Women’s football round-up: Dean returns to break Lionesses’ hearts, Charlton pick up valuable away win but Palace lose

BY YANN  TEAR

An injury-time strike from Tottenham Hotspur’s England under-21 forward Rianna Dean shattered the hopes of Millwall Lionesses of pulling off a shock result.

The Lionesses, without a win all season, came so close to upsetting the form book against the league leaders in the Women’s Championship, but former player Dean broke their hearts.

Dean found the net five minutes into added time at Princes Park – just after the hosts’ Beth Lumsden had levelled things up.

“We’re gutted, of course, and who wouldn’t be after losing with what was effectively the final kick of the game,” said Millwall skipper Leanne Cowan.

Millwall Lionesses v Tottenham Hotspur Ladies, FA Women’s Championship, Princess Park, 27 January 2019.

“You can factor a number of reasons behind that final goal – tiredness, a little bit of naivety on our part in the way we let their runners move off the ball – but ultimately, we’ve switched off, and we’ve been punished.

“I couldn’t be more proud though of how we stuck to the game plan against one of the best teams in the division, and every single player in our squad can go home with their head held high.

“We can take plenty from that going into next week. People forget just how young a side we are, and we will learn from experiences like this.

“We’ll stay committed to our core beliefs and principals – 100 per cent commitment, hard work and representing the shirt with pride – and I know we’ll pick ourselves up quickly.”

Spurs dominated both ball and territory, but Millwall held firm, with centre back Ylenia Priest expertly leading the resistance.

The contest really sparked into life in the final 10 minutes, with substitute Emma Beckett nodding the visitors ahead.

To their huge credit, the Lionesses battled back and thought they’d picked up only their third league point of the campaign when Lumsden managed to squeeze a free-kick through a pile of bodies late on – only for Dean to intervene right at the death with a crisp finish past Chloe Samson.

The sides had gone in at the break locked at one apiece.Sarah Wiltshire’s angled half-volley 10 minutes before the break opened the scoring, but with their only attack, Millwall drew level courtesy of a fine solo effort from Evie Clarke, who shrugged off the attention of Renee Hector before applying an expert finish.

Charlton Athletic are up to second in the table, four points behind Spurs, after a 3-2 victory at Sheffield United.

Kit Graham’s header in the first half gave the visitors the lead, before second-half strikes from Lily Agg and Charley Clifford ensured Bex Rayner’s effort and Ebony Salmon’s penalty didn’t cost Charlton a much-needed three points.

Graham headed home from point-blank range after Amber Stobbs found her inside the six-yard box.

She should have added a second 10 minutes after the break, but somehow headed the ball over an empty net after beating goalkeeper Nikki Davies with a neat bit of skill.

But less than a minute later, it was 2-0 when Agg slotted home to ensure a difficult final half-hour for the hosts.

United gave themselves hope when Rayner eventually bundled home Sarri’s corner with 25 minutes to go, but United couldn’t muster up the chances to force an equaliser.

The game was put beyond doubt with 10 minutes remaining when Clifford’s superb 35-yard free-kick flew into the top corner.

A late penalty from Salmon secured her first goal for the club, after Ellie Gilliatt was fouled, and the hosts felt they should have had another immediately after when Salmon herself may have been fouled in the box.

“We wouldn’t have ever expected to be where we are now when we got promoted and we’re just trying to take it one game at a time, said goalscorer Clifford.

“You ave games like that where it becomes a bit scrappy. In the past we haven’t scrapped, but here we scrapped and we fought and that makes it even better.

“It’s more rewarding in some ways. Our team spirit is growing all the time and the girls all have each other’s backs. That’s why we won.

“I tried to catch the wind with the free-kick. I’d tried a couple before that and they didn’t come off so I’m just glad that one ended up going in.

Crystal Palace, meanwhile are still finding it tough at the wrong end of the table – losing 2-0 against promotion-chasing Durham Women at Hayes Lane.

Goals at the start of each half from Emily Roberts and Nicki Gears ensured the visitors picked up all three points and consigned Palace to a fourth defeat in six matches.

The writing seemed to be on the wall for Palace from the outset. Durham’s Rachel Lee whipped in a free-kick that Palace goalkeeper Lucy Gillett could not gather and Roberts tapped in.

Palace looked nervy, but defender Hannah Mackenzie kept Palace in it – and the dangerous Abby Holmes at bay.

But Durham always looked stronger and Gears got in behind Palace’s defence for a cool finish to wrap up the points.

Palace defender Hannah Mackenzie said: “Last week, when we played London Bees, we did not play our best at all, and our main target was to play better this week.

“We definitely achieved that, to be fair. They are a good side but we definitely competed and there were a lot of positives to take out of it.

“Their goals were from our mistakes and if we can get rid of those little mistakes, then we should be able to push on.”

Palace are next in action against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup, and Mackenzie added: “The league is obviously our usual priority but we are quite low down in the table at the moment.

“So we will just try and focus on how far we can try and get in the cup. It is always a big game against Spurs but I think if we play like we did here, then it will be our game – definitely.”

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Photograph by Keith Gillard