Crystal Palace Ladies continued their unbeaten league form on Sunday with a comprehensive win away at Old Actonians, a result that helps the Eagles maintain top spot in the FA Women’s Premier League (South East).
This was the first match between the two since the hosts were promoted last season, and whilst form dictated that it should be Palace’s day, the South Londoners needed to be on their game to deal with a determined opposition and very difficult pitch conditions.
The first ten minutes or so saw plenty of endeavour from both teams, with Palace dictating possession. However, chances were few and far between but as things started to settle, Palace found their rhythm and a succession of corners for the visitors looked like an effective route to goal.
It was from one such corner that Palace scored with a pinpoint header from Freya Holdaway into the top left corner. The goal certainly helped Palace, who were without Leesa Haydock and Alex Elson for the match, and were now settled and playing some good football despite the conditions underfoot.
With play stretched by the wide players Leanne Bell and Abi Igbavboa, the forward line of Gemma Bryan and Nicha Dyett ably supported by the productivity and industry of Rochelle Shakes, the Eagles were able to create opportunities through the central areas.
It was from a further corner that Palace scored their second, this time through Pammy McRoberts who volleyed home from the edge of the box. The goal typified a hard working central performance from the Northern Ireland international, who has just been called up for training ahead of the forthcoming European Championships game against Croatia.
Before half time, Palace added a third through the lively Gemma Bryan who latched on to a goal kick from Sam Saint and cooly held off the last defender, before slotting past the keeper.
The second half saw more of the same from Palace. The hosts did work hard to create but were kept well marshalled by the defensive trio of Lexie Spokes, Katy Morris and Sarah Jones.
Three, became four for Palace when Bryan once again outpacing the hosts defence, drew the keeper and cooly bent the ball into the corner of the net.
Manager, Dean Davenport used the match to give all three substitutes game time and manage the risk of injury and fatigue on a heavy pitch. The introductions of Angie Kiobel, Kelsey Zalameni and Alma Donohoe proved effective and resulted in a fifth and final goal, through Donohoe just moments after coming on for a lively spell on the left.
Speaking after the game, Davenport appeared happy with the result;
I think we did well today. Actonians are a decent team and are lower down the league by virtue of games not yet played. The pitch was not ideal and we spoke with the girls beforehand about what to expect and how to deal with it. To their credit, they did so, and very well.
Asked about the pressures of the title chase, Dean commented;
It is impossible not to think about it. We are in a good position and in control of our own destiny. Our main title threats will not give up, so we have to keep our concentration, belief and composure. Today, like quite a few to come, was as much about checking off another match from the dwindling list of fixtures. Three points secured and safely on to next week.
Also speaking after the match, Pammy McRoberts was equally considered in her thoughts;
I thought we did well today. The pitch conditions were not ideal, but these are all part of the tests we face through a season. The whole squad played their part in another important win and we look ahead to the next match, and doing what we can to put in another good performance.
Palace Ladies are at home against the same opposition, Old Actonians, in the FA Women’s Premier League on Sunday. The match is at Bromley Football Club, Hayes Lane. Gates open at 12.30pm. Kick off is 2pm. Entry is £3 per adult, under 16s go free.
Get down and support your ladies in an effort to spur them on to promotion!