Walsall Ladies earned their first win in four games in all competitions after an 11-goal thriller against Shrewsbury Juniors at Dales Lane in what was Donna Simpson-Ash’s first game at the helm.
An early goal was vital and the Ladies didn’t just get one, but two within the first three minutes. An excellent interchange on the edge of the box resulted in Karys Craddock being put through on goal and she made no mistake to give the Saddlers an early lead. Franci Roelake doubled the lead after more good play in midfield shortly after, with a similar finish to the first.
It was a lively start to the match from both sides, with no real regards from either team to doing their defensive duties. Shrewsbury fluffed a chance to get back into the game with 10 minutes on the clock with an excellent save from Lucy Hargrave denying them.
Despite some flutters of pressure, the Ladies survived the storm and hammered home their advantage after 23 minutes. Georgia Cox was alert to a short back-pass and she coolly slotted home to give the Saddlers a third.
That goal seemed to fire the home side up even more, with two fantastic chances arriving in the next five minutes. Firstly, the Shrewsbury goalkeeper came rushing off her line, only to clear it straight to Amy Edmunds, who lobbed the ‘keeper but the defender covered well to clear away from trouble.
Cox then had a chance to double her tally, but her shot was deflected wide after a scramble from a corner.
However, Walsall were able to add a fourth five minutes before half time, with Craddock grabbing her second with a cross/shot that deceived the goalkeeper and dropped in at the far post. Shrewsbury pulled a goal back with the last kick of the half to make it 4-1 but at half time the Ladies had a big advantage and were on course to grabbing all three points.
The second half started in a similar vein to which the first half did, with Karys Craddock squeezing a shot through the goalkeeper’s fingers to secure herself a hat-trick. If it wasn’t for the outstanding performance in goal by Lucy Hargrave, she would have been a shoe-in for player of the match.
As it was, Hargrave pulled off a couple of stunning saves not long after the fifth goal, taking a whack in the process. Many of the squad were making the step up from the development team and therefore were making their debuts for the first team which made the already impressive performance a bit sweeter.
Manager Donna Simpson-Ash, however, was disappointed with some defensive aspects of the performance. After an almighty scramble from a corner, Shrewsbury added a second just ten minutes into the second half and although Stephanie Kirby was able to add a sixth for the Saddlers, Shrewsbury scored a third consolation, much to the disappointment of the new Ladies manager.
Craddock did however score a seventh just two minutes from time with the goal of the game. She raced onto a loose pass in the centre circle and ran a full 50 yards before planting the ball into the bottom corner for her fourth.
Shrewsbury scored with the last kick of the second half in similar fashion to the first to make it 7-4 but a dominant display from the Ladies meant the points were only going in one direction.
That was the last of the action as the Saddlers picked up a much needed 7-4 victory over Shrewsbury Juniors at Dales Lane to keep themselves third in the league table, with another game to look forward to before the winter break.
Photos courtesy of Jenny Merrett and Kevin Grice
Match Report by Will Madden