On Saturday 11th March 2023 the Phoenix played a home game against Ware – a team that the girls had not played yet this season – and a first game against them since a cup final in 2021! It was clear early on that this was going to be a physically difficult game. The Phoenix took an early lead –after only three minutes of play. AW battled for the ball on the left wing. She took the ball from the opposition and charged towards the Ware defence. She saw YC in space and played the ball forward. YC collected the ball just outside the Ware box. She moved the ball out of reach of the defence. Having created space for herself she had time to pick her spot and fire her shot at goal. A powerful low drive into the bottom corner left the goalkeeper with no chance. It was a great move from YC – she had placed herself in a brilliant position and had anticipated the pass coming her way. As a result, she was able to completely bypass the defence. After this the Phoenix had most of the possession and were passing and moving the ball around with confidence and ease. JM played a key role in the possession. Whenever Ware had the ball near her she chased them down and would either win the ball with her tackles, or force the opposition into conceding throw ins. She gave the opposition no time on the ball. Just as important, when she won the ball, she made some great runs forward and made some perfectly weighted passes to her teammates. Defensively LS and CD had to be alert to deal with Ware running down the wings – it required concentration and organisation to make sure that the player with the ball was challenged and that the passing options were also closed down. They did this superbly and they easily dealt with any attacking play. LS rarely lost a challenge, which clearly started the frustrate Ware as the game wore on. CD effectively orchestrated the Phoenix defensive efforts – she urged teammates to help out and made sure that all players were being marked. AW was also involved in this defensive effort – even though playing in midfield – she always ensured that she tracked back, and she was always marking any players that drifted into the Phoenix half. Despite being on the receiving end of some overly physical challenges, she continued to disrupt their game. Each time the Phoenix stopped a Ware attack the ball tended to end up with either FLS or AP – each of them had a considerable amount of possession in this half and they used it well. AP made a number of runs from the centre circle to the Ware goal area – and she made some dangerous passes into the box. FLS concentrated her attacks down the middle – she would either dribble at the defence, drawing players in from out wide, or she would play quick passes with the wingers to allow her to burst into the box. AP was always in a dangerous position and looked to latch onto loose balls outside the box. It was their efforts that ensured the Phoenix were always looking to attack as soon as they had won the ball. SDB played as striker and had a number of chances to score in the first half. She either created the chances herself, with her quick feet and pace, or she positioned herself in dangerous areas. When she had the goal in front of her she was always quick to unleash her shot. A couple went agonisingly close and the goalkeeper made some brilliant stops to keep. With a few minutes left of the half SDB did get the goal. A brilliant example of defence to attack – LS had made a crunching block in the Phoenix half and kicked the ball up field. It bypassed most of the Ware team who had been pressing forward. SDB took a nice touch to get the ball under control before advancing towards goal and slotting the ball into the back of the net. At the other end of the pitch, it had not been a quiet game for MK. Ware had a particular skilful player who did break through the Phoenix defence on occasion. This resulted in 1:1 situations – always tense moments for those watching. MK, however, was keeping watch and was always off her line at the right moment – she either swiped the ball from the feet of the attacker or forced her off the pitch to gain the goal kick. Brave and committed goalkeeping when needed! Just before the half ended Ware clawed a goal back. Using their fastest players, they were able to stretch the defence. One player crossed the ball from the right. It was a dangerous cross that needed to be dealt with. An unlucky deflection saw the ball fly into the top corner. Football is unlucky at times. An own goal is not a nice thing to experience. The reaction from the girls was, however, something to be proud of. There was no criticism or complaining – just friendship and encouragement on display as the team rallied round to support each other. The half time team talk was made easier- the girls knew that they had to keep fighting and they had to support each other. They were up against a tough team, but they knew that together they were stronger! Ware tried to get an equaliser and they really pushed their best players forward. It was a busy half for the Phoenix. It was also a busy half for the Ware defence. The second half did not see any goals, but it was a