FAWNL Division One South East Sun 10 March The Nest
Norwich City

Injuries and illness left Worthing a bit short on numbers, with one or two players enjoying more minutes than originally planned. Competitive fixtures, or indeed fixtures of any kind, have also been hard to come by recently so, all in all, not ideal preparation for a four hour trip to Norfolk to face a team who haven’t lost a league game this season.

Typically though, Reds remained resolute as Captain and Vice Captain respectively Gemma Worsfold and Rachel Palmer were forced to miss out; Sophie Humphrey returning after missing the last three matches and Izzy Glass-Oliver was also recalled to the starting line-up. There was further positive news as well regarding Georgia Tibble, who was finally back to full fitness to take her spot amongst the substitutes, for her first appearance of the campaign.

Both sides, in fact, had suffered from a paucity of games in the last few weeks, so it might not have come as a surprise if one or two cobwebs needed to be dusted off to begin with. Hence we’d reached almost the midway point of the opening period before the first real sight of goal at all resulted in Lauren Dolbear parrying Megan Todd’s near post effort, at the expense of a corner, after Norwich’s leading scorer, Tash Snelling had become the provider.

Katie Knights fired over from the subsequent set-piece but the reigning City Player of the Month, Ellie Smith made no mistake when she showed admirable bravery to throw herself at Alice Parker’s right wing delivery, to open the scoring twenty-two minutes in.

Ten more later, Dolbear had to be alert to snuff out the danger presented by Skipper Anna Larkins’ cross off the left that saw Snelling sniffing around at the slightest hint of a second.

The frame of the goal then came to the host’s rescue, following good work by Becs Bell to procure a flag-kick which Dani Rowe sent in and defender Emma Blakely met with a powerful header that crashed back off the crossbar. Soon superseded via Sammy Quayle’s follow-up being cleared off the line.

Chances continued to be carved out by the visitors and Humphrey nearly profited from the next, when she drilled a self-created opportunity – neatly sidestepping goalscorer Smith – low towards the target, where home goalie Sarah Quantrill got safely behind it and held on to it at her front stick.

Quantrill then pulled off a fine save from Shannon Albuery, thanks to Chloe Winchester dispossessing Eloise Morran in midfield and spraying a pass out to the in-form forward. Only for the assistant referee’s raised flag to render it effectively irrelevant.

Stoppage time provided a couple more chinks of light that offered hope of Worthing going into the break level.

Bell picked up a loose ball, turned but shot over the top and Katie Young lofted in a high ball from deep on the left flank that Quantrill watched all the way before comfortably claiming.

Into the second-half and the “to me, to you” nature of the afternoon continued to be played out. Worthing enjoyed the lion’s share of possession while peppering the Norwich backline with a combination of slick passing and set-piece threats.

However, the Canaries always carried a threat of their own courtesy of numerous breakaways.

It was the home side that made the opening inroads after a fifteen minute interlude, thanks to Todd’s teasing delivery finding the head of Snelling but not quite at an ideal height for the striker to seriously test Dolbear.

That close call came just shy of the hour mark and, not far past it Dolbear passed her first real test of a tense battle to keep out Rachel Lawrence, once the number twenty-four had cut inside Glass-Oliver.

Play then switched to the other end, where it became Quantrill’s turn to deny Quayle in order to preserve her team’s increasingly narrow advantage.

Eventually, the pressure paid off for someone and that someone was Emily Linscer. A sustained spell of aerial bombardment duly received it’s reward, as Rowe’s corner caused problems with Linscer pouncing to blast high into the net; registering her maiden strike of the season in merely her fifth start.

Things nearly got better when the returning Tibble floated in a free-kick which Glass-Oliver and Blakely both challenged for, only for the ball to go frustratingly the wrong side of the back stick.

A second flickering flag rendered Albuery offside, after she’d been the recipient of a delightful backheel assist from Quayle.

Dolbear showed sharpness once more in cutting out a tight, angled attempt off the boot of sub Freya Symonds. Snelling’s presence ensured any (unlikely) slip would be punished.

Eleven additional minutes were ultimately tagged on at the end of the normal ninety, meaning both clubs still searched earnestly for a winner. Humphrey the Last of the Mohicans in that respect, lining up a long ranger which Quantrill caught and kept closely guarded.