Plymouth Argyle Ladies 4 - 5 Chichester City Ladies
Chichester City Ladies made a huge statement to the rest of the sides in FA Women’s Premier South West One, this week, by taking the spoils from the long trip to the West Country for the tie against leaders, Plymouth Argyle Ladies. It was a blustery and cool afternoon that welcomed the players at Elburton Villa FC, the home of Argyle, and it would surely be tough for both sides. As it turned out the supporters were in for a roller coaster of a ride from start to finish with goals a plenty to keep them warm with Chichester first to strike.
The match started at a frenetic pace with both sides eager to get control and stamp their authority. Twelve minutes in, and with Chichester having much the better of things despite playing against the breeze, Kerrie Ryan edged the visitors in front. Ryan spotted that Jess Fox was, marginally, off her line, whist organizing her players to defend a free kick, and duly fired a long drive direct at goal and the effort did its job, catching Fox off guard and sailing over her head and into the back of the net.
Plymouth were rocked but not deflated and hit back and within five minutes were level as Chichester made a mess of a corner in allowing the Argyle captain, Kate Middleton, to prod the ball home through a crowd of players to draw the hosts’ level. The crowd were enthralled and both sides continued to apply the pressure in determination of finding another goal before the half time interval. Chichester manager, Liam Greenfield, was soon dancing a jig in the visitors’ dugout when Molly Clarke restored Chichester’s lead with twenty minutes on the clock. A corner from Becky Barron was flicked on by Jade Widdowson and Clark met it with venom at the far post to hammer the ball into the roof of the unguarded net.
Plymouth needed to regroup and drew level for a second time right on the half hour as the goals just kept on coming. With the game very open and expansive opportunities were coming and when Ezme Wells got free down the left she spotted top scorer, Natasha Knapman darting towards the area and managed to find her teammate with a well directed path. Knapman duly did the rest, latching onto the feed and rounding keeper, Sally-Ann Thompson and slotting into the empty net. There was still time for more before the interval as Chichester took the lead for a third time through star striker Charelle Khassal who, through all her own work, edged the visitors back in front. Khassal flew clear down the left and, upon cutting into the area, unleashed a thunderbolt which Fox did well to keep out, only to parry the effort straight back to the Chichester striker who needed no second invitation to surge round her and slot into the back of the net.
After a breathtaking half everyone needed a break to take it all in and, shortly after the re-start Chichester took, what they thought was, a stranglehold on the game with two goals within a minute to leave Plymouth shell shocked. With only a minute gone Khassal, again, broke clear and sent a beautiful ball into the danger area and there was Jess Lewry to hammer a first time effort passed Fox and into the net. From the restart Chichester pressed again and this time a seemingly harmless back pass saw Fox inexplicably air kick her attempted clearance and the ball carried on rolling into the back of the empty net.
Charley Wilson then came on for Chichester as the visitors looked to take the sting out of the game and play a more counter attack strategy with the midfield and defence now being packed but, strangely, that seemed to unsettle Chichester and Plymouth grew in confidence, playing nice football against the conditions and their substitutions gave them added strength up top and as a result they got a sniff of a comeback with twenty minutes to go when Danielle Barr got her head to the ball first, from a free kick taken by Kayleigh Brown, to flick home passed the outstretched hand of Thompson.
Chichester supporters were now feeling the nerves and the players were certainly feeling the pressure. Being roared on by an increasingly vibrant home fan base the Plymouth side launched wave after wave of attacks but Chichester just about managed to keep the barn door closed but, with a quarter of the game left to run Plymouth gave themselves real hope of completing a remarkable comeback when Gabi Alphous sent a dangerous high ball into the area from outside the box and somehow both keeper and defenders proceeded to make a mess of any attempted clearance and ball, eventually, hit the underside of the bar and dropped over the line and the linesman was in the perfect position to confirm the goal for the hosts.
The remaining minutes were hectic as well as being riddled with nerves. With Kally Ambler and Jade Widdows both coming on to replace tiring legs, Chichester dug deep to maintain their lead. Five minutes of added time passed with Chichester management looking at watches wondering where this time had come from when finally the whistle went to end what had been a mesmeric game and see Chichester celebrate a massive win that sent them back to the top of the table and the team, management and supporters could now enjoy the long journey home, happy in a job well done.
Written by Alan Price