Premier League gap widens as leading clubs pull clear

Charlotte Gurr in action for Brighton against Copsewood Coventry in August 2014 (Photo: Geoff Penn)

Charlotte Gurr scored a hat-trick to bring her season’s total to five (Photo: BHA/Geoff Penn)

The Premier League’s three unbeaten sides extended their runs on Sunday as the realistic title contenders show signs of pulling away from the rest of the division.

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Table-toppers Brighton, Charlton Athletic and champions Portsmouth – the only side with a perfect record after a month of the campaign – all won, along with second-placed Cardiff City and Tottenham Hotspur, who are fourth.

Along with Coventry United, who didn’t play, and C&K Basildon, who suffered their second defeat of the season, the trail-blazers are beginning to pull clear of the other five clubs, even at this early stage of the season.

Revenge for Charlton

Of the current top five, Charlton had potentially the toughest task yesterday, facing a buoyant C&K Basildon who held them to a 1-1 draw on the opening day of the season.

This time there were no shocks as Jeremy Parsons’ team came from behind to win 4-1. Hannah Porter had given Basildon the lead, but a hat-trick from Gemma Shepherd (taking her to five for the season) and one from Nikita Whinnett helped Charlton to an ultimately comfortable victory, preserved their unbeaten record and lifted them to fifth.

Perfect Pompey see off lively Lewes

Portsmouth encountered stiff opposition at Lewes, where they survived a few scares, but eased to a 2-0 victory, courtesy of a goal in each half from Leeta Rutherford – the defender’s second of the campaign – and Charley Wilson, who now has three for the season.

A fourth defeat in a row for the Sussex club suggests worrying times for manager John Donoghue, but this match report, from Lewes supporter and co-owner of the community club, Ashley Head, suggests there’s plenty of room for optimism.

Portsmouth have now won all five league and cup games this season, and their only defeat in their last 13 competitive matches is their injury-time championship play-off loss to Sheffield FC in May.

They are third to Cardiff only on goals scored and are just a point behind leaders Brighton – against whom they have been drawn in the Premier League Cup – with a game in hand.

Brighton breezy win for league leaders

James Marrs’ side continued their own excellent start to the season with a 4-0 victory at Plymouth Argyle.

“Miss Consistency”, Charlotte Gurr, hit a hat-trick to take her season total to five after defender Deanna Cooper had crashed in her own third of the campaign.

Brighton’s 0-0 draw at Charlton in August is the only time they have failed to win a match this season.

Plymouth, on the other hand, appear to have big problems in a division where tough fixture follows tough fixture.

They have lost three of their four league games so far, and after what they might consider a winnable game at Queens Park Rangers next week, they face Coventry United, Portsmouth, C&K Basildon and Cardiff City in successive matches.

Cardiff kill off Rangers resistance

Cardiff City kept up the pressure on their title rivals with a 2-0 win at QPR – their fourth victory in five league games so far.

Rock-bottom Rangers held out until after half-time, when goals by Michelle Green and Kelly Aldridge killed off their resistance.

Joint-bottom on nul points with QPR are West Ham United, but they have played only three matches so far. They were not in action on Sunday and are without a league game again next weekend, but play Basildon in midweek, still seeking their first point of the campaign.

Spurs stay in the hunt

Tottenham Hotspur remain in the pack after their 2-1 home win against Forest Green Rovers, courtesy of first-half goals from Wendy Martin and Sophie McLean. Paige Stewart – one of the finds of the season so far – pulled one back for Forest Green after the break, but it was not enough to deny Spurs their third league victory.

They play their game in hand of the top two on Thursday, at home to Charlton, and then play the reverse fixture against Forest Green on the Sunday.

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Palace too strong for Bedford

Crystal Palace‘s sensational start to the season continued as they rattled up seven goals at Bedford without reply, taking their season tally to 21 from five successive victories.

Six different players got on the scoresheet – Roschelle Shakes hit two and there was a goal apiece for Leanne Bell, Alma Donohoe, Freya Holdaway, Nicha Pyelt and Gemma Bryan.

