Five-star Seasiders march on in Super Cup

Local Women Sport Super Cup

ST JAMES’ SWIFTS LADIES 1

BANGOR FC LADIES 5

BANGOR booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Local Women Sport Super Cup in style on Monday night thanks to a comprehensive 5-1 victory over NIWFA Championship title rivals St James’ Swifts Ladies.

The Seasiders produced arguably their best performance of the season so far to overcome the west Belfast outfit at Sally Gardens, with five different players marking the scoresheet in a success that also atones for the 4-2 reversal Chris Dougan’s side suffered at the hands of the same opponents in the league at the end of May.

After Amanda Morton’s deadlock-breaker just 70 seconds into proceedings in Poleglass, Bangor never really looked back and wrapped up the victory in the second half through goals in the respective 68th and 85th minutes by former St James’ duo Sarah Crooks and Amber Dempster, with the hosts’ Eimhear O’Prey prodding home in between to grab a consolation.

Midfielder Francesca Costa capped off a fine midfield display with a cool finish five minutes before the interval that doubled the lead, while winger Toni Stewart added the third for the visitors four minutes after the restart.

Both admitted it was satisfying to execute the game plan to perfection on their way to the last-eight of a competition they reached the final in last year.

“It was really good being out there, it was nice to see the pressing we’ve worked on in training coming off on the pitch,” said teenager Costa, who also hailed dominant centre-backs Dani Boyd and Janine Jess for their role in a fine defensive display.

“It was also so nice to see Dani and Janine winning basically every single ball in the centre of defence, they’re really strong at the back and it filled the whole team with confidence.

“Anything can happen in the cup, and we know that we’re confident we can beat the likes of Ballymena or Sion, top teams in our league, so we’re just excited to get to the next round.”

Stewart, who has shaken off an ankle knock to play an important role in the forward line, added that she is looking forward to building momentum on a personal level to help keep Bangor fit and firing.

“It was definitely good to get a goal, good to get a win and get through to the next round of the cup,” said the 24-year-old.

“Goals breed confidence, and it’s definitely good to get on the pitch after a few injuries. Hopefully, that’s me back at it.

“We’ve been working on defensive organisation in training as well, with the forwards sort of coming in to Amber [Dempster] and the full-backs overlapping.

“It was good to see that in action that we’ve been working on. I thought Sarah did well to get the goal as well, a great bit of link-up between her and Amber in the build-up that led to it and a good strike that settled the nerves for us.”

That slick one-two which set Crooks away to slot in Bangor’s fourth put the insurance on the night, with the Seagulls skipper’s move to left-back in recent weeks proving a shrewd tweak.

And Dempster, who hit 50 goals in the yellow and blue shirt after her treble in the Women’s Challenge Cup success over Comber Rec Ladies two Fridays ago, wasn’t to be outdone as she restored the four-goal lead after O’Prey touched the ball home from a corner on 81 minutes.

The groundwork laid beforehand was no less impressive. Morton was credited with Bangor’s opener inside the second minute after Emi Wynne’s cross from the right crashed against the bar and fell kindly for the former Crusaders and Larne ace to turn home, while the industrious Costa’s burst forward on 40 minutes was rewarded when she slid underneath the onrushing St James’ ’keeper for her second this term and the Yellows’ second of the night.

A forgettable first half for St James’ that also saw them lose top scorer Chloe Tully through injury wasn’t followed by an immediate turn in fortunes in the second either. A relentless piece of pressure by the prodigious Wynne forced a loose backpass that Stewart was first to pounce on, pipping the home stopper to the punch to bag her fifth strike of the 2024 season from just a few yards out.

It all made for a satisfying night’s work for boss Chris Dougan, knowing his side will be in the hat for the next round to take place following the summer break, which begins after Bangor’s NIWFA Championship trip to Foyle Belles on July 3.