Oakwood 2 (Page 42, 90)
Goal-machine Jade Page helped herself to another two opportunist efforts to earn Oakwood a Sussex League Cup victory over their league title rivals Lancing, a week after being held to a draw by the same opponents.
Page scored her 21st and 22nd goals of a prolific season to set up a semi-final tie against Montpelier Villa, who only a fortnight ago became the first team to score against unbeaten Oakwood this season.
The Crawley side did it in style, playing with a panache that comes from knowing each other’s games so well and a confidence that only winning can bring.
Their opponents, who are Oakwood’s closest challengers for the league, provided a tough obstacle, but they struggled to maintain possession for long enough to pose a real threat to the league leaders, leaving manager Ross Waddington bemoaning what he called their worst performance of the season.
Lancing defender Claire Katoroz was immense in defence, Ellie Kinloch and Paris Akehurst impressive in midfield, but it was not until Macey Gipson moved alongside the always-threatening Billie-Jo Cobb up-front in the second half that the home side – playing today at Storrington – unsettled Oakwood’s composed defence.
But they didn’t quite have the cutting edge to pierce Oakwood’s mighty back line, for whom Sarah Killick-Bird was excellent and Chloe Higham simply outstanding.
Creatively, they were spoiled for choice, with Lauren Tyler oozing class and Emma Green and Page constant thorns in Lancing’s side.
Yet it was only just before half-time that Oakwood finally made their superior possession count, with the first of Page’s two goals.
And the clincher came at the start of eight minutes of stoppage time – testament to Lancing’s committed defending and Oakwood’s inability to finish off promising moves.
The visitors earned a couple of early corners without capitalising, but when their hosts finally won one themselves, on 12 minutes, it almost led to their undoing.
Oakwood easily cleared the low cross and set Amber Whenham away down the right. She did well to break to the edge of the Lancing area, but with two team-mates better placed, the winger shot over.
Katoroz was impressing for the home side, bailing out colleagues and thwarting Oakwood’s pacy attacks. But in the 17th minute she was robbed by Abi Knight, who crossed for Tyler, whose shot was well blocked, and when the ball came back to her, Holly Marsh did well to save her effort at the near post.
Lancing were under the cosh, yet in the 20th minute they almost took the lead after an impressive passing move.
Cobb won the ball and unselfishly played it to Sophie Bulbeck, who returned the compliment, but Cobb’s shot from 20 yards hit the underside of the bar and was cleared, with the Lancing bench arguing in vain that the ball had crossed the line.
Two minutes later it was Oakwood’s turn to feel aggrieved when the dangerous Page was brought down just inside the box. The referee awarded a free-kick just outside the area, and Marsh punched away Tyler’s fierce effort before saving well at the feet of Green.
On 33 minutes Oakwood were denied a penalty for a second time when Bulbeck pushed Page as she was about to shoot, but the referee saw nothing wrong with the challenge and it went unpunished.
Bulbeck and Beth Moore then denied Tayla Hill, blocking two efforts in quick succession following an excellent cross from the increasingly influential Higham.
As half-time approached, Oakwood finally broke through the Lancing barricades. Whenham made ground down the right following a flowing passing move out of defence. Her cross looked to be going in until Marsh brilliantly tipped it over the bar.
But the respite was brief. Higham’s superb flag-kick was bundled home by Page, with Lancing appealing unsuccessfully for a foul.
In the 44th minute, there was so nearly a repeat as Higham’s pinpoint corner kick found Hill, whose header was cleared off the line, and Whenham blasted the rebound over the bar.
It was the last meaningful action of a first half which had sprung to life once Lancing finally managed to keep hold of the ball and took the game to their opponents, leaving spaces which Oakwood increasingly exploited.
Half-time: Lancing 0-1 Oakwood
The momentum was still with the visitors after the interval, and the industrious Tyler set up Hill in the first meaningful attack of the second half. But her poor shot went well wide.
At the other end, Killick-Bird’s stock continued to rise, as she denied Gladys Hedger a shooting chance with a trademark interception and then rescued her goalkeeper, the returning Beckie Kirkham, after a miscued clearance.
Higham, who was proving such a threat going forward, showed her defending skills moments later, getting her head to the ball ahead of Cobb in a 50-50 challenge with only Kirkham between her and the goal.
The mini-spell of pressure seemed to lift the home side, who began to enjoy one of their best periods of the game.
On 53 minutes the impressive Kinloch did well to shake off two challenges before making room for a shot from 25 yards, which Kirkham held.
Then Higham headed clear before, on 58 minutes, Lancing won a free-kick 25 yards out, which Kirkham pushed around the post for a corner.
