Thatcham Tornadoes vs AFC Reading at home
By Amy Craik
Gusty winds are no match for the Tornadoes once again.
I was so excited to watch the girls play today after being away last week. I've been putting some thought into pre-match motivation to alleviate some of our first half sloppiness and decided to revert to cup final tactics. After our warm up I asked the girls to spend some time visualising their first move in the game. What will they do (as individuals and as a team) in the two possible scenarios; our kick off, or theirs. The girls focused really well on this and paid attention when I asked them to forget the initial through ball and play for possession from the start to maximise the use of our awesome defense.
We headed out with Daisy in goal, supported by Holly, Rhianna, Ruby and Charlotte at the back. The middle was ably fielded by Evie and Poppy with Abi and Beau on the wings and Grace and Joana up front. We had kick off and from the start the girls worked hard to play for possession, using the defenders in our half until the right moment came to break through, surprising the opposition into giving away an early corner.
Poppy was first to take a shot at goal today, well struck, but blown high with the wind. Ruby was on hand, as reliable as ever, to chase down the Reading breakaway player, sending the ball back to our attacking half. Beau made her first run down the left wing, keeping cool and holding up the ball as I had asked her to, looking for her team mates to arrive and the perfect pass.
Holly impressed me by instinctively pushing high and working with Abi to keep the ball high and eventually create another corner. Before too long a cross from Charlotte, who was also pushing high and supporting Beau brilliantly lead to an interesting goal mouth scuffle and a goal from Abi that took a moment for us all to acknowledge as it crawled over the line!
The crowd became excited again when an off target high ball from Beau was expertly back-heeled by Blue in his Wheelies on the line. Beau overcame the embarrassment and made another decent run, holding and passing back, making use of Poppy in space. Evie then shone as she fought for the ball and made a strong secure pass to keep us in attack.
With Beau putting pressure on the keeper and Kiana now in the midfield tackling hard, our game was looking strong and under control. The midfielders had their heads up and maximised the waiting defenders, playing 1-2's and a passing moving game.
After another corner Abi managed to slot in another easy goal. Kiana continued to work hard in the middle, taking her time with the ball and controlling with her head as well as her feet. Beau's next run won us yet another corner, quickly followed by yet another corner. Abi battled away using skill and determination (and Holly, who was perfectly positioned) to cross the ball into a waiting Poppy, who expertly set up Grace, who was sadly flagged offside (shame because it was a great goal).
Here followed an excellent series of 1-2's and neat passes, with the whole team united, communicating and working together. Chloe made a series of great passes including controlling a throw in and passing it onto Poppy, then pressing hard to win another throw. I then watched Abi bring the ball inside from the wing and take on several players to slot in a well earned goal and complete her hatrick for the day.
The girls continued to work hard right up to the whistle with some admirable skills from Charlotte, strength from Ruby and Rhianna to fend off counter attacks and a powerful run through the middle from Poppy.
At half time the girls were exhausted, but happy with their passing and communication. They went back on raring to go, with Rhianna in goal a Daisy in the middle with Kiana and Evie replacing Rhianna in defence.
When I read my notes of the second half several words are repeated: Calm, cool, confident..... Kiana seemed at home in the middle, making some really good passes, and Charlotte as composed as ever playing right up into the attacking area. Evie fought to win back lost balls, whilst Rhianna twiddled her thumbs in the goal.
Charlotte put in an excellent cross to Daisy, who took the first shot of the half that went wide. Soon followed a switch from Poppy, who ably received a Reading throw allowing Daisy to put a ball in to Joana to attempt a shot, which created a corner. Beau's shot came next, saved well by the keeper who was kept under pressure by Jo. Daisy then set Joana up again who had a chance that went wide.
Despite their composure, the opposition must have been frustrated by our constant movement of the ball. Chloe had a strong opponent on the right wing but was able to outskill her several times and put in a great cross to the forwards. Poppy stepped wide to make a run up the wing and a smart pass to Abi, setting Daisy up for our fourth goal. Within minutes Poppy created another chance with a through ball to Daisy who used her speed to close it down before the defender and shoot for our fifth.
A desperate breakaway was then fended off by Ruby, who managed to keep the ball and pass to Charlotte who moved it onto Beau in an excellent combination of short ball passes.
It was at this point I acknowledged the defenders pushed right up onto the line, eager to be a part of the action, despite their being little need to 'defend' as such. Each defender was well placed and able to feed the ball back into attack, which contributed massively to our posession in the second half. Poor old Rhianna, meanwhile had not touched the ball.
Poppy made her next great run, using skills to pass several players only to lose her footing in the box. Daisy nearly scored again with a diving header on a long ball and finally Poppy's tireless work paid off and she planted a Poppy special in the back of the net for our sixth and final goal.
Rhianna's moment of glory came when she caught hold of a stray attack, but was thwarted by the ref, who blew her whistle before she could even kick it out!!
Exhausted but buzzing at the end of the game, the girls were pleased with their communication and passing. The girls praised Kiana for her excellent contribution, despite not having played a game for some time and Abi received pats on the back for her Hatrick. I told the defenders how proud I was of their composure and and contribution to a strong attacking game. I praised everybody for working together and believing in each other, but my player of the match decision was made early in the first half. I chose Beau for having the composure to create great chances by using her speed to bring the ball into the firing line then slowing the game down and making use of her team all around her meaning that we lost much less posession due to rushed crosses. Really quality football today Beau, well done.