Eagles soar to keep Saints off top spot

By Matthew Cook

Southampton 1-2 Crystal Palace:

Saints missed chance to go top of the Women’s championship after falling to a home defeat to Crystal Palace

Two first-half goals from the South London Club were enough to hold on for the three points at St Mary’s Stadium.

The Saints struggled to find a footing in the first-half, with the home side struggling to keep up with the intensity of the visiting Eagles.

Palace took a deserved lead in the 22nd minute with a left-footed finish from Isibeal Atkinson, who caused Southampton lots of problems on the left-wing.

The Saints were able to produce some promising chances, but failed to convert past Palace goalkeeper Demi Lambourne, who was forced into making some good saves.

The Eagles were able to weather the storm of Southampton’s pressure, with the best chance for Southampton stemming from Lambourne being caught off her goal-line, but Megan Collett couldn’t capitalise and her shot was well saved.

Just when the hosts looked likely to equalise, a brilliant counter-attacking move from Crystal Palace saw Hopcroft’s shot rattle the post, before Elise Hughes tapped the ball into an empty net to extend their lead before the break.

Both sides struggled for creativity and intensity in the second-half, with the Saints being caught offside by a clever Palace offside trap on several occasions.

The hosts conjured up a chance when Collett’s cross hit the crossbar of the Palace goal, before more pressure earnt the Saints a free-kick in a promising area.

The free-kick resulted in a well-worked goal for the hosts in the 74th minute with an excellent whipped cross being turned in with great improvisation by Saints captain Lucia Kendall to halve the deficit.

The Saints failed to make use of their momentum and intensity, with the Eagles defending resolutely, clearing any chance that Southampton created.

A huge penalty shout came from the home side late on, claiming the ball cannoned off a Palace defender’s arm, but referee Constantine Hatzidakis waved away the claims, and awarded the away side a goal-kick instead.

Another chance came begging for the hosts when the ball fell kindly to Lloyd-Smith just inside the box, but her volley flashed just wide of the right-hand post.

Despite the late chances, Palace were able to hold on and claim the three points in what was a crucial game in the run for promotion.

The Saints will hope to bounce back from this defeat when they face fellow promotion rivals Birmingham City in two weeks time, whereas the Eagles will hope to replicate this important win on the road when they next encounter Blackburn Rovers.

Attendance: 1,941

Referee: Constantine Hatzidakis

Assistant Referees: Ralph Frostick and Joseph Karram

Fourth Official: Aimee Keir