A gallant second-half performance was not enough to see Lewes to victory on Saturday as visitors Sheffield United claimed all three points with two first-half goals at the Dripping Pan.
Lucy Ashworth-Clifford came closest for the Rooks to finding the net on a frustrating afternoon for Craig Gill’s side, with Freda Ayisi also twice going close after the break.
Goals from Ellie Wilson and Maddy Cusak arguably against the run of play were enough for the Blades, who pressed well in midfield and stifled Lewes’ attacking play down the flanks.
The 2-0 defeat leaves the Rooks eighth in the FA Women’s Championship with just three games of the season remaining. But with a stroke of early luck the result could have been a lot different.
Rooks denied early lead
Lewes interim boss Craig Gill explained in the week how he wanted the team to “exploit” weaknesses in the United set-up. And that almost came good as early as the 12th minute when Ashworth-Clifford exchanged passes with Georgia Timms to charge through on goal, only for her strike to be well saved by Fran Kitching.
Lewes’ midfielders were enjoying plenty of space, while Ellie Mason was the orchestrator of many moves down the left flank. Indeed, it was the combination of Timms and Ashworth-Clifford in front of the Blades bench that almost led to the opener.
Ellie Hack and Lucy Porter had previously seen chances fly wide of goal before Ashworth-Clifford’s opportunity, which meant Sheffield United’s opener on 20 minutes came somewhat out of the blue. Georgia Walters managed to keep the ball in play down the United right, and swung in a deep cross for Watson to meet it at the far post.
Lewes, playing in white shirts for the fixture, sought to hit back immediately but couldn’t get through a pressing United midfield. And the visitors made it two before the break when a lofted corner evaded everyone to fall to Cusak at the far post, who clipped the ball back across goal and over Tatiana Saunders into the net.
Gill rings the changes
Lewes responded in the second half with Ayisi and Paula Howells being brought onto the field. The hosts steadily built up attacks with Porter and Howells both going close, but couldn’t force a route through a resolute Blades defence.
Indeed, Ayisi twice managed to roll two defenders, create a yard of space for herself and fire at goal from the edge of the penalty area. But on both occasions her shots pulled wide of Kitching’s left-hand post.
And after substitute Nicola Cousins headed a free-kick over the crossbar with three minutes remaining, the chances dried up for Lewes as United saw out the match holding the ball up in the corner.
The defeat means Lewes now have just game remaining at the Dripping Pan – against Liverpool on 1 May – before the season is over. Amelia Hazard was also given her February Player of the Month award, while voting for March’s POTM now open for owners on the app.
1 – Tatiana Saunders
2 – Ellie Mason
18 – Rebecca McKenna
6 – Ellie Hack
20 – Sophie O’Rourke
4 – Amelia Hazard
23 – Izzy Dalton
11 – Heidi Logan
24 – Lucy Porter
7 – Lucy Ashworth-Clifford
9 – Georgia Timms
Subs: 14 Paula Howells, 10 Freda Ayisi, 5 Nicola Cousins, 27 Zoe Cross, 22 Josie Longhurst
Unused subs: Shanell Salgado, Laura Hartley, Lea Cordier,
20 – Fran Kitching
2 – Ellie Wilson
5 – Georgia Robert
6 – Kasia Lipka
7 – Courtney Sweetman-Kirk
8 – Maddy Cusak
9 – Lucy Watson
10 – Althea Paul
12 – Rhema Lord-Mears
26 – Georgia Walters
27 – Lara Miller (ex-Lewes)
Subs: 18 Sophie Walton, 17 Matilda Taylor, 14 Mia Enderby
Unused subs: Nina Wilson, Jess Clarke, Tamara Wilcock, Sam Sharrocks