Southern Region Womens Football League – Premier Division
After a long, hectic, and disruptive preseason, it was almost a welcome sight to see the Eastleigh minibus arrive at Chapel Gate. Game on. There is nothing like that first league game; add to that, it is our first game at our highest ever level after our 4th promotion in 8 years.
Sports, often slow starters, showed desire by dominating the early phases of the game. This pressure led to a series of corners. With precision, Titch put in the first of what must have been ten superb match-day corners. Six minutes in, the Eastleigh defence half cleared the first delivery. Still, it fell to Hughes at the edge of the box to calmly sidefoot the ball into the bottom corner, aided with a slight deflection. After winning player’s player in her first season for her defensive work, Hughes knows that goals are needed to raise her game, and this is the way to start.
Another corner from the left, delivered by Titch, sailed past the ever-optimistic call from Eden, and onto the glancing head of goal poacher Brewer, 2:0 with 19 played. Only 5 minutes later, the marauding Titch finally found herself upfront and in space. then, after some effective anticipation play from the midfield with Hughes and Shaw linking to find Brewer, who, in her own style, helped the ball onto the edge of the 18, where Titch hooked keenly into the bottom corner. 25 minutes in and three nill up, so spirits were up. The next period of the game was tight, with Sports over-eager in the final phase and Eastleigh consolidating well.
The half-time message was clear. We knew Eastleigh had underperformed and would be better in the second half, so we had to contain. Eastleigh changed formation and started the second half like a different team, and put us under more pressure. The newly arranged defence of Davis, Vernon, Lewis, Eden and Chrippes were up to the task. Still, we couldn’t exploit the space they had sacrificed in midfield. Credit to the opposition that despite a healthy 3:0 lead, Sports could not settle. Then, at 70 mins a slip at the back and a quick-thinking striker saw Eastleigh roll the ball into an empty net to make it 3:1 and tense.
The last 20+6 minutes played out without great incident, Sports soaking up pressure and finding chances on the counter. At the same time, Eastleigh took more and more risks. Despite Titch hitting the bar, Rocket and Davis both hitting the post, a shot narrowly over from Shaw, a few clear attempts from Folkenstern, and a great defensive block from a Hawkins half-volley, Sports could not convert a fourth.
Competitive and positive debuts for Ashton, Davis, and Chrippes added to the occasion. Player’s player award went to Titch, who was on point with set pieces, finished well and showed moments of real quality (just don’t ask her about the back pass). Manager’s player award went to Brewer for a first-half display that must have had their defence thinking we have twins upfront.
Although a lion-like performance, the first, 1st team, Rory of the season, went to Bambi for some, oh deer, moments. I had better brush up on my lion and deer puns this season – suggestions welcome.
All in all, the second half showed two things. Eastleigh will stretch teams this year once they settle in the new faces, and Sports need to be more ruthless.