FAWNL Division One South East Sun 17 December Premier Plus Stadium
Cambridge United

Manager John Donoghue went with an unchanged starting line-up after last week’s win over United’s County neighbours City. Indeed, fifteen of the matchday sixteen remained the same, with Niamh Andersson making a welcome return – on the bench – in place of the unavailable Emily Linscer the only difference.

A long trip had initially seen the visitors get further than the Shoreham Flyover a fortnight ago, when an onboard phone call had brought news of a waterlogged pitch at St Neots Town and thus caused a quick about turn.

Unfortunately though, the rearranged fixture at Rowley Park didn’t get off to the best off starts for the Reds. Katie Young’s clearance fell at the feet of an equally surprised Alysha Stojko-Down and the U’s top scorer gratefully dispatched a gift-wrapped opener.

Undeterred, our own front pairing of Albuery and Quayle led a rapid response by linking up to near-devastating effect moments later. The duo exchanged passes on the break before ‘Shan’ showed a delightful touch to knock the ball past Abbie Jackson, creating room for a shot that home number one Lauren Webb managed to hold on to.

An even better opening presented itself just shy of the quarter-hour mark, courtesy of Rachel Kosky incorrectly emulating rock band Reef by electing to “place her hands” on the back of Becki Bath, while also applying enough force for the guest’s leading markswoman to go down in the area.

Windy conditions made taking the penalty difficult; the ball moving off the spot prior to the set-piece being taken by a now upright Bath and causing an untimely delay. Webb went the right way to keep out the kick and followed that up by seeing Emma Blakely’s second bite at the cherry blocked, before finally holding on to prevent Young atoning for her second minute aberration, during a goalmouth scramble.

Young then went long to pick out Bath with her usual unerring accuracy, midway through the first-half, only for Webb to frustrate once more and stop BB firing in the equaliser.

A single point separated the sides at the start of play but it was the guests who continued to match their hosts, although carving out the better opportunities.

Their cause was almost helped via Brooke Cheal-Ferris bending a slightly ambitious back pass to her ‘keeper, causing a hurried clearance that offered a glimmer of hope to the ever-alert Bath. However, Becki’s long-range effort from outside the eighteen yard box was comfortably dealt with by a relieved Webb.

Whatever was said by the Worthing Coaching Staff at the interval certainly had a galvanising effect, as the Rebels came out after the intermission with renewed vigour.

Dani Rowe’s deadball delivery caused more than a few problems for the Yellows; Chloe Winchester hooking the first of them onto the roof of the net a mere four minutes in.

Camped largely in their own half, for long periods of the second forty-five, Cambridge failed to heed those early warning signs. Not that they had much say in the matter when DR came calling a short time later; only able to get rid of the danger once the far post had helped, when Rowe’s flag-kick struck it.

Less than half-an-hour to go it was a case of third time lucky for ‘Corner Queen’ Rowe, thanks to Albuery rising highest to nod home at the back stick.

Shannon’s maiden strike for her new club got something started, due to Bath slipping in Quayle to put an end to a barren run and move into double figures for the (league) season, moments later. Becki’s inch-perfect assist arriving via the industrious Sophie Humphrey, who covered every blade of grass – twice in some cases – in an energetic performance.

United were not done yet though and reminded everyone of that fact when Blakely launched herself at Kosky’s cross to head clear, soon succeeded by Palmer hacking away from very close to substitute Bella Simmons, inside the penalty area.

Within a matter of seconds though it became the luckless Bath’s turn to test the strength of the apparatus, as she got on the end of Humphrey’s left wing ball in, only to watch it cannon back off the underside of the crossbar then get scrambled to safety.

One final opportunity for Bath to break her duck for the day came in the last ten minutes of an intriguing affair.

Spotting a chink of light a fair way out, Becki sent in a low, drilled shot that had Webb scurrying quickly towards her left-hand upright. Cambridge’s custodian no doubt breathing a rather huge sigh of relief when a goal-kick and not a match-defining third goal greeted her return to her feet.

Two wins in a row means Worthing now occupy third place in National League Division One South East going into the Christmas Break. Although a month on the road awaits them in January, a good start to their first campaign in Tier Four of the Women’s game induces ambitions of further progress in the second-half of 2023-’24.