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Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Portsmouth 2
Portsmouth took the points in a south coast derby with a 2-1 victory at the Withdean Stadium home of Brighton & Hove Albion.
After falling behind early on, Pompey hit back with two excellent finishes in an even first period. The Seagulls bombarded the visitors goal for virtually the entire second half but were frustrated by a combination of outstanding goalkeeping from Sadie Blakely, the woodwork twice and brave defending by the Pompey back four.
Brighton had three players making their debuts and two were quick to make their mark. Toni-Anne Wayne was busy in goal as Pompey started the brighter but it was Mollie Kmita who stole the honours with a neat finish at the far post to give Albion the lead on seven minutes. Albion then had claims for a penalty when Blakely challenged Kate Natkiel for a loose ball in the area but nothing was given.
Leeta Rutherford had aleady gone very close for Pompey and despite a nasty collision with a post in the attempt, she was soon back, notching the equaliser with a fine 30-yard effort which dipped over Wayne on 13 minutes.
Both teams looked capable of scoring as play switched quickly in an exciting opening period. Sophie Perry had a shot blocked for a corner by Lauren Murphy and the hosts threatened from both wings. However it was Portsmouth who made the breakthrough via a deep Jess Frampton cross from close to the corner flag which was met by a well controlled low shot from Lucy Quinn back across goal on 20 minutes.
Rutherford nearly extended the lead after winning possession from an Albion short goal kick, but her lob cleared the bar. Quinn had two free kicks fom distance both held by Wayne as Portsmouth headed to the break with the advantage.
The visitors went close again on the restart as a cross flew through the six yard box and an effort from the resulting corner was cleared off the line on 49 minutes. That was virtually the last threat posed by Pompey despite Charley Wilson and Gemma Hillier's tireless efforts to occupy the Brighton defence. Play was concentrated increasingly in front of Blakely's goal as both teams rang the changes in personnel.
Natkiel was becoming more influential on the right, racing clear to draw a good block by the Pompey keeper on 66 minutes. Long range efforts from the hosts were generally off target and it was from crosses that most danger arrived. Rebecca Thompson-Agbro had a powerful header saved by Blakely's tip onto the post whilst Murphy made a goal saving block from a close range drive from a left wing cross. Sub Charlotte Owen went very close from 20 yards on 78 minutes as Albion dominated.
As the game moved into its final minutes, Albion did everything but equalise. A long range Natkiel free kick flew low across goal and away to safety from the upright only to be returned high, forcing Murphy into a headed clearance which was acrobatically tipped away as it looped into Blakely's goal for a match winning save on 89 minutes.
Portsmouth's defence, marshalled by Murphy and the experience of Fiona McMillan who gave an outstanding display after recently returning from two seasons absence through injury, held out well against a Brighton team who had performed with great energy and attacking intent but just could not find the finish to match their approach play.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Toni-Anne Wayne, Mollie Kmita, Sophie Perry, Kirsty Barton, Renee Hector, Rebecca Thompson-Agbro, Yasmin Poole, Lily Agg, Kate Natkiel, Rosie Kmita, Tammy Waine. Subs: Charlie Carter, Kim Stenning, Charley Boswell, Charlotte Owen, Cally Beaumont.
Portsmouth: Sadie Blakely, Jess Frampton, Tiff Taylor, Ellie Bloomfield, Fiona McMillan, Lauren Murphy, Leeta Rutherford, Gemma Simmonds, Gemma Hillier, Charley Wilson, Lucy Quinn. Subs: Lysette Russell, Becky Hunt, Sarah Kempson, Nadine Bazan.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Gemma Hillier takes on Yasmin Poole
(middle) Charley Wilson is closed down by Kate Natkiel
(bottom) Kate Natkiel hurdles a challenge from Tiff Taylor
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