The two weeks leading up to this game were somewhat strenuous for Gillingham Anchorians Ladies 1st XI. On 29/09 they came away from a game with a (suspiciously) strong Sevenoaks “Acorns” (oldest Acorns I ever saw!) team with a 2-2 draw after a scrappy game in which Anchs had a winning goal disallowed (yes, alright, it did hit a foot on the way in, but the umpire shouldn’t have given it and then changed her mind because the “Acorns” complained!). They had conceded on the break but two fantastic goals from Emma Strangleman on the post for short corners ensured the point. The following week, 06/10, Anchs faced Cliftonville 1st XI who were sitting comfortably towards the top of the table. Anchs went 2-0 down early, but pushed back hard and after several dangerous short-corners, Noelia Lopez won Anchs a penalty Flick. Laura Hopkins stepped up to the mark with the added pressure of the flick she’d missed two weeks before weighing on her shoulders. This time though, she left the ‘Ville keeper with no chance and put the ball in the net. It wasn’t to be enough though. A’s picked up the pressure in the last ten minutes but it was too little, too late and their first loss of the season was recorded.
This weeks match against top of the table Burnt Ash Ladies 1st XI, was always going to be a tough one. A weak Anchorians side had faced them 5 weeks earlier for a friendly in the scorching heat. Anchs lost 3-0 in that match and went into the league game determined not to do the same again. With a full-strength squad their chances looked good. However, Ash aren’t top of the table for nothing. From the off, Anchs were camped in their own half. Sarah Watkinson, Lucy Morgan and Emma Strangleman made crucial tackles in defence and the few they couldn’t make, Sonia Houlker, ever steady in goal, was able to take care of. Meanwhile, Emma Harris provided welcome rest-bite for the defense. However, with the midfield all pulled into marking rolls, when Anchs did take possession, they were unable to feed to Tina Hamer, Noelia Lopez or Rosa Hargrave-Sotherland who were trying to get free in their forward positions. A combination of good defending from Burnt Ash and errors made by Anchs made breaking into attack near impossible. However, despite the intense pressure, A’s only conceded 3 short corners and the teams broke for half time 0-0.
Anchs needed a change and they made it. Skipper, Laura Hopkins dropped back from attacking-midfield to make a 4-woman defence. The forwards took it in turns to drop back and mark an opposition midfielder, which freed up Heidi Hadfield as a play maker in the middle. This combination worked for Anchs who were far more fluid in their marking and found themselves in Burnt Ash’s 25 as a result. Kerry Searle and Hadfield held the centre midfield and Rachel Rawson, Hannah Bennett and Devia BiJkerk found they had far more space on the wings. Despite this, Burnt Ash made the most of their breaks and managed to score two past Houlker, one a sweep from close range over the grounded keeper. The other, a square pass which left Houlker stranded and neither Strangleman or Hopkins quite able to stop the Ash forward guiding the ball into the back of the goal.
While Ash did deserve to win the game, their attitude on the pitch left a lot to be desired with pushing, hitting, complaining and obstruction seeming to be standard weapons in their itinerary. The umpires did little to help and Anchs became more and more frustrated with the conduct of the opposition with many of the team walking away from the pitch carrying bruises they did not arrive with. Despite this and the score line, Anchorians can take this game as a fantastic confidence boost in defence. Burnt Ash spent around 80% of the game in the Anchs half and to lose only 2-0 given this fact is a massive testament to the way Anchs held it together and performed under the intense pressure.
Player went to Lucy Morgan for her sterling efforts in defence and Special to Rosa Hargrave-Sotherland who managed to get lost/go to the wrong pitch despite only living ten minutes away from the venue! Next week Anchs Ladies 1s face another difficult opponent in Maidstone Ladies 2nd XI who currently sit 2nd in the league, after this weeks defensive display, however, the Ladies in White have little to fear.
- Burnt Ash 1st XI – 2
- Gillingham Anchorians 1st XI – 0