– Scott Tysoe contributed with this report

Lincoln Ladies recorded a superb 1-0 victory over Chelsea Ladies in the FA Cup 5th Round on Sunday, 17th March, 2013.

Lincoln Ladies Photo: Ryan Cullen

A second-half header from England international Jess Clarke was enough to secure progression to the quarter-finals of the competition, where the Lady Imps will host Leeds United Ladies at The 12th Imp Sincil Bank Stadium at the end of March.

In a game that almost didn’t go ahead due to the atrocious conditions, Lincoln were only able to name three substitutes due to suspensions and injuries. They could, however, name all four of their England internationals – Karen Bardsley, Sophie Bradley, Casey Stoney and Jess Clarke – in the starting line-up.

Chelsea included two England internationals of their own, as well as two from Iceland and one from Sweden, as both sides named strong line-ups in what was the first competitive game of the season.

The first two chances of the game, one for each side, were from long range as both teams struggled to adapt to the pitch, which was covered in a great deal of standing water.

Lincoln weren’t put under much pressure in the opening minutes but when they were they defended brilliantly, throwing bodies in front shots and flying into tackles.

Carla Cantrell and Precious Hamilton, Lincoln’s two strikers, were linking superbly up front and causing the Chelsea back-line all sorts of problems. Both had good efforts on goal as the home side started to adapt to the conditions better than their visitors.

For all their possession, Lincoln could have fallen behind when an mistake from captain Casey Stoney allowed Chelsea’s Eniola Aluko in behind but a great recovery tackle from man-of-the-match Martha Harris stopped any danger from developing.

This defensive lapse seemed to spur the Lady Imps on and they ended the half well but couldn’t create any more chances so the teams went in level at the break.

The second half started much as the first had ended, with the hosts showing more attacking intent. Conditions hadn’t improved so Lincoln continued to shoot from distance, Cantrell forcing Chelsea keeper Nicola Davies to make a good save.

Just before the hour mark, Lincoln finally got the opening goal their play had deserved. Carla Cantrell swung in a corner, Megan Harris flicked it to the back post and it was met by Sophie Bradley. She guided the ball back towards goal and there was Jess Clarke, who rose to nod the ball in from inside the six-yard box.

Now that Chelsea needed a goal to stay in the competition they started to show a little more forward endeavour and only excellent defending from Bonnie Horwood and Martha Harris denied them from creating a clear cut chance.

With the pace of Clarke, and the hard work of Cantrell, Lincoln were always a threat on the break and they nearly doubled their advantage when Cantrell attempted an audacious effort from nearly 40 yards. The shot cannoned back of the cross bar before being bundled in by substitute Amy Kay – only for it to be ruled out for offside.

Straight down the other end, Chelsea had their best chance of the match with just four minutes left on the clock. Aluko got away and clear for the first time in the match but Karen Bardsley, fresh from England duty, saved brilliantly with her legs to deny her international colleague.

No more chances came as Lincoln held out for the victory and got their season off to a winning start.