Saints reach their 11th Shropshire Cup Final!
By Thomas Albutt
The New Saints Ladies booked their passage into the Tom Farmer Cup Final for the 11th time thanks to a 5-0 victory over Ludlow Town LFC at AFC Bridgnorth’s, Crown Meadow. Goals from Zoe Griffiths, Jodie Bragan, Sarah Jackson and Kim Bebbington were enough to do the job for TNS, which booked their passage through thanks to their second 5-0 victory of the competition.
TNS started brightly, attacking downhill on a heavy pitch that had already begun to cut up during the warm up, Lia Lewis having the Saints first effort on goal with a shot from 20 yards which flew wide of the left post. This was followed by sustained Saints pressure, with Bragan floating in two corners, both of which were cleared only to see another wave of TNS attack begin. Saints took the lead in the 7th minute, a short corner played in Ridge on the edge of the box saw her spin around the defender who left a clumsy leg and the referee pointed straight to the spot. Bragan stepped up and smashed home into the bottom left to score her first TNS goal and bag Saints’ first of the afternoon.
Saints continued to dominate the game, keeping Ludlow penned in their own half, who defended well in numbers and made a number of important blocks and tackles to deny the TNS any real sight on goal except for a few efforts from outside the box which went wide or over the bar. Saints continued to push for a second and went closest in the 34th minute, a snapshot from the edge of the area was saved by the feet of the Ludlow goalkeeper, before Ridge failed to get to the ball for a rebound before it was hacked away.
Ludlow came closest to scoring next, just before half time, a wayward back pass from Katie Doster nearly nestled itself into the bottom corner of the net, however Sarah Parkes in the Saints goal did just enough to tip the ball around the post and out for Ludlow corner which was headed away and the referee blew for half time.
HALF TIME: Ludlow Town LFC 0 – 1 The New Saints LFC (Bragan)
Saints started the second half in much the same vein as the first, probing the Ludlow defence, looking for gaps in the drilled line, it took two minutes to find that point and following a melee in the box, the ball bounced up, hit a Ludlow arm and the referee gave the Saints their second penalty. Zoe Griffiths stepped up and fired home to double the lead with a well taken shot into the top left corner.
Ludlow rallied and continued to defend well, looking to hit Saints on the counter, and only good defending and well-timed interceptions at the back stopped Ludlow from breaking away and causing real danger. In the 55th minute, Saints added their third and Griffiths’ second, Courtney Ashworth broke down the left before chopping inside and forcing a good save from the Ludlow goalkeeper, however Griffiths was on hand to tap home the rebound to give Saints some clear breathing space.
Lawrence Wilson in the TNS dugout made all three of his changes in the 65th minute, with Pennington, James and Brown replacing Griffiths, Ashworth and Davis. The change proved to be a successful one, with Brown and Pennington heavily involved in the build-up play which saw Sarah Jackson fire home in the 67th minute to give Saints their fourth.
The game appeared to be done and dusted for Saints, however in the 73rd minute, Ludlow broke down the Saints’ right flank, a snapshot from distance, Ludlow’s first shot of the afternoon, nearly fooled Parkes with the wind playing a major factor, but the keeper scrambled across her goal to cover the shot which sailed wide of the upright.
Bebbington gave Saints their final goal, making it 5-0 with a shot from distance which looped over the stranded Ludlow goalkeeper and into the top right corner, following an excellent solo run in which she beat three players before shooting from 20 yards out after she cut inside from the left wing.
FULL TIME: Ludlow Town LFC 0 – 5 The New Saints LFC (Bragan, Griffiths X2, Jackson, Bebbington)
TNS Line-Up: Parkes, Davis (Brown, 65), Doster, Smith, Bebbington, Lewis (C), Bragan, Jackson, Griffiths (Pennington, 65), Ashworth (James, 65), Ridge. Subs Not Used: Cleveley
Man of the Match: Jodie Bragan
Saints now have a number of league games, the soonest being when they host Wolverhampton Wanderers Women on Wednesday evening at Park Hall (13/03/19 – 19:45 Kick Off) before travelling to Birmingham to face Solihull Moors LFC (17/03/19 – 14:00 Kick Off). The final of the Shropshire Cup will be on Sunday 12th May at Shrewsbury Town’s, Montgomery Waters Meadow.