Saints travelled down the south coast to take on Lewes in their second fixture of the Barclays Women’s Championship season, coming back from 2-0 down to secure their first point in their league campaign.
It was a tale of two halves, as Lewes dominated the opening exchanges and made chances count, as Amelia Hazard opened the scoring for Lewes in the 16th minute before Ellie Hack doubled the deficit with a header in first half injury time.
However, Saints came out fighting in the second half and Ella Morris battled her way through to secure the side’s first ever Barclays Women’s Championship goal.
Laura Rafferty put the Saints level in the 69th minute, as Paige Peake delivered a perfect ball across the box with the Northern Irish international looping the ball into the back of the net, securing Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side’s first ever point in a Championship campaign.
Lewes looked to hit Saints early after the Women in blue conceded a free-kick on the left-wing, but the delivery into the box was headed wide. Shortly after, Emily Kraft looked to test Kayla Rendell from distance, but again, the shot flew wide.
Saints went closest in the opening ten through Alice Griffiths. Some neat play between Georgie Freeland and Lucia Kendall unleashed the latter down the wing, allowing her to send a cross spinning towards Ella Morris in the middle. Morris was deprived of the ball from a Lewes head, but the onrushing Griffiths sent her shot just wide of the post.
However, it was Amelia Hazard who put the hosts in front on the 16th minute mark, as a low, hard cross was redirected in at the far past.
Saints still enjoyed forays into the opposition box, with Kendall and Katie Wilkinson linking up well. Wilkinson was able to get a stinging shot off, but the Lewes defence stood strong to deny any real danger for Sophie Whitehouse between the posts.
Rendell had to be alert as the clock ticked past the 22nd minute, as a long ball forward dropped into the space between the back line and keeper. Saints’ number one was quick off her line to deny the onrushing red shirt and keep the deficit at one.
Saints were unlucky not to go level on the half hour mark, as Kendall brought down a lobbed ball and slotted under Whitehouse, only to have the ball called back for a Saints free-kick.
It was the blues again with a chance soon after, as Georgie Freeland nabbed the ball off a sloppy touch and drove down the right wing towards the box. A vocal Wilkinson was waiting in the middle, but Freeland opted to force Whitehouse into a diving shot at the near post.
Lewes continued to apply pressure and it paid off in injury time. A well-won corner from the home side was turned in off the head of Ellie Hack to double the deficit.
A dominant first half from the hosts, but all to play for in the second for Saints, who had enjoyed their own opportunities.
Megan Collett looked bright in the opening exchanges of the second half, driving down the wing and delivering a ball into the box which Whitehouse had to come and claim ahead of lurking Saints shirts.
Marieanne Spacey-Cale made her first change on the game as she brought Welsh international Megan Wynne into the game in place of Georgie Freeland in the 58th minute.
Wynne made an instant impact, winning the ball high up the field and driving at the Lewes defence. Her fresh legs and constant pressure, tiring out the defensive line, were key in the newly found dominance.
Katie Wilkinson slipped a ball straight through the middle of the park, and a stretched Lewes defence failed to cut it off. Ella Morris notched the ball forward, shrugged off a recovering Rebecca McKenna and lashed a ball into the top of the net, securing Saints’ first ever Barclays Women’s Championship goal.
Spacey-Cale’s side didn’t take their foot off the gas though, and continued to dominate in all areas of the pitch.
Wynne was again looking dangerous, as another defence-splitting through ball saw the number 11 race down the right wing. Some neat footwork saw her cut inside and cushion a ball towards the back of the box, but Lewes were alert to clear their lines this time.
The chances started to come thick and fast as a determined Saints looked to capitalise on a rattled Lewes. It didn’t take long for the pressure to pay off, as an outswinging corner was cleared only as far as the feet of Paige Peake, who set the ball to Rafferty to send a spinning ball over Whitehouse and into the back of the net.
With the scores level, Saints pushed for the equaliser and Megan Collett nearly grabbed it in the 77th minute, as she lashed a ball against the crossbar before Lewes scrambled it clear.
Two more changes saw Ella Pusey and Lexi Lloyd-Smith enter the fray, with Ella Morris and Paige Peake making way.
Lloyd-Smith put in a physical performance on her debut, and went close in the dying minutes of the game as she was played through into the box, only to see her shot slice wide of the goalmouth.
A battling draw and the first point on the board for Saints, who now have a weekend free before returning to league action against Durham at St Mary’s on Sunday 11th September.