Report By Gareth Nicholas
Injury and work commitments deprived the Reds of Sophie Humphrey and Captain Gemma Worsfold, alongside Hayley Bridge. This meant first starts for both recent signings Quayle and, following an impressive introduction from the bench against table-toppers ‘Fleet a fortnight ago, Hotson. The only other change saw Charlie Carter in ahead of Keavy Price.
Only two minutes were on the clock when Katie Young sent Becs Bell clear on the right and her eventual cross found Hotson in the box who, in turn, laid the ball off to Chloe Winchester for a close-range effort that Fulham goalkeeper Libby Stratton parried with Becky Stormer completing the clearance.
However, that early warning went unheeded by the Cottagers as, moments later, ‘Winch’ did well on the left-hand touchline to steal possession away from namesake Christison-McNee, skip past the tackle of Lois Konan and play in Bell, who duly evaded a further pair of white shirts before slipping in Quayle to coolly convert, just inside the penalty area.
One became two very shortly afterwards, thanks to Tibble, in her own half, allowing Hotson to race down the left and locate Katie Cooper in space over on the right. ‘Coops’ kindly returned the favour for Maddie to match Sammy and get off the mark for her new club, to double the advantage six yards out.
Although the complexion of the game might have been very different had the visitors bagged either of a pair of opportunities between the quarter and half-hour marks.
Firstly, Skipper Mary Southgate exchanged a one-two with Summer Roberts, prior to beating the home backline courtesy of a pass from the halfway line that Georgia Heasman latched onto, broke into the eighteen yard box with but was denied by netminder Lauren Dolbear at her near post.
Dolbear then had to be alert and athletic in keeping out a long-range shot by Southgate – almost on the right-hand touchline – by retreating and stretching to divert the danger.
Good link-up play between Winchester and Bell once more threatened to tip the balance back in the host’s favour, following the former’s pouncing on an underhit Stormer ball; thus providing BB with time and space to utilise her pace and deliver a cross that Cooper headed onto Hotson to tee-up Tibble, nineteen yards away, to chip onto the roof of the net.
Undeterred, Tia Foreman’s left wing free-kick somehow evaded a crowded penalty box, forcing Dolbear to get across quickly and tip past the upright to keep out the away side again.
Bell came even closer in stoppage time, when Hotson sped along the left flank and created an opening for Becs to control, turn Megalie Mendes but clip the crossbar.
Interval change Ede Buchele won and nearly converted a corner, just shy of the hour, with Stormer narrowly unable to get a potentially telling touch.
Rebels retaliated by way of Tibble and Young swapping passes, to open up the avenue of possibilities that saw Katie Y let Bell loose to surge to the byline, before floating over a teaser that Hotson couldn’t quite realign her body to; glancing marginally off target.
Rachel Palmer’s throw-in caused problems and Quayle’s battling qualities shone through when Winchester curled inches the wrong side of the far stick, not much later.
The score could have fluctuated significantly in a matter of seconds, due to Tibble breaking through the middle of the park and testing Stratton early with an effort the netminder got down well to hold. Succeeded in a flash by Mendes pulling off a slide-rule pass that Heasman finally fired straight at Dolbear, up the other end.
A rare lapse in the Reds’ rearguard resulted in Roberts whipping across the face of goal, as the West Londoners continued to create opportunities.
Sub Chloe Lelliott may well have helped put the game to bed though, care of picking out fellow replacement Niamh Andersson whose run culminated in a white leg cutting out her potential assist to Winchester.
Immediately, a counter-attack drew to a close by way of Heasman’s ball in off the right dissecting Lelliott and Carter, only for the insertion of Dolbear’s boot to frustrate it’s recipient Lilly Lambird.
Added time saw Roberts enjoy three, separate bites of the cherry and Andersson simply lack the power to trouble Stratton, as the points ultimately stayed on the South Coast.