Whilst still laying claim to being undefeated is a title that everyone connected to Palace Ladies has been rightly proud of, there was, without a doubt, a desire to put the frustrations of last weeks first draw of the season behind them and return to winning ways.
The Eagles, showing off their new 2015-16 kits for the first time, were back in FA Women's Premier League action on Sunday when they hosted Ipswich Town at Bromley FC.
In a week that had seen the squad depleted by injury and absence (Yardley, Kiobel, Shakes, Bell and Dyett all out), Head Coach, Dean Davenport knew that faith in squad depth was the order of the day.
Determined, from the start to dominate, Palace were soon in their stride. Effective closing down and hugely positive possession and penetration, soon had Ipswich on the back foot. This early pressure resulted in Palace springing the Ipswich off-side trap, on 7 minutes, with the returning Gemma Bryan showing composure when one on one with the 'keeper and firing into the top right corner.
The following fifteen minutes was a demonstration of some of The Eagles' best football of the season; with slick, one touch passing that had the visitors stretched to the limit. On 17 minutes, Palace earned a corner following good work down the right from the tireless Pam McRoberts. This was delivered perfectly to the far side of the six yard box, where defender, Alex Elson rose and met the ball with power and precision that gave the Ipswich 'keeper no chance. Palace two up.
Following the second goal, Palace inexplicably dropped off the pace slightly and allowed Ipswich to press a little deeper. And whilst only restricted to occasional, long range shots, the visitors clearly gained in confidence. This period of play resulted in one such long range shot deflecting into the path of the centre forward who expertly chipped over the advancing Sam Saint to bring the deficit back to one.
Urged to settle back into the earlier rhythm and disrupt the Ipswich revival, Palace slowly recovered their dominance. This resulted in a further corner on 45 minutes that was not initially dealt with and was dispatched by Sarah Jones for a 3-1 lead at the break.
The half time message was clear for The Ladies. Stay focussed, use the ball and space and play the Palace Ladies way. Led from the back by captain Katy Morris and Freya Holdaway, the message was clearly received and understood. Palace came out to put the game to bed. And on 50 minutes, it was mission almost accomplished, when a good work down the right ended with a pin-point cross from Alex Elson to Bryan who ghosted in front of her defender and produced a flick header across goal into the far corner. 4-1 Palace.
Palace continued to dominate, with Leesa Haydock and Steph Mann bossing the midfield and the pace of Alma Donohoe and McRoberts out wide, continuing to stretch Ipswich. With the added benefit of the in-form Mary Robinson assisting Bryan across the front line, it took some resolute Ipswich defending and one outstanding save in particular from the 'keeper to keep the score at 4-1.
Davenport used the opportunity to ring some changes from the 65th minute. First up was Jade Davenport for Alma Donohoe. With McRoberts switching to the left, Davenport used the pace of fresh legs and some very accurate crossing to keep the pressure on the visitors. Lexie Spokes came on for Steph Mann in the 73rd minute, as Davenport sought to maintain a hold in the central areas, and go in search of the fifth goal. Two minutes later, the final change was made when Abi Igbavboa took to the stage, immediately lighting things up with her Zaha-esque footwork and intricate play. On 80 minutes, two of the subs combined, when Davenport crossed from the right for Igbavboa to collect and dispatch into the top right corner. 5-1 Palace.
As requested by the coaching team, The Eagles maintained the intensity until the final whistle, although were unable to add to the tally. A hugely entrained crowd, gave justified and extended applause for The Eagles, as they left the field having completed nine games in the league so far, winning eight and drawing one.
Speaking after the game, Dean Davenport was rightly pleased with the result: "That was just what we needed after being frustrated at Cambridge last week. The girls applied themselves very well today and so much of what we have been working on, came into our game.
"We had a strange 15-20 minutes or so half way through the first half and those lapses in concentration need to be dealt with, but it shouldn't take anything away from the way the rest of the game was played. Ipswich are a decent, honest side that we know, from our game at their place, can make it hard for the opposition.
"But today, we set the stall out from minute one and didn't look back. Our strength of squad was seen today, with players coming in and not looking out of place. Something that is essential in a league like this. We scored some good goals today and from various positions. Just what we needed as we close in on the half way point of the league fixtures."
With form as it has been, it may be easy to think that Dean and The Ladies are paying close attention to the league standings. However, as Dean admits, this is not on their minds right now
"We have started well and are just focussed on the next game and ticking each one off as it comes. We know how tough this league is and how, over a season, everyone will get their difficult spells. All we want to do, is keep putting our best efforts out there, which in turn will hopefully get us to where we want, and where Crystal Palace deserves to be at the end of the season."
Commenting on the new kits, Davenport was clearly impressed, saying: "The kits looked great and the girls loved them. A huge thanks has to go to the main club for providing the kits and continued backing. Thanks, also, to our sponsors for their immense support for and belief in what we are trying to achieve. Local companies such as Lark Insurance and RoadRunners Minicabs, as well as Steve Browett and Farr Vintners are a huge part of the Palace Ladies ambition. We hope to make them proud.
Palace Ladies would like to thank everyone who continues to support their efforts on and off the pitch. The Crystal Palace spirit is clear to see, and for this The Ladies are very grateful.
The first team travel to Luton Town for a tough away game in the FA Women's Premier League, next Sunday. Kick off 2pm.