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West Ham Utd 4 Portsmouth 3
West Ham won an important top of the table Premier League Southern Division clash against Portsmouth by four goals to three at Thurrock.
David Gold, joint owner and chairman of West Ham United FC, was a special guest at the match and will surely have appreciated an enthralling contest and the home side's victory over worthy opponents, who forced the Hammers to dig deep to secure the three points.
West Ham struck early when Carly Roache finished low into the far corner after a rebound had sent her clear of the defence on eight minutes. Pompey soon levelled after Charley Wilson worked her way clear on the left edge of the area and set up Lindsey Roe for a cool finish from close range. Roache nearly restored Hamers lead within a minute but was denied by a good save from Jodie Smith.
It was Jess Barling who gave West Ham an advantage with a deflected free kick from 25 yards which flew in the bottom left corner. Both teams looked likely to score at any time as the pace never slackened.
Nat Grafton raced down the wing but a Kelley Blanchflower shot from her cross flew straight into Smith's hands. Shelly Cox volleyed over for the visitors whilst Kirsty McGee denied Hammers with a fine tackle as the game swung from end to end.
Portsmouth went very close to equalising as the half drew to a close, Leeta Rutherford twice shot inches wide, Nikki Duncan caught a Cox cross under pressure, then Wilson had a headed goal from Jemma Tewkesbury's cross ruled out, presumably for offside. West Ham capitalised on this let off when Shepherd was brought down by Smith after beating the keeper to a long through ball and converted the resulting penalty on 42 minutes for a 3-1 interval lead.
Portsmouth exerted pressure on the Hammers defence fom the restart and had another headed goal ruled out, this time from Lauren Murphy from ten yards after a deep corner had been helped back into the area. Duncan then made a fine catch from a Wilson header from a Tewkesbury
It was Tewkesbury who reduced the arrears on the hour with a superb free kick from the edge of the area after Wilson had been fouled.
Portsmouth continued to pour forward in search of the equaliser but were denied by a resolute Hammers defence and good goalkeeping on several occasions. Meanwhile, Hammers were always looking to catch Pompey out on the break. Atfer Pompey's Rutherford gone close from distance on 79 minutes, it was West Ham who regained a two-goal lead. Started by substitute April Bowers, carried on by Shepherd, it was Becky Merritt who rounded off a fine move with a powerful finish.
Just when it seemed that West Ham were safe, keeper Duncan was penalised for a challenge on Wilson as she caught a cross and Tewkesbury converted the spot kick in the first minute of added time. However, West Ham saw the game out very calmly to claim a 4-3 win.
Both teams played really well with a number of outstanding individual performances on both sides. While West Ham had the rub of the green at times with rebounds and deflections and Pompey had two goals disallowed, the Hammers were always a threat and showed great determination to complete a League double over the Hampshire club. Both teams will chase leaders Colchester United to force an exciting conclusion to the League, especially if they can profit from their games in hand on the U's.
West Ham Utd: Nikki Duncan, Nat Grafton, Danica Revell, Rosey Sullivan, Stacey Little, Becky Merritt, Carly Roache, Gemma Shepherd, Kelley Blanchflower, Kerry Stimson, Jess Barling. Subs: Tracey Duxbury, April Bowers, Melanie Abegglen.
Portsmouth: Jodie Smith, Kirsty McGee, Jade Kirby, Leeta Rutherford, Lauren Murphy, Laura Heron, Shelly Cox, Lindsey Roe, Gemma Hillier, Charley Wilson, Jemma Tewkesbury. Subs: Rachel Rigby, Lucy Quinn, Fiona McMillan.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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