Football: Dale Women 2 - 1 MSB Woolton Women

Date published: 14 September 2023

Goals from Ellie Fergus and Shannon Gill secured a 2-1 win for Dale in the first qualifying round of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup on Sunday 10 September at the Crown Oil Arena.

Fergus put Dale ahead after 36 minutes following some excellent work from Alicia Barnett, before Shannon Gill tapped home to give Dale a two-goal advantage.

The visitors pulled one back through Jade McNicholas just after the hour mark, but Dale held on to progress through to the second qualifying round of the Vitality FA Women’s Cup.

This game marked the first competitive fixture of the Rochdale AFC Women’s team's season as they hosted MSB Woolton Women at the Crown Oil Arena.

With 511 spectators, the stage was set for the teams and the game was competitive from minute one with the visitors threatening to take an early lead.

The MSB Woolton striker broke through on goal, but thanks to some pressure from the Dale defence the attack came to nothing.

Just minutes later Dale had a chance of their own, Fergus followed in a Dale cross into the box and forced a good save out of Chloe Goulding.

Player of the match, Shannon Gill, looked to get on the scoresheet early as she rose to meet a cross from the left, but her header travelled wide of the net.


Dale Women 2-1 MSB Woolton Women
© Flora Martyr


This time the two Dale forwards who’d previously tested their luck combined to create an opening for Dale, with Fergus battling well to win the ball back and then delivering a brilliant cross to Gill, whose shot was held by the Woolton keeper.

Fergus seemed determined to make her mark as she made a powerful run towards the goal. The Dale forward beat two Woolton defenders on the way before eventually being crowded out.

Barnett caused the visiting side a number of problems throughout the game with her quick feet.

She worked hard down Dale’s left-hand side before delivering a ball into the box. Her effort was palmed away by the Woolton keeper as she did just about enough to evade the two awaiting Dale attackers.

Both sides had chances after the half-hour mark, Gill forced Goulding into another save before Emma Flynn fired over from range. Tilly Wright for MSB Woolton sent an effort well wide shortly after.

Lifelong Rochdale fan and RAFC Women’s striker Ellie Fergus was to have her moment in front of the Dale supporters on the pitch at the Crown Oil Arena.

It all started with the thorn in Woolton’s side, Alicia Barnett. Dale's number seven caused issues once again for the opposition.

Her quick feet saw her beat several defenders on a brilliant run towards the by-line. Her cross found Fergus who headed home into the corner of the goal beating Goulding in the Woolton net.

Joined by her teammates, Fergus ran towards the Dale supporters to celebrate.

Gill had the next two chances for Dale. The first was a looping ball that looked goal-bound before dropping just wide of the upright and the second was a cross into the box that was headed out by a Woolton defender.

Either side could’ve scored in the 43rd minute with some end-to-end action.

Flynn stung the hands of the keeper following a Dale corner before Woolton launched a counterattack which led to Isabel Davies and Gemma Pickin combining for the visitors to create a clear-cut chance, however, they somehow fired wide of the post.

Davies tested her luck once more before half-time, forcing Leah Jackson into a save as she got down well to push the ball away from goal.


Dale Women 2-1 MSB Woolton Women
© Flora Martyr


Into the second-half and Gill was causing problems again, her chipped shot rose over the keeper and dropped just wide of the far post.

Dale didn’t have to wait too long after the restart to extend their lead as Ellie Gill found her sister Shannon Gill with another ball that looped over the keeper. The latter poked her foot at the ball putting Dale two up.

A few more chances came for Dale with Gill firing over the bar before Fergus was crowded out by the Woolton defence following a mix-up in the visitor's backline.

Woolton had a fantastic chance to pull one back following a free-kick that was only cleared as far as Elena Mechlenburgh who fired just wide of the near post.

Gill met Flynn’s corner for Dale and saw her effort creep wide of the post, just before McNicholas met a Woolton corner to half the deficit.

At 2-1, Dale still looked relatively comfortable and they seemed to still be confident as Fergus looked to reply straight away as she tried her luck from range after spotting Goulding off her line.

In the closing stages of the ninety minutes, Dale were the closest to getting on the scoresheet again as Ellie Gill’s shot glanced off the crossbar. Moments later, Gill attempted a similar shot, this time the keeper got a touch on the ball, pushing it wide for a Dale corner.

Dale captain Brooke Strudwick and fellow defender Emma Flynn stood their ground late on as they defended well to keep the Woolton forwards away from goal.

In the fifth minute of additional time Isobella Green, who came off the bench for Woolton, took a shot from a tight angle which hit the side netting.

It looked like it was a great save from Jackson, with the Dale keeper tipping the effort wide, however, the referee pointed for a Dale goal kick.


Dale Women 2-1 MSB Woolton Women
© Flora Martyr


Barnett deserved a goal for her efforts, and she nearly had it in the sixth minute of additional time.

The forward’s free-kick looked destined for the top corner before Goulding tipped it around the upright and out for a Dale corner.

The following corner was deflected onto the post and cleared away from danger.

The full-time whistle came moments later and the fans in the Main Stand at the Crown Oil Arena all rose to give the Rochdale AFC Women’s team a standing ovation for their performance.

That victory means that they have progressed to the second qualifying round of the Vitality FA Women’s Cup, and will host Darwen.

The game is scheduled to be played on Sunday 1 October, with full details set to be announced in due course.

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