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Chesham Utd 6 Norwich City 1
Chesham United strengthened their grip on the South East Combination table with a sparkling 6-1 victory over third place Norwich City to take a seven point lead over Chichester City into the Christmas break.
Four goals from Kate Bowers were the highlight but the pace, understanding and trickery of the Chesham front line was evident throughout.
Traffic problems for the travelling Canaries led to a delayed kick off and the visitors never got going before the break. The second period was much more even and it was only two very late goals which gave the hosts such a wide margin of victory.
Since moving from the South West Combination this season, Chesham have led the pack from day one. Packed with experience and a stable line up, Chesham showed excellent team play to keep the Canaries defence on the back foot right through the opening stages. A four player move carved open the defence and left Bowers with a tap in on five minutes.
Norwich keeper Fiona Coombes, whose handling was very good throughout, saved an Anneka Nuttall free kick, then Sasha Diston denied the same player with a fine tackle. When Coombes and Kate Parsons half cleared a through ball, Chesham's Nat Adams was wide from distance as chance after chance was carved out. Good defensive work from Naomi Cooper cleared a dangerous Shantell Woodward corner but the second goal was not long delayed. Bowers drove a low shot which was deflected past Coombes on 35 minutes.
Norwich finally got a couple of efforts on Katie McGloin's goal but were straight at the Chesham keeper. In contrast, Bowers completed an excellent hat-trick with a 25-yard effort into the top corner on 40 minutes for a 3-0 interval lead.
The visitors found the way back into the match just thirty seconds after the break with a Diston finish into the bottom left corner after a good build up. Suddenly Chesham's underworked defence were tested as Nadine Basson was inches away from converting a cross from Anna Larkins on the right wing but by then Chesham were further ahead.
The crucial fifth goal on 57 minutes had already checked the Canary revival. Adams got free on the left and cut the ball back for Nuttall, who evaded two challenges before driving a low finish past Coombes. Gemma Fraser was very dangerous on the Chesham right and Coombes made two brave claims from low crosses as well as a fine save from another Nuttall effort. Cooper made a goal line clearance from an Adams effort as Chesham sought to add their fifth.
Basson went a mazy run but was unable to find a finish to reduce the arrears as Norwich pressed on. Just when it seemed that the visitors had achieved parity in the second half through a much improved showing, Bowers found another sublime finish from distance, skimming the ball beyond Coombes' dive right in the corner of the goal.
Deep into added time the lively Adams was sandwiched by two defenders and Woodward stepped up to score Chesham's sixth from the spot with the last kick of the contest.
The gap in experience between the teams, allied to the pre-match problems for Norwich, meant that the outcome was never in doubt. Woodward controlled the midfield, Bowers, Nuttall, Fraser and Adams kept the back four constantly occupied and, despite good individual showings from a number of Norwich players, Chesham showed throughout why they lead the table with an average of almost five goals scored per game.
Chichester City held Chesham to a 5-5 thriller in September and are their closest challengers, seven points distant with a game in hand.
Chesham United: Katie McGloin, Cath Andrews, Ciara Allen, Leah Asante, Lauren Page, Shantell Woodward, Gemma Fraser, Nat Adams, Anneka Nuttall, Kate Bowers, Caz Moran. Subs: Abi Read, Michlle Harvey-Perkins, Dawne Campbell.
Norwich City: Fiona Coombes, Naomi Cooper, Leah Newcombe, Hayley Collison, Kate Parsons, Sasha Diston, Gemma Farman, Natalie Clark, Vicki Stephens, Nadine Basson, Anna Larkins. Subs: Jo Perry, Emma Fletcher, Rebecca Gray.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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