Haines nabs all points with late winner in 2-1 win over Blades
By Football Reporter
Coral Jade Haines late winner fired Crystal Palace to a hard-fought 2-1 victory over struggling Sheffield United at Hayes Lane.
Rebecca Rayner's stunning leveller provided a glimmer of hope for the relegation-threated Blades after Hollie Olding had opened the scoring for the hosts.
But Haines struck just six minutes later to leave Jonathan Morgan’s side five points adrift of Barclays Women's Championship safety.
The visitors made a strong start to the game and created promising passages of play in the opening stages, but failed to test Palace goalkeeper Fran Kitching.
Dean Davenport's side fashioned a goalscoring opportunity through Molly Sharpe, whose low driving effort was smartly saved by Blades goalkeeper Frances Stenson.
Courtney Sweetman-Kirk struck narrowly wide before Kitching was called into action to produce a fingertip save to deny Rhema Lord-Mears.
Rayner then did well to find space inside the Palace box but Sweetman-Kirk failed to convert her chance at the near post.
On the stroke of half-time, Grace Riglar's diving header hit the frame of the woodwork and from the resulting corner, Lord-Mears' effort was blocked by the Palace backline.
Morgan's side started the second half strongly and were wasteful with the goalscoring opportunities they created.
And against the run of play, Palace reacted instantly with a free-kick to thread the ball to Olding, who comfortably slotted the ball past Stenson to give the home side the lead on the hour mark.
The Blades levelled in the 74th minute when Rayner slammed home a volley from the edge of the box to haul her side back into the game.
But just six minutes later, Palace duo Polly Doran and Annabel Blanchard linked up to play in Haines, who curled her effort into the far post to reclaim their lead.United almost equalised again when Sweetman-Kirk's low driving effort was parried away but Palace held on to cap another difficult day for the Blades in the capital.
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Crystal Palace forward Molly Sharpe said: "We grinded it out today in which we want to play better. But sometimes, you just have to go and get the results.
"I think we stuck together as a team even when things are not going our way and we tried to stick to the things that we've been asked to do which is a real positive.
"Sheffield United are a really strong side and very good defensively, so I think we had to keep on getting into positions that we've been trying to get in at training and in previous games. As we carry on doing it throughout the game, it got better and better as the game went on.
"Both goals were great finishes. But for the second goal, both Polly Doran and Annabel Blanchard play great together. They've got a real good relationship so I think the play down that side and then into Coral-Jade Haines was just a great move."