BURTON Albion kicked off the season with a hard-fought victory against newly-promoted Shifnal Town on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the Pirelli Stadium 3G pitch.
The opening exchanges of the match were cagey, with both sides trying to find an edge. Neither side dominated, with no goalkeeper being forced into making any save of note.
As the game settled and the half wore on, the Brewers began to play some good football and a first-time pass from Emily Gillott put Millie Drinkhall through on goal, but Shifnal goalkeeper, Rebecca Williams, was able to save her effort with an outstretched foot.
Shortly before half time, a Shifnal free kick played forwards from inside their own half wasn’t cleared by the Brewers defence and Jenna BODDISON was able to loop the ball over goalkeeper Olena Tatarczuk and into the goal, putting the away side in front.
There was still time for the Brewers to fashion one more clear chance after a smart ball by Ciara Fray found Hajrah Mahmood in space just inside the penalty area. However, her shot was comfortably dealt with by Williams.
HALF-TIME: BURTON ALBION 0-1 SHIFNAL TOWN
Manager Joe Kirkland was keen to get the players in at half time and reinforce the key messages from pre-season. Whatever he said certainly did the trick as the Brewers came flying out of the traps at the start of the second half.
Straight from the kick off, Ciara Fray received the ball in the left back position and, following a determined run, played a wonderful ball through to MAHMOOD, who made no mistake in front of goal this time with less than 20 seconds on the clock.
Five minutes later, a long ball into the Shifnal penalty area was headed out into the path of MAHMOOD who produced a beautifully volleyed finished from the edge of the box for her second of the game to put the brewers in front.
Shifnal immediately pressed forwards for an equaliser and were rewarded with a penalty in the 53rd minute when Megan Pittman was adjudged to have fouled Boddison as she broke into the penalty area. Maria Bell took the resulting penalty and Tatarczuk chose to go the right way only to watch the ball roll past the post and out for a goal kick.
The Brewers pressed home their advantage in the 63rd minute. Captain Charlotte Jarvis moved forwards from the back to receive the ball and played a perfectly weighted pass through to DRINKHALL who slotted the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
What could have been a comfortable finish to the match was taken away when a hopeful forward pass from Shifnal wasn’t dealt with effectively and BODDISON found herself clean through, making no mistake in front of goal with 15 minutes left to play.
The Brewers had to work hard for the remainder of the game, ensuring that Shifnal were unable to break down their solid defence, and when the final whistle came it was Burton celebrating three points on the opening day of the season.
FULL-TIME: BURTON ALBION 3-2 SHIFNALL TOWN
Brewers manager Joe Kirkland after the game said: “It was crucial to get over the line and win today. It was far from the performance that we know we’re capable of, but just to get into that mindset of having a ‘winning mentality’ is a huge step. There were difficult moments and we overcame them. It’s a positive start in what we hope to be a positive season."
Albion: Tatarczuk, Richards, Pittman, Jarvis (c), Fray, Naqwi, Gourlay, Gillott, Stewart (Hoyle 37), Mahmood (Warrington 56 (Jubb 83)), Drinkhall
Goals: Albion – Mahmood (46, 51), Drinkhall (63), Shifnal – Boddison (43, 75)