Rookettes notch first league win despite high winds and strange decisions
Lewes FC Women took the points and Leah Samain and Rebecca Carter the plaudits after a stormy Sunday afternoon at the Dripping Pan. The start, sportingly delayed by Lewes after Coventry’s coach hit heavy traffic, was electric. ‘Chewy’ Carter gave the home side the lead in just the second minute, linking up with Amy Taylor before racing away to slide a cool finish under United skipper Sue Wood. 1-0.
Taylor herself nearly doubled the lead moments later, denied brilliantly by Wood when one-on-one. Both sides pressed high and hard, Rutherford and Newton meeting their midfield opponents with power and aggression. 12 minutes in Gauntlett had the ball in the net for the visitors only to see her effort ruled out for handball, a decision that many in the ground thought harsh.
On 20 minutes Coventry were themselves denied a claim for handball in the Lewes area, the referee waving away howled appeals from his vantage in the centre circle, a moment that may or may not have had a bearing on a key decision later in the game.
With no quarter asked or given, the two sides battled hard in midfield. What few clear chances came were met with resolute defence and skilled ‘keeping at either end. Samain did well to cover a sharp effort from Gauntlett, then two minutes from the break Wood made a stunning save to deflect Carter’s header onto her own crossbar. HT 1-0.
United brought Hall and Davies on for Cooper and Sievwright for the restart. Lewes countered soon after, bringing Avilla Bergin on for her home debut in place of Dani Lane. The teams traded half-chances as an increasingly strong wind and as number of niggly challenges disrupted the flow.
On the hour Carter, a real menace to the United back line all afternoon, cut loose once more, Wood showing her class to save when a goal seemed likely. Not to be out-done, Samain then made a stunning double save at the other end to keep the home side ahead, saving with her feet then recovering quickly to launch herself across goal as the return shot curled towards the top corner. Coventry forced a series of corners as they pressed hard for an equaliser.
Lewes replaced the hard-working Rutherford, after she’d taken a significant blow to the back, with debutant Sarah Kempson, who wasted no time in testing Wood from range. Katie McIntyre then orchestrated her side’s best move of the game, a fluid, passing move that ended with Wood bravely taking a high cross under pressure.
Only the referee knows what he saw in the 75th minute that caused him to award the visitors a spot kick. The Lewes players looked on, shell-shocked, as Dermody crashed her spot kick against Samain’s right-hand post, the Coventry striker unable to control the rebound as Lewes cleared. Asked after the match, the official remarked that he ‘had seen a tug’ in the area.
Lewes brought on Claire Johnson for the excellent Carter on 79 minutes as the home side looked to close down the game and secure the points. Samain, who had guessed the right way for the penalty, made yet another superb save from a dangerous free kick, Dermody and Alison Hall combining to test her agility.
Lewes manager John Donoghue was delighted to get the win in what he conceded was a challenging contest.
“It was difficult for both sides to get any rhythm going. The wind swirled, increasing in intensity as the game went on. Both teams were physically strong and pressed each other well. The chances that were created came from good passages of play. We were able to use the pace of our strikers behind their back four. I thought both goalkeepers made important saves throughout.
If all chances had been scored I suppose we might have won 4-3 but I’m really pleased with the clean sheet and the focus shown by the squad in tough conditions.”
Asked if we might see any further additions to that squad, JD said
“We are still looking at cover in one or two areas, to add players that will strengthen and give us more options.”
On the visit of Portsmouth, after they had conceded a heart-breaking 93rd minute winner at home to Charlton: “It looks like Pompey are back on it this year. They have a good mix of youth and experience, they’ve taken some good scalps already (they beat Coventry 2-1 away) so I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to Sunday. I believe we can match the best teams this season. We have the steel needed to meet the challenge and the attacking flare is starting to come. I hope to see more of that as the season progresses.”
Lewes host Portsmouth at the Dripping Pan on Sunday 17th September, 2pm kick off.