Georgia Bridges struck a stunning winner to take all three points from this action-packed FA WPL match. Lewes had drawn level through a close-range Kirsty Barton strike ten minutes from time, having fallen behind earlier in the half to a superb free kick from Swindon skipper Michelle Rich.
Just as they had against Portsmouth, Lewes dominated the first 45 minutes. That they failed to find the net wasn’t for lack of effort. Rebecca Carter fashioned three good chances, the last thwarted only by a brave stop from Swindon’s player of the match, goal-keeper Robyn Levett.
Rachel Palmer, operating in an attacking wide role, almost opened the scoring when she beat Levett from 20 yards, only to see her curled effort hit the cross-bar. By contrast, Swindon’s players were fully occupied in defence, Chenise Austin the pick of the home outfield players.
The match restarted in similar fashion, Kirsty Barton supporting Carter, Sian Heather and Kim Stenning. Barton looked in mean mood, seeing a shot cleared off the line and her follow-up to a superb Katie McIntyre run and shot drift wide. Rutherford came close, connecting well with a McIntyre corner to volley just over.
Swindon brought Chyna Collings on for Samantha Hallsworth. Just inside the hour Charlotte Young fouled Collings 25 yards out. Rich stepped up to strike a superb free kick that saw Dolbear get a touch on the ball as it flew into the net. 1-0 (58).
Lewes continued to press, the excellent Tammy Waine starting attacks from the back. Lewes brought Dani Lane on for Heather, Swindon Picton for Wathan. Lane added drive and penetration to the Lewes right, creating chances for Carter and the tireless Barton, who induced a superb, full-stretch save from Levett.
Steve Robertson made his final change on 75 minutes, bringing Sandy Abi-Elias on for the tiring Ellie Maynard. Two minutes later Lewes manager Donoghue made a double change that turned the game on its head. Paige Walder and Georgia Bridges replaced Young and Stenning. Within a minute, Lewes were level. Levett somehow clawed the ball off the line. McIntyre delivered from the left, Walder rose high to flick on as Barton raced into the box to smash home. 1-1 (81).
Swindon responded, forcing a corner of their own, but it was a rare visit to the Lewes half. On 89 minutes Walder rose highest again, her header well directed, yet again Levett was there to make the save. Moments later the assistant called referee Alan Baldwin across to speak to Steve Robertson. There followed a baffling exchange, which ended with Mr Baldwin asking Mr Robertson to leave the dugout. Robertson did so, but not far enough. It took several minutes before Mr Baldwin was satisfied. The game restarted, now well into added time.
Lewes pressed, Swindon resisted, until, in the 98th minute, Bridges took possession 18 yards out. She saw Levett advancing and calmly lifted the ball over the keeper into the top left corner to win the match, sending the Lewes bench spilling from the dugout and the away fans delirious. FT 1-2
There’s little doubt that the pantomime with the Swindon manager unsettled his team. They defended bravely, virtually non-stop since taking the lead, and deserved a point. The break in play disrupted the home side and gave Lewes the chance to regroup. There’s no denying the quality of the winning strike, however, and Lewes won’t complain as they return from Wiltshire three much-needed points.
Swindon: Robyn Levett, Alice Smith, Samantha Hallsworth, Chenise Austin, Sam Quinn, Alison Witts, Michelle Rich (c), Guard, Amy Wathan, Georgia Walters, Ellie Maynard
Subs: Chyna Collings, Sandy Abi-Elias, Steph Houston, Abby Picton, Sylvannah Winstone
Lewes: Lauren Dolbear, Hayley West, Tammy Waine, Katie McIntyre (c), Leeta Rutherford, Kirsty Barton, Sian Heather, Charlotte Young, Rebecca Carter, Rachel Palmer, Kim Stenning
Subs: Dani Lane, Paige Walder, Georgia Bridge, Kelly Newton
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