20 October 2017 08:19
Luton Town Ladies dispatched of Denham United Ladies 5-1 on Wednesday night to move up to fifth in the table.
The two sides reconvened at The Middlesex Stadium after the enthralling 5-4 battle at Kenilworth Road a fortnight ago that saw the hosts take the three points. The Hatters scored five again but were far more comfortable as they won emphatically on this occasion in West London.
The result was rarely in doubt as the visitors controlled the game from the outset. Steph Gale played the in-form Jess McKay in on goal but her measured effort skimmed off the outside of the post.
Gale then took matters into her own hands, stealing the ball from the defender on the edge of the box before calmly finishing past Denham goalkeeper Gracie Perkis for her first goal in the famous orange shirt.
Dionne Manning forced a decent save from Perkis at her near post and Gale fired wide after an exquisite touch over the defender to allow to advance on goal; Luton were firmly on top.
But Denham gradually gained a foothold in the contest without creating any notable chances- they had a wayward free-kick sail wide.
And they found themselves another goal behind when Manning harnessed her speed to latch onto a ball in behind fire expertly across the keeper and into the net.
The home side halved the deficit swiftly, however, as Jenny Banfield was picked out in the penalty area and she proceeded to drill low past Angelika Kopec.
They could have been on level terms prior to the interval when a header from close range was turned over whilst Luton had have restored their two-goal advantage had Manning- from a similar position to her goal- found the target.
On the balance of play, the Hatters would have been disappointed not to have put the game beyond their opponents and came out for the second half with an aggression and a determination to kill Denham off.
Nicola Henman saw her driven effort tipped over and from the resulting corner Erica Byron came storming in to head off the underside of the bar and in.
Gale’s shot was well stopped by Perkis whilst a couple heroic defensive blocks from the Denham rearguard denied first Zara Carroll then Henman in the space of a few seconds as they continued to pepper the opposition’s goal.
By the hour mark it was all over. A poor backpass presented Henman with an opportunity and she succeeded in winning her race with Perkis to the loose ball before being taken by the keeper. Carroll buried the subsequent penalty to put the encounter firmly beyond doubt.
Denham probed and persisted and were unfortunate as some last-ditch defending prevented them from grabbing another consolation strike.
It would be fitting, though, for Nikki Baker’s team to find another goal to crown an impressive display. And they did when Jodie Bellinger’s initial shot rebounded back into her path before she presented Funmi Babalola with an opportunity she couldn’t pass up as she tapped in on the goalline- her first for the club.
Baker said of the performance "We are back in good form and deserved to win in the way we did. We dominated from the off and scored 5 good goals, as well as defending well. To score 5 away from home midweek is superb and we are pleased to come away with all 3 points".
Three consecutive defeats have been replaced with three successive victories that set the girls up nicely ahead of their FA WPL Plate clash at Gillingham Ladies on Sunday, KO 2pm.