Dartford FC Women 1 Sutton United Women 1 – London & S.E. Regional League, Premier Division, Sunday 28th August 2022
Another Sunday, full of sunshine greeted the players for the Darts’ 3 o’clock kick-off against Sutton United, and with Dartford facing a stiff breeze, they were rather slow to get started. Inside the first couple of minutes, two long balls over the defence with strong running from the opposition forwards gave the Darts’ defence concern. The speed of Sutton’s right-wing and centre-forward had given them a stark warning of what was soon to happen.
The first shot of the match fell to Emily Vaughan but her snap-shot didn’t trouble the keeper, but after four minutes Darts were rocked by a goal, the result of another long ball that split the defence and Sutton’s Darcy Wells shot at goal but Lily Bennett, making her debut for the Darts, saved well, but unluckily the ball rebounded kindly for the striker to fire home at the second attempt.
Two good saves inside 30 seconds from the Sutton ‘keeper from shots by Nisha Dyett and then Lizzie Adams kept their slender lead intact. On 20 minutes Charlie Torry fired in a fierce drive but the Sutton goalie got her whole body behind the save, then Amy Green fired in a shot that was blocked by a defender. All the while, Sutton were pegging away in midfield, gradually gaining the upper-hand, helped, somewhat by some of Dartford’s wayward passing.
After 24 minutes Darts managed a couple of quick breaks but each time Nicha was caught offside, but her running and effort was certainly giving the Sutton defenders some problems. Although Darts never really piled on the pressure during this first half, they did manage to get in plenty of shots, and a Shauni Griffiths’ effort in particular, was well saved at the near post.
After 32 minutes Charlie Torry took a throw-in directly to Emily Vaughan who turned and lined up her shot which was accurate and was just about squeezing in at the right-hand post when the goalie saved but then almost let it under her body on the goal-line.
Shauni Griffiths let fly a beauty but the keeper was equal to it with a flying save near the post and managed to turn it over the bar.
Half-time Dartford 0 Sutton United 1
There was much better composure from the Darts’ defence from the start of the second half. Rachel Ahern began confidently playing the ball out from defence and finding her wing-backs and midfielders and overall Darts’ passing was much improved and soon had Sutton on the back foot. The left-wing partnership of Shauni and Megan McKeag began to sparkle and Darts were really putting Sutton under pressure.
Meghan played a lovely threw ball that split the United’s defence and Nicha, under pressure from a defender got her shot away but just missed the target.
There was a huge appeal for handball, right on the 16-yard box and central to the goal but this was waved aside by the referee and good pressure continued from Dartford.
The ball was immediately down the other end and a shot was heading for the Dartford goal but somehow Lily leapt high and managed to parry the ball away for a corner. That might have spelled disaster for Darts had they conceded and would have been a case of very rough justice only ten seconds after the handball claim.
Shauni was getting the better of her markers and was often able to cut inside and lay off passes near the edge of the penalty area where shots by Amy Panayi and Lizzie Adams couldn’t quite find their mark.
In the 72nd minute, Megan took a throw-in on the left, deep in the Sutton half, finding Nicha who passed back diagonally into the path of Shauni who was a metre or so outside of the penalty area. She let fly a blistering shot through a ruck of players, which bounced once, just in front of the diving keeper and into the net for a well-deserved equaliser.
Another long-range effort from Shauni looked to have ‘goal’ written all over it, but the wind-assisted shot just rose over the bar.
Issy Michalski was making a difference now on the right wing and Darts were very dangerous on both flanks. Their play was full of confidence now and with both wings playing tight to the lines the Sutton defence got stretched time and again and Darts won a series of corners and throw-ins deep on the right. Megan delivered some great left-footed in-swinging corners into the 6-yard box, one or two eluding everyone, but one in particular was brilliantly cleared with a two-fisted punch by the goalie, just when Emily Vaughan looked most likely to reach the ball first. and a touch was all that was needed from anyone of three other Dartford players.
Sutton still produced a couple of chances but the Darts’ defence held together and confidently played the ball out with a good passing game.
This was really a match of two halves for the Darts, the second being quite inspired and the football by both sides was a credit to the game.
Fulltime score: Dartford 1 Sutton United 1
Report by Tony Brown