Worthing Ladies 2-2 Newhaven Ladies (HT 1-2)
Match report by “SentHerForward.wordpress.com”
Having been the first team ever to beat Newhaven earlier this season, classy Worthing rubbed salt into their wounds by twice coming from behind to hold them to a first ever draw in an entertaining game at Woodside Road that had a bit of everything.
Worthing goalkeeping coach Jordan Core had to step in after a communications mix-up meant there was no referee, and he did an admirable job, even though he was at the centre of two moments of controversy, awarding the home side a questionable penalty – which they missed – and refusing Newhaven a late one, which would have sealed that revenge victory they were looking for.
In-between, there were some magnificent goals, another one disallowed, an excellent save, and the bar was struck three times – including once by each team either side of the rejected penalty appeal in a frenetic final three minutes.
The match kicked off 25 minutes late after it emerged scheduled referee Michelle Watkins had informed both teams and the South East Counties League of her unavailability – but neither club had received the e-mail.
Core stepped in, with both managements’ agreement, and the match went ahead.
Both teams won early corners, but it was Newhaven, promoted from the Sussex County League in their first season with a 100% record, who took the lead in the ninth minute, Chloe Winchester scoring her 14th goal of the season with a shot on the turn after Worthing’s defence failed to clear.
Despite the setback, the hosts continued to take the game to Newhaven, building purposefully from the back, and in striker Millie Colbran and winger Sophie Humphrey, enjoying the luxury of two players with the ability to hold on to the ball and play in others.
Yet Newhaven were a big threat on the counter-attack, largely through the pace of Winchester and left-winger Lauren Smith.
But Worthing were building up a head of steam, and they were unlucky not to draw level in the 15th minute when Humphrey struck a superb volley beyond goalkeeper Angharad Hills, but was ruled offside.
Three minutes later it was the crossbar that denied the home team. Ashleigh Kirby, who, alongside Hannah Hewlett, was becoming increasingly influential in midfield, hit a measured
shot from 25 yards that again beat Hills but struck the bar and bounced away off the goalkeeper’s head.
Hills denied Hewlett on 21 minutes, pushing the ball into the path of Tilly Gray, but she shot wide from six yards.
As if to underline the threat at the other end, Newhaven went close to doubling their lead just before the half-hour when the persistent Smith managed to shrug off Solene Declas and sent over a superb cross into the path of the in-rushing Winchester, who headed just wide.
But a few minutes later the scores were level, courtesy of a magnificent goal by Kirby.
Humphrey held the ball up brilliantly by the right-hand corner flag before finding Kirby, in acres of space, some 30 yards from goal. The midfielder, who had gone so close 14 minutes earlier, this time judged her shot to perfection to earn Worthing a deserved equaliser.
The hosts continued to play some superb football, but Newhaven’s defence was strong and Smith and Winchester were terrific outlets, and it was they who regained the lead just before half-time – and it was that left-wing magician, Smith, who created the damage.
She sent over a marvellous cross from the left touchline and Maddie Cannon barely had to move to nod into an open goal from six yards.
It was hard on Worthing, who had deserved at least parity from an enterprising first half, but it did not take them long to set up an opportunity to draw level again.
With 53 minutes gone, debutant Eloise Williams went down under a challenge and the stand-in referee pointed straight to the spot. It seemed a little harsh, but there was little dissent from the Newhaven players, who appeared to be allowing Core some latitude for his willingness to officiate.
Williams took the penalty herself but blasted it well over the bar.
Almost immediately, Newhaven had the chance to extend their lead after another superb Smith cross, but Winchester’s first touch let her down.
The game was open, with plenty of enterprise from both sides, but the almost non-stop pressing from Smith, Winchester and Paige Ripley was proving a real problem for Worthing’s otherwise assured defence.
On 64 minutes, it almost produced a goal when goalkeeper Elinor Adie’s rushed clearance, under pressure from Ripley, was picked up by Lucy Collinson, who shot just wide.
But it was all square again in the 75th minute, courtesy of another wonder goal. Humphrey, who had had such a fine game, raced beyond two static defenders to chase a superb long through-ball from Kirby and struck a first-time volley beyond Hills to make it 2-2.
Either side could have won the game, and Newhaven had their goalkeeper to thank for the fact that it wasn’t the hosts.
With six minutes left, Colbran took advantage of defensive hesitancy as players appealed in vain for offside and struck a fierce shot, which Hills somehow pushed round the post from point-blank range.
Smith then hit the bar for Newhaven with a mishit cross and then they were denied a penalty when the ball struck a Worthing arm.
