FA Women's Premier League : Enfield Town Ladies 0 - 2 Crystal Palace Ladies FC
Palace Ladies were on the road again, for matchday two of the new FA Women's Premier League season. Following a solid 3-0 away win last weekend, it was to Enfield Town this weekend in a game that was always going to be a tough encounter.
Twenty-four hours on from the intense heat felt at Selhurst Park, the torrential rain in North London was, at times, more like November than August.
In what will be a tight campaign, Head Coach Dean Davenport knows these tricky encounters need to be turned into three points, and he impressed on the squad the need for patience and control ahead of the game.
The Ladies did not disappoint with composure and possession throughout a first half that saw the hosts fully stretched. Early on, captain, Katy Morris and Freya Holdaway combined well to release the pacey Pamela McRoberts who delivered a pinpoint cross to Nicha Dyett whose diving header was only inches wide. The experience of Holdaway helped dictate the flow of the game and on 20 minutes, she stepped up, following a foul on Leanne Bell, 25 yards from goal. A certain goal was denied by an outstanding save by the Enfield keeper, somehow keeping the score goalless.
The Palace pressure was relentless, with Enfield unable to regularly threaten, and on 36 minutes some great combination passing around the box from Mary Robinson and Abi Igbavboa resulted in the ball being slipped through to Dyett who was just about to pull the trigger when a desperate tackle resulted in a Palace penalty and Enfield reduced to ten.
2014-15 player of the year, Sarah Jones stepped up and saw the penalty saved, low to her left, by the very busy, Enfield 'keeper enabling the hosts to, somehow, go in at half time, level.
The second half was much of the same, with the Eagles starting in the same fashion looking for a quick goal. On 49 minutes, a ball put through from Holdaway on the edge of the box saw Dyett go close again. This time hitting the post. With Enfield now putting everyone behind the ball to try and frustrate Palace, Davenport urged his players to rely on their abilities and believe in what they have trained so hard for in recent months. The Ladies continued to play with discipline and determination and on 60 minutes, the lively Dyett was slid in by Bell, and placed the ball passed the advancing 'keeper, for a well deserved and hard fought Palace lead.
As was to be expected, Enfield now had to come out after Palace and following a little pressure, Palace gained the impetus again and played some of their best possession football, weakening the depleted opposition, waiting and probing for opportunities.
On 66 minutes, Davenport rang the changes with McRoberts being replaced by Stephanie Mann and Georgie O' Halloran replacing Robinson. The change was effective, as on 83 minutes, it was O' Halloran who netted the second following a great ball from full back Leesa Haydock that found Bell whose first time cross was converted by O'Halloran
Palace controlled the final ten minutes with comfortable and impressive possession for a well earned, albeit hard fought win.
Following the match, Davenport told the official website, 'I am pleased with the result against a tough team who will be likely to take points from our competition this season. A clean sheet is always encouraging, although with the domination we had, we could have added to some early season goal difference.
"Patience was the key today. Sometimes when you control a game like we did and goals don't come, you can almost start trying too hard. But the girls stuck with it and got what they deserved."
Asked as to how he felt the season was starting to unfold for The Eagles, he added,
"It's been a good start with the girls adapting well to a tweaked system and what has been asked of them, but it's early days and in this league, every game is a tough one."
As well as the players, Dean was full of praise for the Palace faithful that made the journey across town.
"As usual, the Palace spirit extended beyond the pitch onto the terraces. The support we get from across the Palace family means so much to everyone and gives the players a real boost. Even on wet away days, we are all South London and proud."