Three was the magic number as Lewes recorded their first win in the Fran Alonso era in emphatic style.
The hosts put on a dazzling off-pitch display, entertaining a bumper mid-week crowd with celebrities, first-team players and some fine work by some of the junior and affiliated local teams. But once the whistle sounded to start the match, it was Lewes who got down to business.
They got off to a dream start when, in the 8th minute, Sophie Perry, spending most of the evening in attack mode high on the left flank, got the ball rolling as she turned inside Ashley Hinks inside the left edge of the area. The Palace player stuck out a leg to send Perry sprawling and the referee pointed straight to the spot. Sarah Kempson composed herself before turning to lash home the opening goal from the spot. 0-1.
Lewes came close to doubling their advantage when Kempson launched a howitzer from the right edge of the box. Lucy Gillett’s full-stretch save fell into the path of Katie Rood who shot from an acute angle, the Palace ‘keeper somehow managing to deflect the ball behind for a corner.
Lewes dominated the half but were unable to add to their tally, offering Palace a chance to get back into the game before the break. Hannah MacKenzie spotted that chance, firing a peach of a shot goal-wards only for Faye Baker to make a superb save.
Palace emerged after the break with renewed belief, taking the game to the visitors, but the Lewes back line, led superbly by skipper Katie McIntyre alongside Rosy Paye at centre-back, restricted the hosts to long-range efforts and half-chances. Gemma Bryan, clearly not at her best, had a terrific chance to level the match when she found space in the D, her shot sliding agonisingly wide of Baker’s upright.
Palace manager Dean Davenport rang the changes just after the hour, but it was Lewes who took advantage of the re-shuffle. A long throw from Perry sent Katie Rood away on the left. Pam McRoberts forced her wide but Rood, in mean mood all night, turned the full-back inside out before laying a perfect pass back to Jess King on the left edge of the box. King took aim and sent a superb, first-time finish high past Gillett for 0-2.
Just as the second goal seemed to deflate Palace, so it lifted Lewes. Rood, linking well with Perry and well-supported by the omnipresent Dani Lane, took the fight to Palace once more, her slalom run beating three players before she was crudely intercepted as she looked to pull the trigger. Penalty awarded, Rood dusted herself off to comfortably send Gillett the wrong way and wrap up the points.
Lewes introduced Hayley Bridge and Georgia Robert for the last few minutes. Nikita Whinnett, a live wire for Palace all evening, stole the ball in the dying moments, rounding Robert only to be denied by a fantastic block from McIntyre. FT 0-3.
Lewes manager Fran Alonso was satisfied with the overall performance, though he agreed that his side could have been further ahead earlier in the match.
“I think we had two or three good chances to score in the first half. We were not at our best offensively, but we still scored three goals, so we are happy with that. Palace started much better in the second half, so we changed it up and went a little more direct, which stopped them attacking. Gemma Bryan scored two goals last time out (against Leicester away) so we knew she would be a threat and I think we dealt with that very well.”
Alonso revealed he is lining up some challenging friendlies to fill the gap in fixtures. Lewes are next in league action on 17th March when Millwall visit the Dripping Pan.
“Our next game now will be (a friendly) against Charlton, next week, and then maybe against Oxford United. We want to have a busy month, to keep this momentum going.”
Choosing a Most Valuable Player after such a strong team performance was always going to be a challenge. Samantha Quayle impressed as an attacking full-back, Danielle Lane covered a huge amount of ground, but really you could make a case for any of the players.
Lewes invited their fans to choose via a Twitter poll shortlist of four, although in truth every player staked a claim to be included. The fans picked Rood for her all-action display, setting up King’s super strike and winning and scoring the final penalty.