Injury and unavailability forced the hand of Manager John Donoghue to begin with, claiming the forward pairing of Katie Cooper and Sophie Humphrey respectively. That led to starting berths for Katie Young and Becs Bell. Close-season signing Niamh Anderson joined the fit again Molly Thorns amongst the replacements, alongside fellow 2022-’23 maiden squad appearance maker Emily Linscer.
The South London visitors started off the brighter of the two teams, with Captain Brit Saylor fizzing one over the crossbar inside the opening couple of minutes, as they dominated the early possession stats.
Although the next chance fell to the Reds as Ella Newman received Rachel Palmer’s throw-in by the Dulwich dugout and cut inside, away from her marker Eleanor Hutchings and created just enough room for a shot that bounced fractionally past ‘keeper Saskia Reeves-Priestly’s right-hand post.
A promising move down the left nearly broke the deadlock when Mya Powell got it going and Hutchings maintained the momentum, until Becca May delivered a near upright cross that Dolbear spilled but home Skipper Ellie Russell was on hand to clear.
Unfortunately that warning wasn’t heeded by a Red rearguard that momentarily went to sleep shortly afterwards, allowing a harmless looking set-piece, tight to the left touchline, via the boot of Madi Parsonson go all the way across the penalty area, to hand Chana Hands the easiest goal she’ll probably ever bag
In all fairness though, no-one could really argue that the guests didn’t deserve to be in front.
They threatened to add to their tally midway through the half thanks to a counter attack led by May, who exchanged a neat one-two down the left with Sophie Manzi but failed to trouble Dolbear this time.
Worthing gradually worked their way into the game, ably assisted by Newman who’s corner came back to her and a second searching ball found the head of Russell. A downward nod into the path of Georgia Tibble was swung over the target, only for the services of Dolbear to be called upon once more to smartly deny a challenge-evading Powell on the angle, at the culmination of a left-wing burst, to remind the home side of Hamlet’s attacking prowess on the verge of the half-time interval.
Despite the balance of proceedings tipped heavily in the visitors’ favour, they found themselves behind before the referee could blow his whistle to signal the break.
A pacy progression of their own on the same flank, in the opposite direction, ended with Young’s low cross being tucked home by the graceful touch of Tibble, to open her new club account.
If that stunned the travelling masses, then what came next rendered them practically pole-axed.
Winning possession straight from kick-off, Bell produced a stunning long-range lob to leave Reeves-Priestly completely stranded, at least forty yards out.
Unsurprisingly, with their tails very much up, the opening opportunity of the second period was created by the hosts, thanks to Hayley Bridge offering an attempt to Bell. Becs drove forward and drew a superb save out of Reeves-Priestly; the Dulwich number one tipping over the target one-handed at the expense of a flag-kick.
The dead-ball, taken by Palmer resulted in Russell’s header dropping onto the roof of the net.
However, a driving run through the middle of the park by Newman, surging past several blue & pink quartered shirts, soon released Bell to enter the eighteen yard box and drill across Reeves-Priestly into the opposite side of the net.
Newman’s neat footwork then preempted a pass out to Bell on the right and a delivery that Bridge, beyond the back stick, couldn’t quite direct on target.
If the first forty-five had belonged to Hamlet, there was no doubt those two quickfire goals in stoppage time had more than contributed to a role-reversal following the change of ends.
Beautifully illustrated by Anderson becoming the second lady in red to get her name on the scoresheet for a maiden Woodsiders strike.
Capitalising on the space afforded to her, she simply looked up before unleashing a screamer that flew over the head and forlorn hand of the away custodian, leaving Reeves-Priestly beaten for a fourth occasion and rivalling Bell for goal of the afternoon.
The match was far from over though and Dolbear had to be alert to brilliantly flick away a deep Parsonson free-kick that otherwise would have crept into the far top postage stamp (of the net) behind her.
Bell was denied a hat-trick by an offside flag, after an inch-perfect slide rule ball by Young and Palmer’s latest corner was shielded by Linscer in the ‘d’ although fired at Reeves-Priestly by Russell.
Dulwich’s netminder went one better in keeping out Tibble, leading to Young heading Newman’s resultant flag-kick onto the bar, approaching the final fifteen minutes.
A low hold saw Hamlet’s last line of defence frustrate Newman, on the end of Palmer’s set-piece provided by Ceylon Hickman’s trip on Anderson who then helped Bell and Linscer come even closer, when she slipped in the former to arrow the ball towards the far upright where the incoming latter missed by millimetres.
Charlie Carter’s timely tackle saved the day when Dolbear was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, after Powell had got along the left and squared for Hickman in the area.
Finally, Reds felt aggrieved with the man-in-the-middle’s award of an eighty-eighth minute spot-kick, deeming Newman’s shove of Hutchings worthy of a free hit from twelve yards but not a couple of earlier incidents that may have seen the home side out of sight.
Saylor comfortably converting a consolation, though Worthing still extended their winning run against DHFC to three.