Sun 13 March The Crucial Environmental Stadium
Denham United

Manager John Donoghue stuck with the same starting eleven that won so convincingly at New London last week, aided by the return to fitness of Becky Simmons and Katie Cooper who both returned to the squad, with only Lucy Apps unavailable.

Reds set the tone for the afternoon as early as the second minute, when Ella Newman took Chloe Lelliott’s pass in her stride before unleashing a venomous shot, a long way out, that the impressive Zara Butt did well to turn behind. Claiming the flag-kick that followed for good measure.

Less than sixty seconds later, a move that started with ‘keeper Lauren Dolbear’s throw out to Katie Young soon led to the opening goal of the game.

Young’s first time pass down the right wing utilised the burning pace of Becs Bell, who was onto it in a flash; breaking into the box to lay the ball on a plate for top scorer Gemma Worsfold to sweep home from close range.

The host’s number ten came close to a second when she headed Newman’s right-sided flag-kick narrowly over the bar.

Then, closer still after fellow forward Sophie Humphrey had laid the ball back into her path.
Butt catching underneath the frame of the goal via a touch off it.

Newman also saw her effort from a similar range clip the top of the target, once she’d shaken off the shackles of Lauren Cox. Thorns the provider this time.

However, United nearly sprang a surprise thanks to Daisy Baranowski side-stepping Young on the halfway line and almost playing in Jess Stickley. Dolbear’s edge-of-the-area clearance ricocheted off Amy Critchfield, resulting in a corner, as the centre-half tried to shepherd the ball back to her goalkeeper.

Normal service resumed though, after Humphrey turned on Newman’s pass to leave visiting Skipper Rachel Keightly floundering, only to see a recovering Annie Hewitt take the sting out of her twenty-two yard shot and leave Butt with a problem-free gather.

The second period was barely two minutes old when good hold-up play by Lelliott provided Alicia Macleod, on as part of a double switch at the interval alongside Emily Linscer, with the opportunity to cut inside Cox on the left and pick out Newman, just inside the penalty area. An unerring finish had Butt beaten all-ends-up for once, as the hosts doubled their advantage.

If a safety check is ever needed on the crossbar at The Woodside Road End, there will certainly be no doubting it’s sturdiness. Millie Congerton becoming the latest player to hit it, following a long ball along the left by Baranowski that released Kayleigh Currivan. Her patience and keen eye for an assist led to a measured pass inside that ran nicely for MC to be agonisingly close to announcing a goal.

Searching for three points in their fight to stay up, Whites had another good opening shortly afterwards. Although Captain Keightly got her head to Hewitt’s free-kick, she couldn’t quite keep it down.

Roared on by the vociferous Rustington Raiders, that maximum return looked far less likely when a Young interception gave the ideal platform for Newman to show a clean pair of heels to both Hewitt and substitute Chloe Smith. Leaving the pair trailing in her wake as she broke free from the halfway line and eventually crossed into the danger zone for Worsfold to knock in her second of the contest.

Fine approach work from Humphrey led to Butt spilling a Worsfold drive round the post before Reds really turned the screw.

Less than a quarter-of-an-hour remained when Charlie Carter swung over a set-piece that Cooper backheaded into the path of Simmons, who made no mistake to gleefully guide a fourth and decisively deflate Denham.

Despite the deficit increasing, Butt was still keeping the home side at bay; her latest save keeping out Cooper’s well-struck effort from twenty yards.

Unfortunately, there was little she could do to prevent the irrepressible Newman completing a brace, as her flag-kick on the left went all the way in.

The end was in sight but not before Thorns found the tightest of gaps to sneak a sixth between Butt and her front stick, after Macleod had threaded a lovely through ball down the inside-left channel.