A week away from action for the first team allowed for some rest for a team that haven't had the easiest starts to the season but have racked up 10 consecutive wins in all competitions.
A plague of injuries has swept the team, with Jade White still out following her injury against Bishop Auckland in October, as well as Katie Brusell and Jeneyah Webb, out with shoulder and ankle injuries respectively. Kath Jones was also out this week. This meant that Ronnie Green had to make a number of changes, calling up three development players for the game, Holly Stokes, Niamh Nolan (who had played previously for the first team on a regular basis before a nasty injury) and Yasmin Ahmed.
A uncharacteristically slow start for the Hatters lead to some early pressure from the visitors, who were unable to hit the target despite numerous attempts. The early breaks for County were predominantly down the left, with Hanifa Douglas and Claire O'Reilly having good time on the left to make runs in behind.
Abi Hayes was the first County player to get a shot away, getting through one-on-one with the goalkeeper before blasting the ball just over the bar after losing balance taking the shot. Eventually it was Chloe Mapp who broke through, from a great ball by Niamh Nolan, after some quality build-up play in the midfield from Chaneece Reeves, Nolan, Sophie John and Hanifa Douglas. Mapp getting the first with a well-placed finish into the far post to make it 1-0.
An injury to one of the visiting players, following a free kick just outside the box for County, allowed for a break in play as the physio treated the injured Merseyrail player.
HT | County 1-0 Merseyrail. (Mapp)
A much faster paced start to the second period for County allowed for some excellent chances, most natably one for Nicola Connor which was unfortunately hit well over the bar from close range. Abi Hayes continued to cause issues for the Merseyrail defense as she used her pace and strength to break through the back line.
The midfield was where the game was mostly being played during the second period, as Nolan, Reeves and John all made good efforts to keep the visitors at bay. Green made two substitutions, with Nolan and Hayes being replaced by Ahmed and Stokes respectively.
County were then seemingly delivered a blow almost seconds after the final substitution was made, as Chloe Mapp went down with what looked to be an ankle problem. The Hatters were forced to play the dying minutes with ten players. The visitors piled on the pressure late on, with the home side only having one player past the halfway line for large chunks of the last 15 minutes.
Mapp returned to the field of play and allowed for Stokes to push further forward. A good ball over the top lead to a miscommunication between the goalkeeper and one of the centre backs, as Stokes lobbed the onrushing goalkeeper before outmuscling the last defender and tapping home from close range to make it 2-0 on her debut.
FT | County 2-0 Merseyrail. (Mapp, Stokes)
Squad: Blackett, Wilson, O'Reilly, Hancock, Connor, John, Nolan, Reeves, Mapp, Douglas, Hayes.
Subs: Ahmed, Stokes.
POTM: Abi Hayes.