Saltdean United Ladies 1-2 Newhaven Ladies (HT 0-0)
NEWHAVEN ARE CHAMPIONS!
Newhaven Ladies were crowned League Champions on Sunday after defeating nearest rivals Saltdean in an enthralling encounter at Hill Park.
With the Dockers just needing a draw to secure the title they went better than that and rallied to their 17th consecutive league win and maintained their 100% winning record in all competitions which totals a very impressive 23 wins.
Two goals in the second half from top scorer Chloe Winchester and chief provider Lauren Smith were enough to get Newhaven their win over a very good Saltdean side.
The first half was a fairly even affair with half chances at both ends including Saltdean hitting the bar from what looked like a handball in the lead up.
Paige Ripley had the first chance when she was played in by Ellie Coade but her shot was just too high and this was followed by a chance which was worked from Winchester to Smith who crossed for Lucy Collinson whose shot was well saved by Katie Burr in the Saltdean goal.
Saltdean then began to impose themselves on the game and had their best spell when they pushed Newhaven back and this is when they created the chances including the shot which hit the underside of the crossbar. However, during this spell the Newhaven defence stood strong and were outstanding.
Both full backs, Chelsea Cook and Paige Bashford-Robertson, made timely interceptions and released Smith and Ungoed out wide at every opportunity. And the centre backs of Jas Godden and Natalie Ring were letting nothing get through and strong in the air and in the tackle.
Where the Dockers were most impressive though was in their pressing of the Saltdean midfield and back four. Smith and Ungoed harassed the full backs into many mistakes and the midfield three of Coade, Collinson and Ripley were sharp closing down and excellent in possession.
The last meaningful chance of the first half was from a deep free kick from Smith which went over the bar (0-0 HT).
The second half saw Newhaven take control early and a Smith cross just evaded everyone and then from the right side Ungoed carried the ball into the box but shot at the keeper.
The deadlock was then broken when Collinson played the ball over the top and as Winchester chased Charlotte Young to the ball there was hesitation between Burr in goal and Young and Winchester managed to get a toe to the ball first and poke the ball past the keeper and over the line (0-1).
However, Saltdean bounced straight back within minutes when an innocuous cross from Danielle Perrin on the right was misjudged by Hannah Paul and the ball slipped through her legs and over the line for the equaliser with just under 20 minutes to play.
The Dockers found another gear though and Paige Fowler came on for the injured Collinson and was immediately into the action playing a great ball over the top which Winchester raced onto and as the keeper came out Winchester just lobbed the ball too high and it went agonisingly over the bar.
However, the lead was regained soon after when good work out on the right from Ungoed found Winchester who worked some space and crossed to the far post where Smith arrived late and steered the ball into the back of the net to give the Dockers the lead again (1-2).
The Dockers brought on fresh legs for the closing ten minutes with Tawny Barden and Summer Small replacing Smith and Ungoed and with Ellie Coade and the defence standing strong and clearing any late danger Newhaven and their fans greeted the final whistle with delight and celebration at securing the league title in their first season.
The ladies were given a guard of honour by Saltdean which was a fitting finish to a brilliant match.
Alex Ladd (joint manager) was over the moon after the game. “What an unbelievable performance by the players today, we are running out of words to describe their qualities,” said Ladd.
“The desire shown to win the ball high up the pitch and put pressure on the Saltdean defence was simply superb. We used the ball well once we turned it over and thoroughly deserved to win the game and ultimately the title that everyone in squad has worked so hard to achieve.
“Defensively we were brilliant today. Nat and Jas were very solid and kept the Saltdean strikers very quiet. Chelsea and Paige Bash were outstanding. Ellie Coade in her defensive midfield role led the team with a performance that sums up her season, commanding and strong, running the game. Hannah made some wonderful saves particularly in the first half and her distribution was very good.
“Going forward Lucy and Paige Ripley worked tirelessly and showed their qualities, impressing today by their desire to break up play and get us moving forward. Lauren and Georgia on the wings ran their socks off and ultimately combined for the winning goal. All four of them were fantastic.
“Chloe, as ever, defended from the front and made Saltdean pay for any errors. Her commitment to hassle and win back the ball was excellent. This was highlighted by the first goal, seemingly a simple defensive situation turned on its head by sheer desire to get the ball. Absolute class.
“Really happy to see Paige F and Tawny make impressive impacts on the game. It’s not easy to come on in such an intense game and hit the ground running. Both did so and their fresh legs and energy made a big difference.
“Well done everyone, league champions in our first season, won every game we have played! Simply amazing. They are all outstanding players.”
Fellow Joint Manager Andy Cook was equally ecstatic. “This was an incredible game from two exceptional teams with brilliant players going toe to toe,” said Cook. “As a spectacle for the fans it must have been excellent to watch, however, from a manager’s point of view it was edge of the seat stuff.
“We knew what we had to do today, however, we were up against a very very good team and we were missing players which I have to admit I was worried about. However, the ladies did us proud and raised their game to a whole new level.
“We were brilliant from the first minute to the last and have been all season. It’s been quite an incredible season and to be crowned champions and win all 17 league games so far with one to play is unbelievable. The group of players just keep going and going.
“The football was very good at times on a difficult surface but what was most impressive is the way we defended and then pressed the ball at the right times. Saltdean tried to play out as much as possible but we just got there every time and stopped them doing it.
“And at the back we gave them very little, the back four were outstanding. In midfield I thought Captain Coade was her usual brilliant self and when you have the work rate of Lucy Collinson and the skill of Paige Ripley to compliment Ellie it creates a perfect combination.
“Then with the pace and energy the front three of Lauren, Georgia and Chloe give us you know they are always going to create chances. A special word for Hannah in goal too, although she let that howler in. She could have quite easily crumbled but she didn’t and she came stronger for the last twenty minutes and that was really pleasing.
“As I said afterwards, though, this was won by the whole squad over the season not just the 11 starters today. We had two subs who didn’t get on and many players missing today who either were injured or didn’t make the squad but they have all contributed to this brilliant season and that is not forgotten.
“Also a big thanks to Jeff Fowler, Sarah-Jane Smith and Andy Piper on the sideline who have helped us get to where we are this season. That’s two trophies in the bag now and we go for the treble on Friday night in the league cup final! Well done ladies.”
Newhaven: Hannah Paul, Chelsea Cook, Paige Bashford-Robertson, Ellie Coade (c), Jas Godden, Natalie Ring, Georgia Ungoed (Tawny Barden), Lucy Collinson (Paige Fowler), Chloe Winchester, Paige Ripley, Lauren Smith (Summer Small). Unused subs: Steph Harrison, Ellie O’Brien.