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Fourth time lucky for Pagham

Sunday April 10th saw Pagham Ladies claim the Sussex County Women’s League Premier Division title as they battled hard in a tense 1-0 victory away to Seaford Town.

It was an exciting penultimate fixture to the ladies’ league campaign, which saw them finish the season with a 7-0 away to Eastbourne Town in a game which was played in calmer circumstances, and meant that Pagham had won every game away from home this season.

Having finished 3rd, 3rd and 4th over the previous three seasons, manager Rhys Griffiths began the year aiming as high as possible and stating that the ladies would win the league this season, a statement he had made almost every season since he started with the club back in 2018.

The season started well, a 5-0 victory away to Worthing Town was a great start for the ladies. The second game of the season, in very windy conditions, saw the ladies lose their only league game of the season to title contenders Montpelier Villa. Pagham saw themselves go 3-0 down at home by half time, with the wind heavily dictating the way the game flowed. The second half saw Pagham claw themselves back to 3-3 with 35 minutes of hard work, only to concede two goals to the visitors in quick succession to lose the game 5-3. Following this result, Pagham kicked on, breaking a club record in the process as they went on to win eight competitive games in a row. The eighthth victory was possibly the biggest result of the season.

Following the Christmas break, Pagham began 2022 with an away fixture to then top of the table, Montpelier Villa. Pagham had to hold out against heavy pressure from the hosts, with goalkeeper Georgia Selby (a central midfielder naturally who volunteered to play in goal at the beginning of the season) making a number of key saves within the game. Despite going down just before half time following some very good wide play leading to a shot inside the box being just too much for Selby to keep out, Pagham saw the club’s top overall goalscorer, Georgina Starkey, step up and equalise right on half time with a delightful volley powerfully flying over the retreating goalkeeper following a poor clearance.

The second half became very end to end, with everything to gain, as the winner would be most likely to win the league, and Montpelier Villa having played far more games than Pagham. Montpelier Villa went ahead first as they saw a good strike from just on the outside of the box and was just too much for the goalkeeper. Pagham responded threw Gemma Yates, who currently has the most assists for the club (12) this season. A ball from Jade Widdowson got Yates through, and she curled it around the goalkeeper.

The moment of the season, and possibly ever in the history of Pagham Ladies, came in the 92nd minute. A Pagham corner was cleared by the Montpelier Villa defence, but only for the ball to roll to around 30 yards out. Club captain Gemma Halford, came bombing forward from the half way line and was left with no choice but to strike the ball. The ball was struck sweetly as it rocketed to the Montpelier Villa goal, creeping just under the bar to put Pagham in the lead, with a small invasion on the pitch of substitutes and coaching staff to hug the centre back following her goal.

Pagham kicked on in the league, conceding just one goal and scoring 22 times in the remaining six league games (that were played, 2 games were given as walkover victories due to the side being unable to field teams). Winning the league has been an outstanding achievement for a club which was started so that a group of friends could play football together in a competitive league by club chairwoman, Lauren Osborne. The side has come on leaps and bounds since it’s initial creation, seeing 6 of the current playing squad being involved in the inaugural season of Pagham Ladies back in 2016. Some key statistics has seen one of the inaugural players, Emma Biffi, look as though she will end as the league’s top scorer with 26 goals so far. The club have also kept a club record 11 clean sheets this season as well with some outstanding defending over the season.

Pagham still have a competitive fixture, as they face second place Montpelier Villa at Pagham Football Club, Nyetimber Lane on Sunday 15th May in the SCWGFL League Cup, hoping to get to the final and earn a second trophy of the season.