Sheffield United move above Liverpool after easing to victory over Crystal Palace
In-form Sheffield United moved up to third in the FA Women’s Championship on goal difference after a thumping 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.
The league’s top scorer Katie Wilkinson netted a brace to take her tally for the season to 18, while Rebecca Rayner was also on the scoresheet as the Blades extended their unbeaten run to six games and moved above Liverpool in the table.
Neil Redfearn’s side came into the game in much better form than their opponents, unbeaten in five games, while Palace were without a win in their last three.
And that showed in an opening ten minutes where the visitors had arguably the best first chance with Naomi Hartley’s powerful strike thumping the crossbar.
The Blades then took the lead in the 17th minute when Wilkinson’s header on the end of a corner bounced off the bar and over the line.
Redfearn’s side doubled their lead on the half-hour mark when Palace failed to clear their lines after a United attack, and Rayner slid the ball into the bottom-right corner.
Crystal Palace started the second half well and looked to threaten from long range, with Kirsty Barton’s strike forcing visiting goalkeeper Fran Kitching into a good diving save to her right.
However, Sheffield United extended their lead in the 59th minute after good work on the left from Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, who played through Wilkinson and she drove the ball into the bottom-right corner.
Wilkinson almost had her hat-trick four minutes from time, but her effort was cleared off the line.
Sheffield United manager Neil Redfearn hailed as ‘outstanding' his star striker after her 18th goal of the campaign.
“It was a good performance,” he said. “It was tough to begin with, I thought Palace played quite well for the first 10, 15 minutes.
“I thought they put us to the sword, they changed their shape a little bit and got up against us and they had a couple of half chances but once the first goal went in, we settled and I thought some of the football was really good, I thought we dominated possession as the game went on and we got three and we could have had more to be honest.
“She’s [Katie Wilkinson] been outstanding, she’s a real leader for us from the front, we’ve got captains all over the pitch.
“She’s the vice-captain but she leads the line really well for us. I thought she held the ball up superbly today, took her goals really well and she’s a massive player for us.”