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Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Millwall Lionesses 1
Millwall Lionesses won a vital three points in their pursuit of the Southern Division title with a single goal victory away to third place Brighton and Hove Albion.
Having taken a 21st minute lead, the table toppers rode their luck in an exciting second half as Albion went close on several occasions to equalising but it was the South London team who maintained their four point advantage over Reading FC Women, who have a game in hand.
A very tight opening period of few chances was ended when Lily Agg found space to shoot just past Frankie Gibbs' right hand post. Millwall's first dangerous attack proved successful. Danya Chong did well to find Emma Whitter in the area and the striker laid the ball off for Ciara Sherwood to hit a right foot effort low in the corner, giving Lucy Mangan no chance.
The scorer tried a second shot but was wide on 25 minutes. Catherine O'Hagan replied for Brighton as did Charlotte Gurr, both efforts drifting wide. Kim Stenning forced a save from Gibbs and O'Hagan went close with a snap shot deflected for a corner but Millwall were still dangerous and right on the interval, Mangan made a fine save at point blank range when Chantelle Mackie's dangerous cross was met by Abigail Igbavboia six yards out.
Brighton started the second half brightly and had a penalty appeal turned down when O'Hagan was challenged by Francesca Strugnell. Kirsty Barton's corners and Lauren Cheshire's long throws were a continual source of danger to the Lionesses' defence. Cherelle Khassal headed over from a corner and later went very close with a 20-yard free kick.
Meanwhile, Whitter and Igbavboia were always a threat on the break for Millwall. Both were able to the ball up and to run at defenders. Whitter had a shot turned away by Mangan and cleared by Cheshire on 71 minutes then played in Josie Elliott who forced another good stop by the Albion keeper at her near post on 77 minutes.
Gibbs was twice Millwall's saviour as the minutes ticked down. She parried a Khassal shot to enable Mackie to clear off the line then produced an excellent left handed save from a close range Agg effort bound for the bottom corner on 89 minutes.
Mangan was busy again, saving from Igbavboia as the match entered eight additional minutes but the main action was at the other end. Agg headed over from a Barton corner, Barton volleyed just over from a half clearance and Albion nearly grabbed an equaliser with a brilliant move right on the final whistle. Robbing a Millwall attacker at the left corner flag, Faye Rabson then Agg sent O'Hagan clear on the right wing. However the shot flew into the side netting and the final whistle confirmed that Millwall had held on for the win.
A high tempo match played on an excellent surface given the awful weather in Sussex during the week saw both teams deserve praise. Albion will regret missing several good chances but were on the attack for most of the match. Millwall showed why they have been top of the league for virtually the whole season, strong in defence and always capable of scoring on the break.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Lucy Mangan, Lauren Cheshire, Charley Boswell, Kirsty Barton, Kerrie Ryan, Darcey James, Charlotte Gurr, Lily Agg, Catherine O'Hagan, Kim Stenning, Cherelle Khassall. Subs: Faye Rabson, Charlotte Sole, Lucy Somes, Rebecca Thompson, Kim Whitcombe.
Millwall Lionesses: Francesca Gibbs, Chantelle Mackie, Francesca Strugnell, Ciara Sherwood, Natalie Grafton, Dionne Lennon, Shauni Griffiths, Rebecca Stormer, Abigail Igbavboia, Danya Chong, Emma Whitter. Subs: Lucy Malyon, Alycia Ferguson, Josie Elliott.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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