While Brighton’s first team were shocking Premier League leaders Cardiff City, their reserves were in for an even bigger surprise when they were thumped 8-3 at home by Premier Reserves League strugglers Bedford.
The result was sensational for a number of reasons – not just the teams’ respective positions in the league.
Brighton, the reigning champions, harbour hopes of retaining the title, and were in second place before yesterday’s fixtures.
Bedford, who are appearing in the FAW Premier League’s reserves division for the first time after graduating from county-league football, are second-to-bottom and could have slipped to the very foot if they had not won yesterday.
Brighton have scored 79 goals – by far the most in the league – including victories of 8-0, 9-0, 10-0 and 11-0.
Bedford had scored only 15 goals all season before yesterday, conceding 63. They had lost nine on the trot, hadn’t won since the opening day of the season – and their most recent results had been 1-8, 2-8 and 1-11.
Yet yesterday, at Brighton’s Withdean Stadium, which had been housing men’s professional football just a few seasons ago, Bedford Reserves turned the world of women’s football upside down, rattling in eight goals to Brighton’s three in an afternoon replete with footballing shocks.
A club spokeswoman told Sent Her Forward: “It has been a big step up for our reserves this season, coming from the County League, and we have been hit by injuries, which often means that the reserves only turn out with 10 or 11 players, and although the team has been improving it hasn’t produced the results.
“However, this week we were able to field a full complement of 14, which was a tremendous boost, and allowed the team to play and show what they are capable of.”
The club’s top goalkeeper is away at university but was able to play yesterday, bringing something extra to the team’s defence.
And boosted by fringe players from the first-team, who were without a game, and others returning from injury, it was a totally transformed Bedford side that headed to the south coast.
Natasha Fensome rattled in six goals for Bedford, Chloe Scott and Eden Washington the others.
Lewes record first Reserves League win
Ironically, Bedford’s result prevented Lewes‘s development side climbing off the bottom of the table after they recorded their first victory since joining the league in August.
Mark Currier’s side, who had taken only two points from their 13 games before yesterday, beat Queens Park Rangers Reserves 2-1 at the Convent Field.
Well deserved 2-1 win over QPR reserves. Some reward for the girls after an incredibly tough first half of the season building a new team
— Lewes Ladies DS (@LewesLadiesDs) March 22, 2015
Georgia Tibble and Ellie Ramsauer scored the goals that made a little bit of Lewes history, Charmaine Benhem replying for Rangers. And all the more extraordinary on a day of extraordinariness was that they achieved that maiden victory without two of their regulars – Molly Miller and Danielle Perrin – who were promoted to the first-team squad.
Proud that we had 2 of this seasons DS players making their squad debuts with the 1st team today. It’s about development not just results
— Lewes Ladies DS (@LewesLadiesDs) March 22, 2015
Chichester City‘s development side also came close to another stunning result. Caroline Henry-Evans’s young team were seconds away from clinching a draw against one of the league’s early front-runners, West Ham United, before a thunderbolt from first-team regular Katie Bottom deep in stoppage time broke their hearts.
My last home game ever with my development squad today and what a great team performance it was! couldn’t be prouder right now!!
— Caz Henry-Evans (@CazHenryEvans) March 22, 2015
After the game, Henry-Evans dropped yet another bombshell, revealing that she was stepping down as development side manager at the end of the season to concentrate on the increasingly demanding role of club secretary.
West Ham’s 1-0 win lifts them above Brighton and into second place, still below Charlton Athletic, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Tottenham Hotspur.
Portsmouth beat fourth-placed Crystal Palace 3-1 to move within three points of the Londoners.
Rebecca Bell (2) and Liz O’Callaghan got Pompey’s goals.
Swindon defeat leaves Forest Green on the brink
Forest Green Rovers moved a step closer to the Premier League without even playing, as leaders Swindon Town ended their FAWPL Division One South West season in disappointing fashion, losing 3-1 at Exeter City.
Rovers now effectively need just one win from their remaining two matches, and could clinch the title next Sunday at bottom club St Nicholas.
If they fail to secure it then, they will need something from their final game of the season at Chichester City.
If they win only one of the remaining fixtures, Exeter could conceivably overhaul them on goal difference, but they would need to win both their own games – and make up a goal-difference deficit of six goals.
Swindon’s final-day defeat was all the more disappointing, after they fell away badly in the second half of last season, too. And had they not had three points deducted for fielding an ineligible player this season, they might already have had enough points to win the league.
In yesterday’s other Division One South games, Chichester drew 1-1 with Larkhall Athletic, Kally Ambler scoring a late goal, and Shanklin defeated St Nicholas 2-1, courtesy of goals from Chloe Parkes and Katy Rawlinson, Jade Gamlin replying for St Nicholas.
Stalemate dents Wimbledon title hopes
AFC Wimbledon‘s hopes of making it a club double by winning the London and South East Regional Women’s League took a jolt yesterday when they could only manage a 1-1 draw at promotion rivals Carshalton Athletic.
With leaders Old Actonians beating Eastbourne Town 2-0 and Fulham Foundation scraping a 1-0 victory over Hassocks, Wimbledon fell further behind – and are running out of games.
They are now 10 points behind Actonians with two games in hand , and seven behind Fulham, over whom they have a single-game advantage. But they have only six games left and must rely not only on their own dazzling finish to the season but on rivals slipping up.
For Carshalton, the draw was not so devastating. Although they slipped further behind the top two, they can at least match both of them if they win their games in hand.
While Hassocks’ task looks hopeless, with just two points all season, they emerged from yesterday’s defeat at Fulham with great credit.
However, Eastbourne Town, who enjoyed a magnificent FAW Cup run this season, need to get their act together if they are to pull away from the bottom two.
