Palace Ladies earned their first point in The FA Women’s Championship on Sunday, in a South London clash against Millwall Lionesses that finished 1-1.
Following on from the disappointment of allowing a lead to slip into defeat, away at Lewes in midweek, Palace were keen to add points to the board as they hastily adjust to life in the second tier of women’s football.
Speaking ahead of the game, manager Dean Davenport commented, “The disappointment of the result on Wednesday was palpable across the club this week, but it is something that we have had to deal with, as we have to be ready for our third game in seven days.”
Asked if the frequency of games had taken a toll on the players, Dean added, “It is only natural, that there will be elements of tiredness, particularly later in the games. To have started the week with the match against Chelsea, where the girls put in such a shift will have had an impact ahead of the trip down to Lewes, but it is the same for many, and we have to be ready for Millwall, today.”
There was good news within the Palace starting line up, with the sight of Nikita Whinnett for the first time in ten months. The return from her steady, but frustrating, battle for fitness, was a boost for a match where Davenport was keen to employ his range of attacking options, including starts for Chloe Burr, Ashlee Hincks and Kallie Balfour.
Palace started the brightest, as they had at Lewes, and took the game to the hosts. Against her former club, Hincks looked to spearhead the attack and generate the momentum. And it was the former Millwall captain, in the tenth minute, following a touch on by Balfour, who beat the ‘keeper to the loose ball on the edge of the area, rode the challenge and slotted the ball home into an empty net.
Sadly, during these opening exchanges, former Palace favourite, Ellie Stenning, was forced off with a calf injury; receiving warm applause from the travelling fans. Palace continued to dominate much of the possession, although at times were found wanting in the final third, as they sought a second goal that would have, almost certainly, settled nerves and considerably affected the outcome of the game.
Frustratingly, as in East Sussex in mid-week, The Eagles were unable to capitalise and ran the risk of regretting this later in the game. Although Millwall edged their way back into the game ahead of half time, Palace held out with minimal threat on their goal for a deserved lead at the break.
As the second period started, it was essential for Palace to deal with the likely reaction from the hosts; avoiding the result-changing spell of football that had been seen at Lewes on Wednesday. Palace appeared to have initially stemmed the tide, restricting Millwall to long range shots and occasional set-pieces. However, in the 60th minute, a drop in concentration saw Palace as architects of their own downfall, when a back pass to one of the players of the season so far, Megen Lynch in the Palace goal, saw the ‘keeper take a touch too many and struggle to clear, under pressure from the on-rushing forward. The ball was collected by Millwall’s Ravenscroft who fired passed Lynch into the top right corner, to bring the teams level.
Palace now had to prove that recent lessons had been learned and needed to prevent the combination of the momentum of Millwall and their own nerves, getting the better of them. Reassuringly, the team dug deep and kept The Lionessess at bay; although on occasions, it was due to last ditched tackles and fluffed lines in front of goal. Palace did have opportunities, themselves, with shots from Hinks and Burr and a Hannah Mackenzie header being the closest.
With neither team adding to the score line and the end of the game being littered with injuries, it was a case of the spoils being shared, by two teams who ended a losing run with their first point of the campaign.
Speaking post-match, Davenport was a combination of disappointed and positive following the game,
“Yes, it is great to break our duck and get our first ever point at this level, on the board but, yet again, we come away from a tough away game, knowing we could have had more. For considerable spells, we are starting to look like the team I know we can be, yet, frustratingly, at other times, we seem to lack the required confidence and cohesion.
"We all accept that this is a new level and it is a continuing adjustment, but the disappointment comes when you know what we are capable of, and that we have not been fully able to implement this within matches. That said, we are all being very honest with each other and looking to find what is needed. The reality is, that at the level we are playing at, there are no easy matches and those lessons are coming thick and fast; so it is down to us all to battle on and show what we know we are capable of.”
Palace Ladies host high-flying Tottenham Hotspur next Sunday, at Bromley FC, with kick off at 2pm. All are welcome, with tickets costing £5 per adult, £2.50 for CPFC Season Ticket or CPFC Membership holders. Kids under 16 are free.