the day Shel Saunders put in an impressive defensive display at the back.
Despite Leeds’ improvement Bolton continued to create opportunities but were just unable to take the chances that came their way - including failing to convert a penalty towards the end of the game that would have settled any lingering nerves.
But Wanderers saw it through to the end to seal an impressive, well deserved 3-1 victory to seal a hugely encouraging start to the season.
We spoke to midfielder Gemma Yeldrem, our sponsored player for the season, after the game to get the view from inside the dressing room. Gemma told us: “It was the perfect start to the season with three points. I was very happy to make my debut and contribute in a 3-1 win.
“I thought the team as a whole played really well. Hopefully if we can carry this form through the season and strengthen we can achieve our first aim of remaining in the league and progress in months to come.”
Sunday’s game was watched by the highest crowd of the day in the North Division 1 and with hosts Atherton Collieries playing away in the FA Cup, the club are hopeful of even more supporters at the next home game against Morecambe on 10 September.
Next up for Bolton Ladies is a visit to Brighouse Town for a 2pm kick-off on Sunday, they recorded a 5-3 opening day win at Newcastle United at the weekend. That clash is one of four away games in the next month for Bolton Ladies.