Lewes suffered defeat to Southampton on the opening day of the Barclays Women’s Championship despite an early Goal of the Season contender from Hollie Olding. Reports Joe Short.
The Rooks, playing in front of a record crowd for an opening day of the season, went ahead through Olding’s incredible long-range strike 21 minutes into the clash.
But Saints reversed the tie with goals from Katie Wilkinson and Sophia Pharoah in the first half, before Ella Morris and Molly Pike put the game beyond the Rooks after the break.
Maria Farrugia had a flurry of chances stopped by Southampton goalkeeper Kayla Rendell, while Anna Grey had an early shot deflected wide.
Fresh from the men’s 2-2 draw with Hornchurch on Saturday, the Dripping Pan was back open to welcome a bumper crowd. A record 908 fans came through the gates to set a record for the women’s first team on the opening day of a season.
And the fans were in for a busy afternoon, which began when Farrugia came within inches of singing the net with a deflected shot that looped wide. Minutes later and she was there again, providing a threat on the left, but her effort from the angle hit the side netting.
Lewes’ early pressure eventually told when they took the lead through Olding. The 24-year-old earned the ball back on the left flank and cut inside before thundering a shot over Rendell and into the top corner from a full 30 yards.
Sadly, the celebrations from the onlooking supporters wouldn’t last as three minutes later Wilkinson took advantage of a defensive mix-up within the Rooks ranks to level.
Lewes could have led again on 34 minutes had Olding got a better connection to a low drive after coming from deep to connect with a loose ball on the edge of the area, and seconds later Southampton were down at the other end celebrating their second – Pharoah on hand to scramble home.
Farrugia goes close
The goal didn’t deter the Rooks and before the break Farrugia saw two chances saved – the later a great block by Rendell from close range.
Lewes came out for the second half seeking to level things up but fell 3-1 down on 50 minutes when Morris converted a low cross from the left. In response, Farrugia had another effort deflected wide, and had a golden opportunity blocked at close range after quick build-up from Rhian Cleverly and Sarah Brasero-Carriera down the right.
Boss Scott Booth made three changes on the hour mark, bringing on Ellie Hack, Grace Palmer and Kate Oakley in search of a goal. But three minutes later Southampton opened the home defence with a flowing move down the left, which Pike eventually turned in.
Shauna Vassell and Reanna Blades entered the action with 18 minutes remaining, while a great double save from Sophie Whitehouse prevented the visitors adding to their lead. And, in a passage of play that summed up the afternoon at the Dripping Pan, Blades saw a stoppage-time shot blocked in the area before Oakley’s subsequent back heel fortuitously found Rendell moments before the whistle blew.
Next up for Lewes is a trip to Durham on Sunday 3 September for a 12 noon kickoff.
Lewes: Whitehouse, Riglar, Cleverly (c), Hazard, Garrad, Hamilton, Pursey, Farrugia, Grey, Olding, Brasero-Carriera.
Subs: Hack, Palmer, Oakley (’60), Vassell, Blades (’72).