After last week’s FA Cup win at Leatherhead, it was back to the bread and butter of the league and four of those who started on the subs bench earned recalls. Namely Rachel Palmer, Gemma Worsfold, Becs Bell and Niamh Andersson, meaning that Katie Young, Keavy Price, Chloe Winchester and Emily Linscer had to bide their time on the sidelines to begin with. Ella Newman also returned to the team in place of work-enforced absentee Charlie Carter.
Warm sunshine greeted the participants as the match got underway but dark clouds soon came over the hosts, thanks to the visitors making a flying start.
It took them a mere five minutes to open the scoring, once Palmer’s pass through the inside left channel had been expertly taken down, first time by Newman. Weaving her way into a more central position and away from a sea of striped shirts, grace was soon followed by power, courtesy of a low driven shot that found Charlotte Lewington’s bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Things got even better when, less than ten minutes later, Bell got her head to Georgia Tibble’s right-sided flag-kick to nod home number two.
Shortly afterwards, Abbie Measures fouled Worsfold thirty yards out to not only concede a free-kick but also receive a talking to from the referee. Tibble took it and curled it a tad too far away from the top corner.
Midway through the first-half and a third goal simply emphasised the guests’ stranglehold on proceedings, although they were helped on their way by an unfortunate miskick. Fox-in-the-Box Sophie Humphrey didn’t need a second invitation though and buried the chance without hesitation.
That seemed to spur United on and they gradually worked their way into the game, carving out their first real opportunity a matter of seconds after going three-nil behind.
A good break upfield led to Captain Georgia Bridges receiving possession on the left and forcing a fine save out of Lauren Dolbear, who’s ankle injury proved not to be as bad as it had initially looked seven days ago.
The attack continued due to Dolbear’s brilliance bearing fruit for Saltdean in the form of a corner. A deep delivery resulted in a recycled reprieve that drew an even better stop out of the blue-clad Reds netminder; showing tremendously sharp reflexes to turn aside substitute Leyla Yahioglu’s close-range header.
Bell and Humphrey then linked up for the side originating from the West of the County when the former played in the latter, only for a timely tackle to, briefly, hold up the move. However, the ball ran loose for Worsfold to fire off target, outside the penalty area.
Only Bell can truly tell if the next effort on goal was a cross or a shot but, either way, it had Lewington and her Tigers’ teammates breathing a huge sigh of relief and thanking their lucky stars, along with the far post.
Five minutes before the break, Bridge’s return to Dolbear forced the ‘keeper to go (fairly) long, although she did have an outlet in Tibble who instantly aided Humphrey in surging forward and lifting an attempt over the top.
The second period commenced in virtually a mirror-image of the first, as Worthing extended their advantage in the early stages.
Pressurising their opponents into another defensive mistake resulted in Bell seeing her shot partially blocked and slammed in on the rebound by the ever-alert Humphrey.
Bridges almost caught out Dolbear, moments after the deficit had increased, ensuring ‘Loz’ would have to get her gloves dirty to scramble a decent hit round the front stick at the expense of a corner-kick.
Then, just shy of the hour mark, an outstanding piece of skill by Tibble saw her beat her marker in a flash and break into the eighteen yard box off the left flank. Ghosting past another Red-and Black-striped barrier and, finally, unleashing a rocket to leave Lewington with no chance between the home sticks.
At the same time, Winchester and Young were thrust into the action and it didn’t take long for former Tiger Chloe W to get her eye in; dropping one fractionally the wrong side of the apparatus.
A further close call befell Humphrey – Winchester on this occasion the instigator via a short pass down the line – also bending her effort tantalisingly near to sneaking inside the opposite upright.
Eventually, “if at first you don’t succeed” might have been the perfect mantra for CW to get off the mark for her new club, if only the far side assistant hadn’t intervened by way of of a raised flag to rule out her rebounded dispatching of Newman’s crossbar-shuddering, long-range missile.
Measures got it spot on when denying Price a sixth for the travellers, as the right (wing)-back got on the end of fellow replacement Linscer’s fizzing low set-up.
Lastly, in the final minute of normal time, the Price was almost right, despite being a fair way out. KP nearly going nuts as she watched her shot fly rather close to the net.