Lisburn Ladies claimed the Division 1 League cup to go along with their Division 1 title tonight by comfortably beating The Cliff, Larne 4-0 at Solitude.
Lisburn set up to attack from the very beginning, and they started quickly, playing the ball down the channels for the wingers to chase. They were getting the most joy from the left side, with winger Abbie Burnett having two very early opportunities to put the ball in the box, but both deliveries were poor and went straight out of play.
She kept at it though, and on 10 minutes she once again beat her marker and this time she got the cross into the near post right, with striker Stacey Hamilton able to get a toe on it to flick it towards the goal. Keeper Jen Rodgers could only get a hand to it and parry it onto the bar, but reacted well was able to gather it at the second attempt.
Two minutes later midfielder Stacey Murdoch received the ball under pressure, pulled off a classy pirouette that completed baffled both her markers, and played a through ball that so nearly went through to forward Nadene Stewart, but was blocked at the last possible second. Lisburn definitely had the upper hand in the first 15 minutes, and were slowly gaining momentum and turning the screw.
Burnett kept getting in a lot of space, and the next 5 minutes saw her hit in three more crosses in rapid succession, but each time the keeper was there to collect. She did come very close to laying on the opening goal on 24 minutes though, when she used her pace to burst straight through and squared the ball to the onrushing Kerry McCann, but the low cross went just behind her and away out to safety.
McCann herself was also seeing a lot of the ball down Lisburns right hand side, and on 32 min she beat her marker and swung in a delightful cross which poked home by the toe of the diving Stacey Hamilton to give Lisburn a deserved 1-0 advantage.
The nearly doubled this advantage instantly, as Burnett again crossed the ball that was fumbled by the keeper, but she managed to dive on it just before Stewart arrived for what would have been a tap in.
Lisburn almost threw away there hard earned advantage just before the break, when tireless Cliff midfielder Hollie Robinson intercepted a pass across the Lisburn back line, but just as she was about to pull the trigger a good covering tackle from defender Sorcha Nugent made her scuff her shot wide. This effort was the Cliffs first real opportunity of the game, and also the last action of the half.
While Lisburn led 1-0 at the break, were completed dominating proceedings and were getting into some very good positions, they were unable to turn this advantage into many clear cut scoring opportunities. This was partly due to some good defending by the Cliff central defenders, the warning were there, with midfielders Murdoch, Burnett and McCann looking especially dangerous, and forward Hamilton showed she could finish if given half a chance.
Lisburn came out all guns blazing again at the start of the second half, and nearly scored after only 4 minutes, when an deep cross was played in to Hamilton, who got the ball under control with a brilliant first touch and turned and hit a low shot. Rodgers got her positioning spot on though and was able to turn the ball wide at the near post.
On 55 minutes Murdoch received the ball from a throw in, used her strength and body position to shield the ball, turn and play an accurate half vollyed cross right onto the head on Hamilton, who made it 2-0 with a smart finish across the keeper.
The chances kept coming for Lisburn, and they had their third 5 minutes later when Burnett received the ball on the wing, played in inside to the feet of Stewart, who then layed it off to McCann. The midfielder made no mistake wit a powerful side footed effort that goes in just under the bar.
Larne came into the game a little after 65 minutes and had a god chance when Lisburns keeper Jessica Poots mishandled a long ball and palmed it into the path on substitute Laura Noble, but she couldn't control it fast enough, and allowed Poots to recover well.
Lisburn soon got back on top of things, and Hamilton, Burnett and Stewart had chances to add to the socreline. On 87 minutes the pressure once again paid off when the still lively Burnett ran clean through the tiring Larne defence and hit a curling shot towards goal. Rodgers managed to get a touch to it, and it was trickling wide, but substitute winger Jenny Brady followed up well to smash the ball into the empty net to complete the scoring.
There were some very good performances from Lisburn, who put in effort all over the pitch. Special mentions must go to Burnett and McCann who repeatedly tore the opposition defence apart from the start of the game to the end, and to both Hamilton for her goals, and Murdoch for showing composure to control the game from midfield.
Manager Hayden Davies was obviously delighted to have completed the double, and gave great credit to his players. “They have done a fantastic job. We controlled the game well, and were the better team, but I did worry in the first half an hour when we didn't take any of our chances. But thankfully the goals came, and we won well in the end”