Bradford City Women began the New Year with a dominant 2-0 victory at Hartlepool United.
After controlling the first 45 minutes without finding the back of the net, second-half goals from Rebecca Hunt and Maria McKenna confirmed City’s superiority in a match which also saw goalkeeper Laura Wilson make her full debut, and moves them level on points with fourth-placed Wallsend in the NERWFL.
City were playing their first match in more than a month - due to the postponement of their last league fixture against Harrogate Town - but they needed little time to find their rhythm at the Grayfield Pavilion.
Their first real opportunity fell in the 13th minute when Hunt burst through into the Hartlepool box. Instead of shooting, she tried to square to City forward Aaliyah Nolan in the middle, who was blocked by opposing midfielder Jade Pye.
The Bantams’ next big chance followed four minutes later. Midfielder Kanisha Underdown picked up the ball in the centre circle and played a delightful lob over the Hartlepool backline for Nolan to run onto. Having rounded the ‘keeper, Nolan could only hit the side-netting.
On the half-hour it was City forward Mia Jacobs who found herself played through this time by Hunt, only for her final touch to take the ball away from her in a shooting position.
The highlight of the first half, however, came two minutes later, when Bantams midfielder Hannah Markey picked the ball up down the left channel, cut inside onto her right foot just inside the box, and curled a strike narrowly wide of the Hartlepool goal’s top-right corner. The first half ended goalless, but with City firmly on top.
The second period started as the first ended, with City’s dominance failing to translate into a lead.
Fans thought the breakthrough had been made on the hour mark after City captain Monika Stube intercepted a Hartlepool goal-kick and quickly released Markey, who in turn found Hunt in the box.
Hunt then produced a lovely turn to break free from her marker and launch a shot towards goal, but Hartlepool’s No.1 Lauren Ranson saved well.
City’s travelling supporters did not have to wait much longer for them to break the deadlock, with the first goal deservedly arriving in the 69th minute.
Latching onto a loose clearance from Hartlepool’s Jodie Borthwick, Jacobs drove through the final third and released Hunt through the middle, who controlled the ball with her shoulder and slotted past the onrushing Ranson.
Hartlepool rarely threatened, even after going a goal down, other than in the 83rd minute when, having won a free-kick, their No.15 Emily Stuart looped the ball into City’s box and found No.12 Zara Johnson. Her tame header fell safely into the hands of City ‘keeper Laura Wilson.
They were made to pay a minute later when the Bantams, having won a throw-in high up the pitch on the right-hand side, worked the ball to Markey.
Her cute through ball rolled into the path of substitute McKenna who dispatched City’s second of the match low into the corner, to seal the points and hand Emily Senior’s side a hard-earned victory.
HARTLEPOOL: Lauren Ranson, Emily Stuart, Jane Pye, Faye Garside, Leo Kennedy, Anya Geary, Chelsea Basnett, Zara Johnson, Lottie Portas, Robyn Foster, Macy Thornton. Subs: Jodie Borthwick, Mae Rackstraw, Ella Field.
CITY: Laura Wilson, Ellie Prothero, Danni Trickett, Sharone Buckle, Charlie Ramsden, Monika Stube, Kanisha Underdown, Rebecca Hunt, Hannah Markey, Aaliyah Nolan, Mia Jacobs. Subs: Tiffany Whelan, Jade Foster, Imogen Hayhurst, Hollie Barraclough, Maria McKenna.
GOALS: Hunt (69’), McKenna (84’).