Curzon Ladies ended their home season in disappointment with a third consecutive home defeat, although, despite the score-line, they deserved to take something from the game.
Curzon dominated for long periods but the Foxes defence was well marshalled and kept the Blues at bay with the result being that despite most of the play being in the visitors half, the visiting goalkeeper was well protected and had a fairly quiet game.
Both teams looked to go forward when ever they had the ball but with Curzon making little headway against a tight visiting defence early on it was Loughborough who had the first chance but No 7 failed to make the most of the opportunity, putting a cross behind the goal after she had been put clear down the left hand side.
A good exchange of passes between Emma Lambourne and Nicky Maylett saw Maylett put the ball into the box for Lambourne to run onto but it was just too far ahead of the Curzon striker and from gathering the ball the keeper took a long punt out which caught out the home defence but Bracewell made a superb save, narrowing the angle and blocking with her legs to deny Rosch Shakes.
With still only six minutes gone a move down the left saw a pass into Lambourne in a central position but her control let her down and the ball ran through to the keeper. Then with just 11 minutes played Foxes were awarded a ludicrous penalty after Bracewell had made another good save with her feet from Gemma Gilman. As the ball bounced up in the air Bracewell recovered to catch it but the referee adjudged that Leanne Smith had impeded Gemma Gilman unfairly as she went to challenge for the loose ball and pointed to the spot.
The decision mystified everyone in the ground and Smith was booked for her protests, but then Bracewell made a magnificent save, diving to her right to stop the spot kick from Vicky Brackenbury and then dived on the loose ball.
The incident seemed to gee Curzon up and they began to dominate proceedings and Maylett’s shot on the turn brought a comfortable save out of Amy Burle following Ali Hindley’s pass.
A free kick appeal was turned down as Lambourne appeared to be brought down on the edge of the Foxes box but against the run of play Rosch Shakes
was sent clear and she finished confidently past Bracewell to give the Foxes a 25th minute lead.
90 seconds later it was 2-0 as the Blues collectively switched off when Loughborough were awarded a throw-in in their own half. The ball was played through to Nic Attwood and she out paced the defence before doubling the visitors lead.
Leanne Smith saw the visiting keeper catch her free kick under the bar and Ali Hindley looped header onto the top of the net from a Jade Parker corner as Curzon fought to get back into the game but the turning point came ten minutes before the interval. Holly Espie sent in an inviting cross which Emma Lambourne nodded past the keeper but the linesman put his flag up for offside, despite Lambourne clearly never once being goal side of the Loughborough fullback.
Instead of being back in the game at 1-2 down, five minutes later Curzon found themselves three behind when a break down the right saw the ball played low across the box. Defenders and forwards both failed to get a touch but Lyndsey Tugby was unmarked at the far post and she controlled the ball before firing past the unprotected keeper to give the visitors a barely believable 3-0 lead.
The second half followed a similar pattern with Hindley seeing a header hit the top of the bar five minutes in but Rosch Shakes had a shot saved by Bracewell after a breakaway.
Rosch Shakes was then booked for diving as she went down under a challenge and Shakes was in the thick of the action again as she robbed Leanne Smith in the centre circle and looked certain to score as she raced for goal but Fiona Berry saved the day with a perfectly timed tackle.
Curzon were camping around the visitors final third but time and again their attacking moves were broken up by a resolute defence and when Amy Burle caught the ball and punted it up field Shakes ran through and scored her second goal of the game with the Curzon defence caught out of position.
Curzon were now getting caught regularly as they pressed forward looking for a way back into the game and they just managed to scramble the ball away from a corner before Shakes was again denied by Bracewell.
The final ten minutes saw Curzon come close to reducing the deficit several times and Hindley was desperately unlucky when her 25 yard shot smashed against the crossbar following a good move. Hindley and Maylett then combined to set up Jade Parker but Burle made a good save before Brackenbury mopped up the loose ball.
Steph Ashton then saw a shot blocked for a corner and Lambourne’s flag kick was curled into the near post where a defender had to clear off the line. The ball was recovered by Curzon and worked down the right to Parker who cut inside but went for glory at the near post and hit the side netting with team mates waiting for a cross.
The final act of the game summed up Curzon’s afternoon when Nicky Maylett’s shot took a deflection and looped up in the air heading towards the goal. The keeper, scrambling back, slipped and ended up on her back, but the ball unbelievably landed in her outstretched hands.
So a disappointing end to what had begun as a promising season. Curzon still have one game to play, away against the same opponents and a point will ensure they finish in sixth place.
Match Report by Ian Seymour