Sun 9 January The Crucial Environmental Stadium
New London Lionesses

Chances were hard to come by for both sides in a quiet start to proceedings.

Captain Hannah Hewlett took advantage of New London’s failure to clear a blocked Becs Bell through ball, by lofting forward for Keavy Price to take it down first time and drift inside. Unfortunately, the right-back’s shot, via her weaker left foot, lacked the power to trouble Sarah Sackett in the visitor’s goal.

Shortly afterwards, a Charlie Carter pass, from just inside her own half, led to Gemma Worsfold finding Chloe Lelliott and Bell pulling back Katie Young’s deep delivery from the byline, all the way back towards the edge of the area, where an incoming Becky Simmons could only blast over the bar.

A lower trajectory was taken by Katie Young’s centrally-placed free kick, as it too flew too high and Humphrey turned nicely on a misplaced header to travel goalwards but drilled the wrong side of the far post from distance.

Ten minutes before the break and very much against the run of play, the visitors took a shock lead.

Georgia Frost side-stepped Lelliott then, well inside the home half, released eventual player-of-the-match Kiz Fergus who burst clear, held off Amy Critchfield and finally buried her shot into the bottom corner.

Worsfold worried the guest’s goalie not, with a scuffed effort marginally outside the ‘d’ and the Reds would soon find themselves trudging off and trailing at the interval.

Whatever was said in between the change of ends clearly had an effect, as did the introduction of Sara Tubby and new signing Katie Cooper.

A throw-in on the right by Lelliott saw Humphrey duck and swivel to cleverly lose her marker; her shot blocked in the eighteen yard box, only to fall kindly for the recently-introduced Cooper, more than twenty yards out, to force Sackett into her first save of the afternoon, at the expense of a corner.

The flag-kick was taken by Tubby though only partially cleared by goalscorer Fergus, allowing Bell to line one up and narrowly miss the angle of crossbar and post from an identical position, as the recovering striker quickly closed her down.

However, the ever-dangerous number twenty-two soon had Worthing on the back foot once more, when Frost, again, nudged the ball forward to provide her teammate with the opportunity to break clear. Ultimately reaching the byline, where she got the better of Young to lay back for Frost who slipped but Jess Wadey had also caught up, although she couldn’t keep her attempt low enough with a strike from the ‘d’.

Good running by Worsfold resulted in her coming in off the right wing to supply Tubby but she could only slice well wide.

Succeeded a short time later by Lelliott and Bell exchanging a pair of one-two’s as they made their way along the right flank. The latter picked out Humphrey in the penalty box and she turned sharply, as the defender slid in, missing the front upright by an agonisingly narrow margin.

The home side were still behind heading into the final quarter of the contest but continuously peppered the guest’s goal.

Persistence, allied with some nifty footwork, saw Hewlett bamboozle three blue shirts in the area before teeing up Worsfold to sky one over and Price got out of a tight corner by squeezing in between Anna Lemos and Kendal Drake, only to curl past the far top angle of the apparatus.

Reds were then gifted a great chance to equalise, when Humphrey’s attempts at pouncing on a loose ball in the box were thwarted by Sara Wong’s trip just inside it.

Regrettably, Worsfold placed the spot-kick too close to the ‘keeper who dived to her right to not only keep Gemma out but also deny Cooper on the rebound.

Undeterred, openings continued to be created as Price, not content with beating two players earlier to get herself out of a seemingly impossible situation, topped that by outfoxing Lemos, Drake and, this time, Frost too; sending in a low fizzer that left Lelliott holding her head in her hands as she failed to keep it down.

Eighty-four showed on the clock before the leveller finally came.

Worsfold turned and helped Lelliott’s throw onto Humphrey, presenting the young forward with the space to deliver a tantalizing cross that proved too tempting for Lionesses’ Anna Koscielska, as she aided it on it’s way in to deceive everyone and offer salvation to the hosts.

Three points could have gone either way in the closing stages, after Fergus glided past substitute and debutant number two Emily Linscer on the left, only for Lauren Dolbear to block at her front stick.

While Carter and Cooper experienced unerringly similar outcomes to slightly off target long range efforts past the allotted ninety.