By Keith Briant
Originally scheduled for Jan 5th, this was the secnd attempt for Tunbridge Wells Ridgewaye to host the tie, after the fixture kept going backwards due to rain sodden pitches and to make way for County Cup matches. The victors would earn the right to host the semi final vs Div B leaders Horsham Sparrows. The venue was Ridgewaye FC, Southborough with a 2pm kick off on a cold, windy afternoon.
The last time some of the PFCL girls had played a competitive match was Dec 8th at this same venue vs the same opponents and after laying siege to the TWR goal they managed to snatch a defeat from the jaws of a scoreless draw. There was none of that nonsense today and TWR were under constant pressure in the opening minutes with the Pompey girls giving as much physically as they ever have to match the very tough tactics from TWR. The midfield of Sharna Capel-Watson, Mia McCreesh, Brittany Jeal and Chloe Geddes were right on top of their game today, knocking the ball around on a particularly bobbly surface and it only took 4 mins to get the goal that had proved elusive here in December. PFCL won a corner and a good delivery from McCreesh saw Jeal and Mia Cook both go for the finish with Cook getting the final touch for her 6th of the season. 0-1 (4 mins)
The TWR heads seemed to go down right away and after winning the ball in midfield, Jeal sent a perfectly weighted ball down the left flank for Geddes to use her lightning pace and pull the ball back onto her right foot for a far post cross which Capel-Watson guided home from 6 yards. 0-2 (10 mins)
TWR did have a good chance when the PFCL back four were too square and the striker was through to the edge of the box but Lily Holt hadn’t given up the chase and put in a perfectly timed tackle to thwart the shot. Apart from that one aberration the Pompey back four of Holt, Paige Mullings, Scarlett Briant and Ellie Kill were like a brick wall protecting Jade Samways deputising in goal for India Warren today. More pressure from PFCL brought the game to an end as a real contest when Briant cleared her lines to find McCreesh who chipped a lovely ball over the TWR defence for Yssie Fricker to beat the keeper to the ball and put it through her legs for her 9th of the campaign. 0-3 (17 mins)
Another corner from McCreesh was placed right in the danger area but Cook’s trademark ‘bun’ hairstyle only managed to connect and send the ball from close in, to the edge of the box where Fricker controlled and popped it up over her head for Cook to head it in the right direction and this time and into the net for her second of the match. 0-4 (25 mins)
Jeal’s industry today was second to none and she was unlucky not to get on the score sheet herself when a quick thinking long range shot went just wide. McCreesh had to come off on 30 mins but if you had to choose a replacement, Charley Sanford would be the top of anybody’s list and her entry into the game only brought more woe for TWR when she contributed to winning the ball for Cook to secure her hat-trick with another header. 0-5 (36 mins)
One personnel change at half time with Jeal making way for Carys Thornton to take a more forward role than usual in the centre left of midfield. With it being a cup tie, the instructions were to form 2 banks of 4 to stifle any attacks and leave Fricker and Cook to harass the TWR defenders higher up the pitch.
The second half began where the first half left off with TWR having to soak up the pressure and contrary to the instructions, PFCL’s natural game is to go forward which resulted in shots coming in from all around the TWR box but they were all off target or the keeper was in much better form than the first half, making good saves. 55 mins gone and the ref was injured when a clearance caught him completely off guard and the ball smashed into his face with his glasses cutting him on the bridge of the nose. After treatment he was OK to carry on and the next action saw Samways make a routine but well gathered save from a powerful shot by TWR. Using the roll on/off subs to their advantage PFCL made a few changes to run down the clock before TWR carved out a consolation near the end of the game by breaking through the now tiring PFCL defence. Samways came off her line to narrow the angle but her valiant dive and strong hand on it couldn’t quite keep it out. 1-5 (75 mins)
Final score – Tunbridge Wells Ridgewaye FC 1-5 Portsmouth FC Ladies
Pompey team: Jade Samways, Ellie Kill, Lily Holt, Paige Mullings, Scarlett Briant (capt), Yssie Fricker, Mia Cook, Brittany Jeal, Chloe Geddes, Mia McCreesh, Sharna Capel-Watson. Subs – Charley Sanford and Carys Thornton.
Next match – Sussex League Div ‘A’ vs Lewes Community (away) 9th March