Chichester City Ladies came away from their away trip to in-form West Ham empty handed after a tough day at the office with numerous changes to the squad due to an ever worrying injury list at the club.
Amber Stobbs grabbed a double to seal the points for the hammers to leave the green and white army to reflect on a disappointing trip but still a battling performance that typifies how far the team have come in their incredible journey.
After a delayed kick off, both sides looked tentative in the early stages with a glaring lack of chances on goal. Elli Zoepfl had the first chance for the hosts when she was picked out in the box with a tremendous cross from Chenise Austin but here headed effort eased over the bar leaving the score goal less and the visitors defence breathing a sizable sigh of relief.
Natasha Stephens was the sole striker for Chichester and found herself with a very unenviable task to try and unlock a determined claret defence and the likes of Alex Collighan and Ellis Bloomfield being resolute in support Chichester started to settle better and find more space inside the hosts half. However West Ham were always quick on the break and Zoepfl had another chance for the hosts as they broke quickly from a Chichester corner.
The very quick Rosie Kmita burst through into the area and drew a superb save from Sadie Blakely and then saw a follow up effort from Zoepfl hit the bar to keep Chichester in the match as the half wore on. Chichester were victims of their own undoing’s at times so were having to absorb a lot of pressure as the half wore one but Molly Clark, making her home debut for the hammers looked somewhat subdued against her former club and the green army did really well to keep her quiet to prevent her from being the very dangerous player that she could have been.
Approaching the half hour and the domination for the hosts finally paid dividends as Stobbs produced a sizzling finish to break the deadlock in emphatic fashion. Again West Ham broke out of defence quickly and after an exchange of passes involving Kelly Wealthall and Kmita, Stobbs found space and let fly from the edge of the box into the roof of the net to give the hammers a deserved lead. Chichester skipper, Emma Alexandre did her massive best to rouse her troops for a fight back but had to settle for a one goal deficit at the break.
Matt Wright made a change at half time bringing on Sophie Phelps into the back line to allow Lauren Cheshire to move up front to partner Stephens and that change seemed to work as Chichester began to find renewed vigour in their play and the extra pace up top was now starting to cause real concern for the claret backline. Chichester forced a succession of corners and were unlucky not to find a route to goal despite the vastly increased possession compared to the first period. West Ham were still dangerous on the break and could have added to their lead had it not been for superb, resilient defending from Tiffany Taylor on several occasions and they undeniable bravery of Alexandre who put her body on the line numerous times for the cause showing just what a player she is.
Stephens thought she had levelled the tie, late on, when Bloomfield poked a ball back into the box to her unmarked teammate but a timely offside flag ruled out the calm finish enabling the hosts to regroup and come at Chichester once more. With the visitors throwing more caution to the wind in the closing stages they were caught out again, on the break, in injury time and Stobbs was in the right place at the right time to squeeze an effort in off the far post from a tight angle to seal the points for the hammers.
Up next Chichester host the league strugglers Swindon Town at Oaklands Park a game that saw 11 goals in the reverse fixture with City coming away victorious.
CCLFC: Sadie Blakely, Lauren Cheshire, Laura Ingram, Tiffany Taylor, Emma Alexandre, Rebecca Barron, Natasha Stephens, Alex Collighan, Ellis Bloomfield, Chloe Tucker and Jenna Fowlie. SUBS: Alice Walford, Danielle Paul, Sophie Phelps and Poppy Shine