Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Reggae Girl Hayles sends Bristol City top again

Published:Saturday | March 4, 2023 | 12:50 AM
Shania Hayles.
Shania Hayles.

LONDON, England (CMC):

Jamaica forward Shania Hayles scored after the break to send Bristol City back to the top of the second tier the England FA Women’s Championship, with a deserved 1-0 win against Lewes on Wednesday at The Dripping Pan.

United Kingdom-born Hayles, 23, is the club’s leading scorer, and she had a great opportunity for the visitors inside a minute of the restart, but fired a snapshot over the bar from inside the area.

Hayles, who made her debut for the Reggae Girlz two years ago after twice appearing for the England Under-19s, made no mistake when she claimed her ninth goal of the campaign in the 58th minute.

The result, which eased the painful memory of an 8-1 thrashing in the Women’s FA Cup at the weekend by top-flight title challengers Manchester City, in which Hayles’ Jamaica teammate Khadija Shaw scored four times, took Bristol City three points clear of London City Lionesses with eight matches left.

The win delighted Bristol head coach Lauren Smith, who insisted that her side – nicknamed the Vixens – is ready to take the pressure that comes with it.

“It was really tough, a real fight out there,” Smith said. “Long parts of the game weren’t nice to watch, but I’m really pleased with how resilient the players were, and the emphasis was that we wanted to come away knowing where we stand.

“I’m really pleased with the three points. If we’re top of the league, then people are going to want to take that away from us and a lot of games are going to look like that between now and the end of the season.”

She added: “We’re back at the top of the [12-team] table and that’s where we want to be. So we have to take the pressure that comes with it.

“We’re not happy chasing. So, now that we’re back at the top, we’re going to do everything we can to stay there.”

Smith continued: “It’s not going to be easy; it’s not going to be plain sailing and there’ll be lots of changes before the end of the season – that’s the type of league it is.

“It’s going to be a really interesting last eight games.”

The head coach lauded performances all over the pitch, from top scorer Hayles to her backline, who ticked off another clean sheet.

“I need to watch the goal back because it was all over the place,” she said. “We had so many chances in the build-up, especially from set plays. So I’m glad we were able to force our way through.”

Bristol City are away to sixth-placed Crystal Palace on Sunday.