Report By Gareth Nicholas
On an energy-sapping evening, three changes to the eleven that had started Sunday’s league opener against Chesham United saw Lauren Dolbear return in goal, Becs Bell and Izzy Glass-Oliver come in for Sophie Humphrey and Katie Young, while Club Captain Gemma Worsfold began her return from injury on the bench.
Having ‘taken over’ Crawley Wasps during the close-season, the hosts almost stung their visitors as early as the third minute. Although out smartly to smother, Reds’ ‘keeper Dolbear suffered the shock of seeing the ball squirm loose from her usual impregnable grasp. Fortunately, Mae Goulden’s potential assist for Natasha Hurst failed to turn into one, allowing ‘Loz’ to breath easy again.
Heath were clearly buzzing from the off; a pacy counter-attack instigated by Rhiannon Hambleton eventually led to her picking out the aforementioned Hurst, in the penalty area, only for a deflection to result in Dolbear getting down well to hold on this time.
Worthing had to really sing for their supper, with an excellent tackle by sixteen year-old centre-half Berine Vivas Alonso, initially, denying Bath who couldn’t keep the rebound below the bar.
A little over half-an-hour into an intriguing battle, Bath tried to catch Town cold by striking first time, after Bell’s pace had carried her to the byline before the ‘Speed Queen’s’ half-cleared cross teed up the other BB. However, former Rebel Lucy Apps remained unmoved in the Bluebell’s net as Becki’s belter flew wide.
It didn’t look like it would be Bath’s night, as she latched to a measured through ball by Dani Rowe, though mishit her shot off target, approaching the interval.
Quayle showed tremendous strength and perseverance to hold off the close attentions of her marker to loop an effort over Apps, into the top corner and semi-break the deadlock. Sadly, not a full break however, thanks to the raised flag of the far side assistant referee signalling offside.
Cries of ‘penalty’ from the away dugout went up in first-half stoppages, when Apps’ clearance went straight to Bell, who managed to keep Lillian Tucker at arms length, then appeared to be upended by a sliding Vivas Alonso. Referee Steve Daley, crucially, unmoved.
Following a fifteen minute break, where everyone needed the chance to refresh and re- energise, Reds resumed with Humphrey on for Bell, who hadn’t melted, it was purely for tactical reasons.
‘Soph’ didn’t take long to get into the game, bursting down the left to create a welcoming breeze for those of us on that side of the ground, prior to cutting inside but pulling a promising opening the wrong side of the near post.
A similar path was soon trod by Rowe, who’s pull back ended up behind it’s intended destination, courtesy of Bath’s blast over the top.
BB’s time would come though, in fact just a couple of minutes after that errant effort, due to Vivas Alonso being punished for upending Quayle inside the eighteen yard box. Normal service resuming via a spot-kick that Apps got a strong right hand to but not quite strong enough to keep the in-form striker at bay any longer.
The heat got turned up a further notch when, buoyed no doubt by bringing the stalemate to a close, Bath fired goalwards at the conclusion of a rapid break initiated by the recently introduced Niamh Andersson. An early sighter acting as further warning of the traveller’s intentions.
Three-quarters of the way through a well-contested affair, scorer turned the tables by becoming provider, thanks to home sub Georgie Pack leading the line but only towards the penalty spot. Quayle quickly quelling any fears by dusting herself down to take the kick. Redemption, briefly, came to Pack’s aid although Quayle immediately put a stop to that; reacting sharply to bury the rebound following App’s initial save.
The night was still young enough for the home side to set nerves jangling though, AH nearly forcing the newly-promoted guests to ‘freak out’ inside the last ten. The substitute’s flag-kick resulting in llana Harris-Walters – only on the pitch for ninety seconds or so, after the ex-Fulham favourite replaced Hambleton – hooking narrowly past the front stick.
Andersson caused radar screens at Gatwick to go into meltdown while, at the same time, fanning the gathered throngs in the main stand, by flashing past in a blur on route to fizzing a low delivery across the face of goal that even the galloping Quayle couldn’t quite reach.
All-in-all, a satisfactory night’s work that leads nicely to Sunday’s return to the Sussex Transport Community Stadium, where third will face fifth as London Seaward rock up to the South Coast.