Needing two more wins from their two remaining fixtures, Maddie Hotson coming back in for Sophie Humphrey was the only change to the squad that had seen off Saltdean in the week.
Forced to return to Rotherhithe and face The Lionesses a second time, after the hosts had fielded an ineligible player in February’s 2-2 draw, the visitors made the brighter start.
A mere five minutes were on the clock when Sammy Quayle got a touch on Rachel Palmer’s deep left-sided cross but couldn’t quite direct it on target.
Barely sixty seconds later though, Chloe Winchester, scorer of both goals the last time these two teams “met,” had one laid on a plate for her thanks to Hayley Bridge’s industry and drive to the byline, which ‘Winch’ gobbled up to hand the Sussex side the lead.
Roles reversed slightly shortly afterwards but with Niamh Andersson the recipient on this occasion, only for her effort to fly over the crossbar. Something Winchester herself matched when Hotson did well to pick her out moments later.
In between those two opportunities, Lauren Dolbear’s huge goal-kick had caught out Jade Keogh and allowed Quayle to win the ball, accelerate away then watch on in anguish as her shot grazed the far post on it’s way out the other side and behind.
Quayle came close again just shy of the half-hour mark, courtesy of Hotson causing problems on the left, finding Winchester in the box, after she’d robbed Millie Connell and being denied via a block by her opposite number Grace Seely.
Hotson’s delightful roll over dumbfounded Sophie Chapman, although her final finish failed to find the back of the net, as it went over it, prior to Millwall threatening for the first time.
A Keogh corner was only cleared as far as Ella Bailey twenty yards out and her threaded pass located the set-piece taker in acres of space. Fortunately, Dolbear got right behind Keogh’s kick and gathered safely at her front stick.
Eleven minutes remained until half-time, with Worthing still holding on to a slender advantage.
That all changed dramatically during a period of ‘What was all that about ?’ following Andersson’s perceived ‘clip’ of Keogh’s heels/achilles as Ellen Napper’s diagonal ball seemingly, in the end, drifted harmlessly out of play.
Shocked expressions of not simply a red persuasion greeted the referee’s decision to point to the spot, only for Dolbear to brilliantly deny Maisie Joyce from twelve yards; not just saving the penalty but having the added wherewithal to turn and pounce on the ball, on the line.
No time for anyone to catch their breath though, thanks to ‘Loz’ instantly launching a counter-attack that eventually ended with Andersson offering Katie Cooper a second goal in four games.
Two became three a minute before the break, when Quayle burst between Keogh and Chapman on the fringes of the eighteen yard area and calmly slotted past Chloe Burr. Continuing her extraordinary scoring run that now extended to eleven in eight matches.
An additional couple of minutes at the end of the regulation forty-five resulted in superb link-up play between the aforementioned Super Sammy and the always influential Georgia Tibble being handsomely rewarded; GT racing through the inside right channel and notching her twenty-third of an increasingly impressive campaign.
Perhaps understandably, the second period lacked the same intensity as the first, although that didn’t prevent Quayle from almost doubling her tally, when her byline delivery needed a strong hand by Burr to push away a potential fifth which otherwise looked like dropping in.
Both sides made changes throughout the concluding half and it was one of those, Charlie Carter who almost added her name to the scoresheet. Excellent work from fellow replacement Emily Linscer, on the right, had created the opening for Quayle to touch back and Carter to so nearly do the rest. A flag-kick the final outcome.
A further dent into Ebbsfleet’s superior goal difference looked on the cards, thanks to Sammy catching ‘keeper Burr in no man’s land. However, one can claim the wafting of some ‘recreational pleasantries’ over the fence to be the distraction that caused the usually deadly Quayle to bizarrely go a-wandering, rather than accept the invitation of a now exposed goal.
Interval introduction Humphrey then combined wonderfully well with Palmer, who took ‘Soph’s’ return pass on the overlap and crossed into Linscer, whose brilliant hold-up work led to a neat swivel but ultimate frustration; dragging her attempt agonisingly the wrong side of the far upright.
Talking of substitutes, Hotson was giving Connell a torrid time on the left flank, getting the better of her marker not once but twice in quick succession. Firstly forcing another top stop out of Burr herself before teeing-up Linscer for a shot that Em side-footed fractionally past the back stick, as the clock ticked down.
‘Speed Queen’ Becs Bell, a late swap for the injured Andersson in the first-half, caused more mayhem for the Dark Blues. A customary burst of pace on the right wing and break into the penalty box resulting in a flashing drive across the face of goal.
Carter was kept out by Burr, only for Keogh to inadvertently offer an opportunity to Hotson that the recovering netminder greeted by way of a scrambling save as well.
One, single extra minute over the allotted ninety and Bell drew level with Tibble – on twenty-three goals in all competitions- by latching onto Hotson’s slide-rule pass to round off the scoring for the afternoon in style.