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All square at Winklebury

Southampton Women 1 Cheltenham Town 1  

Southampton Women grabbed a late equaliser to deny table topping Cheltenham Town victory in a hard fought FAWNL Division One South West encounter at the Winklebury Football Complex.

Lucy Mear's header from Kiera Heslam's deep corner in a first minute of additional time was reward for a battling display from the hosts against a strong, well organised Cheltenham side who had denied them many clear sights of goal up tp that point.

There was little to choose between the teams in the opening quarter of the game, Southampton had some nice attacking build up play with Rachel Okoro and Britt Jeal showing plenty of attacking intent on the wings but every threat was strongly defended, protecting keeper Aimee Watson very well.

The encounter burst into life on the half hour when Cheltenham had their first clear opening  but Abby Bevan's shot on the run flew wide. From the restart, Southampton created a superb move starting from keeper Ellie Parker and passing through five players before an Aliss Wheeler shot flew just wide. Within a minute the hosts had forced a corner which Jeal met with a looping volley destined for the bottom corner but keeper Watson reacted well to scoop the ball away with her right hand on 32 minutes.

The match resumed a more familiar pattern up to the break with both defences in command and few chances but the restart saw Cheltenham take the lead within two minutes. A long flighted free kick was met by Lacy-Jai Liggett running in at the far post to guide a volley home for a fine finish.

Southampton responded really well to this setback and dominated affairs in terms of pressure for long periods but Cheltenham were rock solid at the back and denied the hosts any real chances. The occasional half opening in the box saw shots blocked or deflected for Watson to gather..

The hosts maintained their efforts as the match passed 90 minutes and were rewarded when yet another defensive block resulted in a corner. Sub Heslam's delivery reached a leaping Mear beyond the far post and her downward header evaded defenders and keeper for a vital equaliser.

The result was pretty fair after a well fought battle but the visitors were close to securing a big three points in their promotion bid as the season reaches a conclusion with several clubs still in the mix for top spot.

Southampton Women: Ellie Parker, Lauren Cheshire, Sam Burt, Lucy Mear, Rachel Okoro, Aliss Wheeler, Emily Wernham, Emma Whitlock, Sian Wylie, Britt Jeal, Chloe Tucker. Subs: Kellie Warren, E-J May, Summer Kilby, Hannah Samuels, Kiera Heslam.

Cheltenham Town: Aimee Watson, Sammy Hallsworth, Charlotte Criddle, Mai Butler, Abby Bevan, Jade Grove, Amy Wathan, Rhian Robbins, Emily Owen, Billie Haynes, Lacy-Jai Liggett. Subs: Holly Rogers, Courtney Jones, Georgie-Marie Barbour-Gresham, Tamzin Hayward, Holly Reed.