Gillingham Anchorians Ladies 1st XI were riding high following their win the previous week when they came to face Tonbridge Wells 2nd XI. The game was Anch’s first home endeavour of the season and the team were feeling positive although wary of opponents who had finished in the top half of the table the previous year.
The match started with Anchs on the back foot as Tonbridge took the game to Emma Strangleman, Emma Harris and Lucy Morgan in defence. The pressure was so much that even keeper, Sonia Houlker, was forced into a stick-to-stick tackle to defend her goal line. However, the Girls in White were able to hold firm and began the fight back. The ball was more and more in Tonbridge’s defencive half as the half progressed with Hannah Bennett making strong runs on the left wing to cut in behind the opposition defence. Tina Hamer and Rosa Hargrave-Sotherland ready to pounce on any loose balls from upfront. However, only twenty or so minutes into the half, disaster struck when Hamer was fouled, stood on the ball and fell, badly injuring her ankle. She was helped from the pitch and ice applied while the free hit was inexplicably given to Wells.
Salvation came in the form of Hamer’s substitute, Noelia Lopez, who with her first run, was in the D chasing the ball when she was judged to have been unfairly taken down by the visitor’s keeper. A penalty stroke was awarded and captain, Laura Hopkins, stepped up to the mark. With a good crowd on the side line, those with beer in hand watching from the balcony and the two teams in suspense on the half way line, silence fell over the Anchorians pitch. Hopkins sent the keeper the wrong way but pushed the ball wide.
Despite this missed opportunity, Anchorians looked more positive than ever and pushed forward more and more winning themselves their first short corners of the game. However, they failed to convert and the teams went in at half time 0-0.
The second half started as the rest of the game would continue, with Anchorians on the front foot and Wells pinned in their own 25. Heidi Hadfield preformed her now established roll of deep midfield, acting as a switch, a first line of defence and pushing the rest of the midfield forward. Kerry Searle pushed herself into a strong attacking position and Sarah Watkinson, another new star, filled her hole alongside Hadfield admirably – releasing other players to push higher and filling any gaps in defence. domain value . Several of Anchs second half attacks came from the driving force of Morgan and Rachel Rawson who worked well together on the right and Devia Bijkerk, back for her first game in the ladies 1st XI since maternity leave, looked like she had never been away!
Several short corners were awarded to Anchs and the defence did well to cut out all options apart from straight strike and posts. The Whites persisted and came close several times; Hargrave-Sotherland did excellently to get the ball to the byline, inches from the goal and trick the defence by making the pass to Hopkins in front of goal although she swept inches wide.
Despite the strength of the home team, Wells were the first to break the deadlock. After some interesting umpiring that left Morgan stranded without a chance to defend a ball which should have been hers, the visitor’s midfielder went on a superb solo run and slipped the ball past an unlucky Houlker. Anchs weren’t to be mollified though and were straight back on the offensive. It took them some time to break through however but the winning effort came from Heidi Hadfield’s excellent straight-strike, the power of which left the keeper without a chance.
Anchorians could have, and probably should have, won the game but did excellently to keep up the strong attack despite going one goal down. Player was awarded to Hannah Bennett who’s runs into space made sure Anchs were always pushing for the win.
- Gillingham Anchorians Ladies 1st XI – 1
- Tonbridge Wells Ladies 2nd XI – 1