Consistent Brighton move top as title rivals feel the pressure

Sent Her Forward takes an in-depth look at yesterday’s Premier League results

Deanna Cooper and Jo Wilson compete for the ball during the match between Brighton and QPR, Sep 6 2015 (Photo: Kevin Richards)

Brighton remain unbeaten – and are top after their victory over QPR (Photo: Kevin Richards)

They knew it was going to be a tight league, but if any newcomers to the FAW Premier League Southern Division were under any illusions about just how tough the campaign was going to be, the first three weeks of the new season should have put them right.

After just three rounds of matches, only three of the division’s 12 teams remain unbeaten – and only champions Portsmouth have a 100% record… and they’ve only played two games.

It was always going to be dog-eats-dog this season, with half the league in with a chance of winning the championship and a play-off place against the winners of the Northern Division.

And it’s proving that way already, with the likes of Cardiff City and Coventry United already having suffered defeat and Charlton Athletic being held to draws in both their first two games.

Brighton flying high

It leaves Brighton top of the pile at this early stage – as they were for spells last season – following their routine 2-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers in their first game back at Culver Road.

Kirsty Barton claimed the first after challenging Juliette Denny to Sophie Perry’s cross, to give the home side a half-time lead, and Deanna Cooper doubled it straight after the restart to hand Brighton their second win in three unbeaten league games.

Faye Baker, the Brighton keeper, has still to concede a goal in four league and cup games, while Rangers’ own goalkeeper, Jo Ayre, kept the score down with some impressive stops for the visitors.

Five-star Pompey shock Coventry

Portsmouth, who eventually pipped Brighton to the title last season, are hot on their heels. Their 5-1 demolition of much-fancied Coventry United not only took them up to third, preserving the only remaining 100% record in the division, but served notice that their strengthened squad might make them even harder to beat this season.

Once again, the goals were evenly shared. Leeta Rutherford and Shannon Sievwright scored in the first half, and Ini Umotong and substitute Gemma Simmonds (twice) after the break.

Amber Hughes had momentarily levelled for the visitors – who until yesterday had conceded neither a point nor a goal in the league since their return to the southern division – shortly before half-time.

Basildon beaten at last

Cardiff are up to second after inflicting upon C&K Basildon their first defeat since their promotion to the Premier League Southern.

Jemma Heath and top scorer Hope Suominen each bagged two, while Kelly Isaac, Michelle Green and Naomi Clipston got the others for Cardiff as they hit goalscoring form with a 7-4 victory.

Zoe Rushen‘s hat-trick for Basildon, who had taken an early lead, proved in vain. Maegen Doyle scored their opener.

Maiden win for Forest Green

Intriguingly, given their impressive start to the season, Basildon have an almost identical record to the other newly promoted side, Forest Green Rovers, who earned their first victory in their new division with a 1-0 win over West Ham United.

Since their opening-day 4-0 defeat to Brighton, Forest Green are unbeaten in league and League Cup, and their three points yesterday came courtesy of Kirsty Richardson‘s late winner.

Martin spurs Tottenham to a double over Lewes

Spurs celebrate a goal against Lewes, Sep 6 2015 (Photo: James Boyes)

Wendy Martin scored twice to help Spurs to a second successive win over Lewes (Photo: James Boyes)

Tottenham Hotspur, who are also expected to be in the mix at the end of the season, moved up to joint-second, level with three other clubs, with a 2-0 victory at Lewes.

Wendy Martin scored both the Londoners’ goals as Spurs chalked up their second win in three league matches – and their second in all competitions against Lewes in successive Sundays, having beaten them 5-1 in the League Cup last week.

It leaves Lewes without success since their opening-day victory over Plymouth Argyle – something they will be anxious to put right when they visit local rivals Brighton on Wednesday.

Charlton hit six – and form – at last

After an unexpectedly low-key start to the season, triple cup-winners Charlton Athletic earned their first league victory of the season, winning 6-1 at Plymouth Argyle.

Jeremy Parsons’ side had failed to win either of their tricky opening fixtures, and although they were handed a walkover in the League Cup when Gloucester City were unable to field a side, their convincing victory at Plymouth was their first of the campaign on the pitch.

The goals were shared among six different players – Kim Dixson, Katie Flack, Jenny Newman, Amy Howlett and Gemma Shepherd putting them 5-1 up by half-time, before debutant substitute Darcy Wells added a sixth. Jessica Jones had given the home side hope when she pulled the score back to 2-1 before the floodgates opened.

It leaves Plymouth in the bottom three, with just a single point from their three matches. QPR and West Ham – who have played one game fewer – are below them.

For all their lack of wins, Charlton remain unbeaten – and an undoubted threat to the half dozen or so teams still coveting that play-off place.

And farther down the Premier League pyramid…

Kally Ambler scored a hat-trick as Chichester City continued their impressive start to the season with a 7-0 hammering of South West Division 1 newcomers Swindon Spitfires.

Jade Widdows, who has made an impressive start since joining the Greens in the summer, scored two – making it four for the season – while Tammy Waine came off the bench to grab her second in three games since her arrival.

Another newcomer, Shannon Albuery, got the other goal as Chichester maintained their winning start in both league and League Cup.

Exeter City returned to winning ways after a shaky start to the season, defeating Cheltenham Town 3-1, with goals from Kirsty Caunter, Corinne Potts and Helen Kukor.

But Larkhall Athletic and Swindon Town remain the pace-setters, both earning their fourth victories in four league games on Sunday.

Larkhall defeated Shanklin 4-3 to take their goal tally to 18, while Swindon are just one goal behind following their 2-0 victory over Maidenhead United, with early goals from Ellie Maynard and Beth Westlake.

Keynsham Town, the fourth side with a 100% record, did not play after their game against Gloucester City was postponed.

Southampton Saints finally got off the mark following their disappointing start to the season, claiming their first points in a 3-2 victory at St Nicholas. Catherine Browning, Jess Lewry and Krystal Whyte hit Saints’ goals, and Amy Jefferies and Jade Gamblin replied for St Nicks.

In South East Division 1, Crystal Palace won the divisional match of the day, defeating promotion rivals MK Dons 4-2. Gillingham bounced back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory at Ipswich Town. Cambridge United are now the only side without a win after Bedford won 2-1 at Denham United.

Reserves League

Tottenham Hotspur made it a club double over Lewes with a 6-0 victory in Sussex. Portsmouth drew 3-3 at home to last season’s champions, Charlton Athletic, and Queens Park Rangers avenged the senior side’s 2-0 defeat at Brighton, beating their reserves by the same score.

Chichester City‘s first competitive match under new manager Dick Semark went the same way as so many of the club’s early-season games last year. They lost 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace.

The match between Southampton Saints and Bedford was postponed.

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