Ladies Go Top!
Vital win Over League Rivals
Wantage faced Thatcham & Newbury Town ‘Flames’ on Sunday, one of the teams who can catch them. Although we won the return fixture 2-1 back in September we were expecting a much tougher test this time around with the ‘Flames’ having taken four points off leaders Kingsclere since that first meeting.
And the first forty-five minutes lived up to expectations with both sides playing a high tempo game and matching each other blow for blow. It was certainly the best performance from Wantage that we’ve had since the team started out just over two years ago, both from the players individually and the team as a whole.
The home side started the strongest and could have taken a two minute lead when Harriette Titchener chased down Flames keeper Jackie Hammond enough for the latter to spill the ball but unfortunately Jade Wilkison cleared the bar with her shot.
Bells Rowan was then forced to make a good stop at her near post on six minutes as Thatcham broke down the left. Wilkinson then broke free in the ninth minute, but could only shoot straight at the grateful Hammond.
Wantage eased ahead on 15 minutes, Ashleigh Wilcox delivering a delightful cross from the left wing right into the path of Titchener who met it on the run at the far post and gave Hammond no chance. That was the start of a frantic six minute spell that saw four goals in all, two for each side, as the sides went toe to toe.
Thatcham equalised on 17 minutes through Catherine Guppy with a strike from outside the area that was out of Rowan’s reach, but then Wantage went ahead again within a minute – Meghann Steptoe playing the ball over the Thatcham defence for Titchener to get the better of Hammond one-on-one.
Steptoe could have got herself on the score-sheet on 20 minutes but put wide with just the keeper to beat, and within a minute Thatcham levelled with another strike that wasn’t closed down quick enough, Chloe Ball being the despatcher this time.
After that the game settled into a fully committed affair, with Wantage winning the physical battle but unable to force their noses in front again.
The second half was understandably not so frenetic, but still had a good tempo about it. Wantage got themselves in front again on 62 minutes when Titchener delivered a long throw that was only cleared to Kat Boylan who chested it off to Wilcox. The resultant shot was weak, but found an on-side and unmarked Gayatri Patel six yards out and she made no mistake in putting it into the back of the net.
Unlike the first half Thatcham had no answer, and Wantage gave themselves a two goal cushion three minutes later. Firstly Wilcox took a quick free-kick for Wilkinson to set Titchener away with the latter’s shot hitting the post before being cleared behind for a corner. Wilcox delivered to the far post where the incoming Patel met it on the run and gave Hammond no chance to make it 4-2.
Wantage took breath and dug in for a period of containment, breaking play up as much as possible and stopping Thatcham getting into their stride. The industrious Wilkinson, who worked her socks off today and fully deserved the player of the match accolade, was even back to block a goal-bound effort with five minutes to go.
An unfortunate clash between Steph Dearman and Hammond in the first minute of stoppage time saw the keeper having to retire, but in the remaining seven minutes Wantage weren’t able to test her stand-in, Boylan coming closest but only finding the side netting.
With leaders Kingsclere unexpectedly losing the win takes Wantage to the top of the league, although having played several more games than those below them. It’s going to be a close finish to the season with five teams still capable to winning the league.
Next Sunday Wantage play host to Wargrave Reserves, their penultimate game of the season.