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Crystal Palace 0 Coventry Utd 2
Coventry United overcame the challenge of South East Division One leaders Crystal Palace to book a last eight place in the FAWPL Plate with a 2-0 away win at Bromley FC.
A commanding performance prevented any real hint of an upset as the Southern Division team made light of a gale blowing across the pitch and the hard working hosts to score early in each half and carve out half a dozen other chances, whilst blunting the prolific and dangerous home attack very effectively.
Palace did start the match brightly, moving the ball very well but were hit by Coventry's first dangerous move on six minutes. Amber Hughes was set clear on the right when the referee played a good advantage after Helen Dermody was fouled and her low cross reached Libby Piggott, who finished from ten yards.
Anna Wilcox then broke clear on the right but her cross just eluded the Coventry attack. Jade Brook pushed an opportunist effort inches wide from a left wing cross on 16 minutes.
A long delay for an injury to Brook, who was stretchered off, did not disrupt the visitors' momentum. Hughes shot over from distance before Palace keeper Chanell Yardley made the first of several fine saves, tipping over a Dermody lob before beating away a close range header from the resulting corner on 33 minutes.
Abigail Igbavboa had the first real chance for Palace on 34 minutes, sending a difficult dropping ball wide of Sue Wood's goal. The hosts managed to pen Coventry back in their own half for much of the last ten minutes but found the defence very hard to break down. In fact Dani Selmes had a big chance to double the lead after a fast break but she could not beat Yardley in a one on one situation.
Palace were still well in the match and restarted with attacking intent, always seeking to play in their speedy forwards. Igbavboa had a 20-yard effort which flew wide of Wood's goal but it was Coventry who found the second goal just after the hour.
Dermody swung in a free kick from wide on the left which Yardley did well to punch away under pressure. However, the ball was crossed back from the opposite flank and Dermody, following up her own set piece, popped up unmarked to volley sweetly past the Palace keeper.
Palace made attacking substitutions and exerted considerable pressure but the Coventry back four, marshalled by skipper Natasha Lynch, were in fine form, always finding the right challenge to snuff out danger.
On the break, the visitors had several good efforts. Ashleigh Neville was denied by Yardley after a long run, Dermody shot just over, Alison Hall had a powerful header well held by the keeper then Hughes set up Selmes for a header just over on 78 minutes.
Pam McRoberts created some danger for Palace with a couple of good crosses on the run but keeper Wood was rarely troubled till deep into added time when a Palace corner was not cleared and the ball bobbled uncomfortably around the six yard box. Even so, Coventry had the final chance when Yardley made another reaction save, this time from a close range Selmes header.
Coventry will be one of a maximum of three top tier clubs in the last eight of the Plate competition and, on this form will be hard to stop. Palace have a justifiable ambition to join the top tier of the winter pyramid, after so narrowly missing out last season.
Crystal Palace: Chanell Yardley, Pam McRoberts, Alma Donohoe, Alex Elson, Katy Morris, Sarah Jones, Leesa Haydock, Abigail Igbavboa, Nicha Dyett, Mary Robinson, Leanne Bell. Subs: Gemma Bryan, Roschelle Shakes, Steph Mann, Sam Saint.
Coventry Utd: Sue Wood, Annabel Johnson, Ashleigh Neville, Jade Brook, Natasha Lynch, Anna Wilcox, Amber Hughes, Libby Piggott, Dani Selmes, Helen Dermody, Alison Hall. Subs: Ali Livermore, Maz Gauntlett, Jess Lundie, Crissy Torkildsen.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Amber Hughes takes on Alma Donohoe
(bottom) Helen Dermody and Alex Elson battle for possession
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