Sun 23 January The Crucial Environmental Stadium
Dulwich Hamlet

Charlie Carter, Katie Cooper and Shawna Harvey were all missing from the side that beat Whyteleafe last Sunday, with Captain Hannah Hewlett, Keavy Price and Emily Linscer all recalled to the starting eleven. Amy Critchfield was also back after recovering from illness and took her place on the bench.

Reds got the action underway early, when Ella Newman’s long ball from right-back dissected the duo of Ceylon Hickman and Rhea Gall, sending an onside Sophie Humphrey sprinting between them. After cutting inside the latter, her low cross found Lucy Apps just outside the ‘d’ but she couldn’t keep her shot down.

A Katie Young snapshot went narrowly wide of the near post, as she let fly a few minutes later and the hosts went in front not long after.

Gemma Worsfold did well to win a header in front of the Dulwich dugout that Newman helped on first time to Apps. A touch and a nudge later to Humphrey saw the striker look up, before playing an inch-perfect pass over the top of the visiting defence for Becs Bell to latch onto and lob over the onrushing goalkeeper Klaudia Kovacs, to round off a fine, flowing move in appropriately impressive fashion.

Hamlet weren’t being given any room to roam and some good pressing by the Ladies in Red led to Humphrey stealing in, only for her effort to lack the power to trouble travelling number one Kovacs.

The South Londoners struggled up front in the opening period as well, creating just the one real opportunity via Rosie Stone’s right-sided corner. Saskia Philp rose to meet it but sent it the wrong side of the front stick.

Reds responded through Humphrey again as she chested down a Bell throw-in on the edge of the area, flicked the ball over Zoe Elmore and fired in an attempt that didn’t miss Kovacs’ left-hand upright by much.

Supporters in the main stand continued to get the best view thanks to Linscer, almost on the halfway line, utilising the pace of Bell by releasing Becs along the right flank, where her speed took her clear of Hickman and all the way to the byline. A pull back to the fringes of the six yard box resulted in Chana Hinds only clearing the danger as far as Worsfold, who returned with interest; the ball coming desperately close to lodging in the far top corner of the net, in the final action of an absorbing contest.

A mixed start to the second forty-five commenced with ‘keeper Lauren Dolbear pouncing on the ball just ahead of Hannah Baptiste, to prevent her profiting from Hickman’s left wing delivery at the near stick.

Moments later, Stone nearly turned Newman’s free-kick into her own goal but far worse luck was to befall the guests, when Elmore’s piercing screams could be heard around the town as she landed awkwardly. News from Worthing Hospital later diagnosing a broken elbow; best wishes going out from all present for a speedy recovery.

Despite suffering such a painful injury, Skipper Sophie Manzi did her best to lift the stricken number eleven’s spirits two minutes further in, by calmly and casually converting from the spot, following Newman’s swinging leg interrupting the initial flow of Elmore’s replacement Anna Stones.

Another Newman set-piece posed more problems for The Hamlet, when Hinds headed it up in the air but Young could only cushion the ball off her own dome into the waiting hands of Kovacs.

Then, the same source delivered Lelliott’s reverse pass through a huge gap in the visitor’s rearguard, which also took Hewlett slightly by surprise, although she still managed to divert the
potential assist over Kovacs but Gall was there to mop up and sweep to safety.

Appeals for a second Dulwich penalty were waived away after Asia Harbour-Brown fell under the challenge of Young and the Pink Ladies soon faced a second deficit instead, as the home team regained the lead.

Minnie Crutwell gave possession straight to Lelliott who located Newman – to her left this time – once more. Ella drifted across a tad nearer the centre before unleashing from around forty yards and beating the despairing dive of Kovacs, to nestle her effort in the bottom corner.

Humphrey then added her name to the list of contenders for next years Puskas Award by turning on Newman’s forward pass, side-stepping Stone and flashing a big dipper over the unfortunate custodian’s head and shaving another millimetre or two off her finger nails, as the ball dipped spectacularly under the crossbar.

An entertaining affair almost resulted in a repeat of Red’s three-two win at Champion Hill, thanks to Stones sending Harbour-Brown scurrying down the right and breaking into the box, where Dolbear got a touch as her low, driven cross skidded across the face of goal.

The subsequent flag-kick met by Crutwell, alongside it’s instigator but Dolbear was able to drop and smother and 3-1 it would finish.