Sun 5 December The Crucial Environmental Stadium

Sophie Humphrey returned to the fold in place of Molly Thorns, who dropped to the bench, in the only change to the side that started last Sunday’s dramatic draw at Millwall.

The visitors were aiming to complete a hat-trick of victories over their hosts, having already done the double over the Reds in the team’s two league meetings this season.

However, a scrappy encounter ensued; often lacking a creative spark.

Georgie Davis failed to test home ‘keeper Lauren Dolbear when her long-range free-kick dropped harmlessly wide of the near post, until the ball finally ended up in the back of the net after twenty-four minutes.

Unfortunately for the Darts, the Assistant Referee had his flag raised to signal a clear foul in the build-up. A long ball by Captain Lizzie Adams sent Paris Smith through the middle, only for a shove in the back of Charlie Carter on the way to beating both the Worthing defender and Dolbear, who had raced well outside her area, to render a simple roll into the gaping goal irrelevant.

Reds responded via an Ella Newman set-piece, with her left wing corner delivered right into the heart of the six yard box, where Jo Woodgate glanced it out the other side and behind for a further flag-kick.

Danger duly diverted, Smith would soon be testing both Carter and Dolbear once more.

Following Emily Vaughan’s robbing of Chloe Lelliott on the halfway line and a subsequent pass inside the despairing lunge of Carter, it needed Dolbear to stand tall and deny the centre-forward; allowing the recovering Charlie to complete the clearance.

Worthing’s number one was at it again moments later, when a lofted ball forward by Adams led to Carter’s attempt at intercepting falter and provide Amy Panayi with a clear sight of the target. Fortunately, her effort was pushed past the post by a diving Dolbear.

Opposing custodian Kelly Amar had largely enjoyed a watching brief up to now, though Gemma Worsfold gave the initiative to Newman to run at the Whites’ rearguard, approaching the last ten minutes of the opening period. After gliding by Adams, it took two go’s for an awkward, bouncing long distance drive to be safely secured.

Adams herself then tried her luck from outside the eighteen yard box but Dolbear was firmly behind it and alert enough to pounce on the ball just ahead of Smith, who was ready to capitalise on any spillage.

The travelling Skipper put her defensive hat on to stop Humphrey edging the homesters in front by clearing off the line, when Becs Bell showed a clean pair of heels to power her way to the byline and avoid a sea of White shirts to pick out Sophie at the far upright.

Katie Young pulled off a similar last-ditch block in a role reversal, as it became Adams’ turn to feel frustrated shortly afterwards, with Worthing struggling to get rid.

Early into the second forty-five, it was less The Man From Uncle and more The Route One From Right-Back, when Vaughan released Smith, who took advantage of a rare misjudgement by the usually unflappable Young. An exposed Dolbear watching on in horror as Smith slotted home into an empty net.

Good link-up play on the left between Humphrey, Hannah Hewlett and Newman led to substitute Katie Cooper lashing well off target a long way out and cries of “handball” rang out not much later, when the ball bounced up and hit Davis on the hand before she deflected Hewlett’s close-ranger behind for a corner.

Newman’s free-kick had caused that particular problem and the Kent-based guests soon had another, thanks to Humphrey’s excellent touch and turn to take down Young’s purposeful punt.
Adams, again, in the right place at the right time to turn aside at the expense of a flag-kick.

Less than twenty to go, accuracy off the right boot of Young located Humphrey in the penalty area once again; the striker doing well to poke through the legs of falling sub Amy Green, for Worsfold to drill a low one that Amar comfortably held.

With time running out, Newman was a whisker away from taking the tie to an extra half-an-hour via a typical screamer that flew inches over the woodwork.

Alas, it would remain one-nil.