Gemma Bryan starred on her first game back for Crystal Palace as they beat Millwall Lionesses 3-1 to claim just their second league win of the season.
Goals from Chloe Burr and Hannah Mackenzie gave the home side the advantage before Bryan sealed a special night for herself with the third.
Millwall pulled one back through Gabby Ravenscroft, but the Lionesses remain winless and are now five points adrift of their opponents.
Bryan’s return to Crystal Palace from Charlton gave the game extra excitement, as she had previously scored more than 100 goals for the Eagles.
She delivered in just the sixth minute as her cross from the left was hooked in by Burr to give the home side an early lead.
In a highly physical and competitive encounter with a number of injuries, Palace goalkeeper Shannell Salgado had to came off in the second half and was replaced between the posts by Burr.
Palace doubled their lead in the second half as Mackenzie seized on a loose ball and struck past Chloe Sansom.
The visitors pulled a goal back immediately through the impressive Ravenscroft, who lobbed Burr from just outside the area.
But Bryan got her fairytale goal as she headed in a cross from the right hand side and instantly went over to celebrate with the fans.
Bryan said: “I was a bit nervous before, but I just wanted to play the game and not the occasion.
“It’s tough to get back into match tempo straight away and we were a bit sloppy in the first half. We came out second half and we were deserved winners. It’s quite emotional to return.”
Lionesses boss Chris Phillips said: “It’s the first time I’ve really been disappointed in my side this season. We lacked a bit of quality. I’m frustrated and we’ve got a week to work hard and correcting the few errors that cost us.
“The Christmas break didn’t come at a good time for us. We had started to pick up a bit of momentum in our performances and the two or three week [break] period hasn’t done us any favours. Gabby Ravenscroft’s goal was great, she probably deserved maybe one or two more.”
To follow all of the action during the season and to buy tickets; visit www.ticketstores.co.uk/fawsl/
Photographs by Keith Gillard
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