Chichester spirit pleases new manager as they hold their own against Spurs

Megan Wynne and Helen Ogle in action for Spurs and Chichester City respectively at Oaklands Park, Chichester, August 12 2018 (Photo: Sent Her Forward)Chichester City 2 (0) (Ogle 49; Lewry 68)
Tottenham Hotspur 4 (3) (Baptiste 14; Wynne 30; Dean 38, 84)

Chichester City and Spurs largely got what they were looking for from an entertaining, no-holds-barred pre-season friendly that offered both teams plenty of promise for the new campaigns in their respective newly designated divisions.

Spurs, who will be playing in the FA Women’s Championship, won – deservedly – but were brought back down to Earth by their FA Women’s National League hosts, who are looking to build on last season’s promising start to life in the third tier.

The Londoners, boasting an array of new talent who have been gradually integrated during a tough pre-season against top WSL sides, dominated the opening and closing stages of the first half, building a 3-0 lead that possibly slightly flattered them.

Megan Wynne was at the heart of most of their incisive moves, thriving on the service from Sarah Wiltshire and especially Coral-Jade Haines in midfield, to set up Bianca Baptiste‘s headed goal on 14 minutes and Rianna Dean‘s 38th-minute tap-in – and scoring an opportunistic goal herself in-between.

Yet between those periods of Spurs’ first-half ascendancy, Chichester grew in confidence and self-belief and put their opponents’ powerful defence under considerable pressure.

And after introducing the likes of Molly Clark – returning after spells at Yeovil Town, Portsmouth and West Ham United – at half-time and Jess Lewry shortly afterwards, Aaron Smith’s side proved a different proposition in the second half, clawing their way back into the game, with goals by newcomer Helen Ogle and substitute Lewry.

Dean‘s second on 84 minutes  – a magnificent combination of touch, turn and accuracy after a smart cross from Angela Addison – finally killed off Chichester’s comeback and signalled a late barrage from the visitors.

For all Chichester’s impressive endeavours, Spurs could have doubled their goal tally in the final frantic five minutes, with goalkeeper Lauren Dolbear three times thwarting the lively Addison and the post denying Dean a hat-trick.

Sara Wiltshire and Lauren Clark in action for Spurs and Chichester City respectively at Oaklands Park, Aug 12 2018 (Photo: Sent Her Forward)But there was plenty for Smith to savour as Chichester limbered up for next week’s FA Women’s National League South opener against former WSL 2 side Oxford United.

Smith, who took the managerial reins from Matt Wright in the close season, was understandably delighted to see his squad – still missing goalkeeper Sadie Blakeley, club captain Emma Alexandre, left-back Lucie Challen and irrepressible striker Cherelle Khassal – perform so impressively against a powerful and skilful Spurs side.

He said: “Today we set up as we want to play against Oxford next week – not how we would normally play against Spurs. We knew they were going to play nice football and we knew it was going to really test our press(ing game).

“So for us to come away having ‘won’ the second half playing our way against a very, very good Spurs team… I’m really pleased.”

His opposite number, Karen Hills, is also at the opposite end of the experience league, but she is just as conscious of the need to be prepared for what is a largely unknown challenge in the revamped former WSL 2, which now becomes the Women’s Super League’s part-time junior partner, rebranded the FA Women’s Championship.

She told Sent Her Forward: “We were looking for a little bit of confidence. We’ve had quite a tough pre-season, which is what we wanted, but (we were) coming into a game where we would hope to have the ball more, be able to control the game a little bit better.

“I think we did that in patches, but there are some things that we need to address, as well. We got some goals, we controlled the game the majority of the time. But credit to Chichester today. I thought they were excellent.

“I thought their goalkeeper was outstanding. I thought in the last four or five minutes we could probably have put another four past them, but she did well. Their whole team are going to be good opposition for their league this year, and I wish them all the luck in the world.”

Star player: Chloe Tucker (Chichester City)

Facing a powerful attack, the centre-back stood firm, and her control and composure playing the ball out of defence was of the highest calibre.

Goalkeeper Lauren Dolbear also performed impressively for Chichester, preventing at least four certain Spurs goals.

Megan Wynne had a terrific game, particularly in the first half, when she proved a handful for Sharna Capel-Watson, not least because of her movement. When out wide, her delivery was spot-on – as Baptise and Dean can testify – but she also got in the right place to grab a goal for herself after Chichester’s defence had made a couple of excellent blocks.

Rianna Dean also looked sharp.

Match rating: 6/10

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