FA WOMENS' PREMIER LEAGUE SOUTH EAST
PALACE LADIES FC 10 - 1 BEDFORD LADIES FC
Crystal Palace Ladies rounded off 2015 in style with an emphatic win in their continued, unbeaten run in The FA Women's Premier League this season. Despite an early setback at Hayes Lane on Sunday, The Eagles ran out 10-1 winners with some stunning football against Bedford Ladies.
In front of a vocal crowd, Palace were caught cold when after three minutes, the visitors sprung the offside trap and left Sam Saint with no chance following a clinical finish. Palace took a few minutes to settle into something like their recent rhythm but slowly took command, with the remainder of the first half being almost exclusively in the Bedford half. A few chances came and went, including that moment when players and fans are left wondering if it's going to be "one of those days", when a fine shot from Leesa Haydock beat the keeper and thumped resoundingly off the post.
The home side nerves were partially put to rest when on 25 minutes, a great piece of individual skill from Abi Igbavboa resulted in the first of her three goals on the day. Palace now appeared reassured and eight minutes later, took the lead through a fantastic piece of team play that resulted in a Rochelle Shakes pass out to the left for Alma Donohoe to whip a cross into the box that was met expertly by Pammy McRoberts who stooped low to head the ball in past the keeper.
The first half scoring was completed on 39 minutes, by Igbavboa who shot from outside the box; the ball rifling in off the post.
Palace soon got to grips with the second half and scored twice in the first ten minutes, through a Gemma Bryan volley from just inside the box (52) and the third for Igbavboa (53) following a typically mazey run and thumping twenty yard shot into the top corner.
Six minutes later, it was the turn of the industrious Shakes to get on the scoresheet, with a well placed drive into the bottom corner from around 20 yards.
Head Coach Davenport then started a round of substitutions, using all three subs and keeping the tempo going (Nicha Dyett for debutant Fran Ali (65 min), Leanne Bell and Steph Mann for Pammy McRoberts and Abi Igbavboa (70 mins)).
On 72 minutes it was substitute Dyett who latched onto a lovely ball into the box and cooly rounded the keeper to slot home. A minute later, the pain was increased on the visitors when Bryan scored the Palace eighth with an exquisite shot having cut in from the right side of the box, placing the ball past the keeper into the far left corner.
In the 84th minute, the busy Bell had a fine shot, initially saved by the Bedford keeper, only for Dyett to bag her second from close range. The perfect ten was completed through the second hat trick of the game, when Bryan wrapped things up following an effort by Donohoe, that fell kindly for a simple finish.
Speaking after the game, Head Coach, Dean Davenport commented: "We played some lovely football today, moving the ball well against a determined and improving Bedford team.
"Our start was disappointing and a carbon copy of our slip up against the same team last season. The girls knew how much that cost us in the long run last season and were determined not to make the same mistake again. When we got settled, we played some attractive, expansive and high quality football. Some of our finishing today was up there with the best this season."
Asked about rounding out the year at the top of the league, Davenport was typically cautious: "Of course it's nice to be there as we head for the Christmas break, half way through the season, with good points on the board.
"But it is only half way through the season and we have to remain focussed. We started 2015 with a chance of promotion and missed out, through occasionally losing that focus, so we know the hard work continues from game one in 2016. We know we have the right players for the job, that they have what it takes and really want that one promotion spot, so we keep our heads, work hard and maximise the great efforts made so far this season."
Dean was also keen to acknowledge the support being shown for the Ladies: "As well as some great improvements on the pitch, this season has seen some fantastic support for us off the pitch. Our incredible and growing supporter network, led by the vocal and at times tuneful lads from The Holmesdale is unique in our league. And of course the support being shown by the main club and our loyal sponsors at Lark Insurance, RoadRunners Minicabs and Farr Vintners has made our progress possible."
One final thank you of the day was offered by Dean: "Today, we would all like to thank the groundsman Ian Jordan and the owners of Bromley FC for the terrific efforts made to allow us to play our game today, despite the recent weather.
"Having the ability to complete our fixtures on a quality pitch, and avoid a backlog in the future, could prove to be an essential part of our efforts this season. So, to them and all of those who believe in our efforts, we offer our sincerest thanks and warmest wishes for the holiday season."
Crystal Palace Ladies. South London and proud.