After last week's great win over title rivals, FC United of Manchester, the Hatters travelled to the Fylde Coast to take on a Fleetwood side who had only lost once in the league prior to this fixture, against the aforementioned FC United.
The County side saw three changes, Shellby Wolstencroft, Jeneyah Webb and Katie Brusell all missing, leaving limited attacking options for Ronnie Green to choose from, with only Chloe Mapp and Emma Massey being strikers by trade. A surprise choice of forward line started the game as Chloe Mapp, currently top scorer this season, and centre-back Abigail Hayes leading the line. Hanifa Douglas replaced Katie Brusell just behind the two, while the 'usual eight' of Blackett, Wilson, Hancock, Connor, O'Reilly, Jones, John and Reeves lined up behind her.
A moment's silence was observed before kickoff, for both Rememberance Sunday next weekend and also the tragic events that took place at Leicester's King Power Stadium last Saturday.
The game started fast, with Wilson making some incisive runs down the right, coming close to setting up Mapp early on as she missed a glorious chance to give the Hatters a lead within the first two minutes. The game was building into a familiar pattern, with Jones, Reeves and John holding most of the play in midfield.
A good piece of buildup play from John, allowed her to play the ball to Reeves who, in turn, put a wonderful pass into Chloe Mapp. Mapp reacted quickly with a first time effort, slotting it past the on rushing 'keeper and into the back of the net.
From the moment the goal was scored, the game's tempo changed. The Wrens were instinctively giving away more fouls and leading County into doing the same.
A break for the home side saw a rare Fleetwood shot, as Lauren Blackett made an outstanding save to keep the Hatters ahead. The lead wasn't intact for much longer, however, as a mix-up in the midfield lead to the Wrens pulling level through Lauren Oatley.
The remainder of the first half was relatively back and forth, with Abi Hayes being the only oter County player to really come close to scoring, some excellent defensive work from Fleetwood keeping Hayes from being able to get any really attempts on the Town goal.
An evidently tense start to the second period for the Hatters as Fleetwood continued to make it difficult for them. Tempers flared on the far side of the pitch as Hanna Wilson got into an altercation with one of the Town players. There was a vocal presence from the home supporters who looked to unnerve County's stalwart right-back.
A noticable disagreement across the pitch between coaches from both sides over an offside call took the sting out of the game for a minute or so, while the referee attempted to deal with the growing animosity on the pitch. Chaneece Reeves was booked by the official for her vocal disapproval of a tackle by one of the Fleetwood midfielders.
Reeves made an impact with her football though, making some good runs down the left. She eventually found herself in a great position, where she crossed the ball into the six yard box to the awaiting Hanifa Douglas. Douglas took a touch and smashed the ball home from close range giving the Hatters the lead.
Hayes came close again, with a charging run through the backline, lobbing the keeper and hitting the crossbar before the ball bounced kindly for the Town 'keeper.
As the full-time whistle approached, County made two changes, bringing on Massey and Porteous-Williams with just minutes remaining and switching to a flat 4-5-1, with the two substitutes out wide.
The referee eventually drew the game to a close with the Hatters taking all three points in what arguably turn out to be their toughest game so far this season. With another trip to Lancashire in the FA Cup next week, County will be looking to iron out any issues in training on Wednesday.
FT | County 2 (Mapp, Douglas), Fleetwood Town 1 (Oatley)
Team: Blackett, Wilson, O'Reilly, Hancock, Connor, John, Jones, Reeves (Porteous-Williams), Mapp, Douglas (Massey), Hayes.
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