After a bruising encounter with Arsenal in Sunday’s Continental Cup clash, John Donoghue’s players started this match out-of-sorts, finding themselves deservedly behind after 23 minutes. In contrast Palace, themselves having come through a tough test at home to Chelsea, clicked from the start, writes Ash Head.
Hope Nash and Chloe Burr caused disarray in a reshuffled Lewes back line with some sharp closing and even sharper tackles, referee Kirsty Dowle happy to let several robust challenges go in the early stages.
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The opening goal came from a high Palace press. An attempted headed pass back to Lewes ‘keeper Faye Baker dropped short, allowing Andrea Georgiou to steal in and square a pass to Ciara Watling who made no mistake from ten yards. 0-1.
The home side stirred, and whilst they rarely found their rhythm the contest became a good deal closer. Leeta Rutherford and Kate McIntyre imposed their physicality to break up play, allowed their side to limit the first half damage to a single goal.
In goal, Baker continued to show great awareness and calm. Her early save, with her feet, from a charging Chloe Burr, and a potentially goal-saving touch onto an audacious long-range strike stood out and kept her side in the match.
Lewes were forced to make a change at half time, centre back Rosie Paye making way for Sarah Kempson, McIntyre dropping into defence. Palace started the half looking to extend their lead and forced an early corner. Taken short, the ball was intercepted by Vicky Carleton who tore away upfield, hair flying as she passed several Palace players before she was tackled. The assistant gave a goal-kick but referee Dowle, who had chased Carleton all the way, overruled.
McIntyre delivered the corner to Moloney, alone on the edge of the box. The former Spurs player, making her full league debut for Lewes, arched back to head the ball over the crowded area. Megan Lynch pushed the ball onto her crossbar only to see Avilla Bergin pounce to force it home. 1-1.
Two minutes later Lewes had the lead, and the match by the scruff of the neck. Another McIntyre corner found the excellent Rutherford who knocked the ball down. Moloney stepped in and measured a pinpoint volley over Lynch into the top corner. 2-1.
Lewes pushed on as Palace wilted. Carleton and Moloney fizzed as Rutherford gave a masterclass in the midfield craft, breaking up play and launching attacks. Her nonchalant back-flick to release Bergin on the left will live long in the memory.
Kempson, relishing a return to grass after her exploits on the summer sands, showed some fine touches. A superb dummy preceded a majestic 40-yard pass to put Dani Lane in behind, Anneka Nuttall doing well to make a vital block. Rutherford had a chance to make it three but her attempt to clear a crowded six-yard box saw the ball fly high into the stands. FT 2-1.
MvP: Vicky Carleton. Her interception and superb, flying breakaway turned the match on its head. Special mentions for Shannon Moloney, Faye Baker and Leeta Rutherford who was immense throughout.
Manager John Donohue conceded his side were second-best before the break. “We lost Bex (Thompson-Agbro) to injury so had to restructure the back four. That said, we were second to the ball and Palace started well. They were physically strong, and you have to say deserved to be ahead. “
On the half-time change, he said: "“Rosie (Paye) was injured so I had to drop Macca (Kate McIntyre) into defence and bring Kempo (Sarah Kempson) into midfield. You have to say it worked for us."
On Shannon Moloney, starting her first game after a long time out injured: " “I’m pleased for Shannon. She’s worked incredibly hard to get fit and showed what she’s capable of today. She’ll be buzzing after that and may like to talk to you about it!”
Shannon Moloney was only too happy to convey her feelings. She said: "“It was amazing. First start for me in almost two years, a great shift from the girls and three points on the board for us. It was a bit of a shock for me to get the goal, even to set one up, but it’s not possible for me to do that without the girls creating the chances.
Palace are a good side, they’re strong, physical, but we came out second half and actually bossed it.”
Lewes are at home this Sunday when Leicester City are the visitors
Kick off at the Dripping Pan is 2pm
Faye Baker, Natasha Wells, Kate McIntyre (C), Amy Taylor, Shannon Moloney, Victoria Carleton, Leeta Rutherford, Avilla Bergin, Samantha Quayle, Rosie Paye, Daniele Lane
Subs: Nina Wilson, Rebecca Carter (83), Charlotte Owen, Charley Boswell (80) Sarah Kempson (46), Kellie Larkin