Thatcham Tornadoes Under 12 girls host Tilehurst Panthers Reds
A nail biting semi final in the blistering wind and snow
For the second week in a row we met the Panthers, last week was to secure our place at the top of the league table and this week was to secure a place in the semi final.
The temperature was zero, but felt so much colder and as we set up the goals in heavy driving snow, we all felt a little bit crazy, but the girls were raring to go and the ref was happy to go ahead. We had the opportunity to reduce the length of each half, and ended up playing 25 minute halves.
The girls were keen to try a new formation and feeling confident after their win last week we all agreed to try the 4-3-1 which meant that we had one extra defender than we normally do with one less striker. It is fair to say that, as with all new things it will take practice for the girls to get comfortable in a different formation, but towards the end of the first half the four defenders; Bo, Beau, Charlotte and Ruby were working in sync to support the attacking play and defend with all their might!
As the game began, the snow eased and the Panthers showed us that they were desperate for the place in the final. An early chance for Poppy, saw her stylishly stick the ball in the net only for the offside flag to be raised and the goal disallowed. The girls showed great strength of character in not arguing with the decision and pressing on with the game, however spirits dipped when the determined Tilehurst No.5 ploughed through our defence to score against an unsupported Sophie in goal.
Chloe worked the right wing with a positive attitude, remembering her pre-match instructions well and sending the ball forward time after time, whilst Abi, worked tirelessly on the right playing some great balls from Charlotte and crossing in for Poppy or Daisy. Abs was also able to sprint back and support defence, which was needed at times!
At half time the girls had rallied themselves and decided they would like to return to their familiar formation. Evie stepped up to play in goal and was applauded by her teammates, leaving Daisy free to work the ball in the attacking half. The girls confidence revived and they began to communicate well. Rhianna really shone in defence despite having not played for a while, she was focussed and accurate doing a good job of protecting Evie.
The Panthers did not lose their determination or focus, but our girls stayed focussed too and were able to complete some beautiful passing sequences making space for through balls and several attempts at the goal. Sophie worked hard to fetch the ball as well as using skill and pace to scare the opposition! Its not easy to put one past the Tilehurst keeper, but eventually the moment came and Daisy was given a great ball and able to get close enough to make a shot that was impossible for Rosie to save.
Tension was building at this point as we knew the game wouldn't end on an even score. Tilehurst had one last serious attempt at a top corner shot that was fearlessly batted out by Evie and cleared by the defenders leaving us 1-1 at full time.
Extra time began and now the girls were buzzing, already talking if penalties! Daisy went in goal and we kept the same players on the pitch. My little Penguins - Holly Rhianna and Chloe were absolutely fantastic supporters towards the end of the game and they have been promised a whole match in exchange for their extended substitution!
It wasn't until the second half of extra time that we put an end to the threat of penalties. Sophie was shoved off the ball in the area twice, but the second time the referee blew for a penalty and the girls quietened in deference to Poppy as she stepped up to the spot. Poppy took the penalty with finesse and with 30 seconds to go we held back the Panthers all out, last ditch attack to see us through to the final for the third year in a row!
A tense and exciting game with some learning opportunities for us all. We had several champions today, but player of the Match was Poppy , for rallying the girls throughout, for non stop great decision making and excellent football. Well done to Poppy and thanks to all girls for their excellent attitudes today. (including super chilly parents!)