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Denham United 5 Norwich City 4
Denham United made a thrilling winning debut in the South East Combination League with a 5-4 victory over Norwich City at The Middlesex Stadium.
Having been pegged back at 1-1 and 3-3 by the Canaries, Denham forged ahead only to endure a nervy final few minutes before claiming victory in their first ever match at this level. Both teams deserve great credit for playing open attacking football in a good spirit and sporting manner to entertain a good sized crowd.
Norwich opened brightly, forcing two early corners but it was the hosts who opened the scoring on nine minutes when, from the clearance of a corner, Alissa Down swung in a far post cross from the right which Holleigh Marsh headed back across Canaries keeper Fiona Coombes.
Norwich looked menacing with almost every attack. A Sacha Diston header from a corner was cleared off the line by Joanna Torr but the Canaries equalised when Denham keeper Lizzy Rose dropped an Anna Larkin free kick and Ellie Smith bundled the ball home on 20 minutes.
The home team went very close when Down shot past Coombes from 20 yards. Smith was very unlucky for the Canaries when her lob hit the under side of the bar as play shifted rapidly from end to end. Charlotte Stead was sent clear by Rebecca Scott''s pass and beat the advancing Coombes but the shot ruffled the outside of the netting on 22 minutes. The Canaries were very lively in attack, with Amber Cantwell on the right showing good movement. Natasha Snelling nearly robbed Rose as she dealt with a back pass but the keeper recovered to make a good save.
Slightly against the run of play, Denham regained the lead when Lauren Cox showed good technique to control a bouncing ball then drove a shot into the roof of the net on 43 minutes. The hosts returned after the break with good energy, extending their lead on 55 minutes with another Cox goal, this time controlling a through ball to beat the Norwich keeper from the edge of the area.
Norwich had to return to their fluidity of the first half and, to their credit, they did exactly that. Probably the best team move of the match saw full back Chelsie Hurren free on the right and her perfect cross was volleyed home by Snelling from close range on 60 minutes. Another flowing move released Emily Lewin on the left to finish coolly past Rose for the equaliser on 69 minutes as the Canaries looked to be favourites.
The more attacking Norwich formation left space for Denham to counter attack with Down in particular finding time and space for orchestrate the home team's bid to regain supremacy.
A stunning two goal salvo on 77 and 79 minutes seemed to have won the contest for the Combination newcomers. Firstly, Stead beat the defence to slot home from the edge of the area, then Scott measured a superb 30 yard lob which a leaping Coombes could only help into the net for 5-3. Stead nearly added a sixth but Coombes was out bravely to put her off.
The exciting nature of the contest was maintained right to the end as first Smith reduced the arrears on 88 minutes, then Rose made a fine blocking save when it seemed certain that Larkin would notch the leveller in added time. Both teams had put on a highly entertaining encounter full of attacking endeavour though both may look to improve defensively as the season unfolds.
Denham showed the understanding of players that have grown up playing together whilst Norwich, a club experienced at this level, blooded several products of their Centre of Excellence. Both sets of players did their club and the League proud with a fine contest.
Denham United: Lizzy Rose, Rachel Blackburn, Joanna Torr, Holleigh Marsh, Sian McCrindle, Victoria Elliott, Alissa Down, Lauren Cox, Rebecca Scott, Charlotte Stead, Samantha Day. Subs: Emma Butler, Paris Summer, Eva Ramsey.
Norwich City: Fiona Coombes, Chelsie Hurren, Hayley Collison, Grace Parker, Sacha Diston, Vicki Stephens, Emily Lewin, Natasha Snelling, Ellie Smith, Amber Cantwell, Anna Larkin. Subs: Gemma Farman, Amber Browne, Luci Middleton, Leah Newcombe.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Amber Cantwell is tackled by Lauren Cox
(middle) Grace Parker takes on Charlotte Stead
(bottom) Chelsie Hurren battles for the ball with Sian McCrindle
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