Ladies grab important away win
Stand in keeper Smirthwaite the hero!
Knowle Ladies produced a battling performance to earn all three points away at Wolverhampton Sporting. The Robins started the game brightly, passing the ball well and stretching the play out to both wings. Claire Richardson had an early sight of goal after cutting in from the right side but the home side’s goalkeeper gathered well. Wolverhampton mainly concentrated their attacks down their left wing but Rachel Keen tracked back well on a couple of occasions to snuff out the danger. Tyla Davison and Katie Smith were seeing a lot of the ball in central midfield and were able to find willing runners out wide. Lucy Taylor had the beating of the left full back and whipped one cross dangerously across the box. Charlotte Langston also played a fine ball to the back post from the opposite side after being set free by Smith, but Anna-Marie Robinson couldn’t apply a finish. Wolverhampton hadn’t yet truly tested Knowle at the back, a couple of long range shots sailing wide. They came close with a diagonal through ball into the striker but Sam Smith was able to slide in and block the close range shot. Knowle went ahead after twenty five minutes; Smith intercepted a pass and the rebound saw the ball go loose with Wolverhampton committed forward. Davison beat the home side’s midfielder in the fifty fifty challenge and managed to poke a pass through to Taylor. Taylor had plenty left to do as she raced clear but she picked her spot well and slotted the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper. Knowle celebrated the sixteen year old’s first competitive goal for the club exuberantly, and could have been further ahead only seconds later when Keen played Richardson clear but unfortunately another player was called offside. Wolverhampton equalised with their first shot on target of the half, winning the ball in the middle and playing a quick pass through to the right winger who produced an excellent finish. The sides went in for half time at one all, both fancying their chances of winning the game.
In contrast to the first forty five minutes, the second half began slowly with the first ten minutes scrappy from both sides. Mel Faulkner’s strong tackle and quick early ball gave Robinson the chance to shoot but she slipped at the vital moment. Wolverhampton were next to try their luck with a long range attempt that Katy Smirthwaite in goal batted wide then gathered safely. Taylor then forced a corner following a mazy run but Smith’s swirling set piece was cleared well by Wolverhampton. Knowle went ahead when Sarah Moore won a brave header on the half way line. Good interplay from Davison and Richardson put Taylor in space on the edge of the box. The defender knocked her off balance before she could hit her shot, but Taylor recovered well to square it to Robinson who gave the keeper no chance with a well placed finish. This seemed to galvanise Wolverhampton and they piled the pressure onto Knowle. Smirthwaite made a fantastic save to her left side and soon after had to run back to stop a clever lobbed attempt right on the line. Knowle threw bodies at everything; debutant Ellie Barker showing tenacity to thwart the right winger twice with important tackles. Set pieces were causing real problems for the Robins; Smirthwaite saving two headed attempts from corners and free kicks having to be hacked clear. Wolverhampton didn’t have as many opportunities in open play; the best falling to the centre forward when the ball popped through to her out of a tackle, but she lashed it over the bar. Smirthwaite then produced her best save of a terrific performance when she threw herself blindly across goal to block a close range attempt on the back post. The home side continued to throw everything forward and Knowle found it difficult to get out of their own half. Richardson headed clear a corner at full stretch and Smirthwaite again tipped a long range shot round the post.
The Robins defended stoutly to hold onto their lead until the final whistle although in truth have Smithwaite to thank for the three points. Wolverhampton will be annoyed not to grab an equaliser after their dominance in the last twenty five minutes and a draw would have probably been a fairer result. However Knowle will take great confidence from holding onto the win and go into their game against Worcester next week hoping to build on this performance.