brilliant 30 minutes of football with shots aplenty, an abundance of saves, last minute tackles and bodies being thrown on the line. SDB was unlucky not to add to her goal tally. She was always a threat to the opposition, and similar to the first half she was stopped by some impressive goalkeeping. She continued to run at the opposition through the game and dispatched some long range efforts that were marginally wide. JM and FLS were both kept busy in midfield. The worked particularly well together on the right hand side – taking it in turns winning the ball and then being a passing option. Their passing was composed and always on target. When they did lose the ball they were immediately on the opposition’s back to win the ball again. FLS made some good runs into space and was able to get through on goal late in the half. JM enthusiastically chased every ball in the middle of the park. Their efforts made it difficult for Ware to get comfortable on the ball. YC had set up camp on the halfway line where she was able to dictate the game. She dropped back when Ware had the ball and she advanced when Phoenix were in possession. She was effectively the first line of defence against the speedy attacking threat that Ware offered. She forced the opposition to go wide with their attacks which played into the hands of the Phoenix defence. With her positioning alone she was able to frustrate Ware and force them to play the ball to the side. LS and CD again worked tirelessly to stop the Ware attack. With the opposition being moved wide they took it in turns to close them down with the other marshalling the Phoenix goal. LS found herself taking on the opposition striker several times. Despite the attacker having the pace advantage, and being quick with the ball, LS had every attack covered. She timed her runs and tackles and showed excellent composure to remain calm – even when the player got through, LS did not quit and was soon hot on their heels again. She was determined not to let the opposition score – and she succeeded. CD read the game well from the back. She was always on hand to deal with the loose balls and she continued to work with teammates to make sure that each zone was being covered defensively. She also played in midfield/attack towards the end of the half and was unlucky not to also get a goal to her name. A Well disciplined and determined performance in this half. Always first to the ball and always looking to make a clinical pass. Her versatility and reliability were on show today and she gave her all for the team. Again, MK was kept busy in this half. A crucial moment came late in the half – with a single goal still the difference between the teams. A Ware striker broke through the defence on the outside of the area. She made a charging run into the box. Thinking the defence had it covered MK had to quickly decide – hold her ground or come off her line. In a split second she made the call and charged forward. It clearly threw the attacker off – just as she was about to shoot she hesitated and the ball went wide. A certain goal had been prevented through quick thinking and bravery. The Phoenix were under pressure at times, but they were in control and handled everything thrown at them. AW epitomised the performance. She constantly ran between attack and defence – she was there to support the defence and always covered the gaps left by a stretched defence. Equally she was always an attacking option going forward. On the left flank she was constantly subject to strong physical challenges, but did not let them stop her. In possession she was strong and always tried to the hold the ball up whilst teammates got into good positions. She physically put her body on the line for the team and did not give up. Still a single goal in it, the Phoenix had some really good chances to pull away. AP always seemed to find some time and space on the ball on the left of the Ware goal area. From this position she fired some powerful strikes which whistled across the Ware goal. Whenever the opposition though they had it covered, they soon found that She had in fact followed the ball and was there trying to win it back. Her constant pressure around the box made it difficult for Ware to play the ball from defence. A sense of relief was felt when the final whistle came. A well-earned victory against physically strong and speedy opposition. POTM was AW – involved in the defensive and attacking movements. She covered a lot of ground today. The opposition struggled when she had possession and she did not let their robust challenges put her off. She never gave up, despite the physical toll of the performance. She contributed to the defensive duties with the tackles and marking and she played a big part in the Phoenix attack by setting up the first goal. TOTW is LS – she had her work cut out today and was up against a speedy and skilful opposition striker. It was hard work, but she kept the player out all game. She diffused the main attacking threat that Ware offered almost single handed. Not content with keeping the ball out of the Phoenix goal, she also had a hand in the second goal.
REPORT BY Coach Williams