Lewes were beaten 3-1 by Crystal Palace after a disappointing second half allowed the South Londoners to turn the game on its head.
The Rooks came out strong in the first half with a controlled and dominant display. A combination of Lewes quality on and off the ball led to a number of golden chances but just one goal, scored by Amelia Hazard.
Interim manager Craig Gill felt his side deserved more from the opening 45.
“It was an excellent first-half performance if I’m honest, we were on the front foot, we were aggressive in our pressing, created lots of opportunities in the final third of the pitch, created good goalscoring opportunities,” said Gill. “It could have realistically, and quite rightly, been 4-0 at half-time.”
Lewes had multiple efforts on goal with ambitious efforts from Paula Howells and Lucy Ashworth-Clifford early on.
The Rooks then put together a string of brilliant goalscoring opportunities all landing at the feet of eventual goal scorer Hazard. The first of these chances saw Hazard set through one-on-one after some one-touch football between Izzy Dalton and Howells. Hazard then tested the ‘keeper once more after single-handedly winning the ball from the Palace defenders.
At the third attempt, in the 29th minute, Hazard finally found the net with a low effort, driven under Emily Orman between the sticks.
Gill says he was all praise for the team’s performance at the break, and wanted them to maintain that level into the second half.
“We went 1-0 up before half time from a goal by Amelia, which was well taken and well crafted. And then we said at half-time more of the same. Keep doing what you’re doing, keep playing with quality possession, keep finding the spare player,” said Gill.
Unfortunately for Lewes the second half followed a very different story. The hosts changed their system and brought on Bianca Baptiste who helped sway the tide their way.
In the 60th minute Baptiste got on the end of a cross to poke home past Tatiana Saunders. With their momentum growing, Palace found the net again 10 minutes later, Baptiste turning provider by setting up Siobhan Wilson.
“Palace changed their shape, went into a 4-3-3 and brought an extra winger on,” Gill noted. “But we’ve played against 4-3-3 before and I know the players are more than comfortable at doing that, but I just feel that we weren’t able to recapture the quality that we showed in the first half – and probably the energy as well.”
An eventful stoppage time saw Lewes keeper Tatiana Saunders see red after an incident a Palace striker. Shanell Salgado came on to face the penalty but couldn’t stop Coral Haines from slotting it home for 3-1.
Goalscorer Hazard reflected on the Lewes performance, saying: “We started the game really well, creating many chances that we should’ve taken and were on the front foot. They came out strong the second half and we didn’t react in the same intensity as the first half. Next week we will replicate that first half for the whole 90 mins and take our chances.”
Report: Sam Simons
Photo: James Boyes (Flickr)