Palace Ladies were left with a feeling of being hard done by, after one of their strongest performances of the season, on Sunday at Hayes Lane as they hosted high-fliers Tottenham Hotspur in The FA Women’s Championship.
Speaking ahead of the game, Palace boss, Dean Davenport spoke of the tough start to life at the higher level and the progress that continues to be made by The Eagles.
“The adjustment needed has been huge for everyone involved. Having had such a significant rebuild at short notice has, for sure, had an effect on our start and everyone has, and continues to work so hard to bring the performances we need, but know we are capable of. The visit of Spurs is a real test. They are a settled and well organised team and have hit the ground running this season.”
Asked what the response has been like, following the draw at Millwall the previous week, Dean added,
“Whilst it was great to get off the mark, points-wise, we were somewhat disappointed with our general performance last week and knew we could do better. This week has been about focussing on the positives, working hard, and all, taking the responsibility needed.”
Palace started brightly, with opening exchanges shared with Spurs, and it was Chloe Burr who sparked the first real chance, in the fifth minute, with a clever run and fine cross, into the box, which was deflected across the face of goal and wide. Burr then took the corner that was punched clear by Morgan in the Spurs goal, just ahead of Kallie Balfour’s intended connection. Palace were threatening a minute later, when Hope Nash was freed by a ball from Jade Keogh, only to be felled in the area, winning a penalty for The Eagles.
Balfour confidently stepped up and fired the spot kick into the bottom corner, to put Palace one up.
Spurs immediately responded and took the threat to Palace; with the lively Dean set through for a shot on goal, only to be met by a perfectly timed, last ditched tackle by former Spurs centre back, Hannah Mackenzie. The respite was short-lived, however, as it was Dean who reacted to a goal-bound shot being parried by Megen Lynch in the Palace goal, to slot home for the equaliser, in the 20th minute.
Spurs went close again, five minutes later, when Dean hit the bar with a volley.
Both teams traded blows for the remainder of the half, with Palace seeing good defending by their captain, Freya Holdaway and misfortune for Balfour as she hit the bar with a header in the 31st minute. Despite good pressure from both teams, half time arrived with no addition to the 1-1 score-line.
Palace, keen to halt the recent run of goals, immediately following the half time break, came out in positive mood and continued to try and take the game to Spurs. Chances fell to Megan Chandler and Jade Keogh, but fell just short of adding to the goal tally. And, it was in the 61st minute that Palace resolve was dealt a blow, when Addison was sent through on goal and managed to score past Lynch who was injured in the process. In addition to losing the lead, Palace also lost Lynch; this resulting in a Palace debut for Shannel Salgado, who was joined from the subs bench by Nikita Whinnett (for Megan Chandler) in the 68th minute.
It was Whinnett who appeared to have brought Palace level in the 73rd minute, converting a fine Burr cross, only to see a tight off-side call, rule the goal out. A minute later, it was Balfour, enjoying a fine game, who stole a march on the Spurs defence and saw her powerful drive, crash off the Spurs bar. This was followed, almost immediately by another Balfour attempt, from a fine Keogh pass; this time denied by the Spurs keeper.
Both teams had chances to score in the closing minutes, but for Palace, it was a case of so near yet so far, as the visitors held on for a 2-1 win, that sees their unbeaten run continue. Speaking after the game, Davenport had mixed emotions,
“It is really disappointing that we did not take a point or, in fact all three, today – something that I feel we deserved. Whilst the result has gone against us, I am very happy with the performance; a marked improvement on last week. The girls reacted as we had asked, are clearly learning from mistakes and based on the chances today, deserved more for their efforts. I felt that we really took the game to a very good team, restricted their creative play and threat, and on another day, could have had two or three goals. It is that frustration of when you are in a tough place, you often don’t get that bit of luck you need. But, aside from that, this was an improvement and the fact that a team on a run of form, like Spurs, were taking the ball to the corners with ten minutes to go, shows that we were being taken seriously. Yes, we have taken no points from the game, but as we have just said to the players, play like we did today and keep working hard between games and our chances (as well as that bit of luck) will come our way.”
Palaces are not in action next week and host London Bees, in their next FAWC match, on Sunday 14th October, at Bromley FC.