A new home, a new manager, a first win and Alex Morgan’s first goal. Finally, life has been breathed into Tottenham’s season.
Incoming head coach Rehanne Skinner could hardly have hoped for a better start. Having moved her new team into the club’s Hotspur Way training facility full-time, the former assistant to Phil Neville at England has had a very short time following the international break to have an impact, but a 3-1 defeat of Hope Powell’s Brighton, a performance full of fight, and a late penalty for US superstar Morgan has transformed the fortunes of the previously winless side.
Skinner had said it was “a lot to ask in a short space of time to turn things around” ahead of this fixture. “We will be evolving with more of a positive, attacking-style of play but it will take a little bit of time to achieve that,” she had said.
Skinner has the benefit of a much kinder run of fixtures than those that led to the eventual departure of co-managers Karen Hills and Juan Amoros who played top-five teams seven times in their opening 11 games in all competitions. As a result too, she has inherited players that have gone through test after test against the best in the league.
Her bid to left spirits seemed to have worked. Early pressure on US forward Morgan as she skated towards the box led to a generous free-kick and Kerys Harrop stepped up to whip it into the top corner, grazing the hand of goalkeeper Megan Walsh as it went. At 11 minutes it was Spurs earliest goal scored so far this term.
Brighton struggled to carve out chances, with signs of Skinner’s aim of putting her team “in a position where we’re making it difficult for teams to break us down,” already showing.
However just past the half-hour mark a wild and unnecessary overhead clearance from Australian Alanna Kennedy caught Aileen Whelan’s head and Inessa Kaagman rocketed the ball in to level things.
Spurs, though, were dominant and Morgan looked to be starting to settle and find her fitness on her return from the US women’s national team camp in the Netherlands. Making her second start, and fourth appearance, the two-time World Cup winner forced a fine save from Walsh towards the close of the first half.
As the energy started to sap, Brighton saw more of the ball and snatched the odd chance. Fliss Gibbons’s long-range effort did not having enough power though.In the second half the 31-year-old had the ball in the back of the net at the far post, but was flagged offside. Instead it would be the 20-year-old Addison who edge Spurs towards their first win, the forward going on a driving, dribbling run, skipping round Walsh and slotting coolly home.
Morgan would finally get her first goal though to ease nerves after Kaagman rattled the crossbar. Victoria Williams’ shove on Ria Percival resulting in a penalty and up stepped Morgan to slot in, before being substituted to wild applause. The first win lifts Tottenham up to ninth, doubles their points tally, and suddenly things don’t look quite so bleak.