Ashford Ladies 2 v 3 Newhaven Ladies
Chloe Winchester (2), Steph Harrison
Newhaven Ladies travelled to Ashford for their final game of the season on Sunday knowing they would have a big say in who finished second in the league and in a promotion place.
If Ashford were to win then they would leapfrog Saltdean however a draw or win for the Dockers would cement a second place finish for near neighbours Saltdean.
Unfortunately due to player unavailability the Dockers travelled with a bare 11 and welcomed back Katie Franks and Summer Small who both hadn’t played since November 2018.
After a long journey there the Dockers started sluggishly as Ashford piled on the pressure in the opening minutes. And within only five minutes on the clock deservedly took the lead (1-0).
However this sparked Newhaven into life and they responded almost immediately as Steph Harrison switched the play to the left where Lauren Smith drove forward and crossed dangerously into the box. The cross was cleared to the edge of the box where Paige Ripley sent it back in to find the head of Chloe Winchester who made no mistake heading over the home keeper and into the back of the net (1-1).
The Dockers, now more confident on the ball, continued to attack and Franks played in down the right wing crossed but it was well saved by the keeper.
Ripley then picked up the ball and delayed a pass to Summer Small who raced through on goal but was just flagged offside.
Ashford now started to pick the game up again and pushed the Dockers back, they began to win a lot in the midfield from goal kicks and the pressure was all on the Newhaven defence. With the dangerous Ashford forwards playing on the shoulders of the Dockers back three it needed last ditch tackles and clearances from Steph Harrison and Paige Bashford-Robertson to avert the danger.
Annie Hills had to be alive to a low shot from outside the box as Ashford continued to press forward and Jas Godden and Chelsea Cook just got back in time to force corners when a real chance looked like developing. Winchester now began to drop deeper to help the midfield out an d this allowed Newhaven to win the ball and Lucy Collinson drove forward and played Franks in again down the right who won a corner.
Lauren Smith sent in the corner which fell to Godden who played it back to Smith and her first time cross was met perfectly by the head of Winchester again to give the away side the lead just before half time (1-2).
The second half saw Ashford really pile on the pressure and Newhaven dropped deeper and deeper as they defended for their lives. The Ashford strikers and wing backs were getting joy in behind the Dockers defence and it needed Hills to be alert to keep the lead . Last ditch blocks by Bashford-Robertson and Godden resulted in a series of corners which were whipped in and tested the Dockers defence where Winchester and Collinson got important headers away.
Ashford were now in control and Newhaven could only play on the break but could not retain possession. Two shots in quick succession fizzed across the Newhaven goal and somehow the lead was retained.
Then a throw in down the left wasn’t properly cleared and a near post cross was cleverly turned in past the Ashford striker to give them a deserved equaliser (2-2).
With fifteen minutes to go it was all to play for and Ashford sensed the victory. A last ditch tackle by Cook forced a corner and this was sent in to the box where it cannoned off Godden and against the crossbar and somehow fell into the grateful hands of Hills.
The luck was on Newhaven’s side and a breakaway from Ripley found Winchester drove forward and was fouled just outside the box. Smith stepped up and drove the free kick but it was narrowly high and wide.
Another attack from Ashford ended in yet another corner and this time a free header at the far post just sailed over the bar.
All Newhaven could do was play on the break and Franks picked the ball up on the right and played Winchester through who raced through and was fouled. Winchester took the free kick and it was only half cleared and the ball looped up for Harrison to head over the keeper and make it 2-3 with minutes to play.
Ashford threw everything at the Dockers and one last chance saw Cook stop a through ball and guide the ball to Hills who had to rush off her line to get there first and get fouled in the process.
With the clock ticking down Newhaven managed the game and held the ball in the corners to gain valuable minutes and the final whistle brought down a fitting climax on an excellent first season in the SECWFL Premier Division and an excellent victory and promotion chasing Ashford.
Joint Manager Alex Ladd was very happy with the performance on the day and the season overall; ‘We signed off in style on Sunday away at Ashford. Andy and I were so impressed with the ladies, not for the first this season. Going up to an away game with the bare 11 is always going to be hard but it seems to galvanise the team and drive them on. Every player played their part and worked themselves ragged. It epitomised the never say die attitude the ladies have shown recently. Must say a big thank you to Franks and Summer for stepping up and a big congratulations to Steph for her first goal in Newhaven colours. Some very nice football played in parts ladies and we dug deep when we needed to. It’s been a great season again and on a personal note I would like to thank you all for being a wonderful group and making me laugh and smile.’
Andy Cook (joint manager) was also really pleased with the effort from the team; ‘that was a really tough game against a very good Ashford side who had all to play for. We came here playing for pride and with just 11 players including two who hadn’t kicked a ball since November we were really up against it but perhaps this is when we are at our best. It was brilliant from all 11. They battled and battled and yes we had a bit of luck but we deserved that after many times this season things going against us. The three goals, all headers’ were very good goals and we defended for our lives throwing bodies in the way and never giving up. This season has been a frustrating one as when we put in performances like that we think what could have been? But we finished a very creditable 5th and have gained a lot of experience playing at this higher level. Every game has been a test and that’s what we are in it for. A big thanks to every player who has played this season as they have all played their part in getting us to where we are. There have been ups and downs along the way but we have finished the season in a really positive manner. Well done everyone.’
Team: Annie Hills, Katie Franks, Paige Bashford-Robertson, Steph Harrison, Chelsea Cook, Jas Godden, Summer Small, Lucy Collinson (c), Chloe Winchester, Paige Ripley, Lauren Smith