Northampton Town Women began the New Year with a 3-1 win at home to Leek Town in the FA Women’s National League Division One Midlands on Sunday afternoon.
Jade Bell scored a hat-trick on her league debut as the Cobblers returned to league action for the first time in three months.
The hosts were on top in a scrappy first half, creating the first opportunity early on when Alex Dicks rounded Leek goalkeeper Bethany Cotterell but could only find the side-netting from a tight angle.
Cotterell spilt Kim Farrow’s low, near post strike a few minutes later, but managed to recover in time to stop the ball on the line.
The Cobblers’ early dominance paid dividends soon after, Dicks squirming a shot past Cotterell and Bell tapping home from close range.
But Katy Maya found the back of the net to equalise with the visitors’ only first half shot on target less than a minute later.
The disappointment of conceding only lasted for a few moments, as Bell restored Northampton’s lead straight from the restart.
Bell was played in over the top by Beth Artemiou, and she dinked the ball over Cotterell to score a third goal in three minutes.
The forward thought she had scored a first half hat-trick when she found the bottom corner from Dicks’ flick-on midway through the opening period, but she was denied her third goal by a tight offside call.
Leek were inches away from another leveller on the half-an-hour mark, but Chantelle Gallagher hit the crossbar from the edge of the area.
Dicks had a similar chance at the other end before the break, but she fired just over having taken a touch into the box.
The visitors controlled possession without properly testing Cobblers ‘keeper Jo Daniel in the opening quarter-of-an-hour of the second half, resorting to speculative efforts from long range.
Northampton came close with a long-range strike of their own after the hour, but Dicks’ dipping shot was just over.
The forward cut inside and sent another effort towards the top corner 10 minutes later, but again the ball flew narrowly off target.
Having been denied a hat-trick by the offside flag earlier on, Bell completed her treble and secured an important three points late on. Dicks was denied by Cotterell one-on-one, and her strike-partner was in the right place at the right time to convert the rebound.
Josh Oldfield and Liam Williams’ side travel to Thrapston Town in the Northamptonshire FA Women’s Cup quarter-finals next week.
Their opponents compete in the East Midlands Women’s Regional Football League Division One South, the same league as the Cobblers Development squad.
Cobblers: Jo Daniel, Sara Wait, Vicky Barrett, Bianca Luttman, Zoe Boote, Favour Omenazu (sub Rachael Mumford 53), Fay Noble (sub Georgia Tear 64), Beth Artemiou, Kim Farrow (sub Abbie Brewin 73), Alex Dicks (sub Abbie Reboul 87), Jade Bell (sub TJ Warren 87)