We welcomed New Milton to Chapel Gate for the first competitive game for our first team in 10 months.
A tough preseason had prepared us well for the season but with 7 debutants it was always going to mean we would need time to settle into the season.
The opening 10 minutes were pretty un-eventful as both teams just got a feel for the game.
The action didn’t take long though, on 12 minutes Davies was unable to get out of the way of the strikers feet as she crossed her path in the box, clipping her ankle. The ref played the advantage as she stayed up, she cut back inside but after she hit the side netting with her shot from 6yds the ref decided to go back for the pen. Owen was in goal for her competitive debut with us at Sports, she guessed the right way but couldn’t quite get to the very well struck pen. 0-1
It took all of two minutes for New Milton to double their lead after pressing our midfield and winning the ball, they took a touch outside Tilly at the back, also on her competitive debut for us, and finished across Owen before she could get her feet set from the edge of the box. 0-2
We looked shaky, we hadn’t settled, we hadn’t had a chance and we were being pressed at every opportunity.
However, going 2 down seems to be the score we turn up to, and on 18 minutes we showed what we could do going forward as Miles, on her debut, hit the bar from 20yds out and then a good volley from the rebound was blocked by the New Milton defender.
5 minutes later and Brewer found herself through one on one after a New Milton goal kick that rebounded from Shaws head, but was thwarted by the GK before getting her shot away and follow ups from Hughes, and Knapps, both making first team debuts, were well defended. Despite us appearing to get a foothold back in the game and winning a considerable amount of corners it was New Milton that were to score next to make it 0-3 just before the half hour mark. A long ball down the left, she beat Davies out wide and then finished very well across Owen.
Our response was almost instant, 30 minutes on the clock and it was a case of practice makes perfect on the corner front. Miles delivering another good corner and this time Benjamin nodding in from close range despite their GKs best efforts to keep it out. 1-3
The goal seemed to lift the team and was followed by many intense attacks by sports.
Knapps drew a great save from the GK on 38 who tipped it wide, before a dangerous Miles cross was almost met by, another debutant, Eden, a yard out. A couple of minutes later it was Folkensterns chance, playing her first competitive game for us, she narrowly fired over. The Red Arrows disturbed a Miles corner on the 43rd minute as her lack of ability to hear seemed to stop her legs working properly and she scuffed the ball off the pitch. Despite 15 minutes of pressure from us we were very fortunate not to concede in added time. New Milton pressed Owen on a back pass and although they won the ball only managed to put the ball wide.
Having not got over the shock of that let off we decided to give them another good chance, losing the ball 25yds out they were through on goal but this time fired over. Despite leading the corner count 10-0, having some great chances we came in 3-1 down at half time and I think slightly relieved it wasn’t 4 or 5 following the final 2 minutes of the half.
The mood in the changing room was one of frustration having put ourselves in this position but positive this game was not out of reach. We knew a quick goal in the second half would rock the young New Milton side and for what we lack in youth we make up for in enough experience to know anything can happen in football.
The managers wish was met within 90 seconds of the start. A quick Folkenstern free kick down the line, found Miles, who beat the New Milton defence, cut inside and laid the ball off for a simple tap in for Eden to make it 2-3 and we had a game on.
A minute later Folkenstern hit the outside of the post from an Eden cut back.
51 minutes we found ourselves 3 on 1 attacking the New Milton goal, the cross was met by a defender who drew a superb reaction save from the New Milton GK and unfortunately Eden couldn’t organise her feet quick enough to take a tap in.
Captain Shaw found herself with space to shoot on the edge of the after Eden cut the ball back to her but despite a prolific preseason couldn’t find the finish and the ball went over. Luckily our equaliser wasn’t going to be denied for long but it was a bit of vision and creativity from Miles on the 62nd minute that would get it. Picking the ball up from Eden about 35 yds out she spotted the GK off her line and expertly dispatched an effort over the GK and into the net. 3-3
It was the very least we deserved for the attacking play we had shown from the start of the half. We continued to press to get ourselves in front and complete the recovery from our early mistakes and were very unlucky not to take the lead, Eden saw an effort deflected just wide, before Lewis found herself with plenty of time 12 yards out but could only fire agonisingly wide.
New Milton seemed to have little answer to our attacks but defended resolutely throwing everything in front of our chances while at the other end Owen found herself a mere spectator as our defence swept up the desperate clearances. The 83rd minute gave Brewer another superb chance as she found herself through 1 on 1 again from a clever through ball from Shaw but couldn’t get her shot away before the New Milton GK was out to cover it. We were to be punished for not taking these chances, completely against the run of play New Milton stunned us on the 85th minute. A very rare foray into our half with numbers led to a cross come shot from out-wide and gave Owen no chance as it sailed over her head and in at the back post. 3-4
It was probably un-deserved but we had been warned with their 3rd goal that they can attack at speed and have the ability to finish well.
Rather than let that get to them, the team continued with the plan, keep it simple, keep the ball moving and work hard to create chances and it didn’t take long to find parity. Folkenstern played the ball to Shaw who made no mistake this time rolling the ball easily into the corner. It set up a grandstand finish and with multiple stoppages due to cramp within the young New Milton team through the half we knew there would be a few chances.
A corner to New Milton in the last minute of normal time gave us a scare but it was well cleared and set up a break for Eden but she was well marshalled out by the New Milton defence. The last few minutes didn’t seem to bring any clear cut chances as both sides seem to accept the draw was probably fair over the 90 minute performances, especially from our side as giving the opposition a 3-0 head start is never a good idea in our league.
Player of the match: Jasmine Hughes
Managers Player: Liane Folkenstern
Rory: Abbie Vernon