SSE Women's FA Cup Q3
Crystal Palace Ladies FC 5 - 0 Team Solent
Sunday saw Palace Ladies enter the Women's FA Cup at the third qualifying round stage, in a tie that saw them host Team Solent. Looking to match or exceed the excellent efforts of the last two seasons, that have seen The Eagles reach the fourth round proper, Palace had to deal with an opponent that little was known about ahead of the match.
With a squad, still missing a couple of regulars, Head Coach Dean Davenport, was keen to use the recent momentum and depth of squad to find the result needed.
On a perfect afternoon for football at Bromley FC, in front of plenty of new faces, young families and the regular Palace faithful, The Red And Blue looked to seize the early initiative, but were thwarted by a very deliberate and effective game plan from the South Coast set-up. Compressing the game into the central areas of the pitch, a rather pedestrian Palace found it difficult to break through, not helped by some ineffective decision making and poor final balls.
The visitors themselves had opportunities, although when breaching the Palace back line, were thwarted by Chanelle Yardley in goal; with one notable, brave stop at the feet of the on-rushing forward.
As the half progressed, Palace adapted to the opposition game plan and slowly forced the play, deeper into the opposition half. This resulted in a number of corners, from which, the delivery of Freya Holdaway was always a threat. It was from one such spell, that the deadlock was broken.
On 37 minutes, the tireless midfielder, Steph Mann seized the initiative and a loose ball and fired into the top right corner from just inside the box. The goal appeared to settle Palace a little and enabled them to see the remainder of the half out, without incident. Despite the 1-0 lead, Davenport was keen to point out the areas of concern from the first half and demanded an immediate improvement.
The half time advice was heeded and the second half saw a rejuvenated Palace turn up the heat. With more pressure applied through possession and precision, none more so than through Leesa Haydock, they found themselves in far better areas, causing tougher tests for Solent. This resulted in further dead ball opportunities for The Eagles and on 51 minutes, Holdaway delivered the perfect corner, that saw Nicha Dyett apply a pin-point header into the top right corner.
The importance of this second goal was proved as Palace moved up a gear and began to take advantage of a tiring defence. This was exploited by Davenport on 55 minutes when he made a double change. Alma Donohoe gave way to Rochelle Shakes, who took a central role, with Mary Robinson moving to the left, and Abi Igbavboa being replaced by the retuning Angie Kiobel. The changes were completed on 63 minutes when Jade Davenport replaced Pam McRoberts on the right.
Less than a minute later, the substitutions paid dividends when Davenport created space on the right and supplied a cross for Dyett to attack. Though initially saved by the plucky Solent 'keeper, the ball spilled out for Dyett to make the most of the second opportunity and score the Palace third. Palace now went for the kill and with Davenport and Robinson threatening down both wings, opportunities were inevitable. On 68 minutes, Davenport was released down the right, beat the full back and delivered the cross of the game, from the dead ball line, into the path of Rochelle Shakes who crashed a volley home, off the bar from close range, for a very impressive fourth. Despite valiant efforts, against the tide, to salvage a consolation, Solent appeared sunk as the match entered the final few minutes.
It was the Davenport-Shakes combination that concluded the scoring, when another cross was met by the forward, who on the second attempt, following a further brave effort by the 'keeper, squeezed home her second and a fifth for Palace.
The hosts saw out the final few minutes without incident, to secure their path into the next round.
Speaking after the match, head coach, Dean Davenport commented: "First and foremost, let's give credit to Solent, who came here with a strong game plan and played some good football today. We were off the pace in the first 30 minutes and were disappointing in key areas. Whilst Steph's goal was welcome, it didn't really paper over the cracks."
Asked of the half time team talk and advice, Dean said: "It is rare that much has to be said to the girls, but the conversation was open and honest and it was left clear as to what was expected. In fairness, they obviously took it on board and came out in the second half in better shape."
Asked what pleased him about the second half, Dean added: "The reaction was good and we started to take advantage of our possession; creating a threat in key areas. This ultimately resulted in corners, threats in the box and goals. As pleasing as anything for me, was the fact that we were in the position of using the strengths of the squad.
"The ability to bring on players who are, at minimum, like for like, is massive for us. We don't have subs to make up numbers, we have a squad which when used to its maximum, can give an opponent something different to think about. This was shown today when we replaced quality with quality and exploited the opportunities that arose. I am really keen to impress the mentality that we will win more as a squad than we will as a first eleven. Today, in the second half, the girls proved that."
Asked about the next round, Dean remained grounded: "This cup competition is a long campaign, with plenty of unknown opposition in the early rounds. This is the end of the competition where you could get the real shocks. So, for us, perhaps a draw against a team we know would be useful. As proved in recent years, we have the ability to progress, so let's see what the draw brings and go from there!"
Palace Ladies rerun to FA Women's League action next Sunday as they travel away to Cambridge Ladies.
Crystal Palace Ladies FC. South London And Proud.