Palace Ladies added another, well earned three points to their FA Women’s Premier League campaign on Sunday, against C&K Basildon, at Bromley FC as they ran out 2-0 winners.
The visitors, themselves, vying for the top spot in The League have been on a good run of form recently and along with Charlton, remain favourites for the title, despite the top spot being occupied by The Eagles – who have played more games at this time. With this in mind, Head Coach Alberto Kurti was realistic about the match, ahead of kick off
“We have all spoken over recent weeks about the focus and intent that is needed, game by game, in the run-in. albeit we have points on the board, our two rivals have the games in hand – and we have them both to play. So, it is imperative that we give a good account of ourselves today. Basildon will come with a defined game plan, and we know that this will be a physical affair, but we have our plan and know what is needed”
Ahead of the match, Palace were treated to words of wisdom from former England and Manchester United legend, Rio Ferdinand, who made a special visit to the home dressing room. This was added to by the presence of the inspirational Lilac, who had been mascot at Selhurst Park on Saturday and guest of honour at Bromley for The Ladies match – with all their gate receipts being donated to help fund a life-changing operation that could see Lilac walk unaided.
From the first minute, the predicted physical encounter was clear to see. With tackles a plenty, some not for the faint-hearted, it was the visitors who took the early initiative, with the lion’s share of possession. Palace were forced to defend deep, but were resilient, despite a number of corners and free-kicks that could have troubled Megen Lynch in the Palace goal. During this spell, Palace saw bookings for Pam McRoberts and Ciara Sherwood, with Basildon also no stranger to the referee’s book. At times, Palace appeared frustrated by the tactics employed against them, but slowly came into the half, creating more space in the opponent’s half and restricting the pressure on their defence. The Palace effort was rewarded in the 42nd minute, following one of a number of corners earned, when McRoberts hit a low drive across the box, which was turned in by Ellie Bailes, leaving the ‘keeper no chance. The goal came at a crucial time for Palace, who were able to take the slender lead in, at half time.
The hosts started the second half in a far more positive mood, than the first and looked to take the game to Basildon. With the tackles and tactics still dictating the flow of the game, there were only rare glimpses of the quality in possession that Palace have shown this season. That said, the work ethic and determination of the team, aided by some superb defending across the back line, including player of the match, Ria Collins (pictured below collecting her trophy), was something that would have pleased the management. As the half wore on, and a few more bookings later, Palace appeared to extend their grip on the game, aided by some outstanding fitness levels. During this period, Ellie Stenning went closest to scoring, when she slid in to meet an exquisite pass, across the six yard box from Gemma Bryan on the left, only to see her goal-bound effort, miraculously saved.
Bryan was at it again in the 85th minute, this time on the right, when she reacted first and fastest to a through ball, and was brought down on the edge of the area. Dusting herself down, she fired home from the spot, adding to her incredible tally for the season and making the game safe for Palace, who almost added a third, late on, when Sherwood crashed a shot, from 20 yards, off the underside of the bar. This after a late sending off for the visitors, with the last of the yellow cards issued in a frenetic match.
Speaking after the match, Palace captain Freya Holdaway added,
“First off, we wish April (Bowers) all the best, following the neck injury she received in the game, we never like to see a fellow player injured. We hope she is on the mend quickly. In respect of the match, I could not be prouder of the girls. We worked so hard today, ensuring that we would not be bullied, but retained our ability to play. I thought the team showed real maturity and an ability to deal with what was presented. Games like this will always be tight and it comes down to those moments of decision making, whether that be defending or attacking. Today, we were spot on, in difficult circumstances, and should be very proud.”
Asked as to the pre-match visitors to the changing room, Freya added,
“It was very kind of Rio Ferdinand to come in and talk to us. He gave good advice and a real lift to the team. As for little Lilac, she was an inspiration. Someone, who at such a young age, already knows what a battle really feels like. It was lovely to have her with us for the game and we are so glad to have done a little bit to help with the fund and awareness raising. We wish her and her family all our love and support and best wishes for her operation on Friday.”
So, Palace Ladies take another week at the top of the table, although have two weeks to wait for the next match, allowing the pursuing two teams to maximise the games in hand. With Charlton being one of those, and the final home game for Palace, The Eagles have put themselves in a good position to have a say, right to the end of only their second season at this level.
Everyone at Palace Ladies would like to thank all of those who attended the game and made it such a success – on and off the pitch.
Enjoy some of the best of the images from another victory for Palace Ladies in our match gallery.