R's suffer blow in relegation battle
QPR Ladies’ hopes of FA Women’s Premier League survival suffered another setback in their final home game of the season against C&K Basildon on Sunday.
Jenny Critchley’s first-half goal proved a consolation in a 4-1 defeat at Honeycroft, where Rangers were forced to play the second with Critchley in goal following injury to goalkeeper Sophie Cheadle.
Basildon captain Zoe Rushen saw red for the challenge which ended Cheadle’s afternoon, but goals from Rushen, Hannah Porter, Angela Addison and Jay Blackie sealed victory for the visitors.
R’s manager Martino Chevannes made nine changes to his line-up that were beaten 12-1 at Cardiff City the week previous, with only Nikki Waterman and Mariko Engels retaining their places. This included recalls to the midfield for Sarah Staples, Laura Cooper and captain Elly Maggs as well as top scorer Critchley.
Sophie Cheadle also returned meaning that Chevannes could name a recognised goalkeeper from the start.
It was the visitors who started the brightest, however, and Rushen broke the deadlock with eight minutes on the clock. The Basildon captain was at hand to head in a close-range header after a pinpoint cross.
In all too common fashion this season, a second goal soon followed when Porter headed in from a dangerous free-kick six minutes later.
The returning Critchley gave the R’s some much-needed attacking prowess and had her name back on the scoresheet on 21 minutes. A through ball from Juliette Denny picked out Critchley who calmly rounded Nikita Runnacles in the Basildon goal before slotting in.
Hopes of a comeback were shortlived, though, as Basildon instantly responded. Just a minute later Addison caught out the defence before firing past Cheadle.
Rangers looked for a way back into the game, but were dealt a blow two minutes before the half-time interval. Cheadle came off second best in a challenge with Rushen and, after seven minutes of treatment, the goalkeeper was stretchered off while Rushen was shown a straight red card. Basildon found themselves down to 10 but the injury curse had struck again for Rangers and, without a goalkeeper on the bench, leading goalscorer Critchley found herself at the opposite end of the pitch taking responsibility between the sticks for the third time this season.
In the 10th minute of stoppage time, Critchley was called into action to produce a superb save to deny Addison from point-blank range. The Basildon staff were already cheering before Critchley managed to get a hand to the header and divert it around the post.
The Ladies looked for a response after the re-start, with both Staples and Cooper seeing efforts go wide early on in the second period. Critchley was also in action at the opposite end producing another save to deny Addison, while Blackie’s attempt to test the stand-in keeper saw her effort go wide.
Critchley was unable to hold on to her clean sheet, however, as with 12 minutes remaining Blackie managed to find the net down to the bottom left.
Basildon then had the chance to add a fifth when Theresa Addison missed the chance to knock into an open net after a mix-up between Critchley and Waterman.
Injury again struck for Chevannes’ side as the Ladies were forced to finish with 10 after Staples received lengthy treatment late on, while stoppage-time efforts from Neethu Haridas and Jo Blodgett were unable to close the gap.
Defeat means Rangers now need to win both of their last two fixtures to have a chance of retaining their FAWPL status for another year.
Their first of two remaining must-win fixtures comes against Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Sunday.
QPR: Cheadle (Peacock 45), Petit, Waterman, Denny, Dempster, Staples, Cooper (Blodgett 72), Maggs, Sowden, Critchley, Engels (Haridas 81).
Subs (not used): Netschova, Sseninde.
Goal: Critchley 21.
Booked: Peacock, Petit.