Mid Ulster travelled to Newtownabbey for the fourth game in the NIFL Danske Bank Premier League.
The opponents were Crusaders - a team Mid Ulster had never beaten.
With Rachael Rodgers and Megan Ferson in Latvia with N. Ireland U16 and Rebecca Bassett unavailable due to a bereavement, there were a couple of enforced changes to the starting line up.
The quality of the replacements showed the depth of talent within the squad this year as Jacqueline Burns returned between the sticks while Lyn Sommerville and Hannah Turkington slotted into the outfield positions.
Crusaders started the game brightly and some early pressure forced the first corner of the game after three minutes. From the delivery an early opportunity for a shot arose but Burns showed great hands to gather comfortably and set Mid Ulster on the attack.
Sarah Connolly was enjoying her duel with NI Captain Julie Nelson as the Crusaders back line tried to sit high up the pitch. This was perhaps not the best option as they found out with 13 minutes played when Chloe McCarron won the ball in the middle and released Cathy Rees whose speed saw her first to the ball and she finished well past Kirsty McCaughtry.
With 19 minutes played Mid Ulster made this spell of pressure pay as McCarron found herself in space and she made no mistake from 25 yards out with a great strike that struck the top corner.
Samantha Kelly won a free but this time McCarron’s strike was pushed round the post. Whilst the Mid Ulster back line had been tight one slight miscommunication presented an opening for Aimee McNeil who made no mistake to haul Crusaders back into it with 33 minutes on the clock.
Mid Ulster started the second half strongly with McCarron releasing Connolly but a well timed tackle snuffed out the threat to Crusaders. From the counter Mid Ulster captain Claire Rooney made a great double block to clear the danger. The game was end to end with Julie Nelson moving to midfield and creating chances for the home team.
A good save from Burns and tidying up from Lisa Richardson snuffed out another attack and again sent the Mid Ulster girls on the attack. This time Chloe Orr was the provider but again the Crusaders back line closed down Connolly well.
Crusaders were pushing for the equaliser and the entire Mid Ulster team were working so hard closing down right throughout the team. Crunching tackles from Sommerville and Karen Donnell epitomised the work ethic from the Mid Ulster girls and it was great to see a bit of steel from the visitors.
Mid Ulster were still dangerous on the counter with Orr causing trouble with some great feet. Sharagh Murphy’s shot from a tight angle hit the post. As the clock ticked down the Crusaders pressure grew but Mid Ulster were in no mood to surrender their lead. Kelly and McCarron found themselves in the referee’s notebook but the visitors could say they received no favours from the officials.
This was going to be a victory made totally on their own merits. Crusaders did have the ball in the net on 42 minutes, but there were a number of players offside and it was correctly ruled out.
Even with a number of added minutes played Crusaders couldn’t draw level and the game finished with a hard fought and well deserved first victory over Crusaders.
MULFC: J Burns, K Donnell, C Rooney, L Richardson, L Sommerville, H Turkington (S Murphy), C Orr, C McCarron, S Kelly, C Rees, S Connolly (A Smith): Subs: A O’Neill, E McFarland
Next up for the Mid Ulster girls is the visit of Cliftonville to the Mid Ulster Sports Arena on Wednesday 18 May at 7.30pm.