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Portsmouth 2 Crystal Palace 5
Gemma Bryan's four-goal haul was the deciding factor as Crystal Palace continued their impressive return to the FAWPL Southern Division with a 5-2 away win over Portsmouth.
Two early goals gave Palace an advantage which they never relinquished despite a spirited battle from a young Pompey side which briefly had the visitors rattled in the second half.
Portsmouth keeper Emily Paines was in action in the first minute, tipping over Alma Donohue's bouncing shot. However the opening goal was not long delayed, Bryan shooting home on three minutes when a defensive clearance was quickly returned leaving her clear, despite appeals for offside.
A second soon followed when Pam McRoberts' corner was headed home by Rosie Paye on eight minutes but Portsmouth responded well, pressing the visitors back. The home side reduced the deficit on 11 minutes when Palace keeper Chanell Yardley picked up a back pass six yards out. Pompey skipper Gemma Hillier took the free kick quickly and Natasha Stephens reacted smartly to tuck the chance away before the defence could recover.
The Palace attack troubled the home defence throughout the first half. Lauren Peck had saved Pompey by clearing a header off the line after a corner and Paines did well to deny Bryan. Samantha Quayle fired a 25-yard free kick just wide for Pompey but it was Bryan, just after the half hour, who was too strong for the defenders as she seized on a through ball to beat Paines for the Palace third.
The Pompey keeper made a flying save to keep out a Sarah Jones header from another corner on 40 minutes to keep the home team's disadvantage to two. However, within seconds of the restart, Palace were awarded a penalty when Bryan went down on the left edge of the area and the prolific forward completed her hat-trick from the spot.
After McRoberts had gone close on the hour for Palace, Portsmouth mounted a stirring comeback. Hillier chipped a pass through for Quayle to fire past Yardley on 68 minutes then the Palace keeper made a crucial save when the Pompey skipper was clear on goal a minute later.
Yardley was penalised a second time for picking up a ball, this time seemingly deflected off a defender on 71 minutes. Katie James' free kick was blocked for a corner and Donohue was on hand to clear a looping header off the line as Pompey threatened a third goal.
Any nerves the visitors might have felt were calmed when Bryan once again beat her marker to drive home her fourth and Palace's fifth on 81 minutes to seal a well earned victory. Palace, with an impressive away following, had the edge for most of an enjoyable match, strong in midfield and strikers Bryan and Roschelle Shakes well served from both wings but Pompey, rebuilding after numerous departures, also gave their supporters plenty to applaud.
Emily Paines, Ellie Kirby, Megan Jones, Rebekah Tonks, Lauren Peck, Katie James, Rebecca Bell, Gemma Hillier, Natasha Stephens, Shannon Sievwright, Samantha Quayle. Subs: Melissa Burns, Kayleigh Tonks, Alex Iusan, Eilidh Currie, Vicky Carleton.
Chanell Yardley, Pam McRoberts, Alma Donohue, Sarah Jones, Rosie Paye, Francesca Ali, Megan Goss, Leanne Bell, Roschelle Shakes, Gemma Bryan, Ellie Bailes. Subs: Jade Davenport, Tia Foreman, Darcey Charlesworth, Charlotte Ferguson.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Gemma Bryan is surrounded by Shannon Sievwright and Samantha Quayle
(middle) Gemma Hillier is challenged by Pam McRoberts
(bottom) Sam Quayle bursts between Rosie Paye and Pam McRoberts
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