Palace Ladies took their second step in the elite of women’s football on Sunday, in an away fixture within The Continental Cup group stages, as Super League and Championship teams compete ahead of the finals stage. The opponents, following a penalty shootout win against fellow Championship team, Spurs in match day one, was Super League outfit, Yeovil Town. A first meeting with a club from that lefor The Eagles
Arriving at Dorchester Town FC, during an afternoon of torrential rain, Palace were well aware of the challenge ahead and this was summed up by coach Kirk Stoneham,
“Last weekend saw the perfect start to life at the new level. The result against Spurs was great, but it was the reward for effort and commitment that will stand us in good stead for the long term. After a well-publicised route into The Championship, it was terrific to prove our worth and credentials. To be up against a top tier team, the following weekend, moves it on to another level, very quickly. Yeovil are a good, well experienced set-up, previously title winners at the level we are now. We all know that the test will be tough, but this is what we have wanted and it is time to match the challenge.”
As predicted, Palace were subjected to considerable pressure in the opening stages, with Yeovil seeking to dominate possession, loading the midfield areas. Palace, as a result, were keen to exploit the counter-attack through the flourishing partnership of Ashlee Hincks and Kallie Balfour. Despite extended possession in the first half, chances were not that frequent for the hosts, with the resolute Palace defending and tactical structure thwarting opportunities for goals; the best of which were denied by a Megen Lynch double save and goal line clearance by Hope Nash.
Being 0-0 at half time, The Eagles, buoyed by the travelling support, were urged to continue as they had started; working hard to frustrate and take any opportunity that arose.
The determination of Palace, was again crucial, as they held out against their experienced opponents; this rewarded, when in the 83rd minute a fine cross from Ciara Watling was met, expertly, by one of the summer signings, Jordan Butler, who headed home with aplomb, to set up a frantic final few minutes. Yeovil, in desperate search of an equaliser, continued to find Palace obstinate and defiant; restricted to long range and half chances, as the clock ticked towards the 90 minutes. Indeed, Palace almost had the final say, in the last minute when a superb 25 yard shot from substitute, Chloe Burr, crashed off the Yeovil bar. Throughout injury time, Palace held on for an historic victory with another outstanding team defensive display of diligence, dedication and determination, led by captain and player of the match, Freya Holdaway.
Speaking after the match, Kirk Stoneham was full of praise for the squad.
“This is a fantastic result today. A lot like our game against Spurs, this was about us adjusting to a different style of football than we have been often used to. Due to the quality of the opposition that we are now facing, we have had to learn, very quickly, that we will earn results through hard work and team effort. I think it is fair to say that Yeovil will feel that they should have had something out of the game, but from our perspective, the fact that they didn’t is as much to do with our effort and commitment, as anything else. We could not be prouder of the players today.”
Stoneham added, “This level is a whole new experience for the club and we are all having to adjust quickly, both on and off the pitch. You could see, today, that effort to blend the quality of the squad from last season, with the quality and experience we have brought in, is serving us well. There will be many tests ahead, but everyone at Palace should be rightly proud of this start to the season, and a little bit of history made today, in winning against a top tier club for the first time.”
Palace Ladies return to action on Sunday 9th September at Bromley FC (kick off 1400), when they host Leicester City in the first league game of the season. The Continental Cup resumes, later in September, when Palace host, none other than, Chelsea. Another historic moment for everyone connected to Crystal Palace FC.