Not so Friendly Conditions
by Phillip Cowen
Harvesters versus Meninas FRIENDLY
Venue: Presdale School, Ware
Saturday, 15th December 2018 10pm meet, 10:30 AM kick-off
Weather: on the chilly & breezy side
The first thing to note is that it was not only cold (around 2 degrees), but damnably windy. Several of the girls had (stubbornly, I suspect) not bought gloves, including Jessica having rebutted all my earlier pleas to pack some with a wave of the hand and a ‘tish-and-pish’ about getting cold. (Not so, the parents, who were dressed for the ski season.) Within a few minutes I was trudging back to the car to retrieve the spare pair I’d packed ‘just in case’ as I spied J with her coat pulled down over her hands in the ‘warm-up’ looking decidedly less-than-toastie. She accepted them gratefully and I spied Charlotte sensibly wearing some socks on her hands - I remember doing this when I was younger and we were too poor (queue Yorkshireman sketch!) to buy gloves and my dad said they were for ‘Sissies’ (actually, I think the phrase was actually ‘Sissie Girls’! Look it was a different time, alright?!)
Anyway, back to the game and our girls were huddled in the middle, Sophie having arrived latterly from a hospital appointment to give us an even 9 (rather embarrassingly I’d assumed it was 11 a-side up until this point!) There was the usual good-humoured banter amongst the parents, although it had a slightly delirious note given the temperature and after we debated whether the team were gathered together to talk tactics or keep warm, some joker (perhaps THE Joker, none other than Jamie not-the-coach Flemming) noted that they had a touch of the Emperor Penguins about them; I wondered if they were passing a ball amongst themselves a-top their feet, penguin-style, when another wag mused that they could walk the ball into the oppo’s goal in this fashion....the cold was already beginning to bite!
Gary volunteered to be one of the linesman (sorry, I mean referee's assistant), although it wasn't clear whether he wanted to keep warm or escape the banter!
Finally to kick-off and there was some early ping-ping football, with both sides struggling to find any fluency or accuracy with their passes. However, after 5-minutes or so we started stringing a few passes together, Millie retrieved the ball in the middle and passed it to Jessica on the right, who found Sai who got it to Charlotte in the area for a good chance, which was fielded by their keeper. The ball having been rolled out to their RB it was passed neatly down the line and their RW moved strongly into our half, but was well tackled by Daisy at LB, who put the ball out for a throw-in. Their next attack led to the first corner, which they played short and the ball came in and was well-headed by one of their unmarked forwards, but luckily straight into Gwen’s arms - back in goal after a long lay-off with a broken finger. The ball was pumped long, but Meninas gathered it and attacked through the middle, which was eventually dealt with by Izzy and we launched another attack. This time it went left and she moved the ball to Charlotte and we won a corner. Charlotte put a nice cross in and there was a sharp chance for Millie, but it went just wide.
There was a fair bit more to-ing and fro-ing and our girls worked desperately to put more than a couple of passes together. Our back three of Daisy, on the left, Izzy centre and Sophie on the right were dealing with most of their attacks well; with Gwen comfortably saving a few and pumping the ball mostly down the middle each time. Sai, Charlotte and Milly were starting to get on-top a bit in the middle, with the ball finding ‘its way’ to Meeka to good effect on several occasions. Jessica was battling hard on the right, but was struggling a little to get her passes away cleanly.
Some very early scrappy play had been replaced by some neat passing and strong running by both sides, particularly Mille and Meeka for us and their #8, who looked pretty dangerous. One of our moves started with Millie winning the ball in midfield, passing to Jessica on the right, who, with a lovely turn, got the ball to Sai, who found Millie who managed another shot from just outside the area, but just over.
The resulting goal-kick was kicked long this time and, in fact, went all the way through to Gwen, who launched it back and some more ping-pong play in midfield ensued. They got hold of it and, when failed to clear our lines giving them a snapped chance, parried first, with the loose ball being pounced on by Gwen.
Meninas won the resulting goal-kick and came again, with the ball being passed from the centre of the top of our area out to their unmarked right wing on the edge of the right-hand side of our area, who controlled the ball well and struck cleanly into the corner of our goal, giving Gwen no chance; a solid goal.
