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Tottenham Hotspur 3 Colchester Utd 4
Colchester United regained the lead of the Southern Division with an exciting and controversial 4-3 win over Tottenham Hotspur in a morning kick off at Harlow.
The only Premier League match of the day was filled with incident from start to finish. Colchester dominated large spells of the match and looked a formidable unit at times, yet Spurs were never out of the contest and had some periods of superiority.
The Essex visitors were quickly into action in a foggy opening twenty minutes, with Hayley West heading home a Kate Longhurst cross for a fifth minute lead. Tottenham hit back with Derrie O'Halloran firing a low cross through the six yard area with no attacker getting the vital touch, then a Wendy Martin header from the subsequent corner was just over.
Helen Bass doubled the U's advantage on 20 minutes with a smart finish from the edge of the area past the advancing Jo Ayre and Colchester looked in command. Longhurst was inches away from converting a Bass cross and Maegan Doyle was denied by a good save from Ayre.
The match suddenly changed as the fog cleared and as the half ended,.Spurs' Emma Plewa raced 50 yards down the left wing and sent a perfect low cross for Martin to convert from close range on 34 minutes. Then, within three minutes, Spurs were level. Martin had a header which Nikita Runnacles held, but a goal was awarded as she was adjudged to have carried the ball over the goal line in making the save. Martin nearly completed an astonishing hat-trick but headed an Emma Keyser cross wide as Spurs ended the half on top.
The second half started in whirlwind fashion, Ayre making a good save within 20 seconds, then Spurs hitting the post through Plewa and the underside of the bar from Keyser on the rebound. Colchester flooded forward again and were denied by another fine Ayre save from Bass at point blank range, Lily Mellors struck a post from 20 yards and Spurs skipper Sam Pittuck blocked a goal bound Longhurst effort from the rebound on 55 minutes.
The visitors continued to press and Longhurst made no mistake from ten yards at the end of another flowing Colchester attack. Worse was to follow for Spurs just after the hour, as Robyn McEvoy was adjudged to have committed a foul inside the area, despite the home side's protests that it was outside. Doyle slotted home the resulting penalty to restore the U's two-goal cushion.
The match was by no means settled as Spurs' Martin had an effort well held by Runnacles. Colchester went close again at the other end through Bass from Doyle's corner as Colchester sought a fifth goal. Spurs set up an exciting finale with about five minutes remaining, Jess Cheesman turning a loose ball home from close range after a free kick to give them hope of a draw.
As Spurs desperately sought an equaliser, emotions boiled over after an off the ball incident which led to Spurs' O'Halloran, U's Longhurst and subsequently U's manager Kevin Anderson being dismissed. After a delay of several minutes to restore order, Colchester saw out the final moments for an important and hard fought win.
The drama of the final minutes slightly marred an otherwise thrilling contest with many players having excellent matches. Nicola Cable, Pittuck, Ayre and Martin caught the eye for Spurs, whilst Mellors, Doyle, Bass and Longhurst provided a constant threat for the winners. Spurs, in their first season at this level, are in a poor run of results at the moment, but played with good spirit against a team which will surely be challenging West Ham, Brighton and Portsmouth for promotion this season.
Tottenham Hotspur: Jo Ayre, Jess Cheesman, Derrie O'Halloran, Sam Pittuck, Nicola Cable, Ebony Heath, Emma Keyser, Jenna Schillaci, Robyn McEvoy, Emma Plewa, Wendy Martin. Sub: Chelsea Golding.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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