Sheffield United Women marked their debut at their new home with a fully deserved win over Leicester City.
Bex Rayner’s deflected late goal proved enough to hand the Blades their third victory of the FA Women’s Championship season as they played for the first time at the Olympic Legacy Park – where a purpose-built stadium will be constructed for them.
And Rayner it was United’s persistence that took them to the win in front of almost 500 supporters.
“I feel like all our hard work in the game paid off because we were having a lot of opportunities, we just weren’t finishing them,” she said.
“But we kept pushing, continued creating and even though we got a little bit lucky with the goal we deserved it and got it in the end.
“I just think we work together well, our spirit is high and things are positive. I feel from previous weeks things are coming together and I think we played them off the park, we played really well.
“I’ve been working hard myself and I’m happy to be going off on international duty now and glad Sam and Ellie are going too, it’s a great opportunity.”
It was a tough encounter for both sides which saw several stoppages for injuries, Leicester’s Maddy Cusack the main casualty with a suspected dislocated shoulder in the first half.
The hosts were well on top for the large majority of the game but the visitors managed to frustrate Carla Ward’s side for most of the match.
Captain Ellie Gilliatt came close early on when she went on a jinking run and hammered an effort off the post, the first of three shots that would hit the woodwork for United.
Beth Merrick had a golden chance to put the Steel City outfit ahead when she fired over from close range, before the stop-start nature of the first half halted the momentum for the hosts.
Right on half-time Merrick nearly opened the scoring when her curling effort was tipped onto the post by Leicester goalkeeper Demi Lambourne and cleared away.
The attacks kept coming from Ward’s side in the second half, Merrick and Rayner once again the threats before Chloe Dixon saw an effort deflected wide.
United hit the woodwork for the third time and it was Merrick again, this time her curling free-kick rebounding back off the bar to Rayner, who hammered a first-time volley wide.
Mel Johnson did have a chance to steal the three points for Leicester but her effort was saved by Alex Brooks before the Blades finally broke the deadlock with seven minutes to go.
It came in fortuitous fashion as Jade Pennock found Rayner down the right and the midfielder’s cross looped up off a defender and left Lambourne with little chance as it nestled in the far corner of the net.
Sheffield United: Brooks; Barker, Fletcher, Cox, Gilliatt; Tierney, Barker, Rayner; Pennock, Dixon, Merrick (Michalska 79). Subs not used: Davies, Kemp, Hartley, Ford, Marsden, Ibbotson.
Leicester City: Lambourne; Johnson, Morgan, Jackson, Johnson; McCue, Cusack (Dugmore 44); Thomas (Greengrass 64), Ayisi, Axten; Johnson (Franklin-Fraiture 55). Subs not used: Domingo, Worts, Hudson
Referee: Jane Simms