And so the 2016-2017 FA Women’s Premier South West One season finally came to a close for Chichester City Ladies this week with their final match of the championship winning campaign against Keynsham Town Ladies at the AJN Stadium in Keynsham. Chichester were chasing the incredible record of going the entire season unbeaten if they could avoid defeat and despite a torrential hails storm during the second half, duly completed the job and send a strong statement to those that they will face in the new term later this year. The hosts welcomed the champions to the AJN with a guard of honour before kickoff which was well received by all and set things off nicely before the battle commenced.
The visitors were without star striker, Charley Wilson-Blakely and the in-form Chloe Dowdell but were still full of strength and experience for the tie and went in with a confident mood and it took Chichester less than a minute to break the deadlock, when, after only thirty six seconds, Lauren Cheshire added to her tally for the season. Molly Clark, returning to the squad for the final outing of the season, showed excellent skill to work space on the left and played in a dangerous ball into the area. Jess Lewry failed to make contact but the ball travelled through and arrived at the feet of Cheshire who smashed in a shot into the back of the net leaving keeper, Colette Bell, well beaten.
Chichester continued to press with Cherelle Khassall and Kally Ambler both looking dangerous as the green army went looking for more in front of an expectant travelling support. Keynsham did, though, begin to settle and had Chichester looking nervous at the back but the likes of Kerry Ryan, Laura Ingram and Emma Alexandre managed to keep the hosts at bay. Danielle Beazer and Cristina Vega both went close for Keynsham but Sadie-Wilson-Blakely made a couple of smart saves to deny them to keep the champions in front as the half wore on.
Ambler then had a couple of near misses for the visitors as the need for a second goal started to become a lot more important with Keynsham steadily improving during the half but, just after the half hour, Chichester finally doubled their lead through the impressive Lewry. Clark was again at the heart of the move and set Khassall scampering clear down left and her dangerous ball in was bundled over the line by Lewry from yards out to finally give Chichester the cushion they craved.
Into the second half and Keynsham came out intent on trying to find a way back into the tie. Chances were rare and Wilson-Blakely now had much less to do as Chichester’s quality snuffed out any advances made by the hosts. Chichester, on the other hand were looking frustrated as constantly their search for the telling final ball let them down as they tried in vain to add more goals to their tally on the day. Jenna Fowlie came on to replace the tiring Ryan in the hope that she could inject new life into the green army and certainly she had an effect as her dangerous forays down the right flank had the defence all at sea at times but, despite this, the lack of a finish left the Chichester management more than frustrated. Although the game was swamped by a hail storm during the half, both teams ploughed on and Carmen Kager made a late appearance for the visitors in the last five minutes of the match and seemed to really enjoy the opportunity to shine in front of family and friends but the adulation of a goal was not to be. Keynsham played the last five minutes or so with only ten players on the park due to two players succumbing to injury with all substitutes having already been used. Despite this the hosts fought as one to keep Chichester at bay and huge credit should go to them for succeeding and being able to hold their heads high at the end.
Time eventually ran out but the incredible record of going the entire season unbeaten had been achieved and the squad will, no doubt, be raring to go for the new season and face the new challenges head on.
Written by Alan Price