Good news greeted home fans as the line-up was revealed, with our two top scorers Becki Bath and Sammy Quayle returning to the team. Katie Cooper was also back amongst the substitutes to compliment a strong-looking bench that also featured the likes of Niamh Andersson, Emily Linscer, Gemma Worsfold and Abi Dolding. Becs Bell was back in from the beginning too alongside Hayley Bridge.
The returning Bath almost silenced the Canaries with a first time shot after only seven minutes, following a ball across her own penalty area by Hope Strauss that fell short and Bath buried in the side netting, much to the defender’s relief.
Five minutes later, Megan Todd turned and played in the Yellow’s leading markswoman Natasha Snelling who could only fire straight at Lauren Dolbear.
An even opening to the game soon changed though, when Dani Rowe pounced on another loose pass, drove forward and found Bell, who touched back to Bath before receiving a return that saw a defensive block deny the fleet-footed forward but Birthday Girl Chloe Winchester gobbled up the rebound, to put the hosts in front.
Up against a side that had enjoyed the luxury of travelling down from Norfolk the previous day, Bath engineered further good play by spotting and spreading play out to an unmarked Sophie Humphrey on the left wing. Nutmegging nemesis Alice Parker to burst into the box ‘Soph’ located Bell for a tee-up that Bridge swept wide from the edge of the ‘d.’
Just before the break ‘Bridgey’ ensured the gathered masses continued to be royally entertained, courtesy of a stunning show of quick feet that saw her steal possession away from Lauren Tomlinson and leave her trailing in her wake, on a break up the right flank, only for the subsequent cross to land on top of the net. The warning signs were there though.
Trailing by a single strike, Norwich made the early exchanges of the second-half theirs by flashing a warning of their own fractionally off target, via Tomlinson latching onto Parker’s peach of a pass.
Moments later, a flurry of flag-kicks resulted in Bridge blocking to concede the first, then Emma Blakely bravely doing likewise with what appeared to be her face for number two. However, it proved to be a case of third time lucky when Captain Anna Larkin’s pinpoint set-piece was headed home by Ellie Smith.
Although Rowe’s corner drew an instant response, thanks to Blakely almost silencing a now-singing canaries by nodding agonisingly past the post.
Swinging one in from the opposite side, Rachel Palmer caused pandemonium with hers; Blakely eventually laying back for Rowe to play first time to Humphrey to return to the mixer, where goalscorer ‘Winch’ and Quayle were denied, before Palmer’s angled long-range riser brought proceedings to a halt.
Unfortunately, prior to those near misses, home hopes had been hampered when a clearly distressed Bridge was forced off after landing awkwardly during an old-fashioned shoulder-to-shoulder challenge with Tomlinson. Replacement Andersson wasted little time in trying to aid her stricken teammate’s recovery, via a driven delivery that Quayle and visiting defender Ceri Flye both went for; Flye able to continue following treatment.
Dolbear needed her wits about her when, yes, you’ve guessed it, Larkins’ corner was nearly “perfick” but then forced herself to back peddle when a goal-kick went straight to a yellow shirt, producing a long-range deflected attempt that procured yet another dead ball situation from a familiar area of the pitch.
Space opened up in the final five minutes for Andersson, once Bell had relieved Knights of the ball in the centre circle, which she took advantage of to power forward but drill the wrong side of the upright a good twenty-five yards or so out.
In a tightly-contested affair, it was Worthing, bearing the added weight of playing into a very strong wind that had bettered the Sussex Transport Community Stadium since kick-off, who at this stage looked the likelier winners.
Emphasised by Humphrey leading a counter-attack and allowing Bell to get in front of and hold off her marker. Bath picked up the baton courtesy of a ball over the top that Quayle got on the end of but, stretching, directed goalwards though couldn’t quite get enough on to trouble the guest’s goalie Sarah Quantrill.
Into stoppages, good work from Andersson threatened to pay off, only for Winchester’s shot to suffer a similar fate.
However, the final knockings very nearly made all that effort go to waste.
Five extra had elapsed until a brilliant bit of individual brilliance led to sub Freya Symonds, on the right-hand side of the eighteen-yard box, receive a perfect pass and Dolbear spill the resulting shot. As the Rebels struggled to clear their lines, Strauss called the tune and ‘Loz’ parried into the path of the recently-introduced Rachel Lawrence, who blazed over a golden opportunity to name it in one and the points would stay shared.
Happy Birthday to me.