U14 girls away to Tilehurst Panthers
Our first game of the league Trophy event
Bright sunshine greeted us at the Tilehurst pitch. We started our first U14 Trophy game with a respectful minute's silence. We went on to start the game in a somewhat somber mood, perhaps reflecting on the reasons why we take time each year to remember brave men and women from so long ago.
We opened with Evie in goal, Holly, Bo, Joana and Charlotte in the back line, Poppy and Abi in midfield with Beau and Rhianna on the wings. Rhianna happily accepted this challenge and stepped up to it really well. Daisy and Sophie started up front with Sophie leading the team as captain in the absence of Ruby today.
In training we have started working on communication and this will be our focus for a few weeks as the girls improve their confidence to speak out and not be afraid of saying the wrong thing! This was clearly the case in the first half and I felt concerned that, rather than encouraging more talk, I had scared the girls off completely.
The first good communication came from Poppy, calling loud and clear and giving accurate instruction. There were glimpses of great play, Soph showing great skill in front of the goal and using footwork to overcome several opponents, Rhianna shone in her new position and did not shy away from pushing forwards and sending some excellent balls in to Daisy. Beau made a couple of characteristic runs up the right and sent one ball hurtling towards the goal, sadly into the opposition keeper, Soph was on hand for the rebound, which was also saved.
We weren't as prepared as we could have been for the counter attack, but Holly surprised me with pace and determination, coming in from nowhere to steal the ball from the feet of the attacker. Frustratingly Tilehurst soon put in the first goal and our girls seemed deflated. They knew they weren't having their best game and couldn't rally themselves.
Nevertheless there were still some fine moments, Charlotte creeping in at speed to expertly prevent another goal and then finally, a Daisy Poppy combo creating our equaliser. Tilehurst were fiestier and came back quickly and, after Evie making a good save, they went on to put a ball in over Evie's head.
I had no subs today, but swapped Rhianna with Joana to bring back some confidence to the defence as Rhi is a regular and always cheerful! We ended the half with a couple of chances and another epic Evie save.
At half time it was clear that the girls heads had dropped, yet they were quick to tell me what they wanted to happen in the second half and what they could do as a team. Evie agreed to stay in goal, as she was doing so well (and didnt have a top on beneath her kit!) Daisy dropped to midfield and Joana moved up front with Sophie. We started the half pumped and raring to go, despite being temporarily down to 10 girls.
Joana came into her own in this half and fought hard for many balls, also getting more than one shot at goal, nice one Jo! Daisy soon scored the equaliser in a Poppy style, long range missile type shot.
Hallelujah the girls were talking and passing, like the legends they are. They were no longer watching the ball and unsure of themselves, they held the ball, passed quickly and accurately and looked like a fresh team. The defence got their mojo back and Bo confodently played high to keep the action in our attacking half, reading the ball well and taking some quality touches.
The finest moment for me and my favourite communication of the match was when Evie decided that she would take her own goal kick. Everybody knows that Poppys kicks are unrivaled and it takes a lot of confidence and self belief to give it a go in the match situation. I am really proud of Evie for taking control and proud of the team for supporting her decision and giving her the confidence to do it. The kick was great as were her many drop kicks throughout the match.
The girls spirits stayed high, they laughed off the red decisions that they felt were questionable and put so much pressure on Tilehurst I dont think they knew what hit them! Abi and Beau both worked solidly all game to drop and support where needed, provide wide passing options and intercept goal kicks. Abi made a great run towards goal with the ball creating a chance for a goal, then Beau dropped to support in the counter attack bringing the ball all the way back up the pitch with her ever growing strength and pace.
Soon followed an beautiful Abi, Daisy, Poppy combo with loads of movement and skill in front of the goal setting Joana up for another shot on target, but expertly saved. We kept the ball high and Daisy controlled and held long enough for Poppy to come into range and score a Poppy special!
Nothing could stop these girls now and they decided to finish on a high, this time with Sophie holding the ball when heavily marked and finding Abi, who put in our final goal of the day!
What a heart stopping match of two completely different halves, we will learn a lot from today. I enjoyed being back on the parents side as I was asked to stand there by the opposition coach. It was nice to feel a part of the supporters buzz as it can get pretty lonely out there on the 'other side'! Congratulations to the girls who found it in them to turn a game around and well done to Evie for a strong confident performance.