Girls Complete the Double over Herts Girls Reds
By Ed Slade
Saturday 26th January 2019 and we are off to Hemel to take on the Herts Girls Reds. This is a team we know well and which has a number of excellent players not least the number 8 – the extremely talented “Precious”. To add to the challenge the pitch is small and elevated to catch the worst of the weather. It also hides a deceptive slope. Worst of all there is nowhere to get a cup of tea for miles.
Harvesters have a full squad with the exception of Daisy and this includes Florence making a welcome return after a lengthy lay off. The team sheets are in and Harvesters start with Gwen in goal, Mable, Izzy and Alesha in defence, Charlotte and Maisy in the centre, Florence on the left wing, Meeka on the right wing and captain Millie up front. Sophie, Sai and Jess are waiting on the bench.
The opening exchanges are dominated by Herts. Harvesters seem lethargic and are being beaten to every ball. Only 5 minutes in and Gwen has already had to make a number of saves. Safe hands so far and her distribution is excellent.
Goal for Herts. 10 minutes in and the number 10 has blasted a great shot from outside the area high into the roof on the net. Plenty of time left for Harvesters to turn this around but it doesn’t really look likely on the balance of play.
The first real chance for Harvesters sees Meeka make a surging run very wide on the right before crossing for Florence whose shot sails harmlessly over the bar.
Substitutions : Sai, Sophie and Jess all come on as Charlotte, Millie and Mable make way.
Almost immediately, Sai has a chance cutting in from the right but can’t get the shot away.
Gwen continues to be Harvesters’ best player, gathering every shot comfortably and trying to create opportunities with her excellent goal kicks.
The Herts number 10 has a carbon copy chance to recreate her opening goal but this time Gwen gets her fingertips to it to deflect the ball just over the crossbar.
The half time whistle blows and a relieved Harvesters trudge off to conduct a post mortem.
Second half and Millie, Mable and Charlotte are back on in place of Florence, Izzy and Alesha.
Not sure if it was the half time team talk/hairdryer or extra spicy oranges but Harvesters are definitely starting the second half much brighter. Sophie makes a great pass to Meeka but she has an uncharacteristic moment of confusion and the chance is wasted. Harvesters are having the majority of the possession now with Sai starting to boss the centre and Meeka having complete control of the right wing.
“Shoot!” is the repeated cry from the stands every time Harvesters get within 20 yards.
An injury to the Herts number 15 forces them into a change and they are heavily on the back foot as Harvesters force 3 corners in quick succession. Eventually, the pressure pays off and with the ball pinging around the box Sai eventually stabs it home for 1-1. With 15 minutes of the second half played the scores are now level and there is a palpable sense of relief and belief amongst the Harvesters girls. Suddenly, they have found a yard of pace, are getting to the ball first and winning tackles. Sai wins a great tackle in the middle of the park and releases Meeka who runs to the bye line before whipping in a great ball which Millie meets square on to give the keeper no chance. 1-2 with 10 minutes to play.
Izzy and Florence come on for Jess and Alesha.
Millie has had a great second half and to cap her captain’s performance she picks up the ball on the half way line and drives all the way down the middle past everyone and clinically puts the ball past the flailing keeper to make it 1-3.
Herts aren’t giving up just yet though and their number 15 shoots just over the bar.
Jess comes on for Meeka.
Florence takes a tumble under a heavy challenge in the box but the even the most partisan fans don’t call for a penalty. It is not the Harvesters’ way !
Meeka comes back on for the injured Florence and Alesha is also on for Mable.
As a cold and damp mist starts to roll in and with red kites circling above, Herts know they have paid the price for not making their first half dominance really count. In contrast Harvesters must be thinking what the scoreline could have been if they had played the first half the way they played the second.
In the final act a neat through ball finds Millie who with her trademark turn of pace beats two players and is bearing down on goal… Just as she is about to unleash her shot the ball hits a lump in the turf and an outrageous bobble denies her clean contact on the ball.
The ref (who was excellent) blows his whistle for full time and the teams and crowds can reflect on a classic “game of two halves”. There were many outstanding performances for Harvesters in the second half but without Gwen’s heroics in the first half Herts would surely have been too far ahead for any kind of comeback. The win moves us up the table and there is now a growing belief that we can have a very strong end to the season.