U14 girls away to Tilehurst Panthers Red
Second round of the county cup successfully navigated by the U14 girls
Grace's dad made the mistake of saying it was a lovely day on arrival in Theale this morning! From then on we were battered by an evil wind that added even more challenges for us to overcome!
This Tilehurst team were very familiar to us last year and the girls remembered their strengths and perceived weaknesses. We set out with only 11 players, Rhianna in goal with Holly, Evie, Bo and Beau making a one off appearance in defense. In the midfield we had Poppy and Joana, with Abi and grace on the wings and Daisy and Sophie up front.
The game was more end to end than we would have liked with some nail biting moments including goal mouth scuffles at both ends. I can't say we started with the greatest focus, leading to us bunching in places and leaving space wide open, but this doesn't mean there weren't some excellent individual moments. From the beginning Beau showed the maturity of a seasoned defender and she would have made Ruby proud with her focus and determination to make even the most challenging of tackles! Sophie demonstrated great strength and selflessness, holding up the ball against several defenders to wait for back-up.
Whilst the opposition were arguing and bunching Abi took the opportunity to cross a decent ball in to Daisy who scored our first goal. This fired up the Tilehurst girls who came back quickly and managed to score shortly after a corner, with a rather lucky post and in shot that Rhianna had no chance of predicting! We came back soon with another Abi to Daisy cross, and strike which was well saved by the tenacious Tilehurst keeper.
Sophie set up our second goal, sending a through ball for Daisy to run onto and place carefully out of the keepers reach and in a very short time, with our team now communicating positively (thanks to Poppy's motivation) and working together it was Joana who was in the perfect place to receive a pass and send the ball flying into the back of the net for her first goal of the season! Nice one Jojo!!
I really enjoyed watching Holly take on tackle after tackle and using her determination and new found speed to chase back after the Tilehurst girls repeatedly tried to approach our goal.
Sophie's turn to shoot next, which was knocked out by the keeper for a corner. The wind picked up at this point and Poppy knew that this would be advantageous for a Poppy special!! The strike was spot on, curled beautifully with the help of the wind into the goal, only for the ref to call a free kick for pushing in the box! Fair play to the girls for not making a fuss and accepting the ref's decision.
Spirits were high until the end of the half with the defenders working together, Holly coming forwards with confidence and calmly passing the ball on, then recovering at speed to protect her buddy in goal! Bo and Beau worked well together, communicating with each other, both making some challenging recovery runs and goal mouth clearances. Evie was keen to play defense this week and did not disappoint, getting stuck into tackles and, holding the ball long enough to make a good decision.
We ended the half with a scuffle in our box that seemed to go on forever, the girls stayed (fairly calm) and worked together to try and release the tension, eventually an open Tilehurst girl kicked the ball so high in the air and time stood still as we watched and waited, not knowing whether a gust of wind would snatch the ball and stick it in the goal, or if it would fly away never to be seen...... but Rhianna was watching and waiting, with impressive poise, and without smashing up her face, she caught the ball triumphantly and calmly...... and we all went crazy!!!
In the second half Evie and Rhianna swapped positions, Rhianna immediately working to sweep in and clear up an attack. Tilehurst were primed to fight back and Evie had plenty to do, but she did so fantastically, making several saves in succession and taking her goal kicks with confidence (even when the wind tried to prevent her!)
This half we worked better as a team, pushing up as a team, Grace battling away on her wing, demonstrating maturity in holding the ball and looking up for the perfect pass on several occasions. I love that the girls are getting more confident to 'keep the ball' and communicate rather than purely kicking it forward, especially our newer players!
A second Tilehurst goal came and was deserved for some good football.
Thus followed some more excellent football from the Tornadoes, despite the team clearly becoming tired. Sophie and Abi both demonstrated looking up and holding the ball whilst waiting for back up. Poppy continued to command the midfield, dropping temporarily to defense with no complaints when a defender needed a quick break.
When Poppy left for the pantomime with ten minutes to spare, the team just stepped up to another gear that they didn't know they had! Evie saved a free kick, awarded for a dubious hand ball and the game ended just as we were making a break towards the Tilehurst goal.....
Special mention went to Abi today for really considering her options when breaking forward and for dropping in time to support the defence, but player of the week easily went to Beau, who filled Ruby's shoes comfortably, adopting that calm manner that we are used to seeing from both centre backs and using her pace to successfully support her defending colleagues and bring the ball back into play. Well done Beau and great work everybody, I am very proud!