Ten-woman Chi City take point from Pompey
A late goal from ex-Chichester player Molly ClarkÂ helped salvage aÂ somewhatÂ miraculousÂ point for Pompey Ladies as an enthralling game with Chichester City Ladies ended 2-2Â in front of a large crowd atÂ West Leigh Park.
Chichester started positively, befitting a team coming into the game as the form side, and Cherelle Khassal had their first effort on goal after only five minutes - but home keeper Michelle Beazley was on hand to make a comfortable save to keep the striker out.
Chichester kept up the pressure and Charley Wilson-Blakely looked dangerous every time she got the ball and she and Khassal linked strongly with the Blues struggling at times to keep them at bay.
The hosts finally got a sight of goal on the quarter-hour when Natasha Stephens found the ball at her feet on the edge of the area and had Sadie Wilson-Blakely at full stretch to keep her goalbound effort out.
By now it was end-to-end stuff and the visiting support was getting boisterous on the touchline. It seemed to have the desired effect when Jess Lewry went agonisingly close on the half hour with a shot that just went over the bar with Beazley well beaten.
Minutes later the Chichester fans were in raptures when the green and white army took a deserved lead through the superb Charley Wilson-Blakely.
Jade Widdows exchanged passes on the left with Lauren Cheshire and then swung in a teasing cross to which Wilson-Blakely met with a sublime header into the bottom corner sparking wild and loud celebrations. It was richly deserved for the visitors.
Portsmouth went even closer to scoring in final minutes for the half when Stephens forced an excellent save from Sadie Wilson-Blakely and Cheshire averted any follow-up danger by beating Shannon Albuery to the ball to clear the lines for the visitors.
Chichester were dealt a blow when the excellent Emma Alexandre was forced off with a recurrence of an ankle injury but Holly Wride slotted into the back-line to replace her.
City came out and from the restart looked sharp again as they went in search of what might be a crucial second and just before the hour they got it through the superb Khassal. On this occasion a beautiful pass from Chloe Tucker put her through and she needed no second invitation to fire low under the approaching Beazley and into the back of the net.
Chichester couldn’t rest on their laurels as Portsmouth do have a lot of character in their side and would never give up.
Their cause was helped by a dubious decision by the referee to give the excellent Kerrie Ryan two harsh yellow cards in the space of a few minutes resulting in a very harsh red card - meaning Chichester would play the last quarter of the game with only ten players on the pitch.
Chichester found themselves under the cosh as the Blues flew forward in search of a quick reply and, with ten minutes left, Albuery nodded them back into the tie with a deft header back across goal from a delightful cross from Katie James and into the bottom corner.
The Blues upped the tempo, with Chichester packing the defence and resigned to counter-attacking football and with time running out up popped Molly Clarke with one of her trademark long-range efforts that took a slight deflection and flew into the back of the net for the equaliser.
The home support celebrated with gusto at seeing their team get back on level terms and Chichester had to survive a late onslaught to eventually earn a share of the spoils.
This was a superb advert for ladies' football and Chichester will certainly look forward to the rematch at Oaklands Park next month. This Sunday sees Lewes make the trip to Oaklands.
CLFC: S Wilson-Blakely, Cheshire, Ryan, Alexandre, Tucker, Khassal, C Wilson-Blakely, Lewry, Taylor, Simmonds, Widdows. Subs: Fowlie, Ingram, Wride, Bloomfield.