We kicked off and Meninas quickly won the ball again and looked to create something similar. But the move broke down with Daisy passing up the line to Meeka, who surged forward finding Millie, who had another long-range shot, which was easily dealt with.
We then had another scrappy period and, despite winning the ball struggled to string more than a couple of passes together. Until Sai won the the ball in the centre, passed quickly to Meeka who got the ball to Milly, who then just failed to get the ball to Charlotte. Meninas came again down the right, but Daisy tackled well and got the ball to Sai, who worked it to Jessica out right, who then found Millie who, after a short break, scraped the ball short to Charlotte down the centre, but she couldn't quite get the ball away and it was cleared right; with their right wing failing to control the ball, Millie got hold of it and used her pace to go round their left back, but just ran out of room, as Meninas scrambled back to defend.
Meninas attacked several times, principally down the middle, but each time they were re-buffed with Sophie in particular making several good clearances. Milly managed another effort from just outside their area, but the goal was not seriously threatened. However, we started to find some form again with some neat midfield play, passing nicely now and managing to clear again on the right finding Charlotte, to Sai in the middle, back to Charlotte for a shot from outside their area on the left. Immediately after some sharp pressure on their goal-keeper and defence led to a chance for Meeka and she reacted swiftly to put the ball into the back of the net for a well-deserved equaliser.
Meninas came again strongly and Harvesters finally managed to deal with it at the back and got it scrappily forward again and some more fairly even play in ensued.
Pressure from Millie again on their left back won us the ball and it was re-cycled back to Jessica, who had found better fluency with her passing and got it back to Sai, who rushed forward, who was tackled initially, but won it back and managed to reach Meeka, who passed back to Sai who has a sharp chance on the edge of the area, but the ball didn't find the target.
Harvesters were now in the ascendancy, but a counter-attack from Meninas came at pace and the ball came all too easily through the middle, and (probably) their #8 who rounded Gwen skilfully and was able to roll the ball easily into the net on the stroke of 11. This was a touch against the run of play, but we were nevertheless now 2-1 down.
Meninas then again won the ball quickly and came again for another attack, this time down the left (that's our right btw!) and a good cross ended with them having a free header, which was parried by Gwen, who managed to ounce on it before their centre-forward could get to it.
Our passing game had broken down little bit, probably having been a touch rattled by their second goal, especially as we had not converted a number of chances. Meninas passed it out from the back very well, but our midfield were working hard to get us back into the game. Over on the left, Meeka and Sai were working well together, with a number of excellent well-read interceptions; and Charlotte and Millie were linking up well.
Some good pressure from our girls kept the ball principally in Menina's half during this period and some dogged play from Sai won us the ball again as Menina's struggled to get the ball away; she got the ball to Meeka, who in turn got it to Charlotte, who moved it nicely to Millie, who scuffed a shot through to their keeper, who then failed to safely gather and Millie did really well to win the ball back and take it away from the keeper to the left of their goal, turned and got a shot away from a tight angle, but their keeper made a good save this time.
We were looking more confident now and managing to link up our passing play much better; the ball came across again to Millie who has another long-range shot; alas just wide on the left. We kept up the pressure and the ball came again to Milly and she has another shot which the keeper saves; but we soon win it back from the goal-kick through a tackle from Jessica, who gets it forward to Charlotte for another long-range shot, but this too is saved.
An attack from Meninas is again snuffed out and Sophie takes the throw-in on the right and through Izzy finds Milly, with their defence napping, but the resulting shot is wide and high.
Half time came with Harvesters largely on top, having had a multitude of shots that another day would not of found the keeper with such regularity; we should certainly have been at least on equal terms. Their breakaway second goal was the difference, but we could take heart from a first half where, after a nervous start, we looked overall the stronger team, with just a bit more accuracy in our passes and more committed running-off-the-ball required.
11.18am 2nd half starts, with the cold and the wind eliciting some good moves from the parents. More importantly, some good pressure from Meeka at the kick-off saw her drive towards their area to get a good early shot off, but again it was off-target. Daisy had had to go off at half-time as she was not feeling well and Meninas sportingly lent us one of their players, who took up residence at right back in a yellow bib.
Meninas manage to get it forward and through their left wing they managed a long-range shot. The ball came short this time from Gwen, who finds Daisy who gets it forward. The game becomes an arm-wrestle, with our midfield and forwards hustling well and our defence dealing with their attacks.
