Today’s game at Hasland finally got the go ahead around 11.30 this morning, but despite this the pitch was in reasonably good condition considering the amount of rainfall in the last few days - although this had, understandably, prevented the grass being cut.
In contrast to the forecast, it stayed dry throughout the game, which after last week was a relief. The game was played in bright autumnal sunshine, and we started more or less with the breeze in the first half - which was blowing diagonally across the pitch rather than from behind us.
There were a number of changes on the morning of the game, due to illness and injury, and a last minute swap as Rachel was delayed. We got off to the ideal start as Summer made a run down the left, cut the ball back across goal beating the defenders and ‘keeper for Annie to slot home.
The lead was short lived, however, as six minutes later Hasland equalised direct from a corner. they nearly added another a minute later, after a strong run down the left ended with a shot that flashed across the face of goal and out beyond the far post.
Despite this, we were looking threatening and were creating chances - in a reprise of the opening goal, Summer went on another good run down the left, but this time Annie could not quite connect with the cross with the goal at her mercy. A couple of minutes later, we were awarded a free kick in the centre of goal, about 25 metres out - Tash’s kick beat the defensive wall and the ‘keeper couldn’t hold on to it, and Hannah Kwiatek following in had her shot blocked by the keeper.
Just after the quarter hour, it was another Summer run down the left, her low cross beating everyone, rebounding off the post and out off the foot of a defender sliding in to try to clear it.
Hasland’s goal was now under almost constant pressure - and with 18 minutes gone Summer closed down a defender and pinched the ball from her, saw the ‘keeper off her line and was unfortunate to see her shot come back off the crossbar. Annie was following in and latched onto the rebound, only to see her shot blocked and then cleared off the line by a recovering defender.
There was a setback after 20 minutes, when Hannah Roberts was forced off with a quad strain, so there was a slight reshuffle of the back line with Rachel coming on. There was no let up for Hasland, however, as we won a corner on our left. Tash’s kick was initially cleared, but fell to Sophie some 25 metres out and she struck a sweet shot, low, into the corner, to restore our lead. It was a goal that had been coming for a while.
The game quietened down a little for a while after that, and it was ten minutes before the next chance of note came, when Summer’s close range shot was touched around the post by the goalkeeper. With half time approaching, Bleu did very well to intercept a pass in the Hasland defensive third, control the ball and put in a superb cross - into the corridor of uncertainty between the ‘keeper and defence - and towards Summer running in. It’s every defender’s nightmare; knowing she had Summer behind her, the defender had to go for the ball, but could only divert it into her own net.
It had been a good first forty-five minutes, and we were well worth the 3-1 lead. It was important to maintain the intensity in our play as the second half got underway, and not give Hasland any way back into the game. We started as we had left off, as only eight minutes into the second period Annie intercepted a goal kick and quickly played Summer in to finish (4-1).
Two minutes later, Summer was put through one-on-one with the keeper - Summer got to the ball first and slipped the ball past the diving keeper, whose momentum carried her into Summer and brought her down. The referee had a very clear view and was in doubt, awarding the penalty without hesitation - despite the protestations of one Hasland player - which earned her a ten minute cool off in the sin bin. Tash kept her nerve to calmy slot the spot kick home to make it 5-1
We really had the bit between our teeth now, and the advantage of an extra player for ten minutes. Four minutes later, Izzy Wilsoncroft started a tremendous move down the right, combining with Tash, who fed the ball to Summer - her initial shot was blocked by the keeper, but Summer was first to the rebound to make it 6-1.
Hasland pulled a goal back just after the hour, an excellently taken shot from outside the area curling away to Jade’s right (6-2).
We continued to create chances - Annie crossed after a good run down the right, but Summer’s shot was saved. A couple of minutes later and the ball was played forward towards Annie, but realising she was in an offside position she didn’t react - although the Linesman flagged, the referee allowed play to continue - recognising Annie wasn’t active - and Hannah Kwiatek ran on to the ball to get a shot away under pressure, which went just wide.
It seemed to be only a matter of time before there would be another goal, and on 68 minutes Annie blocked an attempted clearance, the ball broke free, Summer was quickest to react and lashed the ball home from 10 metres (7-2) to complete her hat-trick.
Summer had another chance a couple of minutes later, which she set up with brilliant first touch she couldn’t match with her second - as she put the ball over the bar.
Hasland pulled another goal back with just under twenty minutes left. Sophie had gone off after treatment and was waiting for the referee to allow her back on, so although Tash dropped in to cover for her, we were a player down. Our back line had defended well for the most part, but lost its shape after one shot was blocked, and in a scramble for the ball a Hasland player hit a shot from the edge of the area to beat Jade to her right (7-3).
A direct free kick from Tash was just tipped over by the keeper. A minute later, and after a good run down the left Hannah Kwiatek was boxed in by three defenders, with her back to her teammates - but beat all three with a trick to turn and cross, Bleu controlled the ball, and slipped a pass to the side for Tash to hit a shot from 20 or so metres that went only just wide.
Bleu then combined well with Beth Thompson, whose shot was parried and Hannah Kwiatek following in hit her shot just wide of the post. There was still time for Rachel to pick out Annie with a superb diagonal pass, Annie controlling the ball with her first touch, and finding the far corner with her second (8-3).
It looked for a moment like Hasland may score another to reduce the deficit, when the striker was played through behind our defence but Jade was out smartly to narrow the angle and blocked the shot.
As time ran down and we were going into time added on, a terrific combination down the right started by Izzy, playing the ball infield to Annie, who then passed to Bleu to finish with a controlled first time shot (9-3).
In possession, there some really pleasing football, and it was entertaining to watch. It’s good to see Summer and Annie developing a good partnership, and getting among the goals, but it’s also pleasing that the goals are being shared round - we already have 7 different scorers this season.
The versatility of the players was tested today, with a number of changes required right up to kickoff, and a reshuffle during the game, but they coped well. Indeed, even after conceding the early equaliser, there was a sense of calm and composure about our play, which was particularly noticeable at the back when we regained possession - clearing when necessary, but playing out when the opportunity was there.
The win moves up to third in the table, a point behind the top two.