AN Alex Nicklin hat-trick condemned Burton Albion Women to a semi-final exit from the Birmingham County FA Women’s County Cup with a 5-0 loss to FAWNL side Stourbridge at Don Amott Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The Brewers came into this all-important fixture looking to bounce back in style from the previous week’s 6-2 defeat at Lye Town, but despite some positive moments and the team more than managing to hold their own, a merciless second half saw the visitors score four goals to consolidate their slender first-half advantage and end any hopes of an upset that Albion had.
Stourbridge started the game on the front foot and could easily have stretched out an early advantage, but the heroics between the sticks of Alice Langstone ensured that the Brewers weren’t pegged back, with the goalkeeper getting a hand on everything that came at her.
Albion’s defence continued to stand firm throughout the first-half, allowing the team to create some problems of their own for the Glassgirls and forcing them into some early substitutions. This was shown by some great build-up play that led to Sophie Richards laying a good a ball towards the feet of Millie Drinkhall, but any hopes of a Brewers goal were quickly dashed by the linesman’s flag.
Just as half-time approached, Albion were dealt a bitter blow on 41 minutes after a scramble in the box led to the ball finding the feet of NICKLIN for the visitors from a yard out, allowing her to poke the ball past Langstone to give Stourbridge the advantage heading into the break.
HALF-TIME: BURTON ALBION 0-1 STOURBRIDGE
The visitors turned up the intensity of their performance in the second-half and allowed their FAWNL class to really show itself, with their second goal coming just nine minutes after the restart when a squared ball from Niamh Deasy found the feet of Mill ROGERS, who tucked the ball into the open net that laid before her.
It would be another nine minutes later when the Glassgirls trebled their lead thanks to NICKLIN, the first-half substitute securing her brace after powering home another squared ball, giving Langstone little hope of a save.
Though the Brewers refused to give up and even had a good chance on 69 minutes after Alice Lilley got into a position to test Stourbridge keeper Amie Preston, the visitors’ lead was extended on 81 minutes thanks to Lexie HARRISON, who scored the best goal of the game to put the result beyond doubt, with NICKLIN putting one more home in added-time to secure her hat-trick and a deserved victory for the Glassgirls.
Despite the result, Albion manager Tommy Booth heaped praise on his side for their commitment in such a difficult fixture.
He said: “If we go into our league games with that same desire, work rate, effort, I think we’ll be flying in the league! The way they dug in, the way they defended, there’s load of positives to take from it.”
It was noted that Booth opted to change shape for this fixture to a more defensive outlook, but this didn’t stop the team from being able to create chances, something he was pleased with given the opposition.
He said: “We changed the shape to make it a little more defensively sound and we took away from the attacking threat, so the fact we managed to create a few opportunities was a plus. I do feel like if we’d been better on the ball today it would’ve been even better.”
The next challenge for Albion Women is a return to league action and a rematch with Coundon Court, whom they defeated 5-1 on the main pitch at Pirelli Stadium to set up this semi-final.
On this fixture, Booth said: "We’re not used to changing shape and this season we’ve gone into it wanting to win and knowing we’re the favourites in most games. We’ll go back to our trusted, more favourable shape, we’ll be confident and hopefully we’ll turn up and grit our teeth and everything will fall into place."
FULL-TIME: BURTON ALBION 0-5 STOURBRIDGE
Albion: Langstone; Richards, Jarvis, Fray (Hennessy Fernandez 74), Pittman, Denny; Naqwi, Drinkhall (Oxley 77), Gillott; Mahmood, Lilley (Hoyle 70).
Goals: Stourbridge - Nicklin (41, 63, 90+3), Rogers (54), Harrison (81)
Referee: Phillip Lindsey