FA Women’s Premier League: Portsmouth 2-5 Crystal Palace
When you play one of your best games of football for some time, scoring five goals at home as a team and a hat-trick for your leading scorer, just how do you follow it up?
That was the question that the Palace Ladies first team squad were posed this week. For head coach Dean Davenport, the answer ahead of the Easter Sunday trip to Portsmouth was simple;
‘We need to look at the game on it’s merits, plan and be prepared, and then execute the game plan in a bid to seal three more points as we look to consolidate the hard work put in this season.’
Clearly keen not to get carried away off the back of a dream performance last week, there was certainly a need to keep feet firmly on the ground. However, in the week leading up to the trip to the South Coast, it was easy to see why so many players just couldn’t wait to start the next game. Following a period of weeks effected by postponements and some stuttering performances, Palace certainly seemed to be back in the groove and keen to maximise momentum as they arrived at Fareham Town Football Club.
The first thing that was obvious upon arrival was just how much of a treat the surface had been at Beckenham Town the week before and something that had clearly aided the Palace style. In contrast, the surface this week was what is often described as a leveller. A pitch that had it’s fair share of imperfections which was something that both teams would have to adjust to. And quickly.
As if to prove the point, hat-trick hero from last weekend Gemma Bryan wasted no time, putting Palace one up inside three minutes when she latched onto a pass, beating the offside trap and scoring past the Pompey goalkeeper.
The Palace momentum moved up a further gear as they pressed a home team that was rocked by the early setback. This paid dividends in the tenth minute when the lead was doubled from a corner that defender Rosie Paye headed home – her first for Palace since signing earlier in the season.
To the credit of Portsmouth and as a warning to Palace that no result would be guaranteed, the hosts struck back two minutes later following a free-kick awarded for a back pass to the keeper. The quickly taken kick saw Stephens break clear and score the third goal in the first ten minutes.
The game settled into a more realistic process, albeit any rhythm was adversely affected by the pitch conditions and interventions by the officials. The Eagles, having to adjust their tactics to the conditions were rewarded when Bryan bagged her second after a quality counter attack which resulted in another cool finish in the just after the half hour.
Despite captain Sarah Jones going close with a header from a Pam McRoberts corner, the 3-1 score line was taken into the break by Palace who were urged to keep to the plan and momentum in the second half by Davenport and the coaching team.
True to his requests, Palace emerged at the start of the second half as they had for the first and were awarded a penalty within the opening minutes. Needless to say, Bryan stepped up for her hat-trick goal and calmly dispatched the ball for Palace’s fourth of the afternoon. The following twenty minutes saw both teams have opportunities with the hosts certainly not willing to give up without a fight.
It was the home team that scored the next of the afternoon’s haul of goals, when a little after the hour Samantha Quayle picked up a flick on and tapped the ball past an on-rushing Chanell Yardley. The goal naturally buoyed the South Coast team and Palace were put under a ten minute spell of pressure that saw Pompey go close, not least when Alma Donohoe reacted in time to clear off the Palace goal line with quarter of an hour left to play.
However, the Eagles rode the storm and another fine performance from Bryan was capped with her fourth goal late on when she collected a good pass and beat a retreating and weary defence to conclude the scoring for the afternoon, as both teams saw the game out without further addition.
Speaking after the game, Bryan was quick to praise her team mates, despite the obvious interest in her current form that has returned seven goals in the last two outings;
‘We knew that today was not going to be easy as Portsmouth are a decent team and well organised. We knew that we couldn’t get carried away with last weeks performance, but wanted to use it as a positive and something to work from. Obviously, getting the early goal helped and it was then a case of keeping to the plan and adding where we could with all the girls really working hard.’
When asked about her second hat-trick in successive games, Bryan added;
“It is good to score, but it isn’t possible without the hard work of the team. The goals we score are because of a team and it is great to be a part of it.”
Also speaking after the game, Davenport was also keen to praise the team;
‘There were a number of factors that prevented us playing our ideal game at times today, but that is part and parcel of football at any level. What we had to do was deal with those issues and adjust as needed. I was proud of the way the girls did this, and it gives us good momentum as we head into a tough final away game of the season at Coventry next week.”
When asked how he sees the remainder of the season, he added;
‘It’s simple. We have three more games and we will look for three wins. Our aim is to take the most we can from these. As far as we are concerned, there is plenty to play for. Yes, where we are, in our first season at this level is terrific, but we are always looking for the next level of improvement.’
Palace Ladies are on the road again next Sunday (23rd) as they travel to Coventry who sit one place above them in the League. Match details to follow during the week so stay in touch by following Palace Ladies on social media.