Report by Gareth Nicholas
It was a case of five for five in relation to the team that took to the pitch, with the hosts returning to league action after last week’s win at Sutton United saw them move through to the semi-finals of the League Cup.
The aforementioned Winchester, Emily Linscer, Katie Young, Hayley Bridge and Chloe Lelliott all lined up pre-match, alongside the mascots from AFC Worthing Divas U9s. Keavy Price, Katie Cooper, Gemma Worsfold, Ellie Russell and Niamh Andersson all had to wait patiently for their chance by taking their places on the bench.
A mere seven minutes were on the clock when the first real opening of the game fell to the home side. Sophie Humphrey’s throw-in near the left-hand corner flag went straight to Lelliott who laid the ball back for Rachel Palmer to cross into the danger zone, where a miskick by Charlotte Virley presented Bell with an opportunity to tee-up (Georgia) Tibble for a shot, just outside the ‘d’, off the outside of her left foot, that whistled inches past goalkeeper Emily Hudson’s right-hand post.
Lincser then did well to win another throw on the same side that she quickly sent Humphrey clear with. Although the striker’s initial delivery was blocked by Ava Hutson her second, through the legs of the unfortunate defender, found the unmarked Bridge who clinically dispatched her second strike in successive appearances, from eight yards, to put the table-toppers in front.
‘Soph’ was proving to be a real menace to the visitor’s rearguard and soon turned on a Palmer pass before driving forward, fending off the close attentions of Pam McDonnell and slipping in Bell to test the reflexes of Hudson once more.
The woodwork came to the guest’s rescue just past the half-hour mark, following a neat build-up that had seen Bridge play a Palmer throw-in to Tibble who proceeded to slalom her way past three yellow shirts, only to hit the outside of the front stick.
Acorns responded by trying to break down a stubborn Worthing defence in the penalty area but, despite getting in a couple of attempts on the target, both efforts were blocked as the Red’s last line closed rank to keep them out.
Young wasn’t far away in letting rip from distance and it wouldn’t be much longer for home fans to wait for goal number two.
Palmer’s throw this time finding it’s way through to Bridge; the midfielder leading Hazel Barnette, Hutson and Virley a merry dance and leaving Winchester with a gift she gleefully accepted, stroking low beyond the outstretched hand of Hudson.
Moments earlier, Bridge’s skipping past a pair of challenges had resulted in a dangerous-looking ball across the eighteen yard box somehow going unpunished. Followed shortly afterwards by Hudson rushing out to intercept a potential Bell assist that would have seen Linscer more than ideally placed to add a third.
Referee Peter Lindsey then blew for half-time without adding any additional minutes as the safety of Bell became a serious concern, after she’d chased a “lost” cause at breakneck speed. Only to collide with the advertising hoarding and flip over it, face first. Fortunately, only a scratch or two and a slightly bruised hip meant that the Speed Queen was able to continue, despite her unique method of ensuring the pitch perimeter fencing and concrete terracing passed the stringent ground grading regulations, by utilising her own face.
Early into the following forty-five Palmer played Tibble through the inside-left channel, with Georgia’s shot rising a tiny fraction too high and, not long after that, her free-kick bounced agonisingly past the far upright.
However, GT’s next contribution was right on the mark; floating over a flag-kick that Winchester watched all the way to enjoy the relatively simple task of heading home her second and her team’s third, from virtually on the six yard line.
AFC were then the architects of their own downfall, sealing their own fate via a misplaced Hudson pass that the ever-alert ‘Winch’ immediately pounced on and punished the netminder with, to complete her second treble of the season.
It looked like those two goals in four minutes were about to become three in nine, until the timely intervention of sub Jade Page saw her acrobatically frustrate fellow replacement Worsfold, right underneath the crossbar. The Skipper capitalising on a loose ball arising from Hudson dashing out to deny Bell, after the winger-cum-forward had latched on to a perfectly weighted through ball along the inside-right channel by the also recently introduced Cooper.
Those changes came as part of a triple threat – Russell completing the triumvirate – but it would be an earlier swap in the form of Andersson, on for knee injury victim Humphrey in the first-half, that spelled further trouble for the Crawley-based travellers. Taking a Worsfold lay-off in her stride, ‘Flash’ was rapidly gone in one as she shifted away from Barnette in order to fire a twenty-plus yarder that simply lacked enough power behind it.
Tibble robbed Ellie Pace on halfway, exchanged a one-two with Linscer though curled behind, ahead of offering Andersson the opportunity to demonstrate a terrific piece of skill by dissecting the duo of Pace and substitute Alice Horton, gliding away from the approaching “newbie” Olivia Spellward and, ultimately blasting marginally the wrong side of the upright.
The opposite apparatus was all that stood between Cooper and a fifth of the afternoon, courtesy of a quickly-taken free-kick by Tibble, barely sixty seconds before a clever bit of thinking between ‘Tibbs’ and Palmer distracted Acorns sufficiently to allow Worsfold to pick out Andersson off a similar set-piece. Niamh drawing a fine low save out of Hudson.
Tibble’s corner then caused problems and Cooper hooked a Palmer nod forward towards the target but Hudson got down well to secure at the second time of asking.
A near-identical deadball delivery concluded with Hudson punching partially clear and Captain Janine Daly throwing herself in the way of Cooper’s close-range blast, in the final action of a satisfying days’ work.