Monday, 12 January 2015

Brighton and Hove Albion Ladies 6 v 2 West Ham United Ladies

Sunday 11th January 2015
FA Women's Cup Second Round
Withdean Stadium, Brighton
Admission: £3.00
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 120 (estimate)
Match Rating: 4

After watching Brighton and Hove Albion's men's team win at The Valley yesterday, today I decided to watch their women's team, motivated by the opportunity to watch a game at the stadium that hosted the men's team for all but two of the 14 seasons between leaving the Goldstone Ground and moving to Falmer.

The Withdean Stadium is about a ten minute walk from Preston Park train station, and unsurprisingly looks quite different from how it did when it hosted Football League matches. The permanent covered stand with eight rows of seating running along one length remains, but the uncovered stand along the opposite length has been removed, as has the infamous uncovered stands housing the away fans with a very distant view of the action in a corner behind one of the goals, although uncovered seating behind the other goal remains, not that it would be suitable for watching football from, located behind the running track. Whilst it was an unpopular and inadequate stadium to host Football League matches, it's actually a rather pleasant place to watch a lower profile football match such as this. Nestling beneath a woody hill, there is rather an Alpine feel to the place, and along the length where the uncovered seating used to be, one can now stand along a tarmac path above the pitch, giving a good elevated view of the action. Although Brighton and Hove Albion's women's team played its first team fixture s here up to last season, this season they have generally played at Lancing's Culver Road. A 12 page programme was produced for this match which looked attractive, covered the basics and had a couple of interesting articles to read.

This certainly had the makings of an interesting game, between the current leaders and the fifth placed team in the Women's Premier League Southern Division, the third tier of the women's game. Brighton are the leaders, having won nine and drawn one of their twelve league games, whilst West Ham have won seven and drawn one of their eleven games.

On an overcast afternoon, it was the visitors who started on the front foot, doing most of the attacking and with the home side guilty of many unforced errors with wayward passes or dallying too much with the ball. West Ham deservedly took the lead on 26 minutes. Vicky Kinsman played a diagonal ball to Emma Sherwood in the area, and she slotted the ball through the keeper's legs and into the net. They almost doubled their lead within a minute, when a Brighton defender played a suicidal short back pass to her keeper despite the close attention of Kinsman, who tackled the keeper but couldn't force the ball into the net. They did double their lead on 31 minutes though, when Sarah McCrea struck a ball goalwards from 25 yards and although the keeper got a touch on the ball as it went over her head, the ball hit the back of the net. Brighton were shockingly poor up to now, perhaps shocked by a very physical and aggressive approach by the Hammers, but after a group huddle following the second goal, they finally started to spring to life. They pulled a goal back on 36 minutes, when Jay Blackie picked the ball up following a low cross from the left, and her shot hit the inside of the left post before rolling just over the line. Brighton were back on level terms on 40 minutes when Kirsty Barton strode forward before drilling the ball low just inside the post from the edge of the area.

Brighton were probably fortunate to go into the interval on level terms, but they took the lead within a minute of the restart when Charley Boswell sent in a low cross from the left into the area and Lucy Somes tapped the ball home at the far post. Brighton scored their fourth on 50 minutes, when a shot on goal by Fliss Gibbons was diverted into the net at full stretch by Boswell, and put the result beyond doubt just before the hour mark when Somes fired in at the near post following a low cross. Brighton were completely dominant now, the only surprise being it took until the 86th minute for them to score their sixth. Barton saw her initial header saved by the keeper but managed to prod the ball home. And so it was Brighton who progress to the Third Round after a quite remarkable comeback, and full credit to them for transforming such a poor performance in the first half hour into a commanding one for the last hour. Indeed, this was a thoroughly enjoyable game to watch, one of the most enjoyable I had watched this season, and was a fabulous advert for women's football.

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