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Report: Palace (Women) draw strong season opener


In a hard fought opening fixture to their FA Women’s Championship campaign, Crystal Palace hosted Coventry United and kick-started their season with a well earned clean sheet and first strike on their total points tally.

In front of a crowd that included plenty of new faces, Palace lined up with seven newcomers of their own in the outfield positions.
The Eagles started the match on the back foot, but enjoyed the first two chances of note. Firstly, just over a minute in, Ashlee Hincks showed composure to find space in the box and curl an effort at goal, but it lacked power and allowed Sue Wood to make a simple save. 
Debutant Leeta Rutherford then saw a low drive saved, before Andria Georgiou took a knock and required treatment off the field. However, she re-entered the fray a handful of minutes later and continued to play a battling and influential role in midfield.
Despite Coventry enjoying most of the possession, it was Palace who had the better opportunities. Rea Laudat almost marked her first competitive Eagles appearance with a goal on the half hour mark, but scooped the ball over from close range. 
United’s Jade Formaston tried to catch Lucy Gillett out with a lob from 25 yards, but her effort failed to test the Palace stopper and sailed wide.
As half time drew near, a long kick from Gillett found the run of Hincks, and after the Coventry defence misjudged the flight of the ball, she broke through on goal. An awkward bounce meant she could only volley wide, however.
In the second half, the Eagles took more of a share of the possession as they searched for an opener. Hincks tried a shot from the edge of the box just minutes in, but failed to hit the target.
Despite some dangerous attacks and neat attacking football, Coventry failed to test Gillett in the Palace goal and both sides kept one another cancelled out.

After Charelle Khassal volleyed wide, the best chance of the game fell to Palace skipper Freya Holdaway. After getting her foot to an inswinging corner, her effort was bound for the back of the net, but a last-ditch goal-line clearance from the visitors maintained the deadlock.
Rutherford then sent a 25-yard drive inches wide of Wood’s goal, before Khassal had the chance to claim the points at the death, but couldn’t get a foot on Hincks’ teasing cross into the six-yard box.
Speaking after the match, manager Dean Davenport commented: “It was good to get the season underway. Having made so many additions to the squad, we knew it would take time to gel and competitive matches are the best way to do that. We stepped up [the tempo] to more where I’d like to see us in the second half and probably had the best chances. That said, a draw was not an unfair result based on the 90 minutes. All in all it was a good start, and a good platform to build from as we bring the squad to full strength over the coming weeks."
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