Ladies Stay On Course For Runners-Up Spot
By Web Master
Acle United moved level with second placed Royston Town albeit 2 goals worse off after a 4-4 draw away to Harlow Town on Sunday.
The hosts were in a buoyant mood having beat Royston away in midweek, whilst injury ravaged Acle were forced to name manager Burton as their only substitute after Scully was ruled unfit to play.
It was the visitors who mounted their first attack with Bullard out-pacing her marker on the right but her cross was unable to pick out a team-mate and went out for a goal-kick. Harlow’s first attack on goal came from a free-kick which was deflected for a corner which was cleared comfortably by Acle.
The pace of Acle out wide was troubling the home defence and Bullard once again was able to get free on the right but her pass inside was cut out before Brister could get on the end of it. However, in 8th minute, playing out from defence, Brister flicked the ball to Cooper who raced through the Harlow backline and fired past the keeper to give Acle a 1-0 lead.
Harlow responded well from going a goal down pushing Acle back in their own half and a dangerous cross from the right was missed by attackers and defenders before going out of play and in another attack, Larkins headed out for a corner as the hosts pushed forward. The home pressure paid off 2 minutes later, with a glancing header from a free-kick to level the scores.
The hosts missed a golden chance to take the lead 10 minutes later. Bell in the Acle goal punched clear a corner and a cross back into the goal-area was headed wide of the target. A minute later, Acle regained the lead. Larkins goal-kick was laid into the path of Birchall by Brister, who went past two defenders and blasted the ball past the home keeper to score.
Play was becoming stretched and end to end. A shot from Harlow was just wide of the post after the visitors had lost possession in midfield, then Shields moving the ball from her own half found Kindred whose back-heel put Birchall in the clear but her shot was wide of the target.
Two minutes before half-time, the visitors increased their lead. From a throw-in on the right flank, Birchall cut inside from the by-line and her pass rebounded back to her and with a back to goal turned past the defender and threaded the ball into the goal. However, on the stroke of half-time, a Harlow free-kick was superbly volleyed home at the far post, as Acle went into the break with a 3-2 lead.
Harlow started the better of the two sides after the break and equalised 7 minutes into the half when the visitors failed to clear the ball and slotted the ball home, before almost taking the lead 5 minutes later when Bell was forced to tip the ball on to the bar with Acle conceding a corner from the rebound, which was successfully dealt with by the visitors.
The hosts continued to push forward looking to capitalise on their territorial and possession advantage and a goalmouth scramble inside the away goal-area was eventually cleared by Cooper, before another attack saw a Harlow shot just wide of the target.
With 15 minutes remaining, Kindred limped off with manager Burton taking to the field for her first game in 12 months. Play was then held up for a few minutes after a clash of heads saw Rowland and a Harlow player both receiving treatment before returning to the fray.
It had been a keenly contested game, but nobody could have foreseen the drama which was to unfold in the final few minutes and lengthy added on time. With 2 minutes remaining, Birchall running on to a ball through the centre clipped the ball over the onrushing keeper who caught the ball and despite the keeper’s protests that the ball was inside the area, the referee awarded a freekick just outside the penalty-area and sent the Harlow keeper off.
Three minutes into added time, Birchall completed her hat-trick firing home after the ball had been launched forward, but Harlow equalised in the 96th minutes when a free-kick was headed home from the rebound off the cross-bar, to give Harlow a deserved share of the points.
Acle United Women: A Bell, O Mungham-Gray, N Cooper, A Larkins, C Shields, A Rowland, M Hoy, L Bullard, G Birchall, K Kindred, R Brister. Sub used: R Burton.