Hatters Ladies crowned champions once more

Luton Town Ladies with the Beds County Cup
Luton Town Ladies with the Beds County Cup

Luton Town Ladies retained the County Cup for a second successive season after defeating Offley & Stopsley 3-0 last week at Bedford Town FC.

Nicola Henman gave Town a well-deserved lead before the break, while goals from Zara Carroll and Jodie Bellinger went on to cushion the merited victory in the second half.

Town have now won the competition an impressive seven times making them the most decorated women’s cup winners in Bedfordshire.

Manager Nikki Baker made one change to her starting line-up as Erica Byron made way for Asia Brown who was reinstated in defence.

The Hatters had an early chance to go ahead as Carroll intercepted the ball brilliantly in midfield and combined with Jess McKay on the wing who let rip from 18 yards but her effort went narrowly wide of the target.

At the other end, Nicola Hollick appeared to be through one-on-one, only for l but Town skipper Rachel Carter to make a vital interception.

Within three minutes Rachel Lewis fired another attempt just wide in what was Offley’s best period of the game.

Keeper Kelly Moss made an important save moments after as she just managed to get her fingertips to the ball to push a powerful long range effort from Henman over the crossbar.

Town continued to search for an opener and youngster Lucy Webster went on another brilliant run through the middle of the field, drilling the ball towards the bottom corner, only for Moss to get down well and push it behind.

The goal did eventually come for Town in the 31st minute as Dionne Manning swung the ball into the box and Henman converted coolly from six yards.

The Hatters doubled their advantage immediately after the interval too.

Just after Moss had made another sublime save to deny Amy Summerfield’s header, the ball fell to Carroll who poked into the net from close range.

Half time substitute Bellinger had three great chances to score after coming off the bench and she finally got her reward in the 83rd minute with a superb flick in the box to make it 3-0.

Striker Joanne Rutherford almost made it four in injury time after she chipped the keeper but her terrific attempt rattled the crossbar.

Afterwards, Baker said: “I am very happy with a clean sheet.

“We defended brilliantly with three at the back and moved the ball well throughout the game.

“We took the final seriously and I told the girls that they had to earn the right to play.

“We tried to play the right way, and although the game could have been played at a higher tempo, we played some good football and scored three good goals.

“We dominated throughout and I am very happy to retain the trophy.”

Baker went on to praise Offley & Stopsley as well, saying: “Offley made it difficult for us and worked hard. We had 24 shots on goal in the first half and it was 1-0 so that tells a story.

“It could have and should have been a lot more. We hit the bar and post, had two or three off the line and missed several clear chances.

“I have to give credit to Kelly who was in goal for Offley as she was outstanding too.”