Charlton Athletic WFC 2 Lewes Ladies FC 1 – Thamesmead FC, FA WPL South
Lewes arrived at Thamesmead eager to renew their battle with title chasing Charlton after a cracking home fixture last month. They left with a sun-tan and a strong sense of injustice having seen the match officials effectively decide a terrific contest played in warm sunshine. They also left with heads held high after one of their strongest team performances of the season.
Right from the kick-off Lewes showed that the hosts would be in for a tough afternoon. With Dolbear ruled out through injury Katie Burr took the gloves. Ellie Lock and Sian Heather lead the line, chasing down every loose pass. In midfield skipper Kelly Newton lead from the front, taking control of midfield with Katie McIntyre, ably supported by Walder and Wells.
Three minutes in the visitors were ahead. Burr took a prospective high ball and hit a long clearance, snapped up by Ellie Lock. The Charlton defence were caught square and looked on in horror as Lock lobbed Lynch for Heather to clip home from two yards. 0-1.
A minute later Lewes came close to doubling their advantage. Walder attacked on the right, forcing a corner. The ball dropped to Wells in the D, she found Lane whose first-time hooked shot just cleared the bar. Lewes were rampant. Newton stole the ball off Baxter, found Heather who saw her curled cross plucked out of the air by Lynch.
Charlton recovered from the early set-back, Clifford firing low and wide, Burr holding on well to Gemma Sheppherd’s strike. The pace was relentless, Newton and Lane hustling the home side, forcing errors.
20 minutes in Heather was fouled left of the Charlton Box, 25 yards out. McIntyre’s delivery swept past Lynch and an inch away from Newton’s diving brow. Moments later Tash Wells found a yard of space on the edge of the box. Her dipping shot beat Lynch all ends up before crashing off the crossbar.
As Charlton pressed so Hayley West came into her own, crunching into tackles and making one brave headed clearance from the feet of Clifford. She wasn’t alone. All over the pitch Lewes were first to the ball. Kit Graham, prolific this season was restricted to one half-chance, fired high and wide on the turn.
As half time approach Charlton committed more numbers forward, forcing a series of corners and throw-ins. On 44 minutes Lewes failed to deal with a high ball into the box, Burr, under pressure couldn’t hold on and Graham pounced to level the contest from two yards. HT 1-1
The second half saw no let-up in pace. Lane, Heather and Lock tore into the home defence, Graham, Clifford and Sheppherd looking to exploit space in behind the Lewes back line. On 55 minutes Nikta Whinnett, on for Stef Simmons, was inches away from connecting with Graham’s sublime cross. Katie Burr made a string of fine saves to keep her side in the match, racing off her line to save bravely at Graham’s feet.
On 65 minutes Donoghue brought Spice and Larkin on for the excellent Lock and Heather, both of whom had run themselves into the ground. A minute later Wells sent Walder clear. She found Spice who turned and shot early and just wide. Both sides clearly wanted the win. Charlton forced a series of corners, Burr again saving brilliantly from Sheppherd.
Challenges were flying in. After some innocuous looking push and shove following a tangle of legs on the edge of the Charlton area, the officials changed the game. The assistant on the far side flagged, calling the referee across. After a consultation the referee showed Paige Walder a straight red card. No action was taken against any Charlton player. The crowd were stunned, there was no obvious foul play in the incident.
Down to ten and with 15 minutes to go Lewes looked to hold on, bringing Palmer on for Dani Lane, another in red and black who covered every blade of grass. Burr, having a magnificent second half, made another top save, pushing a goal-bound header round her right post.
With four added minutes indicated to the players the game continued, both sides launching attacks without committing numbers forward. On 95 minutes Graham chased a half-chance but once again found Burr alert to the danger. Still the game continued. In the 97th minute Ruby Southgate found Grace Coombs in space on the left. Burr narrowed the angle but could only watch Coombs’s clever finish hit the back of the net. Seconds later, as Lewes restarted, the referee blew for full time.
It’s fair to say the visiting fans were unhappy, the officials leaving to a chorus of boos as Charlton celebrated.
After the match Lewes manager John Donoghue spoke of his pride in his team. The performance was light years away from the previous match against Tottenham. ‘We didn’t get what we deserved today. I thought we were excellent, closing them down, creating chances and putting them under real pressure. It’s hard to take.’
I spoke to several players after the match who confirmed that the referee had indicated ‘four added minutes’ to the players. The officials were unavailable for comment, having left the ground shortly after full time. The old adage about playing to the final whistle rings a little hollow after what we witnessed today. Call the police, there’s been a robbery.
Charlton: Lynch, Flack, Simmons, Paye, Coombs, Newman, Clifford, Shepherd, Baxter, Graham, Southgate
Bench: Dixson, Parsons, Sullivan, Whinnett, Howlett
Lewes: Burr, Capon, West, McIntyre, Carter, Newton, Lock, Heather, Walder, Lane, Wells
Bench: Spice, Larkin, Palmer
MvP: Katie Burr