Away cup match played on 29 April 2023.
Kicked off at 10:00 AM

Saturday 29th April 2023 saw the Phoenix play their last league fixture of the 2022/23 season. The weather came out to mark the occasion – gone was the cold and wet weather which had been persistent throughout the season – replaced by the warm midday sunshine. It was appropriate that the fixture was played at Ware Youth. The Phoenix have had great summer tournaments here and look forward to the same for summer 2023.

The Phoenix started strong – with their usual pressing from the front, which put Ware on the back foot.

SDB played on the right wing in the first half. She linked well with the Phoenix defence by dropping deep for the defence to pass to her. From inside her own half she made a number of surging runs down on the right wing. Once she was in the opposition half they could not get the ball and she shrugged off their challenges to continue her advance. She played in a couple of dangerous crosses and had several long-range efforts in the first 10 minutes which came very close to being goals.

The first goal came on 15 minutes. YC and AP, playing as midfield and striker respectively had been keeping Ware busy in the middle of their own half – they were constantly chasing them and winning the ball. Each of them made strong tackles and made threatening runs into space when the other had the ball. The system worked well with YC holding the ball which allowed AP to sprint into the box. Ware found it difficult to get the ball from YC and they found it difficult to mark AP. The breakthrough came when YC won the ball in the centre and passed it forward to AP who dashed into the box from the left, took the ball away from the defence and then poked it into the goal.

Ware reacted strongly and within minutes they were creating chances of their own. MK had to be alert to deal with the threat. Ware were quick on the counterattack – with a deadly combination of midfielders keeping the ball at their feet and forwards making attacking runs. She made two great saves within minutes of each other – one in which she bravely took on an attacker 1:1 and made a close range save, the other saw her sweep the ball from the attacker’s feet just as they were about to shoot.

Ware did grab an equaliser – but one that the Phoenix could do very little about. The Ware striker shot from outside the box. The ball went high up and sailed over the heads of the defence and dipped just below the cross bar at the last moment.

The Phoenix battled forwards for another goal with JM and AW providing the attacking width on the left and right flanks. The remainder of the second half became a battle of the wingers – with each team focussing their passing out wide. AW covered the left side well and when out of possession chased the opposition down the wings – preventing them being able to pass and often forcing them to make mistakes and lose possession. When on the ball she always looked for teammates and she made a brilliant run from the halfway line – beating a player on the line, holding the ball and then sprinting forward. JM had plenty of possession on the left side, and overlapped with SDB to really trouble Ware. She made a fantastic pass through to SDB – the weight of the pass was perfect – it rolled directly into SDB’s path resulted in the Phoenix taking the lead again.

It remained a close game between two evenly match teams. As much as the Phoenix were able to push forward and create goalscoring chances – the same could be said for Ware too. CD and LS both provided the defensive cover, working together to see of the challenges. It was no easy task – Ware liked to counterattack and they did so in numbers. They had quick players and so it worked to their advantage – they were able to run back if they lost the ball. LS organised the back and chased own the player in possession, whilst CD monitored the advancing players and positioned herself so that even where a pass got through it was quickly intercepted and sent back up the field.

FLS and LV both played in defence and midfield during the first half. In the last 10 minutes of the half they both helped to drive the team forward in response to the Ware revival. They each continuously pressed for the ball in the centre of the pitch – winning the ball and making forward runs towards the opposition goal area. It was their ability to run with the ball at their feet they forced Ware into a defensive formation with players staying behind the ball in anticipation of those runs.

A well fought for first half lead.

Ware started the second half strong and came out looking for an early goal. MK was forced into an early save. Ware had worked the ball into the box where it settled at the feet of one of their players, although the angle was tight, they took shot quickly. MK reacted quickly, getting down low to stop the shot and knock the ball out for a corner.

SDB started on the left wing and put some early pressure on Ware. From this position she was able to cut inside, shield the ball from the defence and whip a number of powerful crosses into the box.

LV took over the left-wing duties and continued to press the opposition, as she had done in the first half. She kept Ware pegged bag in their side of the pitch. She rarely missed a tackle and won the ball out wide several times. From that position she had space to pass into and she made a number of long passes from out wide into the centre of the pitch and then ran down the line to receive the ball back. She played good football – passing and moving to keep the ball travelling forward.

JM and FLS covered the right wing. As the game wore on, and tiredness started to kick in, the opposition tried to hold onto the ball longer to give their teammates time to advance up field. JM showed her ability to read the game well and use her strength to battle against the opposition. She would not let the opposition get past, and in equal measure when she had possession, she made it difficult for them to get near her and make a tackle. FLS enjoyed the space that opened up – particularly as the game wore on and the opposition started to tire. She showed good composure with the ball at her feet and made several runs into the box with the ball.

With the game finely balanced with both teams searching for a goal, CD took over in goal with 20 minutes remaining. Within minutes of coming on she was forced into making a brilliant double save. Ware attacked on the right had side and were able to get a low cross into the box. It fell to a player just on the edge of the box, who burst forward and took a shot. CD quickly reacted and quickly dived forward to parry the ball away. It ended up outside the box again and at the feet of another Ware player. A powerful shot was struck – the ball rocketed high and looked certain to be a goal, however, CD was straight on her feet and jumped high enough to get a hand to the ball and tip it over the crossbar.

A great save that gave the whole team a lift just when they needed it.

The next 10 minutes saw some brilliant end to end football, with both teams counterattacking and exchanging blows.

Despite the midday heat starting to take its toll AW and LS put in a brilliant defensive performance. They communicated well and worked together to see off wave after wave of Ware attacks. LS intercepted the players in possession and AW closed off the passing options – seeing off the ball and making long passes forward that pushed the attack onwards. They both added to the attack too – LS bursting out of her half with the ball and AW holding up the ball and passing it forward down the wings. The two of them did not stop running and did not let Ware get through.

At the other end of the pitch the Phoenix were playing brilliant attacking football – and the forward players constantly ran at the defence. YC pushed into the Ware half and moved the ball down the wings with a combination of long passes and short 1-2 passing with her teammates. Ware tried to mark her but found that she was able to manoeuvre away from opponents and find passes that took players out of the game.

With 5 minutes to goal she played a perfect pass into the box – right at the feet of AP. AP had been giving Ware a tough time as she battled for possession in their half – closing down as soon as goal kicks were taken and following the ball into her own half when needed. When the pass from YC reached her, she showed no signs of tiredness, but instead took a nice first touch, positioned herself ready to take the shot and then fired it into the back of the net. It was a well taken goal and she showed good composure to take her time and find the right spot before she struck the ball.

Now 2 goals up with a few minutes to go, the Phoenix (and parents) were able to relax a little and enjoy the last few moments of the game, and the season.

A brilliant win to end the season – and a taste of things to come as we look forward to a summer filled with competitive tournament football. And better weather too…

POTM was CD – covered plenty of positions today and was solid and reliable. She is always content to take on goalkeeping duties and really inspired her team in the last 15 minutes today – Ware were a tough opposition, but she rose to the occasion and gave her all for the team today.

TOTW is AP – as voted for by the parents. She did not stop running today and happily chased any ball. Ware struggled to make any passes whilst she was near. Her ability to find good positions when others are on the ball was highlighted today – she was always in the box ready to win the ball and test the Ware goalkeeper.

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