A penalty from Sam Mee and goals from Gemma Worsfold and Hannah Hewlett saw Michelle Lawrence’s side maintain top spot in the South East Counties Women’s Football League standings going into Christmas.
Worthing began proceedings confidently and almost took the lead inside three-minutes, however no one was on hand to convert Mee’s dangerous corner, allowing the visitors to scramble the ball away. Following that period of early sustained pressure, the away side fashioned an opening on eight-minutes when Mika Keen’s ambitious drive from range flew well wide of stand in keeper Gypsy Sutcliffe’s near post.
Worthing were then given an excellent chance to take the lead from the penalty spot on 10-minutes, when Worsfold was needlessly tripped in the box following a great run from midfield. Despite a long wait, Mee kept her nerve and curled a perfect strike into the top corner to give her side a dream start.
Only the heroics of visiting keeper Talisha Hickson kept the scoreline unchanged for the remainder of the half, as she brilliantly tipped Sara Tubby’s free kick onto the post on 17-minutes, before producing another fine stop to deny Tubby again moments later.
Mee also saw two long range efforts well saved by Hickson as Worthing began to control the game after taking the lead. Tubby thought she had doubled the lead on 38-minutes when she reacted quickest in the box to flick home a clever effort, however the referee disallowed the goal for a foul in the build-up.
Worthing then made their first change a minute later, as Beth Kincaid made way for Sara Hinton in a tactical switch just before half-time. Rebecca Barron almost produced a perfect ending to the half for the hosts, when her swerving volley was fumbled by Hickson, who gathered at the second attempt.
After half-time, Kincaid was reintroduced for Beth Mckellar as Lawrence again reshuffled the pack to give her side a different dynamic.
Worthing came out with a similar endeavour in the second period and added their second on 60-minutes. With time and space on the edge of the box, Worsfold unleashed a precise effort which evaded the despairing dive of Hickson to trickle into the net.
After securing a crucial second, the home side introduced Molly Clark for Kincaid, who looked to be struggling with an injury problem. Clark was straight into the action and should have made it 3-0 on 67-minutes. Following great build up play by Barron and Worsfold, Worthing’s number 9 could only hit her first time effort straight at Hickson, who also kept out another stinging effort from Tubby two-minutes later.
With the points all but secure, Sophie Humphrey and Sophie Frost replaced Tubby and Mee to give Worthing extra energy as time ticked away.
With barley two-minutes left on the clock, captain Hannah Hewlett sealed the victory in style when she rose highest to power a header past Hickson from a corner to give her side a comfortable lead going into stoppage time. Humphrey had one last chance to make it four moments later, her curling effort forcing another fine save from Hickson, who can be proud of her performance in the Phoenix Sports goal.
That was the final action of another game full of entertainment at Woodside Road, as Worthing cruised to another 3 points. The Reds haven’t dropped a single league point so far this season, with this victory securing top spot at Christmas!
After the game, goalscorer Sam Mee highlighted the importance of her and her teammates maintaining high standards and setting new challenges for each other. She said ” I think we all have the desire and determination to keep this run going, it’s important that we don’t let the break affect us. We all make opportunities for each other and that’s where we show our strength, and we’ll use that strength to fight our battles and come back stronger after Christmas”.
Speaking after the match, manager Michelle Lawrence commented, “It was a strange game; we completely dominated the ball but didn’t create many clear openings. Phoenix play on the edge and disrupted our rhythm but they rarely threatened our goal. Once we scored the second, the players relaxed and played with more freedom”.
In response to news that Worthing now have a five-point lead at the top of the table, Lawrence said, “it sounds cliché but we really have been taking it one game at a time. Each week we try and set a performance target that’s not determined by the result. Following recent postponements, we have finally gained ground on those around us. There has been a steely determination from the players but the girls know; our league position come May is more important than where we find ourselves at Christmas. We have a two-week break from League fixtures but then we go again come January 5th against Hassocks.”