After checking my watch ten times in the first 5 minutes, and the scoreline remained 0-0 and the game starting balanced, I was buoyed that this would not be a repeat of the disaster of 3 weeks ago when Southampton Women FC dismantled us. Bournemouth Sports were here to play, and we had a plan. We had been working on a new system in the past few weeks in preparations for this game. It was clear that we may have to concede a fair bit of possession and defend a little deep to protect our novice GK Clarke. CB Norman got the nod after impressing in the Ressies since arriving a few months back. Playing only her second 1st team game, she played comfortably and assured football of dealing with what was organised but not overly creative forays by the AFC visitors. Norman, alongside Clarke in goal, Yeo, Vernon and Eden held firm through the opening exchanges and settled the team ahead of them. This bedrock meant that Hughes & Tilly could spend the first half being a second wall frustrating the signature AFC goal threat from a distance. You can’t stop them all, and AFC did rattle the post with a thunderbolt of an effort from AFC newest signing. The rest of the threat in the first half largely came from corners and set pieces, but a mixture of being well organised and somewhat up for it, we held our lines.
Despite the game played towards our end, it was far from one-sided. Folkenstern, Miles, Roe and Brewer disrupted and got the ball down to cause problems behind an advanced AFC line. Roe unable to turn quick enough on the pen spot was probably the clearest chance of the first half-hour, and when the AFCB GK took down Brewer in the box, nobody could or would have had complaints if it was given. A let-off for AFC, and a reminder to all those watching that there are two strong teams in Bournemouth.
The half looked like it was going to play out this way, with Sports frustrating the central attack of AFC, and dealing with waves of attacks down the flanks, and AFC being susceptible to a counter-attack. Unfortunately, two half challenges on a determined Bath coming in from the left gave her the sight of the goal she had been waiting for, and a well-struck shot towards the far top corner was enough to drop in off Clarke’s gloves, who seems in two minds of deflecting or catching. Disappointing to go in 1-0 down, but no complaints from the team. We perhaps invited just a little too much pressure.
Half-time instructions were straightforward, keep going for another 10/15 mins, frustrate them, and then go on the front foot. No one on the bench could oppose leaving the team unchanged, and the mood was positive despite being behind.
Whereas the first half took an age, the second half seemed to fly by as the game settled into the same pattern as the first. 5, 10, 15 mins passed, and the chances were at a premium. There were signs of tiredness creeping into the Sports’ legs, and gaps started to appear, and touches became a little loose. One such loose touch invited a tackle from the AFC right back on Brewer, who hit the ground hard, and that would be the end of her much appreciated pressing efforts. On came Parsons, to add some extra grit in the middle. Miles moved up top, and Sports were to show more ambitions in the final third if they were to go down fighting. Then disaster, Miles going down on a twisted knee, and the plan went out the window while Lewis came on, and we had to find our shape again. AFC looked dangerous, a couple of close efforts, and one disallowed for offside. It was a challenging period of the game. On came the experienced Mosley for the highly impressive Folkenstern. It was all a little bitty and scrappy with not a lot of quality as the game approached the final 5 mins. Another day, it may fizzle out for a 1-0, but not this day. We changed to a 433 and went for it, and the combative Yeo seemed to be getting further from her CB position, found herself on the right wing, scuffed/disguised a cross to Roe on the edge of the box, she turned the AFC defender who fell on the ball with an outstretched hand. Pen? Given!
Captain Eden took the responsibility, placed the ball, and struck it low to the GKs right, but it hit the post and wide! Heartbreak for Sports. 5 mins to play. 2-0. yep, we just did not collect ourselves, and we found ourselves subject to a break and an excellent finish. This would turn out to be needed, as from that point on, Sports, with nothing to lose, kept pushing forward, got the ball in dangerous areas, and then on 88min a poor clearance fell to Mosley who placed a scuffed shot slowly, very slowly, from the edge of the area right inside the post. 2-1.
The game finished 2-1 with no more drama, which was the end of the cup run. We are left with a few what-ifs. But overall, we are a better team for the experience, and all watching witnessed the togetherness.
Players player went to Becky Clarke for excellent handling against a team 2 leagues above
Manager’s player went to Liane Folkenstern for constant battling through the middle of the pitch