The ladies 1s saw themselves travel to Whitley Bay and Tynemouth Hockey Club for their second match of the season. This was familiar opposition from last season. We knew it could be a tough game given that last year WBT finished one place above us in the league. Determination mixed with nerves dominated the team’s conversations before the game!
Some of the usual pre match antics unfolded - everyone was running late, Jodie had no socks, Rach had her milk carton and Shannon had car trouble so did her warm up on her bike. But, some things were contrary to regular practice. Firstly, there were a few of our regular defenders were missing which made us a little nervy. But to cheer us on we had a longer row of supporters than normal ranging from Luna to Charlotte’s mum. And, lastly, Amy even had a hockey stick! As a wise person one said, “there’s a first for everything!”
The game started with the Shields ladies taking control of the game. There were moments of beautiful passing and intelligent running with the ball. Out of position, Shannon didn’t disappoint with many tackles and darting runs from left back! The wingers were playing beautiful crosses into the D and it was only a matter of time before the ball would end up in the back of the net. The reward finally came when Isla found herself in front of the keeper with a split second to react and she calmly slotted the ball past the keeper. 1-0 to Shields.
The team quickly realised if they were to score again they would have to adopt their most dreaded tactic... transferring the ball across the pitch! Katherine took the initiative to do this from her own defensive quarter and passed to Rach who tried to be clever and sweep the ball wide first time. In the end it wasn’t so clever as she mishit the ball right into the path of the opposition on the edge of her own D! Luckily for her, she had an awesome defence and midfield around her in Beth and Jody who made up for her mistake and, lo and behold, before we knew it the ball was in the other D with Shannon there to slot the ball over the goal line! 2-0 to Shields with Watterson claiming the original assist.
The chance to make it three came when Isla found herself one-on-one with the keeper. Luckily no one had the chance to get to William Hill to put their life savings on a goal, as Isla managed to miss the net entirely! Thankfully we were more than willing to forgive her...if she made up for it with another goal, of course!
Half time gave us time to pat ourselves on the back but also to remind ourselves to be confident to switch the ball. We also discussed the need to increase our accountability in the D with too many squandered chances in the first half.
Despite feeling confident, the second half saw WBT take control and Shields struggle to regain possession for any length of time. Thankfully our dogged defence and keeper stepped up to the mark and, after many penalty corners against them, they retained a clean sheet! Even having taken a knee to the head, Massen was not letting anything past her, and Beth and Katherine were strong and decisive in the centre of defence. Lucy, Shannon and Jo did their job marking the wingers, and there has to be a shout-out to Mel who played with determination in her first game in defence for the 1s! Mention must also be made to our more attacking players Stacey, Stewart and Isla even tracking back to put tackles in in their own half!
Against the run of play we were awarded a penalty corner and we made the decision to take a straight strike. After a pin-point injection by Katherine and another clean stop from Stewart, the strike was touched in by Isla. 3-0 to Shields and Isla had made up for her earlier faux pas!
We knew we deserved to win by more and continued to push hard for a fourth. The tactics changed - we took off a defender in order to have an extra player up front. After a run down the wing from Amy, Stewart was perfectly placed to swipe (aka mishit) the ball right into the bottom corner. 4-0 Shields thanks to Sarah I-hate-the-left Stewart.
The game ended with the girls pleased to get a good result and also aware that we have the potential to play even better! The best news of the day came when we realised we were top of the league, separated from second placed Marton by one goal! Yes, it’s early days, but we’ll take every encouragement that we can! 3-2-1... SHIELDS!