Cliftonville Ladies came out victors in this hugely entertaining fixture at the Brandywell. Two goals from Carla Devine and a third by the energetic McMaster were enough to see off a determined second half fightback by the Candystripes.
The game opened with few early chances but both sides showed determination and control going forward. On 10 minutes Derry took the lead. Coral Lapsley showed calmness in midfeld before Emma Doherty sent a teasing ball into the path of Leah McDaid. She composed herself well and slotted home to the delight of the home bench.
As we have seen so often this season however, Cliftonville reacted in a positive manner. On 13 minutes they went close from a short corner. Parity was restored on 15 minutes as Devine scored an outrageous looping shot from outside the box. McConnell hit the side netting on 17 minutes and things started to look ominous for Derry.
McDaid was unlucky for Derry in the 25th Minute, failing to get her shot away from a tight angle. 2 minutes later and after good work from Orr on the right, she crossed for Devine to finish from 6 yards. Cliftonville continued to dominate and Derry gifted them a third on 40 minutes. Emma Doherty’s back pass led to a series of misplaced attempted clearances and McMaster was on hand to superbly punish the mistakes. Former Candystripe, Niamh Connolly, almost added a fourth before the break, but shot wide of the post. As the half ended, Cliftonville had appeals for a penalty waved away.
The second half saw a resurgent Derry enter the field, with Caoimhe Walsh having a long range effort comfortably saved on 52 minutes. 3 minutes later Leah McDaid reduced the deficit to one. A short back pass hung in the air and she showed great tenacity to get on the end of it. Derry’s tails were up and they were winning all the important duels across the Park. Cregan and Coll on the right were causing menace, whilst Lapsley and Connolly in the middle kept McMaster on the defensive.
Cliftonville slowly gained control and on 64 minutes were through on goal, only for Molly McBride to clear the lines. A series of corners with 20 minutes remaining resulted in a high and wide effort for Cliftonville. On 81 minutes the dynamic McMaster should have finished the game as a contest. Put through on goal, her shot was brilliantly blocked by McBride. McEvoy shot wide a minute later but Derry continued in search of a third goal. A last minute free on the left edge of the box sailed harmlessly over the Cliftonville goal and thereafter sounded the final whistle.
Derry will feel they deserved something out of this game but Star performer Emma McMaster was the winning ingredient for Cliftonville tonight.