As always we left a sunny Liverpool and soon entered a drizzly Manchester! Due to it being a Junior England Weekend Stockport were missing a few players so we agreed to play 10 aside. In the end it worked out well for us as with 22 players wanting to represent us on Wednesday night, I was down to 14 by Friday. It seems that we have two major problems, people not updating the doodle and over training leading to injuries!
Some might have looked at the team sheet and thought that we were extremely attack heavy but I had a team of players who I knew would adapt easily to this situation and would do anything to help the team. Even so there were a number of surprised faces when I read out the team sheet but I was confident that they could do the job that I needed and if you don’t push to boundaries of comfort then you never really know what you can achieve.
It seemed like things were turning for us as we got off to the perfect start. Katie Bishop clearly enjoyed the experience of being on the circle in attack as she didn’t have to worry about tracking her player instead she sprinted off the line and easily won the ball from the draw. If only it was that easy every time! The team worked the ball well and even got it moving around the edge of the fan before a gap opened up for Jenna Boon and she didn’t need asking twice!
The second draw was won again by Katie Bishop and lead to a quick fast break. Excellent movement by others gave her the space needed to capitalise and even with a number of Stockport players closing in she was able to place the ball in the top corner. We continued to have a lot of possession but didn’t exploit. Before we knew it Stockport had made two quick breaks and were back level with us.
During the next period of the game there were a lot of turn overs by both teams. Some were down to poor passing or rushing the feed but a number of our defensive turnovers were due to some excellent double teams. One of the memorable ones was Ginnie Jones and Katie Sharkey in the midfield. Ginnie Jones sensed the opportunity and made sure that she came away with the ball. The last name on the score sheet before half time was Jenna Boon with another well worked goal. It was lovely to see the team waiting for the opportunity to try different things rather than charging through the whole Stockport team!
The last part of the half went by in a bit of a blur, all I can remember is that we continued to dominated and had long periods of possession in attack. I was surprised at half time that we were only one goal up. I thought that we had scored a few more but clearly the Stockport defence had kept it tight and their goalie had made life difficult for us with a number of excellent saves. Still being up at half time was definitely positive and my chosen defenders including Ashley Bruen and Linda Musker had done an excellent job of keeping many of the talented Stockport players quiet.
The second half was much more open and end to end. Yet again we made another good start and Bridget Mason added her name to the score sheet. With a little bit of breathing space we should have looked after the ball before building on this. Unfortunately a wayward pass gave Stockport the opportunity to break. The midfielders of Katie Bishop, Coral Evans, Emma Raven and Katie Sharkey gave it everything to get back and slow down their attack. Stockport worked the ball behind and a perfectly timed feed lead to a brilliantly placed goal by number 7 again.
After Stockport added another one to the score sheet Liverpool took a timeout and decided to change things up. We were covering the fast breaks well but not communicating the cuts through the fan and with all the time in the world they were picking us off from behind. There was a little bit of confusion and disagreement at first but eventually before the timeout ended we agreed that we would mark the player behind even if they didn’t have the ball. It wasn’t long before our tactical decision was tested. One of their defenders intercepted the ball and they put their rockets on. We were quickly in a dangerous position of being a man down. Ashley Bruen was marking up behind as asked and Ginnie Jones was faced with the decision of leaving her player and heading to the ball carrier. She didn’t need to worry, as even though Ashley calls herself an attacker she timed the slide perfectly. The player at the top of the fan had been crashed on so quickly that her only option was to pass the ball to the open play on the crease. It isn’t the ideal situation but the instinctive teamwork from Ginnie Jones and Ashley Bruen had given me the time to position myself and make the angle of the shot difficult enough for it to fly past my left hand post and out of play.
With 15 minutes left Katie Bishop had added another goal to our tally but Stockport’s number 7 was continuing to make the game a competitive contest. Every member of my team had given it everything and they were still firing even though there wasn’t much left in the tank. Only having two behind the restraining line meant that effectively everyone was a midfielder! If we had used our brains a little bit better we might have tried to slow the game down to give people a bit of a breather but it continued to be end to end and I kept shouting for people to sprint! Easy to say when you are standing still in goal!
For the first time in the game Stockport got the upper hand. Surprisingly the seventh goal didn’t go to number 7 it went to their captain Chloe Chan. She saw me trying to cover a number of attacking options in the fan and took advantage of me leaving a big enough space for her to slot it in with easy, sorry team.
We were a little slow to realise that if we wanted to get something out of the game then high pressure was our only option. Katie Bishop in attack was being tormented by their goalie who was just passing it around and letting her chase. In future we need to realise what one of our players is doing and hunt as a team! Luckily they decided to try to add another one to the score sheet and worked the ball up the field. Eventually they took the shot and the save gave us the opportunity to pull one back. Emma Raven was at the top of the fan and found the energy from somewhere to cruise past a number of Stockport players and quickly work the ball into our attack. It wasn’t long before the ball was back in her stick and a beautiful finish had us cheering again.
One goal down and only a few minutes left we were piling on the pressure with Coral Evans having a number of opportunities but their goalie standing strong. Even though I have made it clear this season that I don’t want to see the awful shovel shot, my competitive nature was grateful that Ginnie Jones ignored me and scored the seventh goal for us in the last second.
It might not have been a game full of goals but it was definitely an exciting game with many positives. With things to work on I am hoping that we can get a home win later in the season but in the circumstances I was happy with a draw. You each gave me everything and worked brilliant as a team. Today there really was no I in team.
Special mentions go to:
Ciara Haymer – you had a brilliant debut and I was really pleasing to see you tracking back and covering people in defence. I look forward to playing alongside you again very soon.
Linda Musker – you didn’t let your injury or the curve ball I threw you put you off. You were solid in defence.
Ashley Bruen – I hope you now believe. You were fantastic in defence and made some bold but amazingly brilliant decisions. That slide might be the one of the season.
Sarah Mir – you made some excellent cuts in attack and provided others with the space need to score the goals.
Coral Evans – you got yourself into some excellent positions and on another day you would have easily scored a hat trick.
Fleur Kirk – you controlled the game and kept the ball moving behind. I was really pleased to see you make some good choices to pull it out.
Carina Eaton – you listened well and didn’t go in for the wild check instead you maintained an excellent body position. Well done!
Player of the match was awarded to Katie Sharkey for an outstanding performance. You were solid in defence and worked your socks off constantly by always being there to support the attack. Sorry that I didn’t have the mascot to give you, India is Champ still alive!