Promotion is still on the cards! A 10:30 push back at Halton is a good fixture in anyone's book, and the ladies 3's were determined to make the most of it as they faced tough opposition in Blueharts 4's.
But early on, (approx 10 seconds in), we were under pressure. Clearly knowing they would need to go ahead early against possibly the greatest side 5 Counties Div 4 has ever seen, Blueharts made a couple of storming attacks on goal. But thanks to our solid defence and the majestically fierce Kelly in goal, we managed to deny the strikers and feed Emily, Chops, Kate and Charlotte who made their own series of good attacks. Realising they'd need something special to break through our defence (who incidentally have only conceded 8 goals in 13 games and kept 8 clean sheets), Blueharts cheekily placed an additional striker up front for a 10 minute spell. Suddenly a few quick passes and they were in on goal. Their right winger hit hard and despite a block the ball was deflected up to their centre forward who volleyed it into the back on the net. Fair play, but by our standards a soft goal. And then the disarray...
Knowing how important the win was, we embarrassingly started bickering amongst ourselves. Our yells could be heard as far away as Saffron Walden as some of us uncharacteristically lost our heads and acted like extras in an Eastenders bar brawl. For a few minutes we managed to partly get ourselves together, and after some smart passing the ever magnificent Chops was in play with a great chance to equalise. Somehow her graceful shot was just blocked by the keeper on the line but Charlotte was there to slot home the rebound. 1-1!
As the half time whistle blew, we trundled into the goal all knowing that our skipper would make it clear that some of us had been very naughty. As Chops spoke of the importance of encouragement and teamwork, our heads hung very low indeed. We all had a chance to speak and get things off our chests, and with a roar we touched sticks ready for the second half.
Livvie, Emma, Zoe and Emily showed us all what it was to fight on with composure, and learning from their example we all worked hard in what was to be an end to end half. Helen, Zoe, Trish, Rebecca and Annamarie were solid in defence, and Kelly too was just awesome. With Livvie, Emma, Liz and Jo in midfield passing and building play so well we felt sure we would get another goal. After a foot in their D we were given advantage but the shot was blocked, Kate Hedge then slotted the deflection home but sadly the whistle had already gone for a short corner. Kate was heard saying "I would rather have had the goal!"
A couple more short corners later, from the sidelines Chops asked Annamarie to go up for a straight strike. Rebecca injected and Annamarie's phenomenal strike was somehow stopped just over the goal line by their keeper then forced back out of the goal and off the back line. Hands went up but we knew that there was no way the umpire could have seen the ball had gone in. Then in an incredible show of sportsmanship, the Blueharts keeper told the umpire that the ball had indeed crossed the line, so the whistle blew and we were leading 2-1! Rebecca hugged the keeper and we all thanked her for her honesty. Chops could be heard gleefully celebrating and trying to claim an assist for the tactical change at the short corner!
For the remainder of the match we had to fight very hard to keep Blueharts out. Our amazing midfielders and strikers all pulling back when required to help defend, then finding the energy to fly off with the ball up the other end of the pitch time and time again. These efforts were reflected in the man of the match as all forwards received a few votes. But Kelly just pipped them for the title following another outstanding performance in goal and helping to orchestrate the defensive play so brilliantly all game.
Doughnuts were bought for both sides as an apology for our behaviour. Not something we're proud of, but we're proud to call each other friends and know that we always learn from our mistakes. (Larger gum shields have been bought for some as gag aids!)