Portsmouth Ladies 2 - 2 Chichester City Ladies
Late goal salvages a share of the spoils for Portsmouth
A late goal from ex Chichester player, Molly Clarke helped salvage a, somewhat, miraculous, point for Portsmouth Ladies as an enthralling game ended with a share of the spoils in the eagerly anticipated south coast derby at a packed West Leigh Park.
Chichester started positively, befitting of a team coming into the game as the form side, and Cherelle Khassal had their first effort on goal after only five minutes but the home keeper, Michelle Beazley was on hand to make a comfortable save to keep the striker out. Chichester kept up the pressure and Charley Wilson-Blakely looked dangerous every time she got the ball and relationship between her and Khassal looked as strong as ever with the blues struggling at times to keep them at bay.
The hosts finally got a sight of goal on the quarter hour when Natasha Stephens found the ball at her feet on the edge of the area and had Sadie Wilson-Blakely at full stretch to keep her goal bound effort out. By now it was end to end stuff and the visiting support was getting boisterous and loud from the touch lines. It seemed to have the desired effect when Jess Lewry went agonizingly close on the half hour with a shot that just went over the bar with Beazley well beaten.
Minutes later and the Chichester fans were in raptures when the green and white army took a deserved lead through the superb Charley Wilson-Blakely. Jade Widdows exchanged passes on the left with Lauren Cheshire and then swung in a teasing cross to which Wilson-Blakely met with a sublime header into the bottom corner sparking wild and loud celebrations from the army of fans cheering the green army on. It was richly deserved for the visitors and the ex Chichester players on the park for the blues were, largely, ineffective for the hosts as the half wore on. Portsmouth went even closer to scoring in final minutes for the half when Stephens forced an excellent save from Sadie Wilson-Blakely and Cheshire averted any follow up danger by beating Shannon Albuery to the ball to clear the lines for the visitors
Chichester were then dealt a blow when the excellent Emma Alexandre was forced off with a recurrence of an ankle injury but the redoubtable Holly Wride slotted into the back line to replace her through to the half time break. The hordes of visiting support gave their players a huge ovation as they made their way to the dressing room at half time. Chichester came out and from the restart looked sharp again as they went in search of what might be a crucial second goal and, just before the hour they got it through the superb Khassal. On this occasion and beautiful pass from Chloe Tucker put her through and she needed no second invitation to fire low under the approaching Beazley and into the back of the net.
Chichester couldn’t rest on their laurels though as Portsmouth do have a lot of strength of character in their side and would never give up on a result. Their cause was helped by a dubious decision by the referee to give the excellent Kerrie Ryan two, harsh, yellow cards in the space of a few minutes resulting in a very harsh red card meaning that Chichester would play the last quarter of the game with only ten players on the pitch.
Portsmouth picked up for a charge and Chichester found themselves under the cosh as the blues flew forward in search of a quick repost and, with ten minutes left on the clock Albuery nodded them back into the tie with a deft header back across goal, from a delightful cross from Katie James, and into the bottom corner. The Blues upped the tempo, with Chichester packing the defence and, somewhat, resigned to counter attack football and with time running out up popped Molly Clarke with one of her trademark long range efforts that took a slight deflection and flew into the back of the net for the equalizer.
The home support celebrated with gusto at seeing their team get back on terms and Chichester had to survive a late onslaught to eventually earn a share of the spoils on the night. This was a superb advert for our great game and Chichester will certainly look forward to the rematch at Oaklands Park next month. Sunday sees Lewes Women’s FC make the trip to Oaklands and Chichester will be keen to keep the current unbeaten form going in this ever enjoyable campaign.
Written by Alan Price