United Women celebrate scoring a goal at Leicester City Women.

Leicester City Women 0 United Women 7

Ella Toone scored four as Manchester United Women returned to FA Women's Championship action with a convincing 7-0 away victory against Leicester City Women at Farley Way Stadium.

Two quick-fire goals in the first half from Toone helped put the Reds in control and the lead could have been three before the break, although Katie Zelem’s penalty was saved by a strong hand from Foxes shot-stopper Demi Lambourne.

After the break, United scored five more goals. Kirsty Hanson was on the end of a delightful cross from Charlie Devlin while Alex Greenwood netted her third goal of the campaign with a sumptuous free-kick into the roof of the net. Toone completed her hat-trick from the penalty spot while a Leicester City own goal ensured the Reds had a sixth. Toone scored her fourth and a magnificent seventh before the end with a brilliant long-range effort.

Following the Reds' spirited 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in the Continental Tyres League Cup semi-final six days ago, head coach Casey Stoney made two changes to her starting line-up, with Toone and Hanson coming in for Lauren James and Martha Harris.

United, playing in a first league match for 38 days, had to deal with some early pressure from the hosts as Ella Franklin-Fraiture played through Melissa Johnson, however Siobhan Chamberlain was quick off her goalline to smother the danger. The Reds also looked sprightly in the early exchanges. Jess Sigsworth charged her way into the box and pulled the ball back for Toone, however her shot was fired straight down the throat of Foxes keeper Lambourne.

However, the forward needn’t have worried because, minutes later, United had a two-goal lead thanks to Toone. The forward first capitalised on a poor clearance from the hosts and added to her tally two minutes later after a brilliantly weighted through-ball by Mollie Green found the 19-year-old.

Ella Toone scoring her second goal at Leicester City Women.
Toone, pictured scoring her second goal, was in fine form against the Foxes.

The Foxes’ defence regained their composure but soon they had to deal with another flurry of United chances. Kirsty Hanson made a lung-busting run down the right flank and had a crack at goal from just outside the box, but Lambourne got down low to block the shot and Sigsworth, eager to break into double figures for the season, had a shot from close range saved again by Leicester’s shot stopper.

On the stroke of half time, United were awarded a penalty after Sigsworth was adjudged to have been fouled inside the box. Up stepped Zelem but her spot-kick, which was fired to the right of Lambourne, was saved and ensured that the Reds’ advantage at the break remained at two goals.

After the interval, there was no let-up in the intensity from the Reds, with another two goals coming in quick succession. Charlie Devlin, brought on at half-time in place of Green, delivered a fantastic centre to Hanson, who made no mistake to tap the ball into the net at the far post to make it three. Then, skipper Greenwood got in on the act with a peach of a free-kick that arrowed into the top-left corner to make it four.

United Women celebrate Alex Greenwood's goal against Leicester City Women.
Captain Alex Greenwood got in on the act early in the second half with a sublime free-kick.

Twelve minutes later, United were awarded a second penalty following another infraction inside the box. Toone was given the opportunity to complete her hat-trick and she duly delivered as she bagged the Reds' fifth with over 20 minutes still to play.

And the visitors' attacking intent did not relent. Millie Turner headed just wide of the far post from a corner while Devlin tried her luck again from distance. Her effort hit the underside of the crossbar and was cleared as referee Ruebyn Ricardo decided that the ball had not crossed the goalline.  

There was still enough time for United to score two more goals to seal a dominant victory. The first of those came courtesy of an own goal from Leicester City following a defensive mix-up, before Toone completed the seven-goal rout with her fourth goal of the night, which was a fantastic solo effort from just outside the box.

The result sees Stoney's side move from fourth up to second in the FA Women’s Championship table and with two games in hand on the rest of the division.

Head coach Casey Stoney watching on against Leicester City Women.
Casey Stoney will have been pleased with what she saw from her side at Farley Way Stadium.

MATCH DETAILS

United: Chamberlain; Smith, A. Turner, M. Turner, Greenwood (c); Zelem (Arnot 57), Green (Devlin 46), Toone; Hanson, Sigsworth (James 71), Galton. 

Substitutes not used: Ramsey, Harris, Hartley, Palmer. 

Goals: Toone 15, 17, 66 pen, 88, Hanson 52, Greenwood 54, own goal 85.  

Referee: Ruebyn Ricardo

Attendance: 824 

WHAT'S NEXT?

United Women are back in action on Sunday, 17 February, when taking on London Bees in the SSE Women's FA Cup fifth round. The game will be played at Hyde United's Ewen Fields ground and kick-off will be at 14:00 GMT. 

Please note tickets are only available to buy on the gate via cash payment (£5 adults, £2.50 U16s/65+) and Season Ticket holders can gain entry as usual with their Season Cards. More details can be found here

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