Their defeat at Old Actonians leaves them stuck second-to-bottom – but they still have plenty of games in hand of Bexhill United and Aylesford, immediately above them.
Aylesford crashed 5-1 at local rivals Maidstone United, while Bexhill lost a double-header against London Corinthians 3-0 in both matches.
The six points mean Corinthians can also still win the league – although they would probably need to win all but one or two of their remaining nine fixtures.
In the division’s other match, KIKK United defeated Crawley Wasps 4-1.
Parkwood hold title challengers at Bay – again
The race to reach the London and South East league is equally enthralling – as is the battle to stay in it.
Long Lane moved briefly into second spot in the Premier Division of the South East Counties Women’s League following their 3-0 victory at Burgess Hill Town.
But Herne Bay, who have a realistic chance of the title, dropped two valuable points in a 3-3 draw at Parkwood Rangers, who are fast becoming their bogey side.
Bay have failed to win only four of their 14 league games this season – but two of those were against Parkwood, who followed up their goalless draw at Winch’s Field earlier this month with a high-scoring draw on their own ground.
Rachel Mugami scored her first goal and top scorer Emily Vaughan her eighth and ninth of the season, while Herne Bay’s came from Kate Foster, Vicky Holness and Rachel Tracy.
Bay, who have games in hand of all their rivals, are within reach of the sides above them, but yesterday’s draw will certainly not have made their job any easier.
At the other end of the table, Crockenhill maintained their recent mini-revival with their second win in a row to move up to third-from-bottom.
They are now just two points behind Anchorians, whom the beat 4-1.
Six-point Seahaven in seventh heaven – twice
The title battle in Division One West, which only a month or two ago looked almost done and dusted, is hotting up after Seahaven Harriers‘ six-point haul from their double-header against Burgess Hill Town 2nds yesterday.
The fixtures were switched from Burgess Hill to Newhaven because the number of games being played at the ground could not guarantee a daylight finish for the two hour-long matches, according to the club.
And Seahaven took full advantage of their more familiar surroundings to rack up successive 7-0 victories and cut the gap to leaders Worthing Minors to five points.
Minors, who won their first 13 fixtures, have played a game more than Seahaven – and the rivals are due to meet twice in the next three weeks in matches that should decide the championship.
Lauren Smith scored hat-tricks in each of yesterday’s games. Taylor Coade scored twice in the first and another in the second. Katie Franks also found the net in both matches, while Seahaven’s other goals came from Emma Woodcock, Emma Flynn and Bethany McKellar.
There were plenty of goals in the day’s other fixtures, too, where Wivelsfield Green clocked up their eighth league win in their last 10 games with a 6-0 victory over Worthing Town and Abbey Rangers kept their promotion hopes alive.
Emma Chrimes, who has missed more than half of Wivelsfield’s season with injury, hit four to take her season total to 11 in 10 games, and there were one apiece for Lauren Amos and Hayley Plummer.
And Abbey won 3-0 against second-to-bottom Bexhill United Reserves. Lauren Campbell scored twice for Abbey and top scorer Rachel Johnson the other.
Battle royal brewing between Ashford and Prince of Wales
The contest in Division One East took another twist when Prince of Wales effectively made up one of their games in hand of leaders Ashford with a 2-1 win over Faversham Elizabethans.
The Canterbury side, who were defeated in the final of the Kent FA Plate in midweek, bounced back immediately, thanks to goals by Caroline Rennie and Maria Wharfe, taking them to within a point of Ashford. Natalie Curtis scored for Faversham.
The leaders were also in action, but their match against Thanet Colts was abandoned after a serious injury to one of the players, with Ashford 4-0 ahead.
Bottom club Aylesford Reserves put on a much-improved display against Anchorians 2nds but couldn’t quite grab the win they desperately needed.
There was a welcome return for Lorraine Embleton – one of the stars of last season’s promotion campaign – who scored in only her second game back, while Bex Stroud and Chloe Baker also scored.
Anchorians’s goals were credited to Courtney Baldwin, Louise Foreman and Ashleigh Kavanagh.
London Corinthians Reserves moved into second place in the Kent County Division with a 6-1 victory over Sheerness East.
And Margate‘s revival gathered pace with their fifth win in their last six matches, beating Barming 5-1. It was a fitting – and emotional – end to a season in which they spent the first half in the bottom two before going on a superb end-of-season run, in which they picked up 16 points in the second half of the campaign after mustering only six in the first half.
— Chelsea Cornish (@chelscornish93) March 23, 2015
Kara Richardson scored twice, as did Beth Cooper in her final game for the club. Chelsea Cornish also marked her final match before heading abroad with a goal as Margate marked the end of their amazing season with another convincing win to finish in mid-table comfort.
Good Evans! Chloe clinches it for Lewes in extra-time
The Sussex County League served up two cracking cup ties and a damp squib yesterday as the final three League Cup semi-finalists were decided.
Lancing had a confidence-booster ahead of the title run-in with a 4-3 victory over their most likely challengers, Rottingdean Village.
Nicole Webley scored two, and Billie-Jo Cobb and Kayleigh Thaxter one each for Lancing. Amy Clark (2) and Sam French responded for Rottingdean.
Lewes needed two extra-time goals from Chloe Evans to see off Crawley Wasps. Emily Guthrie had scored for Lewes earlier as the game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes. But Evans’ double earned Lewes a semi-final at Lancing – a repeat of this week’s league encounter.
In the other semi-final, Jarvis Brook, who were granted a bye, will play Hurstpierpoint, who were given a walkover after Worthing Town were unable to fulfil the fixture.
In the Under-16 Cup, Bexhill United beat Hawks Youth Withdean 4-3 to set up a final encounter with league champions Southdown – who were yet another recipient of a walkover against Royal Tunbridge Wells.