Chichester City Ladies ended the year, 2016, with a very comfortable day at the office and a five goals to nil win over a Keynsham side whom, themselves, would have been confident of a second win over the south coast side after dumping Liam Greenfield’s charges out of the FA cup a few weeks ago. With nearest rivals Plymouth on the road at St Nicholas Ladies a win for the green army was a must in order to maintain their slender lead at the top of the table and the ladies didn’t disappoint their army of fans at Oaklands on their return to their fortress after several months on the road.
Chichester gave a start to new signing, Sadie Blakely, their new goal keeper and the first half saw the new shot stopper have a quit affair with little to do. Chichester, on the other hand were quick out of the blocks and exerted pressure on the visitors immediately but keeper, Colette Bell, looked strong in the Keynsham goal to keep the likes of Charelle Khassall at bay. However, on the quarter hour mark Chichester took the lead through the very impressive Charley Wilson-Blakely. Lauren Cheshire supplied a sumptuous cross into the area and Wilson-Blakely met it with a firm header that flew into the back of the net to spark joyous scenes on both pitch and sidelines respectively.
Chichester continued to press but a surprising lack of quality in the final third left them wondering what they needed to do to add to their goal tally, all the while with news coming in that Plymouth were comfortably ahead at St Nicks. Keynsham, to their credit, applied good pressure with the likes of Cristina Vega and Alys Hinchcliffe looking dangerous but Kerrie Ryan and Laura Ingram able to deal, very confidently, with any attacks by the visitors. Chichester would have been frustrated to only be a goal to the good at the break but, once again, stepped on the gas in the perfect way following the re-start.
Khassal was first to get a sighter of the visitor’s net but only an excellent save from Bell prevented the diminutive striker from adding to her season’s tally. Vega tested Blakely but the new shot stopper was more than up to the task to save with ease to preserve the hosts lead. Eventually Chichester finally doubled their lead just after the hour mark and it was a goal worth waiting for. Good work from Khassal down the left had the defence back peddling and when her delivery was only half cleared the ball landed at the feel of Jess Lewry who was given far too much time to pick her spot and pull the trigger and she unleashed an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net leaving Bell rooted to the spot as the ball flew by.
Chichester were now in control of proceedings. First to tackles and causing the visitor’s defence multiple problems and it wouldn’t be long before a third goal arrived and the deserving Khassal was the one to get it. Ryan hit a searching ball, although not as cleanly as she would have wanted, into the box and the Keynsham defence made a mess of any clearance and Khassall was there, unmarked; on the far side of the area to smash home a volley with gusto to further improve the overall score line. Liam Greenfield then used his substitutes to good effect and there was a huge ovation when Wilson-Blakely made way late on for Chloe Parkes. Wilson-Blakely had, moments earlier, proved decisive in Chichester fourth of the game, running from halfway into the Keynsham box and then squaring perfectly for Molly Clarke to send a rocket into the roof of the net to seal the three points with Keynsham left devastated. Clarke, indeed, rounded off the scoring minutes later, with added time looming, in the perfect place at the right time to benefit from a lovely one two with Chloe Parkes and then fire the ball home off the inside of the post to the delight of the Oaklands faithful.
And so Chichester end the year at the top of the tree, one point ahead of Plymouth and nine ahead of Keynsham, who lie third, but, crucially, level on points difference with the Argyle with the home game against the pride of Devon still to come. 2017 will certainly be exciting with Chichester firmly in the box seat with the New Year challenges to come.
Written by Alan Price