LSERWFL Div. 1 South Sun 26 February St. Pauls Sports Ground
Millwall Lionesses
  • Charles (42', 46')
  • Winchester (35', 75')

Report by Gareth Nicholas

Facing the Lionesses five weeks after the previous encounter produced an emphatic 4-0 scoreline in Red’s favour, Sophie Humphrey beginning on the bench was the only change from that day.

‘Soph’ had Emily Linscer, Charlie Carter and Chloe Lelliott as well as Keavy Price to keep her company, compared to the side that got a repeat result at home to AFC Acorns last week, meaning starting berths were handed to Katie Cooper, Captain Gemma Worsfold, Ellie Russell and Niamh Andersson.

Both teams, by and large, cancelled each other out for most of the first half.

Becs Bell forcing host ‘keeper Hope Smith into an early stop and Chloe Burr enduring frustration twice in the space of five minutes, courtesy of our own Lauren Dolbear, were the only shots on target in the opening half-an-hour.

Ten minutes before the break and something stirred, Rachel Palmer’s left wing free-kick finding Chloe Winchester in the penalty area to hook home at the second attempt, continuing her recent red-hot form.

The advantage was almost wiped out soon afterwards though, when Otesha Charles’ run to the byline and pull back reached Burr, twenty yards out, for an effort that flew narrowly over the bar.

Millwall’s roar grew even louder thanks to Dolbear getting down well to divert Burr’s low delivery, towards the near post, out for a corner. Instantly followed by Skipper Jasmine Auguste’s set-piece being headed back across goal and just inside the opposite upright by Charles, to level the score.

Suitably refreshed at the interval, it was the South East Londoners who made the brighter start to the second forty-five.

Charles – who would later pick-up the Player of the Match award for the Dark Blues – wasted no time in turning the game on it’s head, by embarking on a run that culminated in a cut inside and stunning long-range finish into the top corner, less than sixty seconds after the resumption.

Reds responded immediately via Georgia Tibble’s cross that was effectively returned to her, before a follow-up led to blocked shots for both Winchester and Katie Young.

Not to be outdone, the woodwork came to the visitor’s rescue as Burr’s free-kick, only just in the Worthing half, bounced once and struck the top of the goal frame.

The match had now become end-to-end, emphasised through a forward burst by Andersson producing a slide-rule pass that Humphrey latched onto but Smith gave Millwall real Hope in pulling off a crucial save. Beating the same player to the rebound in the nick of time for good measure.

Our number nine then nearly turned provider herself;  racing down the right and drilling in a tempting ball that somehow dissected Tibble and Worsfold in the box and arrived at the feet of Hayley Bridge, who became the latest apparatus victim when she too was left cursing the crossbar.

(Jade) Keogh’s corner required a punch clear by Dolbear, succeeded by a palpable feeling of relief as Emma Whitter couldn’t keep her close-ranger low enough to punish the punch. Maintaining the to-me-to-you nature of proceedings.

An unexpected defensive mistake allowed Worsfold to curl a first-timer above the bar, outside the eighteen yard area, approaching the final quarter of the afternoon but it would be Dolbear, this time with her feet, keeping out Angel Reid at her front stick, at the conclusion of a lung-bursting counter-attack from a Worthing flag-kick, that proved even more decisive.

Staring down the barrel of defeat, it took the pace and trickery of replacement Humphrey to take on and fly past Millie Connell, a little over ten to go, before locating the on-fire Winchester to bury beyond Smith.

Tibble’s deep free-kick was met by a stooping Russell, who was inches away from conquering and stealing all three points from the ten players of the homesters.

A retaliatory kick out by a prone Poppy Payne on the recently introduced Linscer had, a mere two minutes prior resulted in a red card and led, moments later, to a mass confrontation that a calm and unflustered referee brought to a close by way of a word or two in the ears of the respective Captains.

Play resumed with Russell’s near miss and was finally extinguished in the third minute of stoppage time, care of Palmer threatening to cause further alarm for the handicapped hosts; a left flank delivery that was marginally too high for Linscer to nod in a winner and really rub salt in the wounds.