Having been denied by the ‘keeper, Kelly Humphrey sent over a terrific corner, which Beth Moore headed goalwards, but it was scrambled off the line to safety.
Kinloch and Crystal Waite were beginning to wrest control of the midfield from Oakwood’s elegant playmakers, but the visitors remained a serious threat whenever they broke.
In the 62nd minute Killick-Bird sent Whenham away with a wonderful ball down the right flank. Her cross was met with a first-time shot by Tyler, but it flew high and wide.
Killick-Bird again denied Cobb, and it seemed Oakwood needed another goal to kill the game off.
It almost came midway through the half when Kaitlyn Taylor rattled the Lancing bar from distance.
But Lancing, with the excellent Gipson now alongside Cobb, continued to ratchet up the pressure, and in the 75th minute Cobb shot just wide after Killick-Bird for once missed a tackle.
The strike pair were at last stretching the previously immaculate Killick-Bird and Jade Dancaster, but Oakwood still held out.
In the 80th minute Lancing won another free-kick in the Oakwood half, and although it looked a little too far out to be a direct danger, Kirkham did well to keep out Kinloch’s powerful effort whose bounce almost deceived her.
After a spell with little to do, Lancing’s own goalkeeper was called back into action two minutes later, Marsh initially dropping Whenham’s long ball under the challenge of Page before grabbing it at the second attempt to deny the striker a second goal.
At the other end, Cobb missed the target before Kinloch and Nicola Harrison combined brilliantly to win a free-kick on the edge of the box. But it came to nothing.
With time running out, Kinloch delivered another fine pass, from the right flank, but Cobb miskicked her volley in front of goal.
And right on the 90th minute, Oakwood clinched the tie with a second goal for Page. Green began the move with a pass to Tyler on the right wing, and the midfielder found Page with a fine cross. Marsh brilliantly kept out the striker’s effort from point-blank range.
The ball ran loose to the left of the area, and Page was quickest to react, chipping a superb effort, off balance, beyond the unfortunate Marsh’s reach.
The league leaders deserved their cup success, principally because they got their passing game together and used it effectively.
Against lesser opposition, they would probably have had a hatful – as, indeed, they have regularly throughout the season. But Lancing never gave up, and defended resolutely.
They also showed that they don’t rely entirely on Cobb, the teenager who has blossomed into a quality striker, although the fact that they drew a blank for only the second time this campaign was largely because Oakwood, too, possess a magnificent defence.
Ross Waddington (Lancing): “Just a blip”
“It was a very poor performance – our worst of the season. I can’t put my finger on it. The better team won today. We worked hard to win it, but when we got the ball we gave it away too cheaply.
“We have played fantastically [this season]. This was just a blip.”
Trevor Warren (Oakwood): “Clean sheet was most satisfying”
“We made some tactical changes after last week (a 3-3 draw against the same opponents). They kick and run and play to their strengths, so we put more pace around Sarah (Killick-Bird) [to counteract the pace of Billie-Jo Cobb].
“Last week was probably one of the best games we have played, but we gave away three goals. So to get a clean sheet was most satisfying. We always had players who would hurt other teams.”
Sent Her Forward player of the match: Chloe Higham (Oakwood)
The full-back has an excellent temperament, was composed throughout, defending calmly and effectively. But as an auxiliary right-winger, she posed all sorts of problems to an already hard-pressed Lancing defence. Oakwood scored from one of her superb corners and very nearly got a second two minutes later from an almost identical kick. Higham is yet another magnificent prospect in a team of teenage starlets.
Ellie Kinloch was a giant in midfield, breaking up attacks and launching Lancing’s own attacks, and Claire Katoroz was equally effective at the back, cajoling and directing her fellow defenders and denying Oakwood’s raiders time and again.
Billie-Jo Cobb did a fine job in the first half, largely alone against Oakwood’s own quality defenders, and Macey Gipson gave them a whole lot of new headaches when she was pushed up alongside her in the second half.
Sarah Killick-Bird again stood tall in the face of Cobb’s pace and Gipson’s trickery, while Lauren Tyler was particularly impressive in Oakwood’s midfield. But it’s up front that they have unearthed a real gem – Jade Page was everywhere, a constant menace to Lancing’s accomplished defenders. And while her first goal might have been a little scrappy, her second was the product of a natural finisher after Holly Marsh had brilliantly kept out her first effort.
Twenty-two goals in nine games suggests a promising career ahead.
Sent Her Forward match rating: 7/10 A game that took a while to get going but ultimately demonstrated the quality that exists in the Sussex county league.