FAWNL Division One South East Sun 7 January The Meadow

Reds returned to action after the Christmas break and continued from where they’d left off with an away win. The only change to the side which had started mid-December’s victory at Cambridge United saw Club Captain Gemma Worsfold return in place of Sammy Quayle. Injury too accounted for Katie Cooper’s absence.

A sunny day accompanied by a distinct chill in the air greeted the two teams as both looked to dust off any cobwebs.

It was the hosts who got to the feather dusters first, thanks to Gemma Fraser testing the strength of the crossbar from distance; igniting a penalty box scrimmage that finally ended when a grounded Emma Blakely did well to block a follow-up effort by Sasha Smith, on the line.

Neither ‘keeper was kept particularly busy for the next twenty minutes after that, aside from a couple of occasions where Lauren Dolbear needed to negotiate the bright sunshine to field a pair of potentially threatening crosses.

Then, a foul on Sophie Humphrey on the corner edge of the eighteen yard box offered an opportunity to Dani Rowe from the subsequent free-kick. One that was very much taken, despite the best efforts of Chesham netminder Lucia Delves and her crossbar who, ultimately, were powerless to prevent Worthing’s leading scorer Becki Bath converting from very close range.

Within a minute, the visitors had doubled their lead and Humphrey featured significantly again. Robbing Hana Hetherington on the halfway line, in front of the respective benches, ‘Soph’ made immediate headway down the left wing before fizzing in a low delivery that came back out to a fully prepared Chloe Winchester. ‘Winch’ placed a precise finish across L. Delves and into the opposite side of the net.

A rampant Reds threatened to make it three a few short moments later, as custodian Delves found herself stranded in no man’s land, only for Ellie Walker-Smith to ensure Worsfold didn’t add her name to the scoresheet.

Although it didn’t take much longer for our ‘Gem’ to have a major say in who did, approaching the break. A delightful reverse pass by the Skipper playing in Humphrey who returned the favour, thus allowing Bath to eventually benefit by burying number three.

Half-time oranges/lucozades (other energy drinks are available) were all lined up and ready to to go/be devoured, until a late flurry of openings, at either end, almost put a whole new perspective on things.

Firstly, Tierney Scott’s twisting and turning produced a positive punt that stung the palms of Delves (L), prior to Emma Bebbington’s perfectly timed, last-ditch tackle stopping Shannon Albuery in her tracks as she was about to pull the trigger. Thirdly and lastly, the final minute of a minimum of four to be added on saw Dolbear put on a display of equal brilliance; moving across her goal to get not one but two strong hands on Captain Kat Bowers’ long range screamer, to palm it over the top for a corner.

Again, a largely uneventful period elapsed between the change of ends and just past the hour mark, whereupon the Generals sent out a message to the opposing Rebels that, even at three-nil, the result was far from assured.

A simple through ball proved to be the guest’s undoing; Natalia Makowska taking it in her stride and calmly slotting beyond Dolbear to revive the home team’s hopes.

However, normal service appeared to have been resumed courtesy of Emily Linscer – only on the pitch a few minutes – expertly picking out the dome of Albuery, from tight to the far touchline, who gleefully glanced in a fourth to surely put the game to bed ?

Well, not quite, as it turned out. Goalscorer Smith turned provider when she got down the same side up the other end and crossed into the danger zone for Fraser to sweep in a second; reducing the deficit once more.

In keeping with the new Chuckle Brothers-inspired match narrative of “to me, to you” Rowe fashioned the next shooting opportunity via a flag kick. Albuery’s noggin directin’ the ball goalwards, where Delves pulled off a super save to parry it to safety.

Delves surpassed that particular stop with an even better one to deny Winchester in the last minute of a now absorbing contest.

Again, it all started with a Rowe corner this time being met by ‘Winch.’ Blakely aiding and nearly abetting bringing a hive of activity to a defining outcome, by laying the ball back for the initial recipient to blast a bullet that the Bucks’ number one must have seen late but still managed to keep out.

There was still enough left on the clock in stoppages for two substitutes to combine. Wonderful hold-up play by Linscer preceded a pass for Izzy Glass-Oliver to swivel and test a busy Delves one last time.