Brighton Women 1 United Women 1
Manchester United Women had to settle for one point in the Women's Super League on Wednesday night, after making the long trip to face Brighton & Hove Albion at Crawley Town's ground.
Lauren James needed only 14 seconds to work her magic and create the first goal for United, although the last touch came from the Brighton goalkeeper Megan Walsh. The Seagulls responded with Aileen Walsh's headed equaliser just before the half-time whistle.
Late action from the Reds in the second half gave the travelling fans hope of a winner but despite penalty appeals and missed opportunities, Brighton stuck to their defensive guns and the encounter ended level.
Our head coach had to put her friendship with Brighton boss Hope Powell to one side as the pair stood on the touchline for their third meeting against each other. Stoney had praised her opposite number in the build-up, highlighting her contribution to women’s football as a pioneering England manager.
James drove the Reds into that incredibly early lead by charging down the left and delivering a cross that looped off the head of a defender, struck the inside of the post and then hit Brighton keeper Walsh before crossing the line.
Confidence flowed throughout the United team from defence to attack during the opening half-hour. However, warning sirens could be heard when Brighton’s Kayleigh Green stormed down the right-hand side and found Lea Le Garrec with a low cross into the box. The striker’s effort narrowly missed the post, to the delight of Mary Earps in the United goal.
Brighton began to trouble United towards the end of the half. Le Garrec testing the handling of Earps from 35 yards out to register their first shot on target. The Seagulls kept pushing and it was midfielder Whelan who rose the highest to head home the equaliser and her fifth goal of the season. After a goal at the beginning of the half, we now had one at the end of it as the teams entered the break on level terms.
Martha Harris had the first shot of the half for United when Toone won the ball back high up the pitch and found the full-back waiting on the edge of the area but her attempt did not trouble Walsh.
A break in play while Brighton defender Danique Kerkdijk received treatment allowed Stoney to make her first substitution of the game. Last season’s top scorer Sigsworth came on to replace Toone.
A free-kick awarded to Brighton with five minutes to go was fired into the box and helped on its way by substitute Umotong but although it fell kindly to Nilden, her powerfully struck volley narrowly sailed over the crossbar.
The fans were provided with some late drama as the game headed into four minutes of injury time. The ball bounced around the Brighton penalty area, Jane Ross managed to get a shot on target and when it was blocked by a defender, appeals for handball went up. However, nothing was given by the referee and the sides ultimately could not be separated.
United: Earps, Harris, A. Turner, M. Turner, Smith, Ladd, Zelem (captain), Groenen, Toone (Sigsworth 64), Ross, James (Arnot 78).
Subs not used: Mikalsen, Okvist, Palmer, May.
Scorers: United - Walsh own goal 1 | Brighton - Whelan 45.