Gillingham Anchorians Ladies 1st XI faced their first game in uncharted territory as they began their league campaign this weekend. They faced their first foes, Blackheath and OEs Ladies 2s, in a league of which they knew little.
Both teams were cautious of their opponents; Anchs having come to this league after a less than ideal season in the league above; Blackheath fresh-faced after victory in the league below and with a new name to boot. The game started slowly and although Anchs were the better side, they were often caught in possession down the left wing – a weakness Blackheath exploited, earning themselves two short corners in the first half. Despite this, Sonia Houlker in goal had only one shot to save and was protected from more by the expertise of Emma Strangleman, Emma Harris and Lucy Morgan in the back three of a new and exciting formation.
At the other end of the pitch, Tina Hamer and Rosa Hargreaves-Sotherland kept pressing with the support of Hannah Bennett and Rachel Rawson attacking from the wings. Despite going close several times, they were eventually rewarded for their efforts with a short corner just before half-time. However, it was not to be and the first period closed 0-0.
After a short break, both teams once again stepped onto the pitch. Blackheath found a new determination and pressed the Anchorians defence hard for the first 5-10minutes. However, Anchs found their form again through counter attacks. Laura Hopkins carried the ball through the middle of the field while her team mates made some excellent runs to get themselves into strong attacking positions. Anchs ladies found their time spent more and more around the Blackheath D, with the opposition hard pressed to find a way out. Luckily, Emma Gurdler was on hand for Anchs to provide some fresh legs in the grueling heat.
The deadlock eventually broke when Anchs won themselves a well-deserved short corner. The straight-strike from Heidi Hadfield was going true until stopped on the goal line by a defending foot. The umpire didn’t even have time to say “penalty stroke” before Emma Strangleman pounced and swept the ball resolutely into the backboard.
Once Anchs had broken the spell, they looked sure to strike again. In the end it was astounding that it took so long with superb balls from Kerry Searle and Heidi Hadfield striking at the heart of the Blackheath defence but the final push over the line just out of reach. When the decisive goal came, it presented itself in a way many of us are never to see the like of again. Rosa Hargrave-Sotherland dominated in a scrappy goal-mouth battle, but her final attempt looked destined to go wide. Tina Hamer threw herself to the floor and swung her stick in a valient effort, which astounded opposition and team-mates alike and left the defending keeper stranded, as the ball caught her wrong-footed to strike the far corner of the goal.
Anchorians were on the attack for what little was left of the game and when the final whistle was blown, the deserving team had come out on top. A well deserved victory in a refreshingly friendly game. Player of the match was awarded to Heidi Hadfield for outstanding defensive skills, her off-ball hard work and her striking efforts to put the ball in the opporsition’s D.
A great start to a new campaign.
- Gillingham Anchorians Ladies 1st XI – 2
- Blackheath and OEs Ladies 2nd XI – 0