Luton Town remain second after a 2-0 win over Lowestoft Town, and the third unbeaten side, Old Actonians, lost their 100% record after being held to a 1-1 draw by Enfield TownCarla Williams scored the visitors’ goal.

Ex-England ‘keeper to show resurgent Gills how to Cope

Pauline Cope-Boanas, Gillingham's goalkeeping coach (Photo: Gillingham LFC)

Pauline Cope-Boanas says Gillingham’s goalkeepers are eager to learn (Photo: Gillingham LFC)

Gillingham surged back into the top four with a resounding 4-1 victory over Norwich City. There was a hat-trick for Kallie Balfour – her second of the season – and a goal from a trademark free-kick for Jade Keogh.

The club received a second boost today when they announced the appointment of former England goalkeeper Pauline Cope-Boanas as the club’s goalkeeping coach.

Cope, who won 60 caps for England and played for Millwall, Arsenal and Charlton Athletic, said she was approached by Gills’ joint-manager, Jack Wheeler, whom she knew through her husband, Keith Boanas, the current head coach of the Estonian national team.

She said: “It’s a great club with two good young goalkeepers who are willing to learn, which is massive. The opportunities for women’s football now are phenomenal. It was never like that when I was playing. I think I was born 20 years too early because the opportunities for the girls now are amazing.

“I’ve just said to the girls, this is [the] time to knuckle down now. There’s a great future for the women’s game, and it starts from today.”

Milton Keynes Dons stand between Gillingham and a top-three berth following their 3-0 win at Ipswich Town. And Cambridge United continued their recent improvement, drawing 0-0 with Denham United for their third successive point after starting the season with two defeats.

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Like the Premier League Southern, there’s a gap growing at the top of South West Division 1, as three teams with 100% records put distance between themselves and their rivals.

Swindon and Keynsham go to Town

Swindon Town remain top after recording their fifth league win of the season, defeating Southampton Saints 4-1. Serena Smith and Ellie Maynard had put Town on their way, with Jess Lewry again scoring for Southampton, but Beth Westlake added some late gloss with two goals in the last couple of minutes.

Town have now scored 21 goals – of which Westlake has scored seven – in five games.

But they are not the division’s top scorers. Keynsham Town have managed two more from one game fewer, thanks to yesterday’s 11-1 drubbing of Town’s local rivals, the Spitfires.

They rattled in eight before half-time, with Christina Leandro bagging a first-half hat-trick, and three more after the break. Leandro ended up with five, Leanne Lapham scored three and Justine Lorton-Radburn two. Maria Garcia had put Keynsham ahead after just two minutes.

The drubbing leaves Spitfires in all sorts of trouble at the bottom of the table, having lost all five games and conceded 29 goals since their promotion last season.

They are not alone at the bottom, though. Gloucester City and Shanklin have yet to pick up a point – although they both have two games in hand of the Swindon side.

Gloucester’s game with Larkhall Athletic – another of the 100%-ers – was postponed, and Shanklin were not in action, either.

Chichester maintain winning start

Larkhall’s inaction meant Chichester City were able to leapfrog them into third place following their 3-0 victory at St Nicholas – their fourth in a row this season and fifth in all competitions.

Tammy Waine put the visitors ahead in the first half with her third goal in three starts and one substitute’s appearance. Then Jade Widdows – herself a sub on Sunday – came off the bench to score two late goals and take her own goal tally to six since her arrival in the summer.

Maidenhead United claimed their second victory of the season, winning 3-2 at Cheltenham Town, thanks to goals from Catherine Butts, Lucy Jane Smith and Natasha Thompson.

Premier Reserves League South

Portsmouth‘s reserves romped to a 7-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers, with no fewer than six different players on the scoresheet. Katie James scored two and Becky Bell, Jess Burke, Tash Stephens, Bekah Tonks and Hannah Reed one each.

But while the goal tally will have boosted confidence, there was also a welcome return to the club for goalkeeper Michelle Beazley, who was returning from a break from the game after joining Pompey towards the end of last season.

There were also wins for Brighton against last season’s champions, Charlton Athletic, Spurs at Chichester City, West Ham at home to Lewes and Crystal Palace at Southampton Saints, courtesy of two goals from Rachel Harney.

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