The Bees kicked off 2021 with a commendable home draw with rivals City Lionesses on a chilly afternoon at The Hive London.
Lee Burch’s side started brightly and looked sharp in play, without being able to fashion any clear cut opportunities, however, neither could their visitors who were kept at arm’s length in the opening stages.
The Dartford based sides first opportunity came from a couple of corners after 15 minutes, however, neither set play put the Bees in any real danger.
Lionesses fashioned opening midway through the first half as Atlanta Primus poked a low free-kick wide of Quantrill’s post. That would be one of the better chances of the match, in what was a physical encounter battled out between two very committed sides.
Up the other end, Sophie McLean looked to make it two goals in as many matches, but her effort was blocked behind for a corner kick. The first shot on target came after the half-hour mark, as Harley Bennett’s shot dribbled into the gloves of Quantrill.
With just seven minutes before the break, Burch’s Bees almost took the lead in bizarre circumstances as Mel Filis’ cross almost dropped into the top corner, with Lionesses ‘keeper Shae Yanez stranded. It would be the last goalmouth action before the whistle blew for half time, with nothing to separate the sides.
The second half started in controversy as Billie Brooks was deemed to have fouled Primus in the area just 44 seconds after the restart. It was an extremely harsh decision, with the Lionesses attacker going to ground under the most marginal of contact.
Burch’s side will feel justice was served from the spot, as Lily Agg fired her kick over the crossbar and into the empty North Stand. It meant the Bees could breathe a sigh of relief after a frantic start to the half.
It was nearly a fantastic five minutes for the Bees who almost took the lead, as Nicola Gibson’s long-range effort stung the palms of the diving Yanez in the Lionesses goal. Charlie Estcourt was next to go close as her effort went over the crossbar, as Burch’s side started to up the ante in North London.
Ten minutes into the half saw the introduction of Lauren Pickett, she made a quick impact winning a free-kick in a dangerous position, but Estcourt’s effort was well blocked by the wall.
With 23 minutes left on the watch, the Lionesses had their best opening of the match as a corner kick caused mayhem in the area, before the ensuing scramble in the six-yard box eventually dropped wide for a goal kick. It was a heart in mouth moment, but the Bees dealt with the pressure well, as they did throughout the entire match.
As the game went on, the full-time visitors grew into the match, with plenty of ball around the penalty area, however despite their pressure, Quantrill wasn’t once called into action.
In a performance labelled defensive by some, it was the Bees who nearly snatched the three points, as Pickett curled a superb effort against the crossbar from 25 yards. It would have been a goal worthy of winning any match, let alone a London derby.
As the game went into the final few moments, it was the visitors who finished the slightly stronger as they looked to take the points, but the Bees defended resolutely and ensured they took a well-earned point from their opening match of the year.
With Coventry United losing at promotion hunting Sheffield United, the Bees moved up a place to ninth in the FA Women’s Championship. It’s a tough test next up for Burch’s side who make the long trip to Durham, as we look to back up a solid performance on home soil.
Quantrill (c), Robert, Brooks, Taho (Pickett 55′), Nunn (Quirk 70′), Filis (Gould 84′), McLean (Hazard 70′), Gibson, Estcourt, Gamby, Gane.
Subs not used: Hazelton, West, Horwood, Dench.
Goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill said:
“It’s been a long time since we played, so to play a team like that, who we knew would throw everything at us, and to dig in the way we did and to get a point is great. Everyone is really happy and it’s a great result.
“We’ve had quite a few clean sheets at home, so we need to take them into the away games! But we’re always happy to get a clean sheet, which helps us pick up points.
“We knew we needed to get something from this game and we put in a performance to make sure we did get the point and move away from the bottom of the league.
“They threw their bodies in front of everything, which we have done all season, but we’ve just been a bit unlucky with a few deflections that have gone the other way.”