Wind and rain preceded the visit of Bursledon FC to Fortress Chapel Gate. The game began with some initial sparring from both teams as our opposition attempted some impressive forays down the Sports left side courtesy of Bursledon’s speedy No 15. These came to nothing, though, due to the twin pillars of Daisy and Liana. For Sports, Abi Lander picked up the ball in good spaces and broke the Bursledon lines with some clever footwork. The first quarter was absent of any clear goal scoring opportunities as both teams struggled to find that final pass. A glimmer of gold dust was witnessed around 15 mins in when Rebecca Knapton picked the ball up around 35 yards from goals and following some divine inspiration, struck a howitzer of a shot towards goal which clattered the crossbar, but sadly bouncing out, leaving the Bursledon Goal Keeper helpless.
Bursledon took the lead following a corner whipped in from the left which was initially half-cleared by Sports to a Bursledon player in the 6-yard box and then dispatched with a powerful reflex shot.
The mood was optimistic from Sports as up to that point they had been the better side, snuffing out the Bursledon attacks with some well-timed interventions from Keira and Daisy. We needed to get our creators Taylor & Stocker into the game higher up the pitch as the game was bypassing the midfield.
Improvement was witnessed soon after when with her back to goal just inside the Bursledon half, Abi Lander expertly controlled a long, high clearance from the Sports Defence, whilst turning and slaloming through 3 Bursledon players who were caught off gaurd. After breaking the lines and driving at goal Lander was joined up field by Stocker who received the ball in a great position outside the box but just overhit the pass to the rampaging Irene on the left wing. A missed opportunity but one that boded well for the remainder of the game. This pattern of play was repeated several times with Lander and Stocker combining brilliantly in the final 3rd but just falling short at the key moment. Following another barnstorming run from Lander around minute 35, she was halted unceremoniously in the centre of the pitch around 30 yards out and was awarded a free-kick by Lander’s favourite referee from the week before. The referee unsheathed his white spray (yes you read right, he had the white spray) to indicate where the Bursledon wall should be situated whilst Charlotte placed the ball down. Taylor took a few moments to size up the situation, took a deep breath and fired her free kick into the roof of the net, providing Sports the equaliser their endeavour deserved. In a quirk of fate, Lux had scored from a free-kick in the same position the week before with the same referee and his special spray, so it seems to be our lucky omen which we should continue to use on free kicks going forwards.
Bursledon had enjoyed only a few half chances due to the dominance shown by Kitty in the centre of the three, winning everything in the air and on the ground. To this point, the only attacks of note were a cross well parried away by Paige and a few wide shots at goal. Bursledon’s most successful attack led to a powerful shot at goal. Paige superbly palmed onto the crossbar, injuring her already-tender thumb. This was a re-enactment of the great save she had made the week before, showing there was no luck involved.
Rocket and Bentley joined the fray towards the end of the First Half, providing endeavour and direct running, placing Sports in the ascendancy as the 1st half came to a close.
The gaffer tried to encourage the team to simply pass to each other’s feet rather than sending the ball far ahead of their teammates, with them having to resemble a Greyhound chasing a hare.
In the second half, we came out with a change of Keeper (Sarah), who was excellent throughout, showing great handling and accurate kicking from hand and foot. This provided The Monk (Paige) the licence to venture outfield, leading to a hilarious incident to be covered later on.
Eager to stamp our mark on the game, the Keira/Daisy axis continued to dominate the midfield hoovering up any loose balls and feeding the advanced midfielders.
Lander continued to buzz around the back line like an angry wasp, colliding with every defender she could come into contact with whilst Bentley took up some dangerous positions on the left side of the midfield. The beginning of the second half involved some great cutbacks to Sports on the edge and across the box but not the final product warranted. A great chipped ball through to Lander placed her in a race with the keeper in the 6 yard box with a bouncing ball. Lander headed the ball over the keeper and with it spiralling towards the goal, seemingly destined to be a second for Sports, a Bursledon defender rushed back onto the line and executed a quality clearance leaving her wrapped in the net like a scottish haddock.
Sports had their tails up and were going for the Kill. Bursledon were beginning to slow due to a lack of subs, and Sports could smell the win. At around 65 minutes, Bursledon conceded a tired foul around 25 yards out, which we shall now call Taylor Territory. The white spray made another welcome appearance whilst Char sized up the distance and wind trajectory. The freekick was almost perfect until it cannoned off the crossbar and over the top.
In the closing moments, the subs, spectators, linesmen and gaffer were soaked through to the skin, eagerly awaiting a winner from Sports. We were not to be disappointed. Following another quality Taylor corner, the ball was only partially cleared from Bursledon, falling on the ever-reliable right boot of Rocket who duly dispatched the ball past the keeper in the 88th minute causing instant euphoria in the Sports ranks. There wasn’t much longer to hold on until we heard the sweet sound of the Ref’s final whistle. Sports 2 Bursledon 1 a wet, windy but ultimately victorious afternoon