It was a night of celebration and jubilation as Millwall Lionesses recorded their first league win of the 2018-19 Women's Championship campaign against city rivals, London Bees. A first half wonder goal from Annie Rossiter for the home side cancelled out Daisy McLachlan's early finish, before Evie Clarke stole the show with two second half finishes with one of those being arguably goal of the season.
The game started in a lively fashion and there were some heavy tackles flying in from both sides, but it was London Bees who took the lead in the 8th minute when a short pass was laid back to Daisy McLachlan on the edge of the Millwall penalty area. McLachlan connected well and her shot was destined for the top corner as soon as it left her boot, and Rhiannon Stewart in the Lionesses' goal had no chance of keeping it out. London Bees took the lead, but this game would be turned on it's head by a battling home side who displayed nothing but grit and determination.
It was stand-in captain, Evie Clarke, who led from the front and in the 12th minute broke away well from the London Bees defence before cutting the ball back for Annie Rossiter to cross, but the play was stopped well by the visiting side and the danger cleared.
The Lionesses continued to pass the ball around well and in the 17th minute it was Evie Clarke who found herself at the forefront. Expertly bringing down a long ball and linking up brilliantly with Lucy Fitzgerald and Beth Lumsden, the home fans thought that the young forward was away and through on goal, but Lumsden's well thought pass was just too short and cut out at the last minute by the away team.
In the 19th minute, it was the Bees who had a chance to double their lead when Emma Beckett twisted and turned her way deep into the Lionesses half, but her shot did not trouble Stewart in the Millwall goal and her effort went wide at the near post.
Although there was very little goalmouth action to speak of for the following periods of play, the game continued to be a backwards and forwards affair and it was Annie Rossiter who produced a moment of magic to bring the game level. Receiving the ball in the 42nd minute, the young winger saw former Lioness, Sarah Quantrill, off of her goal line and struck a stunning long range effort that sailed over the former Millwall shot stopper. It was Rossiter's first senior goal for the Lionesses and the home side were level going in at the break.
The second half started in the same way as the first and it was the energetic Clarke who continued to cause problems for her former side. Running through on goal in the 58th minute, the young forward would've scored Millwall's second of the game if it was not for Quantrill who rushed out to nullify the danger.
At the other end, Rhiannon Stewart continued to impress on her senior debut, and produced a masterclass of goalkeeping which many would call save of the season at any game of football around the country. Daisy McLachlan was played through on goal in the 61st minute and fans of both sides were expecting the attacker to stroke the ball home to retake the lead, but somehow Stewart managed to get down at the last second and palm the ball from trouble. As the ball ricocheted off of the 'keeper, the supporters' hearts were in their mouths as the follow up looked as though it would be met by a player in an orange shirt, but Grace Neville got to it in the nick of time and cleared the danger.
Inspired by her team mates to keep the score level, Clarke picked the ball up after a long pass upfield in the 70th minute and raced towards the London Bees penalty area. Bearing down on Quantrill's goal, Clarke superbly held off the pressure of the visiting defenders and coolly placed the ball under Quantrill and put Millwall in front. The home bench and fans roared with delight as the young forward wheeled away in celebration with her side.
Eight minutes later, it was Clarke again who was on the score sheet for the home side and her top class finish wrapped the game up for the Lionesses. In the 78th minute, Beth Lumsden launched up a high free-kick towards the far post and it was Clarke who expertly waited for the ball to drop over her shoulder and struck the ball mid-air. The Lionesses fans jumped to their feet in delight as Clarke's effort nestled into the back of the away team's net.
London Bees tried to pile on the pressure in the dying minutes of the game and injury-time, but the resolute defending from the home side was just too much and as the final whistle echoed around Princes Park, the Lionesses roared as they had secured their first league win of the season. Evie Clarke's late strike will rightly get the plaudits and be remembered for a long time, but more importantly, this fixture showed the togetherness that the entire Millwall Lionesses first team, squad and staff have within their ranks and they now have the league victory their recent performances have deserved.
Stewart, Mackie, Bailes (Ali 64), Priest, Lumsden, Cataldo, Clarke, Fitzgerald, Young (Bailey 81), Rossiter (Harford 55), Neville
Subs not used: Cowan, Ravenscroft, Stovold, Sansom
Quantrill, Johnson, Wilson, Wilkinson, Littlejohn (Will 64), Pickett (Dench), O'Leary, Rolandsen, McLachlan (Loomes 76), Nunn, Wheeler
Subs not used: Toussaint, Gould, N. Gibson