It looked as though the visitors might pay a heavy price for the decision when Ripley lobbed the ‘keeper but saw the ball bounce off the woodwork for the third time in a game that was full of drama from before kick-off until the 91st minute.
Worthing manager Karl Davy was understandably proud of his side’s excellent performance.
He told Sent Her Forward: “I thought the first half was quite equal, but in the second we went out all guns blazing, and it almost paid off.”
Davy felt his players eased off towards the end, allowing Newhaven back into the game, but he acknowledged the team had given everything.
“Both teams played out wide, which straightaway stretches the game, which made it tiring for everyone. But I think that’s where the space opened up for both teams. And both our goals were absolute worldies.”
Davy paid tribute to the impact of his coaches, including Crawley Wasps defender Darcey James, who he said had helped the defence, as Worthing retained their mid-table position, a point behind their opponents.
He said: “It’s all falling into place nicely, slowly but surely.”
Newhaven’s managerial duo Alex Ladd and Andy Cook also had plenty to be happy about after their young side, formed in the summer of 2017, experienced their first ever draw in their 36th competitive match.
Cook said: “We probably did just enough to win the game. It was quite close [in the] second half, but I thought we had a really strong penalty shout in the last five minutes.
“Then we rode our luck with the one that hit the crossbar, but then we hit the crossbar, as well. It was a fairly even game. I think where we could have won it was in the first 20 minutes, when we had three very good chances and we only scored one of them.
“But against a good team, we’ll take a draw. We’re happy with that.”
Ladd said the managers were pleased with the side’s progress in a higher division after their sensational championship-winning campaign in the Sussex league last year.
“It’s a clear step up from last season. It’s noticeable in fitness – the players we’re playing against are a lot quicker, a lot fitter. The quality is obviously better. But I think we’ve earned the right to be here. We’re playing against good teams [and] we’re playing good football against good teams.”
Man in the middle
It was a challenging day for Worthing goalkeeping coach Jordan Core, who, despite no previous refereeing experience, volunteered to take the whistle when Michelle Watkins confirmed she would not be there.
Newhaven felt aggrieved about the two penalty decisions – particularly the one that wasn’t given. But I’ve seen plenty of qualified officials come to similar decisions in comparable circumstances.
Cook said: “I thought [Worthing’s penalty] was quite a soft one. I don’t think anyone really knew what was going on. Fortunately, it went over the bar, so it didn’t really matter in the end.
“But fair play to the lad. He stepped up, and as we said afterwards, if he didn’t referee the game, we wouldn’t have had a game. So fair play to him for doing it.
“We bear no grudges. I’m glad he did referee the game. However, I think we should have had a penalty in the last five minutes!”
Davy said there could not have been a better person to take charge. “It was difficult, but he’s one of the most honest people, even on the bench. He always goes against me when I say things are out, so he’s probably the best person to referee the game on the day, if I’m honest.
“He did a good job. He could only do what he could see. He went against me most times, but it happens. You can’t penalise the ref. You’ve got to make your own luck in football.”
Sent Her Forward player of the match: Sophie Humphrey (Worthing)
Humphrey was magnificent. She was a constant threat down the Newhaven right and combined brilliantly throughout with strike partner Millie Colbran, who was also outstanding.
Humphrey hit the bar, scored one goal and had another disallowed. And her first touch is as good as I’ve seen at any level of women’s football.
Colbran was the ideal central striker, stretching the Newhaven defence and showing immense skill and intelligence on and off the ball.
Worthing enjoyed good possession in midfield for much of the game, thanks to the composure and tenacity of Ashleigh Kirby and captain Hannah Hewlett, with Gemma Worsfold – in a more advanced role – coming more and more into the game late on.
Lauren Smith and Chloe Winchester were, as they usually are, the chief threats for Newhaven. Their understanding is almost telepathic and their pace unquestionable. But they still need the end-product, and Smith in particular provided that with her crossing, while Winchester continued her goalscoring carnival with her 64th goal in 33 competitive games for her team.
Paige Ripley was also a constant threat, particularly in Newhaven’s late rally, while Angharad Hills saved her side from defeat with an outstanding save from Colbran.
Sent Her Forward match rating: 8/10 An excellent game, full of flowing football, excitement and entertainment.
Team: Annie Hills, Chelsea Cook, Paige Fowler, Ellie Coade (c), Natalie Ring, Jas Godden, Maddie Cannon (Summer Small), Lucy Collinson (Steph Harrison), Chloe Winchester, Paige Ripley (Katie Franks), Lauren Smith Unused sub: Paige Bashford-Robertson