08 Oct 2018 by Odd Sindre Tonning

Derby day delight

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Great goalkeeping by Paula Alarcon-Conde and a hat-trick from Jade Hesketh helped Altrincham FC Ladies extend their winning run to five games, as local rivals Northwich Vixens visited Mersey Valley.

It was Altrincham that got off to the better start as they had a couple chances in the opening ten minutes. Laura Kelly burst through one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but the Vixen goalie was alert and got a foot to the ball which Kelly tried to knock past her, before clashing into the Altrincham striker.

Both Laura Kelly and Imogen Paul had efforts from long range as well, but the Vixen goalkeeper made two more saves - all of which came in the opening ten minutes which set the tempo for the game.

On 12 minutes, there was little The Vixens' keeper could do to prevent Altrincham from going a goal up though, as Jade Hesketh was played neatly through by Kelly. The goalkeeper came rushing out again, but this time she was unable to deny Hesketh as she knocked the ball under her and into the net to make it 1-0 to Altrincham.

After this, both Kelly and Jess Hartopp had chances with only the goalkeeper to beat, but credit to the Vixens keeper who prevented Alty going further ahead.

Vixens did not manage to create too many chances during the first half an hour thanks to some good defending from Altrincham and some brilliantly timed tackles. But towards the end of the half, Atrincham took their foot off the gas pedal and allowed Northwich to get back into it. It started on 35 minutes, when a header from Bliss Molyneaux ended up with a Vixens player, and the visitors had a 3 on 2 breakaway. Luckily for Altrincham, the Vixens player decided to shoot instead of a pass, but this was only a warning of what was to come.

After this chance, Northwich enjoyed their best spell of the game. On 38 minutes, a Northwich player was under a lot of pressure from Molyneaux, but created enough space for a shot. It seemed like the ball was destined for the top corner, but Paula Alarcon-Conde reacted quickly to make a brilliant save.

Northwich came close again only a minute later, as a cross deflected off an Altrincham defender, and narrowly went wide for a corner.

Just four minutes before the break, Northwich scored the equaliser. After increasing pressure on the home defence, it was a deserved goal due to how strong they finished the first half. A headed clearance out of defence came out to a Northwich player, who volleyed the dipping ball over Alarcon-Conde and in the net to make it 1-1.

The visitors found the net once again before half-time, but it was disallowed for offside, and the teams went into half-time on level terms.

The second half exploded from the start, with chances for both teams. First it was Northwich with a free-kick in a dangerous position. The resulting shot was good, but the same could be said about Alarcon-Conde’s save, to deny the visitors a dream opening to the second half.

Instead it was Altrincham that got the start they wanted. On 49 minutes, Hesketh received the ball on the edge of the area, and coolly and brilliantly fired just inside the near post to give Altrincham the lead.

And only a minute later it could have easily been 3-1 to Alty, as Megan Rowley was played through by Nadine Spoule, but her finish ended up crashing against the crossbar before Northwich could clear the danger away. Rowley had another good chance a couple minutes later, but she missed the target from a tight angle.

On 62 minutes, Altrincham finally doubled their lead when Rowley managed to play the ball on to Debbie Price, who lifted the ball calmly over the goalkeeper to finish off a great move from the hosts.

There is no doubt that the confidence of the Altrincham players was boosted in the opening phase of the second half, and they played some great attacking football, moving the ball with some one touch passing and finding each other more easily than at previous times this season. The lift in confidence was clear to see with their fourth goal. Hesketh received the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box once again and similar to her second goal, she calmly placed it in the near corner to complete her hat-trick and give Altrincham a three-goal cushion.

Northwich Vixens did create a couple chances from free-kicks during the second half. The first one was saved, yet again, by an impressive Alarcon-Conde, as she pushed it away for a corner. She was also alert when denying a one-on-one chance as she rushed out from her line to narrow the angle and make the save.

On 84 minutes Northwich scored a consolation through a free-kick on the edge of the 18-yard box. It was struck low with power into the near corner, and this time Alarcon-Conde could not do anything about this one.

Five minutes later they almost got a third goal on a counter-attack from a corner, but Alarcon-Conde produced another great save from the shot.

It was a highly entertaining match between two good sides that could have easily scored a couple more goals each, but in the end Altrincham proved to be the stronger side in this derby, as they ended up victorious 4-2 to keep their 100% record alive. This means the Robin's still sit pretty on top of the league with 5 wins out of 5 and their impressive start continues.

Photography by Michael Ripley as Debbie Price scores her first goal for the club

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