Hayley Crackle's unstoppable 30-yard strike fired Coventry United to a crucial 1-0 win over London City Lionesses to give themselves a lifeline in their battle to avoid the FA Women’s Championship drop.
Crackle’s effort midway through the first half was enough to seal the vital three points and move them off the bottom of the table.
It was the visitors who settled quickest with Atlanta Primus causing issues for the Coventry defence, though the first real opportunity went to the home side with Destiny Toussaint’s header superbly saved by Shae Yanez.
Toussaint was causing problems for the away side and it was her driving run down the left that saw the ball reach Crackle, who cracked it first time to leave Yanez with no chance as it nestled in the top right-hand corner.
Just before the break, the Lionesses began to re-group with Kallie Balfour forcing a smart stop from Coventry goalkeeper Sue Wood as the hosts went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
The anticipated heavy pressure from the visitors came in the second half as they went in search of a route back into the game but the hosts remained solid, limiting the Lionesses to half-chances as frustration mounted for London City.
More chances came for the visitors as Lily Agg’s goalbound header was saved by Wood, before a mix-up in the Coventry box nearly led to an equaliser.
But the hosts held on for a 1-0 win in what could prove a vital three points in their battle to avoid relegation.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Crackle's first-half thunderbolt marked the game's standout moment of quality, with the 25-year-old firing a rasping effort into the top corner to leave Lionesses keeper Yanez with no chance.
WHAT THEY SAID
Coventry United boss Jay Bradford: “For me, it was just a graft, every single player. The subs that came on, they just worked hard, and I think that is what set us apart and we were willing to contest every single bar and mark our players for the duration of the game, when in the past that has let us down. Today, I think we got that spot on.
“I think we’re always going to be nervous for where we are in the table, the pressure is on us to get out the situation and we’ve said all along that it is in our own hands so once those nerves are gone and then Hayley (Crackle) scores an absolute rocket, that’s just settled us and its gave us that belief to say, you know what we can play, we can get the ball down and be a really solid Championship side.
“We had a really good staffing structure today, people keeping an eye on different units and talking to them and making sure they know their jobs in a calm manner. I can’t fault anyone today - we got it right and it’s been coming, and today it’s come for the full 90 minutes rather than the 45 we normally get.”
London City Lionesses boss Melissa Phillips: “I think you could see our desire and our sense of urgency in the second half to compete, and I just don’t think that we had that in the first-half, that bite, that edge to us.
"We created three or four opportunities that we probably should have put away, but it’s that real competitive mentality to do that.
“Credit where it's due as well, they scored a fantastic goal, a worldie and then they battled to keep us out of the back of the net, though it wasn’t for the lack of opportunities. It's just being able to put a full 90 minutes from the group and I take full responsibility with that - I think that’s something that we need to keep establishing in our mentality.
That's the final whistle.
“There’s still plenty to play for this season. We’ll reflect, we’ll learn - as we always do as a group - and we’ll figure out where we need to continue stretching ourselves. There's loads to play for.”
Coventry United (4-4-2): Sue Wood; Ashlee Brown, Becky Anderson, Nikki Miles, Hayley Crackle; Helen Demodey, Fran Orthodoxou, Katy Morris, Destiny Toussaint; Amy Wathan, Amber Hughes
Substitutes: Alice Hassall for Demodey 48', Georgia Stevens for Wathan 56'
Substitutes not used: Holly Chandler, Phoebe Warner, Liv Clark, Beth Merrick, Jenna Roberts
Goals: Crackle 25'
Bookings: Toussaint 90'
London City Lionesses (4-4-2): Shae Yanez, Hannah Short, Harley Bennett, Grace Neville, Alli Murphy, Hayley Nolan, Poppy Wilson, Lily Agg, Kallie Balfour, Lucy Fitzgerald, Atlanta Primus
Substitutes: Flo Fyfe for Wilson 33', Juliette Kemppi for Neville 77'
Substitutes not used: Nina Wilson, Chantelle Mackie, Ylenia Priest, Freda Ayisi, Annie Rossiter, Lilly Pursey