Women's Report: Crystal Palace 1-2 Saints


Saints travelled to Selhurst Park to take on an unbeaten Crystal Palace team, collecting all three points thanks to a Lexi Lloyd-Smith brace.

Lexi Lloyd-Smith scored early in the first and second halves, and despite a Coral Haines goal in first-half injury time, Saints were able to hold on to secure their first ever win in the second tier.

It was almost the dream start for Saints as Beth Lumsden latched onto a neat ball from Katie Wilkinson in the box to go one-on-one with Fran Kitching. The Crystal Palace number one was quick off her line to deny from close range.

It wasn’t long after that Saints did see the net bulge, and Lumsden was heavily involved. Ella Morris once again showed her intelligence to slot a ball down the line to Lumsden, who drove along the backline before cutting back. An onrushing Lexi Lloyd-Smith was the one to break the deadlock, slamming the ball into the back of the net at the first time of asking.

Crystal Palace looked to reassert themselves, and were content to hold the ball in the middle third before finding an opportunity to break. Southampton held their lines however, and looked to break through Katie Wilkinson, Lumsden and Lloyd-Smith on the counter.

Palace thought they had their equaliser in the 20th minute as Coral Haines and Molly Sharpe linked up to cut through Saints, only to see the linesman’s flag go up for offside.

Despite the scare, Saints continued to create chances, and Lumsden’s speed saw her dart into the box again in the 23rd minute. Her tap to Wilkinson on her left was a good one, but the ensuing shot was again collected by Kitching in the Palace goal.

Saints had to absorb more pressure from Palace as the half wore on, and in the 35th minute, the home side would have been frustrated not to see the net bulge. A lofted ball across the box looked to be in the safe hands of Kayla Rendell, but was spilt, dropping to the boots of a Palace forward. The cut back was dangerous and travelling Saints fans were relieved to see the shot blocked on the line.

Saints continued to defend resolutely, but Palace were getting on top as the half drew to a close. Two corners in quick succession were cleared, before a tired challenge gifted a free-kick in a dangerous area.

Annabel Blanchard stepped up to take the dead ball, curling her effort onto the post before Coral Haines turned home from close range, putting things back on level terms in injury time.

Saints came out brightly after the break and it wasn’t long before the electric start paid off.

Lloyd-Smith was making her presence felt in the centre of the park, and after sliding in to win the ball back, she got herself into a good area on the edge of the box. Some quick one-twos saw the youngster get back on the ball, use her quick feet to evade her player and send a shot zipping into the bottom corner.

The early goal in the second half sparked Palace into action, and Saints had to be at their best to absorb wave after wave of forward moves from the home side.Saints were lucky not to concede in the 57th minute as a diagonal ball saw a Palace shirt in acres of space in the box. Rendell was ready to make her move, but the header landed straight in her gloves.It was Crystal Palace fans who breathed a sigh of relief just a minute later, as a characteristic long-range dead ball from Wilkinson clattered off the crossbar and away.For a short period the game became end-to-end and Rendell had to pull out all the stops to keep things level. A bit too much time for Palace on the edge of the area saw a ball delivered into a sea of players in the danger zone, only for Rendell to rush through them all to clear.Marieanne Spacey-Cale looked to sure up the back line as she brought Milly Mott into the fray in place of Ashleigh Ward in the 67th minute, as Palace continued to search for an equaliser.Lumsden continued to put in the work at the other end of the pitch, again providing a well-timed through ball to Morris, who was denied by Kitching at close range, before Lumsden slashed the rebound just over the bar.