Bristol capped off a rollercoaster ten days as they progressed to the quarterfinals of the Continental Cup.
Driven on by the performances of young English talent – Jemma Purfield, Emma Bissell and Ebony Salmon, all of whom have been outstanding in recent games – they came away with a comfortable 3-1 victory over FA Championship side, Lewes.
This was our first trip to the Dripping Pan this season. It was good to see those trademark beach huts once again on a calm November evening – a little different from our last visit when we almost got blown away. Yet it was eerily quiet without the background noise of the in-house band that we are accustomed to seeing on a Lewes matchday.
Simon Parker made five changes to his side that had fallen to defeat at London Bees. Laura Hartley, Emma Jones, Emma Noble, Charley Boswell and Lucy Porter all came in to the starting XI as they looked to remain compact and hit Bristol on the break.
In the continued absence of Tanya Oxtoby, as she recovers from Covid-19, Gary Probert once again took up position on the side-line. Abi Harrison returned to lead the line while Ella Mastrantonio took up her usual spot in defensive midfield. Meanwhile, there was a first start for young Ellen Jones.
“It’s obviously not been a standard week, for me, the girls and the rest of the staff…The staff have been incredible, making me feel part of it. And the girls themselves have been really receptive. They’re really good people and they work hard, they listen and they want to improve.”
GARY PROBERT, POST MATCH VS TOTTENHAM
While Bristol controlled possession from the off, they were frustrated by Lewes and failed to create many clear-cut chances. In fact, the first came with 20 minutes on the clock when Purfield’s pass was dummied by Carla Humphrey into the path of Harrison. Her powerful shot on the turn was parried behind by Hartley. Down the other end, Samantha Quayle was making a nuisance of herself amongst the Bristol defence with her pressing play.
There were signs, however, that Bristol were beginning to move through the gears. They opened the scoring in fantastic fashion when the impressive Purfield floated a delightful shot from distance into the back of the net.
And not long after, it was two. Emma Bissell, who has been making her mark on this Bristol side in the last few weeks, produced a player of the match performance and scored her goal just after the half hour mark. When a Bristol corner was headed clear to the edge of the box, the young forward was there to squeeze a low shot in at the near post.
The visitors weren’t finished yet and another brilliant hit, this time from the ever-dangerous Ebony Salmon, made it three, minutes after rattling the crossbar. They went in at the break comfortably ahead.
The second half started quietly until, ten minutes in, Lewes pulled a goal back. A fine delivery from a corner down the right side was headed home by their captain, Rhian Cleverly, at the near post.
Was this the start of a comeback? Well actually, it sparked Bristol back into life a bit as they searched for a fourth. Salmon had a fierce shot blocked before substitute, Izzy Cook, rattled the crossbar with pretty much her first touch of the ball. It would have been some way to mark her debut. Humphrey also came close before Bissell hit the woodwork, sending her angled effort skimming along the crossbar.
With that, the game came to a close. Despite the loss, there were plenty of positives to take for Parker. His side were far from overrun and held their own at times against the Barclays FAWSL side.
Meanwhile, Bristol enter the international break in a much better place than you might have imagined when they suffered that 8-1 loss to Manchester City just ten days ago. With two positive results, they have shown plenty of fight and character to take them into the next stages of the competition.