Portsmouth women take heart after huge step into unknown in season-opener at Wycombe ends with narrow defeat
Portsmouth’s women’s 1st XI took a huge step into the unknown as they travelled to Wycombe for their 2021/22 league opener.
Against opposition who finished comfortably in the top half of the South Premier League in last year’s truncated Covid-hit season, they can take heart from a really positive second half performance in a 2-1 defeat.
Wycombe were far the stronger for much of the first half as Portsmouth struggled with early nerves and an extremely bumpy pitch.
Things might have been different had the officials given a short corner rather than only a free hit when Callie Moore broke through to be brought down just outside the circle with only the keeper to beat.
Wycombe soon got a grip on the game and drove forward relentlessly, with only desperate defensive work by central defenders Nadz Moore and Anne Eadie keeping the visitors in the game.
Even their tenacity and coolness under pressure could not prevent Wycombe taking the lead on the quarter hour, scrambling the ball over the line after a save by keeper Harriet Read.
Wycombe continued to press and unsurprisingly increased their lead just before the break when an ill-judged attempted tackle by Jen Smith resulted in a penalty stroke.
If Wycombe had imagined an easy victory, they under-estimated the resolve and tenacity of the Portsmouth side who adapted their style to better cope with the pitch conditions and then made a couple of tactical changes to nullify Wycombe’s midfield superiority.
Portsmouth settled into their stride and the game flowed evenly from end to end. Gradually the visitors took control of the midfield with sharp tackling and quality distribution.
They replied when Jen Turvey turned the ball over on the left to drive forward and cleverly play Katie Poulson-Pond in. She laid the ball off for Katie Spooner to sweep home from close range.
Portsmouth pressed for the equaliser with strong running down the right flank by tricky Lauren Stewart opening up the home defence leading to a penalty corner. After a clever interchange, Wimshurst’s searching cross was aching for the merest touch.
Another penalty corner soon followed and the Wycombe keeper made an outstanding save to deflect a Nadz Moore drag flick over the bar.
In a roller-coaster game, Portsmouth 2nds came from 1-3 down to lead Chichester 2nds 4-3 before conceding a late equaliser.
Chichester had taken the lead from a short corner with a beautiful strike from Emily Crowcroft at the top of the D providing the leveller.
Trailing 3-1 at half-time, Portsmouth reduced the arrears when Louisa McKay set up player of the match Molly Appleton.
Saskia Barth equalised and Portsmouth were in front when a short corner was upgraded to a penalty flick, due to a Chichester player struggling to jump out of the way, and Appleton scored her second.
The quick feet of goalkeeper Kezia Winter kept Portsmouth in front, until the last-minute leveller.
Amy Rook scored twice as Portsmouth 3rds defeated Alton 3-1.
In a close-fought match, Carol Rutter’s opener was cancelled out via an Alton short corner.
Rook scored from yet another short corner before half-time and the same player grabbed her second from open play after the break.
Player of the match went to Isabel Slack for great defending and runs up the wing.
Portsmouth 4ths suffered three Covid-related late drop-outs, leaving them with just 10 players for the trip to Alton 3rds - but they still romped to a 5-1 win!
Alton took an early lead but Portsmouth quickly replied through Michelle Hughes.
Tenacious play from Hayley Lawton saw her frequently emerge from a melee of opposition players with the ball.
A quickly-taken short corner gave Hughes her second goal and she completed a first-half treble with a strike into the bottom corner.
A well-worked short corner slipped from Annabelle Bond to Andrea Barnes to Lawton made it 4-1 and Barnes was rewarded for one of many exceptional drives down the right, burying the ball from an awkward angle.
Confident play from across the team saw Portsmouth maintain good possession and earned Liberty Mitchell-Brock the player of the match award.
Portsmouth 5ths started their game against Gosport 2nds short on numbers, falling behind to two goals from short corners.
However, in the second half with a few more players in hand, they only conceded once more.
Portsmouth’s younger players impressed with Amelia Munro, making her adult league debut, seeing plenty of goalscoring opportunities in the second half.
Overall, the team felt the scoreline failed to reflect their performance.