They managed a few more long range shots and there were some good interceptions by a few of our girls to create some more attacking opportunities, but nothing was converted, with the final 'killer' pass typically lacking.
At one stage, Meeka drove in again from the left into their penalty area for a shot, which is parried and Charlotte running in the right post could not quite get to it in time and another chance went begging.
Meninas then forced a corner down the other end, which we did not deal with particularly well but luckily they shilly-shallied too much and we managed to scrabble the ball clear, through Izzy. A long-throw from Charlotte found Millie who ran through the defence to set up a one-on-one with their keeper, but put the ball over the bar - aaaarghhh!
Jessica makes a good tackle from the resulting goal-kick, but cannot get it to Milly and they come forward again with some urgency this time, which is eventually dealt with by our defence and a great counter-attacking run from Sai allows her a long-range chance at goal, but again it goes just wide, with Charlotte (also) again getting close to it at the right post.
Shortly after, a corner from Meeka nearly finds Milly, but Meninas clear their lines and we pump it forward back in to their half. There is a contentious and seemingly unnecessarily off-side decision just inside the Meninas half but play continues and we manage some more good attacks, but the efforts are, in the main, a bit scrappy and the score remained the same. Meeka in particular managed some really strong forays in to enemy territory during this phase.
Play stops as one of the Meninas girls gets injured and a 'drop-ball' is awarded, which, uncontested, Meninas pass back to us and some more pretty even play continued.
There is another save by Gwen and their #8 looks to be coming into the game increasingly strongly, tackling Charlotte outside their penalty area and getting it forward for another dangerous Meninas attack, which is dealt with by Izzy, who gets the ball away. Meninas were getting on top now, though, and win it in the centre and came again in good numbers, but cannot manufacture another shot this time.
Some good interplay between Sai and Charlotte saw us win a throw out on the right and Jessica gets it quickly forward to Milly, who makes a scything run to set up another shot, which was unfortunately weak and wide. Meninas get the ball forward and with some skilful passing manufacture another goal to make it 3-1.
Shortly after, good pressure from Millie gives her another chance, which is saved high by the keeper, who has performed very solidly all game. There is a feeling that it might not be our day today, particularly when the ball bounces off the top of their cross-bar and just fails to fall to Charlotte, who was running in. We have created plenty of chances thus far, but have not managed to convert this pressure into goals.
Meninas came again with some crisp and accurate passing and the ball came out to their right wing on the edge of our area, who then moved the ball and struck it in one smooth motion straight into the top left-hand corner of our goal for an unstoppable effort! A terrific goal, following some neat and decisive play: 4-1.
Meninas had another shot shortly after, which Gwen parried with her left hand and it fell straight to one of their attackers, who put it over the bar from close range - could’ve/should’ve been another!
The ball was passed out to the right for Jessica, who moves it to Charlotte and it goes across to Meeka, who lays it off to Milly at the top of the area who shoots just wide on the left. Meeka then gathers the resulting goal-kick and gets it back to Milly and some neat interplay with Charlotte results in a clear chance for Milly who banged it nicely into their goal, to put us back 'in the hunt'.
We exchange attacks, interceptions and tackles, as we try to get back into the game, but Meninas, but this time, are looking the stronger as our girls seem to tire a little. They manage another shot, which goes over the bar; and a number of promising attacks from us again lack the final ball.
Meninas come forward through their #8, who again surges all too easily into our area and scores another good, solid goal to put Meninas 5-1 up.
Our girls did not give up, though and continued to try and press forward, but another counter-attack sees Gwen have to make two parried saves, as we fail to clear our lines, with the second one falling to one of their attackers and they score again from close range to put the game out-of-reach for a slightly flattering 6-2 final score line.
Although the girls can be well-proud of creating a number of good chances, Meninas were certainly the more assured and clinical on the ball and their #8 was probably the main difference. We were certainly a little unlucky that a few more of our chances did not find the target; and on the other side there were probably a couple of weak ish goals that they scored.
Thank you, Jamie N, for your coaching efforts and encouragement so far this year and for the girls' Christmas chocolate gift. They are certainly enjoying their football and I feel they are not far off from being a really good side.
Match Report by Phillip (Jessica Cowen's Dad)