A fabulous day for a football match was graced by an equally good game between your Rooks and Super League side West Ham.
Several Lewes players made their Dripping Pan debuts, but few had a better day than former London City Lioness Kallie Balfour. She bagged two first-half goals and was closing in on a hat-trick when Hammers keeper McKenzie Arnold raced off her line to make a fine last-ditch tackle.
Balfour’s opener was a thing of beauty. Zoe Cross tested the Hammers’ left-back’s hamstrings to win a corner. Ini Umotong challenged Arnold, the loose ball was played back in on the right. Balfour slipped her marker to take the ball at hip-height and steer a fine finish past Arnold.
At the back, stopper Shanell Salgado made her home debut, with Ellie Hack looking in fine shape alongside skipper Rhian Cleverly, Sophie O’Rourke and Rebecca McKenna at FB.
The visitors found Lewes in mean mood. Given little space anywhere on the pitch they frequently failed to find each other, Lewes’s midfield of Cross, Logan, Dalton and Hazard picking them off.
One interception set up the Rooks’ second, Balfour once again leaving the left back for dead before hitting a low finish across Arnold. Ini almost added a third with an audacious overhead that left Arnold rooted to her line, the ball flying just wide.
Inevitably Simon Parker mixed things up in the second half. Balfour came off (she took a heavy knock just before the break). On came Paula Howells and Freda Ayisi, both of whom shone in their midfield roles. It’s so good to see Paula back to full fitness, pulling the strings. One pass, outside the beleaguered WHU left back to release Georgia Timms, drew gasps from the otherwise boisterous crowd.
We knew West Ham would sharpen up in the second half and so it proved. Hawa Cissoko, strong and quick, put in a terrific shift at CB and Mel Filis looked a handful, chasing everything with her all-action style. Dagny Brynjarsdottir landed one effort on the roof of the Lewes net and hit another on the run that ruffled the last remaining shrubbery left of the Terry Parris Stand.
But it was Claudia Walker who stole the headlines with a well-taken brace, the last of which came minutes before full time as Lewes adjusted to late changes. A ball over the top was taken down to feet, her next movement slotting the ball low past Saunders.
All in all a fine first home display from the Rooks. Charlton arrive at the Pan next Sunday on the back of a summer of signings and a solid pre-season. This one promises to be a cracker.