Palace Ladies successfully came through a physical encounter against Chichester Ladies at Bromley FC on Sunday, in their latest FA Women’s Premier League match. The Eagles knew that another quality performance and the important three points were essential as they looked to climb further up the table.
Following a poignant moment of silence in remembrance, the game was underway, with both teams sizing each other up over the opening fifteen minutes. Palace soon settled and looked a threat when pushing forwards. The pairing of Nikita Whinnet and Gemma Bryan looked hungry and worked well off each other along with the industry of Ellie Bailes and craft of Ciara Sherwood. The endeavours of The Eagles paid off in the 20th minute when Bailes made her way into the area and crossed for Bryan who had created space away from her marker. The Palace top scorer controlled the ball and expertly dispatched it into the bottom corner.
Palace looked to build on the goal and used the width well, with Pam McRoberts a regular supply line. However, it was the more direct approach, albeit in no means lacking in panache that saw Palace double their lead. An inch perfect thirty yard diagonal through-ball from Steff Simmons on the halfway line found Whinnet, on the left hand corner of the box, who instinctively controlled and fired the ball home on the half volley on 32 minutes. This was no less than Whinnet deserved for her endless effort and enthusiasm, fast making her a Palace favourite.
The visitors refused to roll over and dug deep, but it was Palace who nearly added to the score-line ahead of half time, when Bryan turned provider following a great run down the left and crossed for Bailes, whose shot was very well denied by a last ditch tackle, resulting in a 2-0 score at half time for Palace.
The second half saw the home side look to capitalise on their lead and put the match beyond reach. The first ten minutes of the second period saw the imperious Leesa Haydock and tenacious Whinnet both go close. Rosie Paye also went close, heading wide from a corner. The pressure was turned up further in the 56th minute when Bryan tried an audacious volley from 40 yards, that took the Chichester 'keeper two attempts to deal with.
Palace did not have it all their own way and it was the Eagles number one, Megen Lynch who saved well in the 64th minute, tipping a well struck effort on to the post. But It was Bryan again, who added to her tally in the 71st minute, when she was fouled in the area, but got up and dusted herself down before sending the goalkeeper the wrong way and increasing the lead.
As before, Chichester refused to give in and in the 81st minute scored their only goal of the game through Cherelle Khassal who tapped in at the back post from a low cross that eluded the Palace defence.
However, it was Palace who scored the last goal of the game when Bryan was again upended, this time by the ‘keeper Wilson-Blakely. Bryan, again, coolly slotted home from 12 yards to round off her fifth hat-trick of the season and a Palace win that a fine and patient performance deserved.
Speaking after the match, coach Dean Davenport spoke highly of the performance.
“We played well today and took a deserved three points. At times, we were subject to quite a physical approach, but to be honest, we are used to that now. What was good, was the way the players retained control and let their belief in their abilities and our planning guide them.”
The coach also made the point that even though a hat-trick won Palace the points it was a fine team effort throughout the victory.
“I am sure that Gemma will get a lot of the plaudits for another fine display, but I am sure she would be the first to acknowledge that this is made much easier when the team is as effective as they were today in an excellent performance.”
Palace Ladies are away at Carshalton in the County Cup next Sunday – match details will be on @PalaceLadiesFC later this week.