Looking to reverse September’s three-nil defeat at the Sussex Transport Community Stadium, Reds made two starting changes to the squad that won at Chesham United last week. Becs Bell and Emily Linscer came in for Sophie Humphrey and Becki Bath. Illness seven days ago meant Sammy Quayle was only fit enough for the bench, while Leah Morris and, after a few years away, Caz Hodgson joined Izzy Glass-Oliver to complete the awesome foursome.
Playing on a sometimes unpredictable surface, the main talking point of the game’s early stages sadly revolved around a lengthy delay, following Maise Cannon’s clash with Shannon Albuery. While our ‘Shan’ was able to continue after treatment, sadly the same couldn’t be said for Cannon, a goalscorer the last time these two teams met, who was subsequently replaced by Sam Lanza just ten minutes in.
Both sides, by and large, cancelled each other out for the opening quarter of the contest.
Indeed, it took nineteen minutes for the game’s first real chance and it was the visitors who fashioned it.
A short corner routine involving Dani Rowe and Emma Blakely earned the former a second bite at the cherry; this time evading a sea of Seawardians to pick out Albuery and leave the centre-forward with the relatively simple task of forcing the ball home from close range.
Little had been seen of the hosts up to this point but a well-drilled team were always likely to become a threat sooner rather than later. Never more so than when Katherine Long fired a warning shot across the bows from the right-hand side of the penalty area.
Katie Young, imperious all afternoon at the back, then sensed the danger to make a perfectly-timed block tackle, just when it seemed Shamoy Campbell was about to break through down the middle of the pitch.
An even better opportunity presented itself to Cheryl Anderson in first-half stoppages, thanks to Mira Hoteit sending over an inviting right wing cross, only for Anderson to drag wide of the near post when well placed.
However, it was the high-flying guests who might have doubled their advantage due to Captain Gemma Worsfold, outside the eighteen yard box, nearly beating netminder Tia Ginn but having to watch on in anguish as her effort landed on the roof of the net.
Holding a narrow lead at the break, Hodgson entered the fray unexpectedly early in place of Tierney Scott, prior to the second forty-five getting underway.
One again, chances were at a premium, nothing of note really happening until we’d reached the hour mark and it required the services of Rowe to converge on Campbell, to ensure things went no further. Lauren Dolbear in the Worthing goal left with a comfortable gather, courtesy of ‘Dan’ feeling the full force of the Seaward centre-forward’s (icy) long range blast, at close quarters.
Hodgson almost made the long wait worth it with a goal moments later. Uncertainty in the Blue’s rearguard eventually resulted in Caz capitalising on a rare mistake, to force Ginn into scrambling frantically across her six yard box and smothering practically on the line.
Ramping up the pressure, Albuery went on a central charge, driving through the middle before Jo Butler-Williams got her intervention spot on to keep the tie evenly poised.
Try as they might though, the scoreline remained the same, despite the best efforts of both sets of players. The Londoners dominated possession and tested the defensive resolve of their Sussex-based opponents in the latter stages.
However, Reds’ backline wasn’t to be breached, even after Rachel Palmer was penalised for handball wide on the right to offer a set-piece opportunity to substitute Lucy Cockerill, following fellow replacement Livia Capparelli seeing her ball into the box stopped, illegally, on route.
Cockerill’s floated free-kick passed over everyone’s heads, to be greeted by a sigh of relief from the away dugout but met with the opposite response from the home one.
A stiff breeze ushered in by Bell’s burst of speed, who raced clear of three dark blue shirts on her way towards (potentially) finally putting the result beyond doubt, deep into added time, only ended via a sharp, shrill blow of the referee’s whistle. Meaning there was nothing left on the clock to allow the resulting flag-kick to be delivered and one, lone goal proved to be enough to send the victorious visitors back to the South Coast cold but content with a good afternoon’s work.