Report By Gareth Nicholas
There was only one change to the team that started last week’s win at Aylesford – who, ironically, were playing host club Sutton United afterwards – as Chloe Winchester, suitably rested, returned in place of Sammy Quayle. Kelly Newton also came in for Maddie Hotson on the sub’s bench.
The ‘visitors’ got off to the perfect start by stunning the Darts with a sixth minute opener. Goalkeeper Jade Charlton had tipped Sophie Humphrey’s long range shot on to the crossbar and over for a flag-kick, which regular taker Georgia Tibble took and curled into the far top corner, despite the best efforts of a defender on the line.
Newly crowned Player of the Year Shauni Griffiths led the ‘home’ team’s response when she burst down the right and drove a low ball across the face of goal a few minutes later.
Emily Vaughan came close to an equaliser less than sixty seconds further in; chasing a through pass but stopped in her tracks by Red’s number one Lauren Dolbear rushing out of her area to get there first. Only for her clearance to rebound off Katie Young and eventually hit the upright and go behind.
Crisis averted, Becs Bell showed a clean pair of heels before racing away and delivering a tempting cross that went just behind Winchester and agonisingly out of the reach of the incoming Gemma Worsfold.
Still trailing to a single goal, Paris Smith tried her luck from distance, missing the top corner by inches, prior to Worthing being awarded a free-kick after another Bell ball into the danger zone had caused problems. Humphrey ultimately brought down by Griffiths to offer Tibble the opportunity to increase the lead that she very nearly did, marginally missing the back stick from the resulting set-piece.
A chance to refresh and reset was in the thoughts of many but a very different picture almost made it onto the canvas thanks to Griffiths, again, creating an opening that brought a brilliant one-handed stop out of Dolbear to prevent Smith heading home one last dead-ball of an intriguing first forty-five.
The second period finally awoke nearly midway through, only for Captain Lizzie Adams’ attempted cross to land on the roof of the net and Vaughan’s twenty yarder to miss it altogether, on it’s way over the top.
Dartford were on top by this stage and fired a further warning across their opponent’s bows; requiring Dolbear to push Vaughan’s latest effort onto the crossbar.
However, the same player finally found the mark seconds later, following Griffiths whipped assist ending up in the back of the net via some close control and an emphatic finish.
Undeterred, an inspired substitution saw Emily Linscer enter the pitch while the hard working Katie Cooper departed it.
Almost immediately, ‘Em’ kept her composure when latching onto a pass over the defence, with plenty of ground left to make up. Faced with the imposing figure of Charlton, she maintained a cool, calm persona to slot beyond the advancing custodian and regain the initiative.
Lincser might have doubled her tally a little more than ten minutes from time, courtesy of Charlton failing to cling onto Humphrey’s byline cross-shot; selflessly holding the ball up for Winchester to be denied by a cluster of Black and White shirts.
A second bite of the cherry also came within a whisker of bearing fruit, as EL found herself free in a crowded penalty box, although she could only poke wide of the back stick.
One hand then rested on the trophy due to the prolific Ellie Russell becoming the fifth player to reach double-figures in the goals for column this season. Pouncing on a spill by Charlton as she kept out Winchester’s range-finder, with ‘Russ’ in the right place at the right time to pick up the pieces.
Tibble teed-up the defender-cum-striker moments later but her header brushed the side-netting.
The result looked like being put beyond all reasonable doubt via a Tibble through ball sending ‘Winch’ on her way, although Charlton was out smartly to smother and snuff out this particular threat.
No let-up by a rampant Reds forced one last possibility for a fourth, as we entered the final throes of a well-contested showpiece.
Hayley Bridge hung one up, Winchester received, beat ‘keeper Charlton on the byline and picked out Linscer in the middle. A lay back to Tibble ending up above it’s intended target.
Not that it mattered in the grand scheme of things. ‘Tibbs’ claiming the Player-of-the-Match honours while Skipper Worsfold proudly held aloft the silverware, in what could (whisper it quietly) be the first part of a league and cup double.