Coventry United LFC 2 Lewes FC Women 1
Lois’s Late Strike Sinks Lewes at the Last
Lewes manager John Donoghue was left fuming at a prolonged fixture list that saw his record-breaking yet much-depleted side fall to a 91st minute strike away to Coventry United.
That goal, struck with inch-perfect precision by substitute Lois Jeffries in added time, sealed fourth spot in the league for her side, United finishing level on 44 points but ahead of Lewes on goal difference.
Earlier, in blistering heat on a red-hot 3G surface, Lewes had taken the lead when stand-in skipper Danielle Lane drove in on the right to set up Avilla Bergin with the simplest of finishes.
The home side rallied, using pace out wide to good effect, Hall and Davies combining particularly well to get in behind. They found the Lewes defence in mean mood. With Kylie McCarthy moved up to midfield, Tammy Waine and Rebecca Thompson-Agbro saw off the danger, ably supported by the combative Natasha Wells and an all-action display from Amy Taylor, back in defence as a raft of absentees forced John Donoghue to ring the changes.
Wells had to check herself for missing parts at the end of the match, so often was she involved in collisions in the line of duty. Waine purred like a well-tuned Rolls, reading the game and covering breaks, but it was Thompson who shone. Executing well-timed tackles, she carried the ball forward at every opportunity, affording her side possession that a midfield missing three key figures was struggling to control. HT 0-1.
Coventry started the second half with renewed determination, yet Lewes continued to fashion chances, Chewy Carter seeing a flashing effort parried two yards out with Sue Wood beaten.
Wood, veteran skipper, a long-time top ‘keeper, showed us why with two excellent saves, one at full-stretch from a rasping left-foot drive from Lane, the other from the skipper’s well-placed effort to the same side.
Coventry’s success in midfield and the resulting high press bore fruit on the hour. Wells looked wide to Bergin, who was having another excellent game for Lewes on the left. As she turned to take the pass, Hughes got a toe in and the ball ran to Jade Brook. Waine and Thompson closed but Brook rode both challenges, seemingly clipped as she entered the area. Referee Paul Hands, having an excellent game, signalled advantage and Brook finished coolly past Baker. 1-1.
United brought on Jeffries for Hall and the sub almost scored with her first touch. A Coventry corner from the left found Jeffries, who ran across Baker’s near post, jabbed out a leg to deflect the ball home, only to find Baker ready behind her.
Lewes created several chances to re-take the lead, with Lane and Bergin involved each time. Carter, struggling with a thigh injury, made way for Fliss Love, as did Kylie McCarthy for Ava Rowbotham and Charlotte Owen for Kellie Larkin as Lewes looked to fresh legs in the sapping conditions.
With the league extended deep into May, having already lost Leeta Rutherford and Sarah Kempson to injury, Donoghue faced an already tough match without fans’ Player of the Season, and inspirational leader Kate McIntyre, and striker Georgia Bridges, both missing through long-standing commitments.
Coventry themselves had fallen foul of fixture congestion, having to play 4 games in 9 days, albeit for the most part against teams at the bottom end of the table and all at home. United manager Jay Bradford, delighted with her side’s last-gasp win, reflected on that after the game.
‘We had a mad run of away games at the start of the season. That led to a ten-week gap between home games. Now we’ve played four home matches, late-on, almost back-to-back.’
I suggested a draw might have been a fairer result. She smiled and nodded but couldn’t hide her admiration for the quality of the winning strike. ‘Lois hit that perfectly. It dropped nicely for her and she took the chance well. I’m delighted for these players, to get a last win at home.’
Indeed, some of the Lewes players felt the ball had fallen extremely kindly, having struck Jeffries on the hand as it came to her just inside the area in the first of three added minutes. It was clearly ball to hand, however, and she still had a lot to do, measuring her strike to perfection, over Baker and just under the cross-bar for the winner. FT 2-1.
Lewes manager John Donoghue, whilst clearly unhappy at the fixture delays that had caused him to lose key players, reflected on the most successful season in the club’s recent history.
‘I thought we created more chances, the better chances, but we’ve not cleared the ball at the end and we’ve been punished. It’s hard on these players, who executed well. Perhaps we didn’t look after the ball as well as we should at times and that gave Coventry belief. Credit to them, they took their chances well.’
‘Given the difficult start to the season, having so many players come in and having to gel that squad, we’re pleased with our progress. We’ve collected way more points, more than our previous best and reached our highest position in the division. We’ve competed strongly with the best sides in the division.’
Lewes finish the season level with United on 44 points, behind on goal difference in 5th, 6 points behind 3rd place Crystal Palace, 7 clear of Portsmouth (6th) and a full 15 clear of West Ham (7th).
Images kindly supplied by Jeff Bennett (Cov Tog)