Marc Skinner’s Manchester United picked up a record-breaking sixth consecutive home win, as they beat Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday.
In need of a win to strengthen their chances of finishing inside the Champions League spots, United went into the game with a single recognised centre-back and had to play Hayley Ladd beside Maria Thorisdottir, with the duo flanked by Hannah Blundell and Ona Batlle.
Katie Zelem and Jackie Groenen also started in the midfield - as they had against Everton in the previous game. The front four of Martha Thomas, Alessia Russo, Ella Toone and Leah Galton also started once again.
With Brighton at sixth and fighting for fifth place with Tottenham, it was not going to be an easy contest by any means.
United had a fair amount of chances to go ahead in the first half, despite the game being largely cagey for a majority of time. After Groenen had a shot sail over the bar in the fifth minute, Toone was put through on goal but she was denied by Brighton stopper Katie Startup, who came off her line very quickly.
Toone had another chance around the 30-min mark after Ladd’s great ball over the top found her. But the United forward failed to get the shot away properly and the ball went into Startup’s arms.
Thomas struck a shot from the edge of the box around the 45-minute mark but the effort sailed wide - much to United’s frustration. United did manage to keep the Seagulls quiet for a majority of the half, with Russo’s energy upfront helping in breaking down the opposition’s possession.
Early on in the second half,Russo did nearly make an impact off a cross from Batlle but her header was straight at the goalkeeper. The Reds grew into the game further and they pushed on, despite the frustration of having failed to score so far.
And they did break through in the 68th minute through Galton, as Toone set up the 27-year-old, who found herself unmarked on the left to slot home. It was Galton’s seventh goal of the campaign.
Thomas had a chance to double United’s lead towards the end of the game but the Scot’s effort went just wide of the mark. She had another chance soon but Startup rose to the occasion and made a stop.
Apart from being a solid performance from the frontline, the game proved to be another very good performance from Ladd, who showed how important her defensive qualities are on the pitch.
United extended their lead over Man City to three points to boost chances of a Champions League finish. They are now five points behind league leading Arsenal, who do have a game in hand.