Chelsea Ladies began the 2012 campaign in emphatic style this weekend, smashing Brighton and Hove Albion 3-0 in the FA Cup.
A Dunia Susi second-half header put the Blues in front before two other new signings, Helen Bleazard and Sue Lappin, found the net to make it three during the Ladies' first game at Wheatsheaf Park. All three goals came in the final ten minutes as Chelsea Ladies booked their place in the FA Women's Cup sixth round.
With the sun shining, the Blues began brightly, with Dani Buet at the heart of the action from the right flank. Buet delivered a succession of early crosses, one of which found the onrushing Susi, who was making her second debut for the club following her return from Birmingham City. The England international's header would miss the target on this occasion, although this combination would prove pivotal later in the game.
With the hosts dominating in possession, attempts on goal were largely restricted to shots from distance throughout the remainder of the first-half, with Laura Coombs leading debutants Bleazard and Kate Sherwood in trying their luck from distance.
Kate Longhurst came closest to scoring on the stroke of half-time. After picking the ball up 25 yards from goal, Longhurst unleashed a ferocious drive, rattling the Brighton crossbar. The woodwork meant the score remained 0-0 as the two teams went into the break.
After the restart, the Blues looked to re-establish their dominance with Bleazard heavily involved on the left-hand side, complimenting the threat of Buet on the opposite flank.
Chelsea would again come close from distance, with Sophie Ingle hitting the crossbar from 25 yards. Chelsea were once again dominating and continuously threatened the Brighton goal. The Blues would hit the woodwork twice more before the first goal arrived.
Chelsea's persistence paid off with 10 minutes remaining after the energetic Buet picked out Susi with a fine cross. Breaking from deep, Susi sent a diving header screaming into the net from just inside the box.
And with the Blues finally in the lead, it would take little over two minutes to double it. With the momentum now fully behind the hosts, gaps were emerging in the visiting defence and following another bout of pressure Bleazard found herself in scoring position and wasted no time tapping home from close range.
With the victory all but sealed, there was time for another debutant to add her name to the scoresheet. Combining with fellow substitute Ashlee Hincks, Lappin arrived to sweep home Hincks' low cross, to secure the Blues' path to the sixth round with four minutes remaining.
After a successful opening to the campaign, with Susi, Bleazard and Lappin scoring on their debuts, with maiden Chelsea appearances also for Sophie Ingle, Victoria Williams and Kate Sherwood, Blues boss Matt Beard was delighted with how his new charges adapted despite a difficult pre-season programme, interrupted by international call-ups and adverse weather conditions in the new year.
'We haven't had as many games as we would have liked in pre-season, so we haven't had that opportunity to get everyone to gel, it's going to take us time,' said the Chelsea Ladies manager.
'It was a good result today though, and we'll take the momentum of this win into next weekend's opening match in the Continental Cup. We just need to keep winning and build on these performances.'
Chelsea Ladies' campaign continues against Lincoln Ladies in the FA WSL Continental Cup at Staines Town FC on Sunday 18 April.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Carly Telford (c); Dunia Susi, Gemma Bonner, Tori Williams, Sophie Perry; Dani Buet (Ashlee Hincks 80), Kate Sherwood, Sophie Ingle, Laura Coombs (Sue Lappin 57); Helen Bleazard, Kate Longhurst (Helen Lander 71).
Bookings Longhurst, Sherwood.
By Daniel Clarke