Bolton Wanderers Ladies faced a tough task in their first away game in the Women’s Premier League, travelling to Brighouse Town who finished in the top half of the league last season and impressed in pre-season.
But Bolton Ladies put up a great effort at the established Premier League side, taking the lead and even having a late equaliser ruled out for offside before eventually falling to a narrow 4-3 defeat.
Bolton were fast out of the blocks and took the lead on 12 minutes through Shel Saunders, who was playing as a forward after last week’s impressive performance filling in in defence.
But that lead was short lived, as two minutes later Brighouse finished off a fine passing phase with a clinical strike across the goalkeeper and into the corner of the net.
Brighouse started to apply more pressure as the half wore on, which saw Bolton struggle to get their passing play going. And that soon told as Brighouse hit a purple pitch with three goals in just over 10 minutes - two of which were thunderous strikes from distance - to race into a 4-1 advantage.
The Whites were looking shakey at this point but held on until the welcome half-time whistle. The break saw Millie Critchley join the fray, adding some much needed strength on and off the ball and some added calm in the middle of the park.
That calmness paid off, and just after the hour mark Saf Newhouse reduced the arrears with a well struck left foot shot into the roof of the net.
The goal saw Bolton’s condifence build, and with it their passing game began to flow. They were starting to play from the back and finding space in behind the Brighouse back line - which built the feeling that the game was not yet beyond them.
Bolton made their building pressure count as on 74 mins a Chloe Fell free-kick wasn’t held by the keeper and Michelle Kirkman-Ryan nodded in for 4-3.
It was game on and, with 15 minutes remaining, it was the visitors pressing and Brighouse were digging in. This led to a breathless last few minutes, in which Newhouse was disappointed to miss a clear chance after determined build-up play Kirkman-Ryan.
Saunders was unlucky to see a 25-yard lobbed effort bounce back off the crossbar moments later, and Bolton thought they’d drawn level when Newhouse followed up another Saunders effort that was parried out by the keeper - only to see celebrations cut short by the assistant’s flag.
Bolton pushed hard for what would have been a deserved equaliser, but Brighouse held on for the win.
After the game, club secretary Darrn Butler told us: “After a disappointing spell in the first half the ladies were probably deserving of a point, but it wasn’t to be. But this was a good learning day in that at this level concentration and sticking to the gaffer’s game plan will get its rewards.
“We saw a decent turnout in the away section today and many thanks for those who came to cheer the girls on.”
This performance, in addition to last weekend’s opening victory, should give the Ladies plenty of heart for the season ahead, and adds further testament to the attractive brand of football on display.
Last week’s opponents Leeds United played out in front of 840 at Elland Road yesterday, a figure the Ladies team will want to beat when they eventually make their Macron Stadium debut - on which, we’ve been told to watch this space.
Next up for the Ladies is a visit to Leicester City Ladies in the Premier League Cup next Sunday. If you want to travel down with the team, then get in touch with the club.