It was a tight contest at Princes Park last night, and the London City Lionesses fought hard to claim a 1-0 win over Lewes.
Going into the game, the wind was in City’s sails, following the 2-0 win over local rivals Charlton last time out.
However it was the visitors that came out of the gates quickly, with the Lionesses backline called into action in the first couple of minutes, with Lucy Ashworth-Clifford picking up the ball in the box, but City were alive to the danger.
Yet with just six minutes on the clock, the Lionesses got themselves in front.
It was Jamie-Lee Napier picking up the ball from inside her own half that started the move, as she carried it forward, before switching it out wide to Karin Muya, whose cross threatened the face of goal and was tapped in by Lewes’ Rebecca McKenna for an own goal.
The goal did little to deter the Lewes’ attack, however, with Shae Yanez called into action just a few minutes later, when an Izzy Dalton free kick was headed towards the top corner, before Yanez was able to claim it.
City’s wide players continued to be a threat though, with Napier a constant thorn in the side of the Lewes backline, with the visitors resorting to any means necessary to bring her down.
One such case saw City win a free kick right on the edge of the area, which was whipped in at pace by Shanade Hopcroft, but dealt with eventually by the Lewes keeper.
At the other end however, Lewes were continuing to prove dangerous going forward, and just 10 minutes into the second half they got a penalty.
But Freda Ayisi was unable to test Yanez, and her shot was fired at the post and then cleared by the London City keeper.
Ayisi proved to be Lewes’ biggest threat going forward, but on the occasion she did break forward, Hayley Nolan was able to force her outside, and force her shots into the side netting.
City continued to push for a second though, with Amy Rodgers coming closest, as she controlled the ball from Atlanta Primus to get a shot away, but it was just inches wide of the post.
A tense final few minutes ensued, but the Lionesses fought and held on to claim all three points.
Speaking after the final whistle, manager Melissa Phillips had this to say on the team's performance.
“Going into these last few games we said that, if we're going to be one thing, we're going to be extremely difficult to beat and take a lot of pride in getting clean sheets,” said Phillips, “not only was it a resilient performance but it was a very disciplined performance from the group.”
Such discipline could also be seen from the attacking players on Thursday night, with the own goal a consequence of some lightning quick forward play, started by Napier.
“I just try and do my best week in week out for the team,” said Napier, “and I've been trying to add more to my game and I'm just glad I switched it out to Karin.
“She’s so positive when she’s driving down the wing and she put in such a good ball, so I’m really glad we got the goal.”
“There's a lot of pace in our front line and a tremendously high work ethic throughout,” said Phillips, “they really help drive us up the field with their ability to carry the ball and be so dangerous on both flanks.
“We said at the beginning of the game we need to ask questions in that six yard box and that's ultimately how we forced them into an own goal.”
Next up for the Lionesses is another big test, as they face Bristol City in the final away game of the season.
But for Napier, despite it being a top of the table clash, the focus will always be the same.
“We just take each game as it comes,” said Napier, “and we just want to keep picking up the three points each week and finish the season on a high.”
“We want to climb the table and Bristol's the next biggest challenge,” said Phillips, “we walked away from the game when they came here at Princess Park, not too long ago, and felt like they'd stolen it from us.
“So we were excited and eager to go battle again at the top of the table and put in another very resilient performance.”
The Lionesses return to Princes Park in two week’s time for the final time this season to take on Blackburn Rovers. Click the link to book your tickets now!