Lewes suffered a first defeat in four games on Sunday as Polly Doran’s goal earned Crystal Palace a 1-0 win at the Dripping Pan, despite a flurry of chances for the Rooks.
Scott Booth’s side had the ball in the back of the net but the offside flag denied Emma Thompson a leveller in front of more than 600 fans at the Dripping Pan.
Palace sustained a barrage of attacked from the Rooks in the second half but an equaliser just wasn’t forthcoming.
And the result was a first home defeat of the season for Lewes, with focus now turning to next week’s Women’s FA Cup third-round contest with London Bees at the Pan.
Early chances spurned
Lewes headed into the encounter “right up for it”, according to boss Booth, following the previous weekend’s 4-1 win over Palace in the Conti Cup.
And indeed it appeared as though the Rooks would continue where they left off on Sunday. Paula Howells had already had an early shot saved when Palace keeper denied Emily Kraft one-on-one after the striker was put through following a slick move down the right.
Moments later and Ellie Mason’s low drive from a corner almost fell to Kraft at the far post as Lewes sought to break the deadlock early.
Meanwhile, at the other end Sophie Whitehouse was on hand to push wide a deflected Paige Bailey-Gayle effort – a rare chance for the visitors in the opening throes.
Indeed, much of the half was going Lewes’ way but a goal just wasn’t forthcoming. Howells, Nat Johnson and Kraft were all denied by keeper Fran Kitching, before Palace took the lead on 39 minutes. It was something of an odd goal, a cross from the right palmed clear by Whitehouse into the path of Doran, who scrambled home despite it appearing as though the keeper was impeded. Lewes’ protests were waived away.
Into the second half and the pattern of the game remained roughly the same – namely, Lewes coming forward seeking to breach the Palace goal. Howells saw a shot deflected wide after Rebecca McKenna had forced keeper Kitching into a scrambling parry, while Whitehouse was on hand to deny Kirsten Reilly’s header at the other end.
Flag denies Thompson
The Lewes players thought they’d earned their deserved equaliser on 55 minutes when Thompson forced over a rebound that had come off the crossbar. But the offside flag denied the youngster another goal for the club.
Cue a fresh barrage of Rooks attacks. First Howells had a low drive saved, before Amber-Keegan Stobbs fired one wide. Moments later and an almighty scramble in the Palace penalty area looked destined to finish with a goal, but somehow the Eagles kept the Rooks out.
Amelia Hazard – the metronome for Lewes all afternoon – then saw two chances go begging. That was the cue for Booth to bring on Charlyann Pizzarello and Libby Copus-Brown, and the hosts went forward once again. Mason – who spent more of the afternoon in the opposition half than her own – was next to fire wide following great work from Hazard to centre the ball from the right.
Five minutes of stoppage time and Palace were defending deep. So much so that another goal-mouth scramble was inevitable. This time the ball finally came loose to Howells but Kitching got down to her low show to deny the Rooks once more.
And that would prove the last opportunity for Lewes to get something from a chilly afternoon in East Sussex. A hard-fought, often free-flowing performance sadly yielded nothing in terms of league position, but Booth’s side can take heart from the positives heading into next weekend’s FA Cup tie.
Sophie Whitehouse; Ellie Mason, Rhian Cleverly, Nat Johnson, Rebecca McKenna; Paula Howells, Grace Palmer, Amber-Keegan Stobbs, Amelia Hazard; Emma Thompson, Emily Kraft
Charlyann Pizzarello, Libby Copus-Brown
Emily Moore, Frankie Angel, Lauren Heria, Josie Longhurst