Chichester City Ladies got their new FA Premier Southwest One campaign off top the perfect start, this week, with a resounding win, in front of a large crowd at Oaklands Park. Having had a successful pre-season, Liam Greenfield hoped that form could be carried on into the new term against a relatively new look Cheltenham who made the trip south to take on the green army by the sea.
Indeed Chichester were out like a rocket from the start, pushing the ball wide and testing the blues defence at regular intervals. Kerrie Ryan was a welcome return in the Chichester defence and, along with Laura Ingram, should make for a formidable defence and once Lucie Challen returns from injury in the next couple of weeks it will only get stronger. Chances were coming thick and fast for the hosts but the finishing touch was deserting the strikers Shannon Albuery and Cherelle Khassal. Khassal was looking particularly sharp and was running the Cheltenham defence ragged at times but keeper, Bec Panniers was regularly on hand to prevent the green army from getting their noses in front.
Jess Lewry then brought the best out of Panniers with a terrific effort that needed the keepers fingertip touch to put the ball over the bar. However the frustrations at that near miss were soon forgotten as, just after the half hour, Chichester finally broke the deadlock through the ever reliable Chloe Dowdell. Cherelle Khassal made a searing burst down the right and then delivered a lovely ball, low, into the area that Dowdell got to first to bury in the bottom corner. Through the first half, Chichester had over twenty shots on target so they were a little frustrated at the interval to only have one goal to show for their efforts but with a strong bench to be picked from more goals would surely come upon the re-start.
Indeed, the dominating play from Chichester continued into the second half but, they almost got caught out, close to the hour mark when new striker, Ella Hitchcox, broke the host’s offside trap to bear down on goal with only keeper, Sally-Anne Thompson to beat. The subsequent chip was exquisite but, to the relief of the Chichester management and fans, the direction was not as the ball went narrowly wide. This was the kick up the proverbial backside that Chichester needed and, shortly afterwards the greens had doubled their advantage. Jade Widdows, fresh off the bench, was the beneficiary with a perfectly timed leap to bullet a header home from a Becky Baron corner.
Chichester continued to press with blues heads steadily dropping and a potential of a glut of goals seemed to be on the cards and the hosts constantly knocking at the door and, eventually, Khassel deservedly got on the score sheet with a quality finish at the back stick thanks to a lovely set up across the box by Chloe Dowdell. These two seem to be hitting it off really well at the moment so, hopefully, goals will come aplenty from these two and with Shannon Albuery igniting her pace as well Chichester may well be a force to be reckoned with. Lauren Cheshire rounded of the goals for the day by slotting a late penalty after Jess Lewry was upended in the box and the days’ job was done. Bec Panniers had a solid game for the visitors, making a string of wonderful saves during the game, in particular from Jess Lewry and Shannon Albuery who would have felt very unlucky not to score on both occasions.
Next week Chichester travel to the royal county of Berkshire to take on Maidenhead and with Larkhall alongside newbie’s Plymouth both winning well in their opening games, the landscape will start to take shape with these sides set to be among the potential challengers for the title.
Written by Alan Price