SECWFL Chairman’s Cup
Lewes FC Women Foundation Squad 3
Oakwood Ladies FC 1
Young Rooks Fly High To Lift Chairman’s Cup
Manager Kelly Newton praised ‘the whole’ squad’ after watching her young team overcome a powerful Oakwood side on a hot afternoon at Maidstone’s Gallagher Stadium.
Fans from both sides cheered their team from the main stand shade as goals from Maya Beesley, Nicole Baitup & Emily Chevassut saw the young Rooks complete a record haul of silverware for the club’s youth teams this season. Last week the Lewes FC Under 18’s Boys completed a League and Cup double when they overcame South Park by the same scoreline.
Newton faced a number of challenges on Sunday, not least the question of who to play in goal. To lose one goalkeeper before a cup final can be considered unfortunate; to have two on crutches for one of your biggest games of the season, downright unlucky. Enter Lewes club legend Charlotte Bennett, no stranger to the heat of battle but as a former striker finding herself rapidly adjusting to life in the gloves.
A minute’s applause in memory of much-missed Kent goalkeeper Jordan Dawes was beautifully observed before kick-off. From the start of the match both sides struggled to get to grips in the rising heat. Ten minutes in, Lewes started to get the ball down and play and so began a period of dominance that threatened to end the contest in the first forty-five.
Nicole Baitup ran the midfield with great support from Maya Beesley and Emily Salusbury. It was Oakwood that fashioned the first real chance of the game, Chloe Higham, effective on the counter, drawing a foul. Bennett did well to read the free kick.
Twenty minutes in, Lewes broke through. Salusbury and Baitup combined, the latter’s pass across the area spinning off a defender to fall into Beesley’s path. Kirkham raced off her line but the Lewes strike simply took a touch and buried the ball high into the Oakwood net. 1-0.
After a drinks break Newton replaced Salusbury with Jaime Quinn, Quinn showing some good close control as she looked to unlock a well-marshalled opposition defence. Lewes controlled the half yet without adding to their lead, something they could have come to regret given the start to the second half. They were almost pegged back before the break, a long-range shot clipping a defender to swerve horribly, Bennett adjusting well to make the save. HT 1-0.
Oakwood raced out of the blocks from the restart, forcing an equaliser within two minutes. A defensive mix-up saw the alert Higham steal in to poke the ball past a stranded Bennett. 1-1.
The goal lifted Oakwood as Lewes struggled to find their rhythm. Faye Hannaford and Christine Malek showed good composure at the back. Gradually Quinn’s jinking runs and Baitup’s movement forced Oakwood to retreat and Lewes regained control.
Elizabeth Ferguson fell badly under a challenge in the Lewes area. Emily Chevassunt entered the fray and this change, coupled with Yasmin Church pushing up to link with Baitup and latterly the return of Beesley after a break saw the tide turn decisively for the Rooks.
Church took a short pass from Baitup, cut inside and looked to curl a left-foot shot around Kirkham, the effort drifting wide. Beesley came on for Issi Bloomfield and almost scored with her first touch. Baitup took the ball on the run down the right, beat her full-back and pulled back a sublime pass for the onrushing striker. Beesley didn’t slow, crashing her shot first-time high into the stands from 8 yards.
Undaunted, and with Oakwood looking to counter, Lewes pressed on. Quinn went on a fine run, beating three opponents before losing possession. Church collected the loose ball and slipped an inch-perfect pass in between the full-backs. Baitup raced around them and into the D. Kirkham came off her line but Baitup took the low road, sliding her finish into the empty net. 2-1.
With Quinn feeling the heat Newton switched her out for Salusbury. Emily Chevassut, an increasing influence on the Lewes left, chased down a clever pass from Baitup. She cut inside, dragged the ball back away from the scrambling Kirkham before slotting home from the angle to finish the contest. 3-1.
After the match veteran Char Bennett gave me her reaction.
“I’m really pleased for the girls, and for Kelly (Newton) in her first season in charge. They truly deserve it. We knew we had a good squad, we prepared for this and told them to make the most of their minutes out there.”
She was full of praise for the opponents too.
“They made it really hard for us. Conditions for both teams were tricky with the heat. Absolute credit to them. It’s unfortunate, there has to be a winner but you definitely feel for them.”
MvP: Nicole Baitup was my player of the match. A well-taken goal and two assists capped a find display of aggressive, attacking football.
Bennett, Hannaford, A. Critchfield, Ferguson, Collier, Mouan, Baitup, M. Critchfield, Salisbury, Church, Beesley. Bench: Quinn, Bloomfield, Malik, McCauley, Chevassut