Report By Gareth Nicholas
There were two changes to the team that beat Dartford at The Crucial Environmental Stadium seven days ago, with Katie Cooper and Becs Bell recalled in place of the injured Sophie Humphrey and the benched Chloe Lelliott. New signing Maddie Hotson also started on the sidelines.
Things got off to rather an inauspicious start when quick, incisive approach play on the left was nearly rewarded with an early goal as Amy Russ slipped in Amelia Woodgate, only for Rachel Palmer to show great strength and quality on the ball to wrestle it away from the Fleet forward.
The hosts then suffered a double blow on six minutes.
Cooper’s pass, intended for Palmer, was intercepted by (A) Woodgate who drove forward at speed before playing a one-two with teammate Logan O’Shea and converting the return from twelve yards.
To make matters worse, Keavy Price was forced off injured.
Russ and goalscorer Woodgate linked up again a few minutes later but this time United’s number nine got her angles all wrong. Something that prevented Price’s replacement Lelliott from bagging an equaliser after she got on the end of Hayley Bridge’s first time cross, following a partially cleared long Palmer throw.
A terrific raking ball down the right found Georgia Tibble in acres of space and her first time delivery caused problems for ‘keeper Courtney Shanley, particularly as she had the presence of Gemma Worsfold to contend with too. Captain Gem played the ball back to Tibble to come mighty close to levelling the score, just an inch or two in it in fact and the side netting struck.
That all happened at the midway point of the opening period and a tad over half-an-hour in, a reverse Spice Girls – one becomes two – saw the Kent club double their advantage.
There appeared little danger to Lauren Dolbear’s goal when Palmer cleared Russ’s right-footed cross off the left flank as far as Captain Carlton. However, Dan was very much the wo-man as she let fly from at least twenty-five yards to leave ‘Loz’ rooted to the spot.
If one Woodgate wasn’t enough, Ebbsfleet had two ! Madison, on this occasion, turning on a sixpence to get through a self-created gap between Lelliott and Cooper and drawing a low save out of Dolbear, with Young able to redirect the rebound into touch on the far side.
Defence soon turned into attack for Young as she picked out Lelliott tight to the right-hand touchline, then proceeded to take her return pass prior to locating Worsfold in the danger zone. Only for Shanley to frustrate at point-blank range.
Lelliott fired off target in time added on, after Chloe Winchester did well to nick off Millie Waud’s toes but it would be ‘Oh no’ and O’Shea that gave Worthing a mountain to climb at the break.
A Carlton free-kick floated in, slap bang in front of the home dugout, was headed out by Russell, controlled by O’Shea just outside the box and swept over the outstretched arm of Dolbear.
The embryonic stages of the second-half saw Bridge blocked by O’Shea, amongst a sea of teal, once Lelliott had utilised the pace of Bell to set up the opportunity.
Then, Carlton gave (A) Woodgate licence to do more than simply roam courtesy of a halfway line ball that AW latched onto, although ultimately her measured attempt on the eighteen-yard line cannoned off the crossbar.
The duo linked up again moments later, though Dolbear was out smartly to gather and snuff out the danger as the visitors looked to put the result beyond doubt.
Reds were enjoying the majority of possession without managing to make a breakthrough; Palmer providing a pair of chances that, firstly, netminder Shanley and Worsfold both somehow missed. Followed, shortly afterwards, by GW making contact but diverting narrowly the wrong side of the near post.
Palmer tried her own luck from range, courtesy of a clever touch to make the space, only to hit too high and Tibble’s corner was brilliantly flashed back in by the taker herself. The recently introduced Linscer, then Winchester sliding in at the far upright coming agonisingly close.
Finally, the net did bulge at the St Elmo Road End, thanks to Tibble being put on the spot.
Won when Waud applied two hands in too forceful a manner for the referee’s liking to Georgia’s back, the aggrieved got to her feet to dispatch a spot-kick that would prove to be scant consolation.
One last attempt at making things interesting, deep now into several extra minutes, led to substitute Hotson nearly marking her debut with a goal. An impressive performance rounded off by stealing possession off Charley Clifford and blasting fractionally above the target, a good thirty-five yards away from it.