Chichester City hit back from being a goal down to beat Milton Keynes Dons 5-2 with a second-half onslaught.
MK Dons took the lead with a third-minute Charly Clarke penalty, but Molly Clark made sure it was level at the break. Lauren Cheshire scored right after half-time, quickly followed by Rebecca Barron’s header. Sara Tubby netted twice while MK nabbed a consolation from Amy Gooderham.
Heading into the match Chi sat top of the FA Women’s National League southern premier and title rivals Coventry United were not in action. Chi started the better on the ball but the first chance – and goal – went to the visitors.
Lauren Dolbear went at full stretch to save Louise Naylor’s 25-yard shot but a minute later the referee pointed to the spot as the ball bounced of the post and on to Tammy Waine’s arm from close range. Up stepped Clarke to face Dolbear, and the Chi goalkeeper dived the right way but the ball grazed her outstretched fingertips and hit the net.
Moments later, Helen Ogle teed up Tash Stephens in the box but the winger’s back-flicked attempt flew over the goalmouth. Chi showed good composure and built good moves looking for the equaliser. Molly Clark played a perfect long ball for Stephens on the counter attack from an MK free-kick but the muddy Oaklands Park pitch held the ball up.
Wind and mud did their best to disrupt things but Chi continued to control the midfield engineered by the two Clarks and Barron. Ogle had two headed opportunities; the first she got under and the second lacked the power to trouble Sophie Shults. MK seemed happy to soak up the pressure from the hosts and looked for the quick counter-attack.
Charly Wright’s cross found Alice Hughes but the forward couldn’t direct it towards goal. The ever-dependable Waine got her foot in the way to prevent MK from feeding lone striker Leah Cudone. Both keepers were called into action in the half – Shults diving low to parry Molly Clark’s curling free-kick while Dolbear had to leap to protect her top corner from Wright.
Chi were awarded a free-kick directly in front of goal 30 yards out two minutes into first-half injury-time. Molly Clark struck the ball well and it soared over the wall and into the roof of the net.
Two minutes after the restart skipper Lauren Cheshire added her name to the scoresheet with her first goal in 19 months. Sub Cherelle Khassal, who had replaced an injured Laura Ingram in the first-half, sent in a cross that was headed on by a defender to Cheshire, who controlled it and shot across the keeper into the bottom corner.
Barron found herself on the scoresheet although she didn’t know too much about it until she was bundled by her team-mates while she looked to see where the ball went. Clark’s corner found the midfielder at the near post and it smashed off the back of her head and into the net.
Milton Keynes pulled a goal back just past the hour through a long ball to Gooderham, who converted. Tubby restored the two-goal advantage when her head connected with substitute Wride’s corner. It wasn’t long before Tubby made it five for Chi less than a minute later. MK played the ball back to their keeper, who couldn’t clear in time and as Tubby advanced on Shults, the ball struck the striker and sailed back towards the empty net.
The visitors looked for a way back into the game but Waine remained strong and Cheshire tracked back to force a corner which was cleared by Dolbear. Waine had a shot from the edge of the centre circle which was claimed by Shults.
Another strong performance for Chi kept them top of the table, with a five-point margin. Next up, Chichester City travel to face title rivals Coventry United in the league.
Chi City Ladies: Dolbear, Cheshire, Waine, Taylor, Ingram (Khassal 42), M Clark (Wride 57’), L Clark, Barron, Tubby, Stephens, Ogle (Capel-Watson 72’). Unused subs: Lewry, Simmonds.