Recent signing Alicia Macleod made her full debut and Lucy Apps returned to the fold as Bell and Molly Thorns reverted back to the bench.
A cold, overcast day greeted the Reds who hadn’t played for a fortnight so they were all refreshed and ready to go, for what was the team’s final away match of the season.
The game had barely got underway when Katie Young had time and space to spot the back post run of Macleod, though the Crawley loanee could consider herself unlucky after sliding in to meet the cross and hitting the side netting.
Top scorer Gemma Worsfold turned Hollie Musmeci and flashed a twenty yard shot the wrong side of the upright a few minutes later and, no sooner had that chance gone then Ella Newman was testing home ‘keeper Sade Rider, with an effort that required a second attempt to gather safely.
While the number thirteen might not be many people’s choice of shirt, it obviously didn’t concern it’s wearer Alex Ibaceta, especially after her right wing delivery led to Mandy Beeput seeing her shot blocked at close quarters before being cleared by the visitors’ defence.
Almost midway through the opening period, the hosts took the lead in mildly controversial circumstances.
Choe Lelliott went down injured as she lost possession fractionally inside her own half but, with the referee allowing play to continue, Aylesford took full advantage by swiftly switching play from the left to Beeput on the right and, subsequently, Hannah Corlett who picked out joint-leading markswoman Alex Witham to nod home a few yards out.
Despite going behind against the run of play, Worthing continued to create opportunities and a typical driving run saw Newman skip past three tackles down the inside-left channel, before forcing Rider to get down low and push her shot, just outside the area, around the post at the expense of a corner.
Although their task was made more difficult when Captain Hannah Hewlett felt a ‘pop’ and suffered a season-ending calf injury two minutes later; replaced by Katie Cooper.
Both sides had chances to either double their advantage or level the scores, approaching the interval.
Skipper Witham slipped in Beeput in the box, only for the striker to scuff her effort at travelling custodian Lauren Dolbear.
Then, with five to go before the break, Apps did likewise to allow Worsforld to drift across Dan Cubitt but fail to get sufficient power behind a driven attempt that gave Rider a comfortable claim.
Early into the second forty-five, half-time replacement Bell seized on a loose clearance but, once again, Rider was equal to it.
Macleod did well to wrestle the ball away from Corlett on the halfway line and set-up a shooting opportunity for Worsfold who, in trying to catch out Rider by taking it early, didn’t quite succeed in her aim.
However, Newman – voted Player-of-the-Match for the second game running by the opposition – came within a whisker of the West Sussex-based guests levelling proceedings, when she rolled the ball across the face of goal and inches wide of the back stick shortly afterwards.
Less than half-an-hour remained in a contest that continued to ebb and flow and Bell, not for the first time this term, made a telling contribution off the floor. (Normally, of course, it would be the bench but as there weren’t any, the subs had to improvise with cones.)
As the Stripes paused briefly for a free-kick that wasn’t, it was the Reds who were able to capitalise this time. The ball soon shifted over to the opposite (right) flank and lifted over the home rearguard by Lelliott, for Bell to beat the goalie to it and bury the equaliser from close range.
It might have been two moments later; Aylesford were unable to clear their lines with Bell ,on this occasion the protagonist, when her low, driven delivery was so nearly tucked home at the far post by a stretching Worsfold.
Rider’s right boot put an end to a great burst down the middle of the park by Sophie Humphrey, followed by Newman making friends with the far upright again after she’d beaten ‘Chile’ Ibaceta on the left and kissed said apparatus, as the ball made contact with the frame of the goal rather than the back of the net.
A trick the winger almost repeated sixty seconds or so further on, only to slice a rebound wide, minus any contact with the woodwork.
Humphrey and Newman then combined to almost devastating effect; the former cutting in off the left-hand side but the latter narrowly missing the target, to come agonisingly close to rounding off some fine approach work with a goal it so richly deserved.
Take two from the twin threat of Sophie and Ella started with Humphrey latching onto an inch-perfect long pass by Newman, as she tore through the centre of the pitch. Unfortunately, although demonstrating admirable composure after Rider came out to meet her on the edge of the penalty area, Soph’s turn and finish went the way of many of those before her, when she fired over the bar to illustrate the fact it clearly wasn’t going to be our day.
Meaning both teams would have to settle for a point.