This was a very, very tough fixture against a very talented Phoenix team who had beaten us 9-0 at home earlier in the season. All factors which made for a great game to watch from a neutrals perspective, and thankfully because of the result also from a Maidenhead coach's and travelling supporters perspective!
The first half started brightly for Maidenhead, but our usual success via Lucy T on the left was thwarted on a few occasions by some great defence by Phoenix's strong right back, although Lucy never gave up which was great to see. That did not deter us though and with Teona, Deia and Issy HE working hard to disrupt and feed Isabelle M and and Emily playing across the front in rotation, we won ourselves a short corner. Playing a predefined ,"number 3" routine, the ball injected from Isabelle M was controlled by Issie HE, who drew her player and slipped it right to Teona, who in turn majestically flicked the ball up over the opposition players towards the goalie, and under pressure finished excellently into the middle right - a contender for goal of the season!
In defence Sophie, Lauren and Divya had their work cut out against some speedy inside forwards, but managed to break up the attacks, with Lauren in particular showing some lovely composure on a few occasions to clear the lines. Sophie then tweaked her knee and had to come off, but with Amy B stepping into right back and Issie HE , Tara and Issie P rotating through the defensive midfield positions we managed to snuff out most attacks. Unfortunately against a very strong side, we switched off for one moment, and left some players in space which created an opportunity for Phoneix, which despite Phoebe's brave efforts eventually saw them convert from short range to draw level. The rest of the first half was pretty much a back and forth game with both sides creating opportunities.
Entering the second half, the message was clear, more of the same, but lets push to the right to avoid their strong defender and use our pace. The girls stepped up and played the game plan, Phoebe marshaled her defensive back 5 really well, and they started to cut out the ball time and time again, with Teona working back to act as the connection to the front five. As we won ball we played the ball to the right, where Lucy T was now operating and becoming a real threat to Phoenix. After having some lovely efforts cleared by their goalkeeper ( who had a strong game), eventually after some lovely work by Hannah Atkins and Isabelle M on the right we got the ball across to Lucy T whose shot was stopped from going in by a Phoenix player on the line wit her foot resulting in a penalty flick. With our usual P-Flick expert , Isabelle M, taking a well earned breather captain Issie HE was brave enough to step up but was unfortunate to miss to the bottom left of the goal.
That if anything seemed to spur us on, although so too Phoenix, who created a number of opportunities to score themselves. One more Maidenhead break led to a short corner and a snap shot from Issie HE broke from the keeper and was heading towards the goal line , where Hannah A made sure it crossed the line.... I will let the girls decide who that should be credited to, but the most important thing was we went 2-1 up, with about 15 minutes remaining.
Those last 15 minutes were frenetic, and we started to rotate our subs more regularly, with our defenisve unit working hard to break up attacks; Divya,Lauren, Tara and Issie P did really well to apply pressure to the opposition making it hard for their skill players to turn and link passes, and Amy B continued to have probably her best game this season slotting in at right back, strong and calm in her play. As Phoenix pushed up to equalize, Teona got her stick on the ball, let Lucy T loose down the right, who then consequently linked up with Isabelle M in the D. Isabelle M then had the presence of mind to look up and play the ball across the goal , so that Ella Duke could slot in our third goal of the game, a nice return for Ella, who had a good game up front, linking passes well with the rest of the attacking five.
With 3 minutes remaining, we allowed ourselves to switch off at the back just for the second time in the game, and against this very good side we were punished as they nicked one back. That meant a rather crazy 2minutes to play, but after two great interceptions by Divya and Sophie B ( back on after resting her knee) to forcefully clear our lines to all of our relief, the whistle eventually blew to leave the final score at 3-2 to Maidenhead.
Girls, this was no development game, against a very good team, and you stepped up and fought fire with fire. You held the formation you were asked to play in, you pressed the ball, you played the game at pace, you linked passes and you fought for each other, communicating in a positive way at all times. Plus our shooting practice paid off!
Issie H received a well-deserved Player of the Game award from the coaches for her captains example of commitment and positivity and Divya was nominated by Phoneix. Well done both.
Jon, Paul and I were all delighted, the umpires commented on what a good game it was, as did Phoenix ( who played their part in the quality of the game) and all of the very proud parents.
Be very proud of yourselves, everybody had a great game. Of course there is stuff to work on ....... but you have earnt all the accolades you got today, you were fantastic.
Lets take this formula to the next game!