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Barling deliveries lift Hammers' hopes
 Women's Football News 19 Dec 2011
Barling deliveries lift Hammers' hopes - 19 Dec 2011 - Women's Football NewsColchester Utd 1 West Ham Utd 2
West Ham gave their Southern Division promotion hopes a big boost by going to leaders Colchester United and gaining a 2-1 win. 
The result, in the U's final League game of the season, leaves them four points clear of the Hammers but they have two games to play in the New Year. Portsmouth, a further point behind, have three fixtures left and can pip both Colchester and West Ham to the title.
Not surprisingly in a promotion showdown, the opening exchanges were tense and nervy with little time allowed on the ball, tackles flying in and the ball in the air much of the time. Colchester won a couple of corners which were well dealt with and West Ham were restricted to a Jess Barling free kick which flew wide. Maegen Doyle responded with free kick well held by Nikki Duncan.
The match burst into life in the final fifteen minutes of the half. Kate Longhurst was inches wide with a brave effort as a shuddering challenge with Hammers keeper Duncan left both needing lengthy treatment. Almost immediately after this close call, Hammers' Jess Barling set up the vital opening goal with a flighted left foot free kick from 30 yards towards the far post which appeared to be headed
past Nikita Runnacles by U's defender Laura Guyon.
This setback sparked the best period for Colchester, as they briefly showed the attacking flair which has taken them to the top spot for much of the season.
A Doyle corner flashed low across the goalmouth, before Longhurst got through on the left and was denied by a diving Duncan. The Hammers keeper then raced out to challenge Helen Bass to a through ball as it bounced in the area and just managed to clear the danger.
Colchester must have been confident that they could pull off a win in view of the pressure they had put on just before the break. They had a huge claim for a penalty for handball denied on 48 minutes and misfortune continued to haunt them two minutes later. Great work by Barling by the left corner flag left two defenders trailing. The Hammers skipper delivered a hard low cross towards the near post, too far out for the keeper to deal with but turning defenders towards their own goal. In attempting to clear the danger, an unfortunate Cerri Harris put the ball in the net for a second Colchester own goal.
With 40 minutes to save the match, Colchester gave their all. However, little seemed to fall their way and the Hammers closed down well and tackled brilliantly whenever Longhurst, Bass or Doyle threatened to find a way through.
Three substitutes tried to reverse the tide: Megan Jiggins played a fine 50-yard pass to set Doyle clear on the edge of the area but her shot was dragged wide of the right of goal. As the game went past the 90 minute mark, Hannah Gowland gave Colchester belated hope of a miracle when her shot from distance flew into the far corner. An equaliser would have given Colchester's promotion hopes a huge boost but West Ham saw the game out very effectively for a fine win..
This defeat was scant reward for the U's, given the efforts made to get the game on in difficult weather, free entry, the festive musical entertainment provided for spectators who turned out in good numbers and the provision of a programme and refreshments. In truth, though, the team just could not find a way to overcome resolute opponents who had a bit of good fortune to go with their courageous display.
Colchester can only wait and see if 35 points will be enough in a strange fixture layout where they have played 18 fixtures to complete their League season on the Sunday before Christmas. They and their promotion rivals have all featured lots of young home grown talent in their line ups this season and would be a worthy addition to the National Division.
Colchester United: Nikita Runnacles, Hayley West, Emily Heaslip, Cerri Harris, Kate Longhurst, Laura Guyon, Helen Bass, Zoe Rushen, Flo Gamby, Alex Shepherd, Maegan Doyle. Subs: Megan Jiggins, Karissa Rodney, Hannah Gowland.

West Ham United: Nikki Duncan, Jess Barling, Tracey Duxbury, Danica Revell, Rosey Sullivan, Lindsey Morgan, Stacey Little, Carly Roache, Becky Merritt, Kelley Blanchflower, April Bowers. Subs: Natalie Grafton, Melanie Abegglen, Emma Harrison.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)

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