Report By Gareth Nicholas
Playing their first midweek fixture of the season, Manager John Donoghue made two changes to the team that hammered six past Sutton on Sunday. In came Sophie Humphrey, for injured Club Captain Gemma Worsfold and Niamh Andersson for Becs Bell.
In a “who blinks first” title race it was the Reds who kept their eyes firmly on the prize just ninety seconds into proceedings. Andersson’s long ball over the top, from inside her own half, beat United’s offside trap and allowed Quayle to get to it ahead of defender Megan Gates and lift it over the advancing Blair Hamilton.
However, the visitors soon put a spanner in the works when left-back Katie Steer bent a beauty into the path of Caitlin Sullivan, who raced clear with Hayley Bridge in hot pursuit. Despite ‘Bridgey’s best efforts though, the pacy number eleven couldn’t be caught as she cut into the penalty area before placing her shot across Lauren Dolbear to restore the equilibrium.
Andersson and Georgia Tibble tried their luck from outside the box but lacked the power to trouble Blues’ ‘keeper Hamilton, until a second long-ranger whistled narrowly over the top, as Andersson continued to find her range.
Hamilton then had to be alert to change direction and hold onto an inadvertent goal attempt by teammate Sienna Howell; grabbing the ball on the line after Bridge’s low delivery had caused the problem.
Not for the first time Andersson had been the instigator and it was her pass out to Humphrey, on the right, that saw the striker come inside Steer prior to threading a ball through that Quayle came within a whisker of connecting with, as did the incoming Tibble on the far side.
Saltdean were proving to be a tough nut to crack but, eventually, the hosts found a way.
In a move that started in the home half, Bridge found Katie Cooper to drive forward, over the halfway line and dissect the duo of Amy Sinden and Skipper Georgia Bridges, via a pass that Quayle could spot the run of Winchester with as the forward broke into the eighteen yard box, between Gates and Howell and nutmegged Hamilton to regain the homester’s lead.
Reds might have enjoyed a two-goal cushion at the break, only for a perfectly-timed tackle by Lillian Tucker to halt the progress of Quayle.
Early on in the second period, a Katie Young free-kick ended with Winchester flashing one across the face of goal; just eluding a lurking Humphrey at the back stick.
Despite that close call, chances were very much at premium initially, though that finally changed around the hour mark.
Half-time substitute Maddie Hotson, picked out by a patient Rachel Palmer, didn’t need a second invitation to run at the Blue’s backline. Making the most of the space afforded to her before turning past Tucker and seeing Hamilton spilling her attempt. Only for fox-in-the-box Quayle to continue her remarkable goalscoring run and make it into double-figures, in a mere seven appearances for her new club; pouncing instantly to make it three-one.
Buoyed by a run of only one defeat in eight matches, the travelling Lions roared loudly when Molly Hill, level in the divisional goalscoring charts with Dartford’s Emily Vaughan and now our very own ‘Winch,’ proved to be the penultimate piece in a jigsaw that threatened to produce more than a blast over the bar from former home favourite Naomi Robinson.
The same player then came much closer; latching onto a ball over the top, holding off the close attentions of Ellie Russell and depositing an effort that dropped inches wide of a relieved Dolbear’s left upright.
Riled by those reactions, Winchester laid a ball across for Andersson to gallop forward, faced with her opposite number Sinden and sting the palms of Hamilton, who clung onto a fearsome nineteen yard piledriver.
A pair of Cooper corkers ensured the custodian’s hands didn’t get cold, while Tucker’s distant attempt was comfortably dealt with by Dolbear.
Although ‘Loz’ needed her wits about her to smother at the feet of Hill and a flowing move culminated in Andersson’s screamer rising marginally above the target, as the evening drew towards a close.
An offside flag denied sub Bell, following fine work by Hotson in ultimately getting the better of fellow replacement Hannah Sturdy and the also recently-introduced Charlie Carter watched her blocked attempt fall nicely for Emily Linscer – only on the pitch herself a few minutes – but ‘Em’ couldn’t keep her final finish down.