Grace Birchall at the double as Acle Ladies move up to third in league
- Credit: Archant
Acle United Ladies moved up into third place in the Eastern Region Premier Division with a game in hand on the top two, after an emphatic 3-0 home victory against Bedford on Sunday.
On a bitterly cold afternoon, it was almost four minutes before either side mounted an attack and the visitors, with a quick breakthrough the centre, forced Acle's keeper Cyan Fullbrook to save. At the other end, a corner won by Megan Todd was half-cleared to Amber Rowland but her effort cleared the bar.
Bedford's main threat was through the centre of the park and after the home midfield had lost possession a through ball saw Fullbrook coming off her line to save at the feet of a Bedford striker before the Acle defence recovered and cleared the ball to safety.
As the half progressed, play became condensed into midfield, with neither side creating clear-cut chances and the keepers rarely tested, although the visitors were enjoying a possession and territorial advantage.
Acle's Rebecca Burton was replaced by Grace Birchall midway through the half after a clumsy tackle, unpunished by the referee, saw the home captain land on the side of her head.
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The deadlock was almost broken in the 30th minute when a header from a cross into the Acle penalty-area came back off the post before being cleared by the hosts who set up a counter attack with Todd winning a corner. From the set-piece, Kate Pasque's effort flew over the bar.
With 10 minutes of the half remaining Acle started to get a foothold into the game and gain the upper hand. Ciera Flatt shot over the bar after good work from Rowland and Birchall, then a long kick from Fullbrook was played on by Rowland to Birchall, whose shot was saved by the keeper.
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The last action of the half saw Birchall fire a free-kick over the bar after Rowland had been fouled as the sides went into the break goalless, in a half which did not see many clear-cut chances.
Acle started the second half in a similar vein to the end of the first, on top. Naomi Cooper and Todd were linking up well down the right flank and Todd's pace was causing problems for her marker.
Within two minutes of the restart, it was Acle's turn to hit the woodwork. Chloe Shields won possession just in her own half and found Flatt, who set up Birchall to shoot against the post. In their next attack Birchall saw her shot come off the keeper's legs before being cleared.
The breakthrough for the hosts finally came in the 59th minute. A move down the right flank by Cooper and Todd saw the latter's cross put out for a corner and from Laura Holden's set-piece, Todd headed home to give Acle a 1-0 lead.
Six minutes later, Acle doubled their lead. Flatt cut off a pass in midfield and fed Rowland, whose pass saw the Cooper-Todd combination pass their opponents before Todd's cross-field ball set up Birchall, who cut inside past two defenders to plant the ball wide of the keeper into the goal.
Play was now mainly confined to Bedford's half of the pitch and the hosts scored their third goal 12 minutes from time to end the game as a contest. Cooper's throw-in set up Kirstie Kindred whose shot was blocked, but Birchall was on hand the blast home the rebound to give Acle a 3-0 lead.
Rhianne Brister was introduced for only her second game in an Acle shirt and from Todd's cross she saw her effort go agonisingly past the far post.
Acle United Ladies: C Fullbrook, N Cooper, O Mungham-Gray, C Flatt, K Pasque, C Shields, M Todd, A Rowland, L Holden, R Burton, L Bullard. Subs all used: G Birchall, K Kindred, R Brister, J Copeman, J Hooper.