Crystal Palace Ladies concluded their most successful calendar year to date with a solid 3-0 win against Swindon Town Ladies at Bromley FC on Sunday.
In a year that has seen the team not only promoted to, but prove their credentials in the top tier of The FA Women's Premier League, there has been much to be proud of for The Eagles.
The visit of Swindon saw a first home league game in over two months for Palace, who took to the pitch off the back of two disappointing cup defeats in as many weeks. The previous encounter between the two had seen Palace grab a late winner; something that they were keen to improve on in the home tie.
The opening to the match saw both teams cancel each other out. Whilst not the prettiest football, it was nonetheless intriguing with Palace possession being absorbed and the counter attack employed by the visitors.
Following an extended period of numerous injuries, Palace were grateful for a number of players nearing a full return; including top goalscorer Gemma Bryan who passed a late fitness test and started the game. And it was Bryan who carried the greatest goal threat through her pace and ability, supported admirably by Roschelle Shakes.
Whilst not their most flowing style, Palace continued to dominate possession and took the lead through Bryan midway through the half. Despite the continuing threat from the hosts, Swindon gave Palace plenty to think about and went close to an equaliser from a well struck free-kick that was expertly saved low and to her left by Palace keeper, Channel Yardley. Soon after, Palace capitalised when following a foul on Bryan, when through on goal, was given the benefit of an advantage by the referee and resulted in a cool recovery and finish from Bryan.
Half time saw head coach Dean Davenport ask for more width and more control of the game. Evidence of this was present as Palace went in search of a third and decisive goal. Chances came and went, with Swindon still refusing to give in. However, it was Palace who scored next when fine approach play resulted in a foul in the Swindon area and Palace penalty. This was emphatically diapatched by Bryan for an impressive hat trick.
The remainder of the game was seen out by Palace and this included a welcome return for Ciara Sherwood following an extended lay-off.
Speaking after the game, Dean Davenport commented, "Whilst not at our best today, the result, after the cup losses and ahead of a short Christmas break, was the important thing. 2016 has been a year to remember for us all and with our start to the season and players returning from injuries, we are looking forwards to the new year."
Davenport also added, "The support from everyone; fans, Crystal Palace FC, our sponsors and the wider community has been second to none this year and we would sincerely like to thank everyone and wish them the best for Christmas and 2017."