Walsall Ladies suffered their first defeat in four games as they fell to a 5-0 away defeat against Tamworth FC, signalling the end of Donna Simpson-Ash’s unbeaten start as manager of first team affairs.
The Saddlers went into this top of the table clash on the back of a 1-2 away win against Black Country Fusion and knew that victory on the day would see them overtake the hosts and into first place in the league table.
Prior to the game, the Ladies manager praised Sunday’s opposition and tipped the game to be the toughest of the season so far and in the opening stages of the game Tamworth were able to exploit a lack of early organisation as they raced two goals ahead within the first four minutes. Walsall couldn’t clear their lines and were punished on both occasions from close range as the hosts made a fast start to proceedings.
The hosts almost capitalised on another great opportunity as a Tamworth attacker weaved in and out of numerous Walsall bodies and into the penalty area but a brilliant last-ditch challenge from Franci Roelake prevented a third after a quarter of an hour.
The Saddlers responded well to the early setbacks as they looked more settled and composed in possession and with 24 minutes on the clock, the in-form Karys Craddock forced a save from the Tamworth keeper with a powerful shot, albeit from a very tight angle.
A minute after Craddock’s chance however and Tamworth bagged themselves a third. Tamworth’s central striker span past the defender and into space after a great first touch from a driven pass and coolly slotted home and 10 minutes after this saw the goal of the game. A great strike from the edge of the box just evaded Lucy Hargrave in the Walsall goal and into the top corner to make it 4-0 as the Saddlers failed to clear their lines.
In the dying embers of the first half, Tamworth created another couple of opportunities with some lovely interchanges leaving the Saddlers open but Hargrave came to the rescue with some great saves. There was also a shout for a penalty from the Tamworth faithful as the ball struck the arm of a Saddlers defender but the referee waved play on as the first half came to a close.
The second half was a lot less eventful as Tamworth struggled to break down a re-energised Walsall defence and when they did Hargrave was on hand to make some superb stops.
The hosts missed a great chance in the early stages of the half as a low cross into the box met an attacker but the effort was blazed over from virtually the penalty spot, a let off for the Saddlers.
In the 59th minute, another great opportunity saw the hosts hit the post from the edge of the box as they couldn’t seem to find their clinical edge which they displayed in the first half.
The best save of the game came 15 minutes from time, as Hargrave raced out to meet the Tamworth attacker in a one-on-one and was able to just turn the ball round the post and out for a corner; another fantastic display from the Saddlers number one.
Despite the disappointing first half performance, the Saddlers showed a great togetherness in the second half and their resilience was commendable. Tamworth had a goal difference of +88 before today’s game, and they’d only played 9 games this season, such was the defensive output needed from the Ladies on the day.
With the game coming to a close, the second half pressure finally took its toll as Tamworth rounded off the scoring with another close-range strike 9 minutes from time. A ball in between the Saddlers defence saw the attacker control well and cut inside before striking beyond the on-rushing Hargrave as the hosts finally made a breakthrough in the second half, much to the delight of the team and coaching staff.
That was the last of the action as Walsall Ladies suffered their first defeat under the helm of Donna Simpson-Ash with a 5-0 away defeat to Tamworth FC. The Ladies travel to Doveridge LFC next Sunday as they look to get back to winning ways.