Lewes recovered to secure a point after Chichester took a
first half lead in this fiercely contested Sussex derby.
Two opportunist goals from ace Chichester striker Charley
Wilson-Blakely, the first very much against the run of play, seemed to have
given the visitors control. First, Lewes defenders stood like statues as
Cherelle Khassal’s dipping shot rebounded off Faye Baker’s crossbar.
Wilson-Blakely reacted, lining up the dropping ball perfectly to fire into the
bottom right-hand corner. 0-1
Charlotte Owen had chance to reply within a minute of the
restart. Dani Lane, well marshalled for much of the half by Keri Ryan and Tiff
Taylor, got away to send in a well-angled cross. Owen flung herself
full-length, connecting well but sending the ball wide of the target.
Minutes later, after a sustained spell of pressing from the
visitors, Chichester cut through again. This time it was Jess Lewry with the
initial strike, very well saved by Baker at full stretch. Once again
Wilson-Blakely was first to the loose ball, planting the ball into an empty
Earlier, Lewes had seemed in control. Darcey James, growing
in stature with each match, delighted fans by dancing out of defence with the
ball, swaying and swerving through a field of green and white before finding
Katie McIntyre who shot narrowly wide. Moments later Leeta Rutherford showed
her attacking intent, sending a clever lob over Sadie Wilson-Blakely. The crowd
held its breath as the ball looped goal-wards, only to bounce high and clip the
joint of post and crossbar. As the Lewes forwards waited to celebrate the goal,
Chichester’s defenders raced back to clear.
Rebecca Carter’s eyes lit up when Lane and McIntyre combined
to released her on the right. She rounded her marker, falling under a late
challenge as she fired, her shot rippling the side netting.
After that Wilson-Blakely double, Lewes stepped up a gear. Rutherford,
the recipient of some hefty early challenges, clearly relished the physical
battle. The Chichester bench, animated and extremely verbal, were asked to calm
down by Mr Walker. It was hard to see what their complaint was, given the
aggressive tackling and in-your-face pressing from their own players.
Avilla Bergin was booked for reacting to persistent niggling
from the combative Lauren Cheshire. The Chichester right back, excellent in the
reverse fixture, made it her mission to upset the Lewes winger. Bergin,
undaunted, simply upped her game, sending in some excellent crosses that caused
Chichester problems. ‘No corner!’ screamed Matt Wright as his defenders fought
to clear from Owen, Lane and Carter.
McIntyre picked out Lane, wide left, with a pinpoint pass.
The Lewes eleven cut inside before chipping over Wilson-Blakely, incredibly
saved once again by the frame of her goal. Lewes pressure was unrelenting, and
a minute later it paid off.
Rachel Palmer delivered a peach of a corner that swerved
away from the keeper. Leeta Rutherford pounced, smashing her header into the
back of the net. 1-2.
A goal back was the least Lewes deserved. Soon, they were
level. McIntyre’s corner from the left was half-cleared. Owen returned the
ball, McIntyre firing into the melee in the six-yard box. With the ball trapped
in a sea of frantic feet, up stepped Dani Lane to finish from close range. 2-2.
Lewes may not have wanted the half time whistle but
Chichester certainly needed it. They took the opportunity to replace struggling
skipper Emma Alexandre with Laura Ingram. Lewes continued where they left off,
Rutherford and McIntyre driving the attacks, Kelly Newton the perfect insurance
policy when moves broke down.
Wilson-Blakely continued to cause concern for the Lewes back
line, her direct runs and strong presence keeping Bex Thompson and Darcey James
occupied. The contest was halted, permanently for the Chichester striker, when
she went up to meet a high Chloe Tucker cross. Wilson-Blakely and Newton
arrived together, a fraction of a second before Baker.
As the resulting pile-up cleared it was Wilson-Blakely who
remained prone, eventually carried off on a stretcher with suspected ankle
ligament damage. Young striker Alex Collighan replaced her, and whilst both
sides continued to strive for supremacy, in all truth the injury took some of
the heat from the contest. FT 2-2.
MvP: Leeta Rutherford. Back to her best, covered every blade
and pulled her team back into the contest with a typically brave header. Bex
Thompson showed once again how good she can be, keeping someone of Cherelle
Khassal’s class quiet for the most part. Darcey James gave another in a series
of assured performances, and Kelly Newton, eyes shining after a contest that
could be labelled ‘right up my street’, displayed huge heart in the heat of
Special mention for Charley Wilson-Blakely, one of the best
strikers I’ve seen at this level. No-one who loves the game wants to see a
player hurt, though calls for a penalty at the time were egregious and most
likely born of the frustration losing such a gifted player can cause. Everyone
at Lewes wishes CWB a swift and full recovery.
Lewes manager John Donoghue was delighted with his side’s
response to going behind.
‘We let them in with two errors, but I was pleased with the
response. I thought we would go on to win the game, but the injury to Charley
(Wilson-Blakely) seemed to affect both teams. They probably deserved a draw
over the two games.
We remain unbeaten in 7 and now look ahead to back-to-back
games against Palace. These will be tough matches so we’ll need to recover quickly
and prepare well.’