When the FA WPL computer punched out this run of fixtures,
Lewes manager John Donoghue must have wondered who he’d upset. Three big home matches – Coventry United,
Portsmouth and Crystal Palace – that last season yielded a sum total of one
point for the Rookettes, followed by a visit to Chichester City.
Tonight Lewes sit second in the FA WPL South, having claimed
twelve points from those four matches and conceded only once.
City came up last season, a team built on unity, team spirit
and no shortage of skill. Play-maker and former Lewes dynamo Cherelle Khassal
and former Pompey couple Sadie (keeper) and Charley (striker) Wilson-Blakely led
the team on a romp to the title. All three have been instrumental in City’s
excellent start in this division, and all three played a part in today’s
Lewes arrived without the services of Sarah Kempson, injured
in the tough midweek win over Crystal Palace. Leah Samain, with three
back-to-back clean sheets to her name, retained the gloves, Vicky Carleton,
back from International duty with Northern Ireland, returning to midfield.
Avilla Bergin joined the prolific Rebecca Carter up front, with Amy Taylor on
It was the hosts who started well, tearing out of the blocks
and into their opponents with a vigour that might have displeased some
officials, Carleton fouled four times in the first fifteen minutes, the last of
those leaving her prone, off the pitch, in need of lengthy treatment.
Khassal tested Samain from range on nine minutes, her effort
landing on the roof of the Lewes goal. Bergin and Carter also took knocks as
Chichester asserted their physical presence, Kerrie Ryan in particular getting
in amongst the action. The home tactics worked and City started to dominate.
Khassal was brilliantly denied twice in short order by the superb Samain. First,
the City forward broke clear to get her fierce low shot away. Samain dived,
palmed the ball to her left. Khassal reacted first and despite Thompson’s close
attendance managed to set up Fowlie for a follow-up strike that Samain, barely
recovered, somehow managed to smother.
There was nothing she could do, however, about Chloe
Tucker’s superb free kick two minutes later. Charley Wilson-Blakely, on a
trade-mark burst through the centre, was blocked off. Tucker stepped up to fire
her free kick into the top corner. 1-0.
Chichester continued to press, Ingram heading well wide from
a corner before Tammy Waine picked up a nasty-looking injury in a fair but firm
challenge. The break in play gave the Lewes bench a chance to reorganise. In
truth, the rigours of the past week, tough encounters with Portsmouth and Palace,
seemed to have taken a toll on the Lewes players. They seemed off the pace and
unable to impose themselves, rattled by Chichester’s bold approach and unable
to find a response.
That changed as the half wore on. Led by Katie McIntyre and
Kelly Newton, the Lewes midfield started to get a grip on the game. First, they
contained City’s breaks. Then, like an arm-wrestler turning the tide, they
started to apply pressure. A series of McIntyre corners put the home side under
sustained pressure. Bergin, out on the left, cut inside, passed to Carter who,
back to goal, found McIntyre. Time stood still as the Lewes 4 picked her way
through the Chichester defence, rounded Wilson-Blakely and calmly side-footed
into an empty net. 1-1.
Leeta Rutherford won possession after the restart, picking
out Carlton who fired straight at Sadie Wilson Blakely. Chichester countered,
the excellent Lauren Cheshire finding Charley Wilson-Blakely who saw her header
rebound of the upright.
The game opened up. Avilla Bergin enjoyed a sweet one-two
with Lane. She raced in on goal, Sadie Wilson-Blakely colliding with her in
what looked like a foul challenge, only for the assistant’s flag to raise for
offside. Waine recovered from her injury in time to thwart Jenna Fowlie after a
terrific high take and turn.
Waine was beaten a minute later, though, and booked for
tugging back Wilson-Blakely. Lewes fans held their collective breath as Tucker
stepped up once more. Her aim was true but this time Samain was ready, tipping
the ball onto the cross bar. Ryan followed up to blast her shot high and wide.
Rachel Palmer replaced the injured Waine after the break, as
Dani Lane switched flanks to the right. A series of Lewes corners were well
defended by Chichester, but the home side were definitely finding life harder
since the break.
On 53 minutes Lewes took the lead, and it was a familiar
story for Lewes supporters. Dani lane, back on the left once more, tore past
two home defenders before cutting her cross back into the centre. Rebecca
Carter, anticipating the run, broke away from Cheshire to side-foot home from
six yards. 1-2.
From that point on Lewes controlled the game. Chichester sat
deeper as Lewes replaced Carleton with Claire Johnson and, later, Carter with
Amy Taylor. Chichester countered, bringing on Jade Widdows for Gemma Simmonds.
Newton anchored the away side, controlling midfield, breaking up play and
setting Bergin and Lane free, aided and abetted by Rutherford and the tireless
City did fashion chances.
Khassal tumbled in the area under a challenge from Darcey James, the
referee quick to admonish the forward and also her captain after apparent
dissent. Undeterred, Khassal fashioned another chanced when her break and cross
led to a booking for Newton as she caught her opponent late.
Tucker – who else? – ‘s free kick wasn’t as well struck as
the others, yet it almost brought her side level. The ball dipped early,
bouncing in front of Samain who parried. As the Chichester forwards closed in,
Samain, apparently unable to move, somehow managed to block the follow-up. FT
I spoke to the Lewes players, and the manager, after the
Lewes MvP Leah Samain, on that last save:
“She (the attacker) stood on my foot (after the initial
save) so I couldn’t move towards the ball. I just tried to get something one
it, luckily I made the block.”
Dani Lane, on yet another vital contribution:
“I enjoyed the game but I’d hoped to get forward a bit more.
I’ve struggled with a cold all weekend so I had to choose when to go. Luckily I
timed that one right and Chewy (Carter) read the run.”
Skipper Kelly Newton on the change after the break:
“I felt we took a grip of the game after half-time, we had a
lot more control in the second half. We’ve had a tough run of games so it’s
good to come through with 12 points out of 12”.
Manager John Donoghue:
“(Chichester) will have felt they could have scored more in
the first half. I thought we showed the effects of this week early on. Dani’s
quite effective now on the wings. It’s good to see that belief is there to get
On Tammy Waine’s injury; “Tammy’s gone down to get that checked out. I think
that’s also a consequence of playing three tough games in a week. We’ve had
four tough games against very good sides. It’s good come through that, and to
get some momentum going.”
Lewes host West Ham United LFC at the Dripping Pan next
Sunday, 1st October
Kick off 2pm