So as the warm spring weather is replaced by grey skies and a howling wind Harvesters turn out for the penultimate game of the season against a Watford side disguised in a green strip that blends them in nicely with the turf. At the business end of the season Harvesters, just like Spurs, are having to juggle midweek fixtures with the regular Saturday turn outs and as well as the toll this puts on players and staff it means a frantic race for this old hack to get his report out before the next game has already kicked off.
A traditional 10am kick off sees Gwen in goal, Sophie, Izzy and Mabel in defence, Florence, Charlotte, Maisie and Meeka in midfield and Millie up front. This looks like a strong Harvesters line-up but the opening 10 minutes is all Watford.
There is some great defending by Harvesters and the midfield are also having to drop back and help their teammates fight a rear guard action. Watford have a corner and an almost certain goal is kept out by a sensational double save from Gwen who manages to steer the ball past her far post with her fingertips.
In a rare break for Harvesters Meeka finds herself in some space just outside the box and winds up for a pile driver but she takes just a fraction too long and a lunging defender blocks the ball for a corner. Although the corner is well taken (Mabel becoming a bit of a dead ball specialist) it is comfortably dealt with by the Watford defence.
Watford are on the attack again and again Gwen’s fingertips come to the rescue. This time she manages an incredible stretch to tip a powerfully hit shot over the bar.
10:15 Subs – Jess and Alesha on for Florence and Sophie.
Watford make 5 changes. Their squad has a strength in depth that Harvesters could only dream of.
5 minutes after the changes and the fresh legs pay dividends as Watford’s number 10 drills a shot low to Gwen’s left and into the back of the net.
This setback seems to have stirred Harvesters into action and they enjoy a 5 minute spell of possession with much of it in the opposition half. Meeka is starting to see a bit more of the ball and makes a couple of good runs down the right but the Watford left back seems to have her covered every time.
Watford break and again Gwen has to produce a great save to keep the scoreline 0-1.
10:28 Subs – Sophie and Florence come on for Meeka and Mabel
Another wave of attack from Watford and a moment of magic from their number 12 who lobs Gwen from outside the area. Pure class, like a young Le Tissier. There is no shame in Gwen being beaten by that !
Watford smell blood and are now dominating possession and most of it is within shooting range of the goal. One passage of play brings another seriously impressive save from Gwen as she smothers a vicious close range shot.
10:35 Subs – Meeka and Mabel on for Millie and Izzy
Harvesters enjoy a few minutes of possession and put Watford under a bit of pressure as Watford run the clock down to half time.
Half time oranges consumed the girls take to the pitch for the second half. Millie is on for Charlotte but otherwise we are unchanged from the side that finished the first half.
Harvesters have started the second half brightly and Mabel is firing in corners for our forwards to attack. Watford scramble them away and Harvesters are unlucky not to find the back of the net.
10:50 Subs - Millie and Maisie on for Sophie and Alesha
After a much improved performance from Harvesters they almost throw it all away with a moment of madness in our own box. Defender A says to Defender B “after you sir”. Defender B says, “no, after you sir”. This goes on for a bit and keeper joins in for good measure all resulting in Watford waltzing through with a free shot on goal which goes mercifully just wide.
With the comedy interlude done Harvesters return to the nice passing play that has been trademark for most of the season. They are using the full width of the pitch now, something Watford had successfully prevented them from doing in the first half.
But, despite the possession, passing and pressure the Watford defence rarely looks unsettled and the clock inevitably ticks down to the final whistle.
I’ve waited a long time to write this but a classic “game of two halves”. Gwen and her fingertips stopped the first half being a drubbing but the second half was a much more even contest. Only one more match before the summer break and presumably a tour of the far east to appease our commercial department and sponsors.