Wednesday, 14 March 2018

No double, no trouble

Foxes miss out on league and cup victory, but do themselves proud on long weekend

Keynsham Town FC 6
Westbury Park Foxes U15 Girls   2

Cheltenham Town 0
Westbury Park Foxes 0 (Cheltenham win 5-4 on penalties)

The subs keep warm..

It was a weekend in two footballing parts, as the Foxes first tackled league leaders Keynsham in the title decider on Friday evening, before re-convening in Almondsbury on Sunday for the Gloucestershire FA County Cup tournament at ‘HQ’.

The league match was always going to be a massive challenge, against the ‘BGL Man City’ on their own 4G pitch, after (for many) a tiring week of mock exams. The Foxes, playing in their away orange, would have to be at their very best to compete against the highly coached all star galacticos of the home team. From the start Keynsham sliced through the midfield with pace and ease, and their early goal was a fair reflection of the opening period of play. At 0-1 the Foxes were still in the match, but couldn’t afford to give the ball away or concede easy chances – when they failed to clear their lines an easy second followed. When the visitors kept their cool and combined a few passes, rather than just relieving pressure with long clearances, they looked a lot better, and gradually got in the game. Georgia and Ella made some decent forays down the wing, likewise Emily from the back, but it was difficult to make the ball stick for Zoe up front. After a couple of narrow misses from set pieces, Keynsham added a third shortly before the break, to take a deserved but slightly flattering half time lead.

When Keynsham added a fourth shortly after the restart, with a superb dinked finish to a through ball, it looked ominous for the Foxes, but…Lulu had just been finding her range with her corners in the first half. When she dropped one bang on the money, for Zoe to turn in from close range, at least the Foxes were on the board. When they did the same again a few minutes later, it was 2-4 and ‘game back on’ again. If the Foxes had maintained that pressure a little longer and nicked a third, it could have been very interesting, but right on cue Keynsham sliced through again at speed to restore their lead. Another would follow a few minutes later.

Despite the most trying of circumstances, playing against a stronger team who deprived them of time and space on the ball, not a single Fox head dropped. Betty was truly magnificent in goal, making numerous saves and edge of the box clearances to prevent what could have been a much heavier defeat. Lauren had one of her best games, looking strong and assured on the ball, and almost scored a long-range ‘worldie’ which seemed to have gone in, but had only bulged the net of the ’goal behind the goal’. And the defence, although frequently overrun by numbers from midfield, never stopped chasing and tackling. There was no disgrace in losing to a better team, as an admiring Raph, who travelled across town to watch and give encouragement, pointed out. Having absorbed some of the best players not just from their local area but across the region, Keynsham’s high quality and consequent success are impressive but unsurprising. Barring a truly catastrophic end to the season, the Foxes have done enough to secure the runners-up spot, and complete a fifth consecutive season in the top 2 – a superb achievement with a constantly shifting cast of players.

Ellie in full flight

And so to the Gloucestershire FA HQ on Mothering Sunday, for the one day, four way contest for the U15 County Cup…competing with the Foxes for the trophy would be old friends Bradley Stoke, regular sparring partners Emersons Green, and from up the M5, Cheltenham Town, who were the Foxes’ opening opponents. The parents settled in the grandstand to see if there would be a reaction to Friday night’s disappointment. There was, but not in a good way. Back in the green and white hoops, the Foxes got off to a start so sluggish that even slugs might have regarded it as a bit slack. There was an entirely understandable lethargy, and perhaps a drop in mental and physical energy levels, which was punished twice in the first 10 minutes by a decent but hardly Keynsham-level Cheltenham side. The ball was being given away in all directions, and when Cheltenham finished a brisk move with a superb first time finish high in the corner to make it 3, it risked getting embarrassing. A close range Zoe finish from a Lulu corner provided some consolation, but a 3-1 defeat meant that the next 2 games would have to be won.

Matters picked up considerably in the next game against Emerson’s Green. Given just a little more time on the ball, the passes and combinations, and the confidence, began to return. With Amelia and Georgia increasingly mobile, and Olivia and Ellie now winning balls and creating from midfield, the play and the goals flowed – the 4-0 win was well deserved, and set the Foxes up nicely for what would effectively be an elimination match against Bradley Stoke.
The crowd go wild

The North Bristol Classico, even if only for 30 minutes in a tournament, is always a tense encounter. The Foxes had the potential disadvantage (although it can sometimes make team cohesion and the coaches’ job easier) of only having 11 players and no subs. But right from the off, all 11 were fully ‘at it’. Ellie in particular was growing into the tournament and becoming increasingly effective in midfield and supporting the attacks. The Foxes were two up after 15 minutes, courtesy of Ellie and Zoe, and the game was looking more comfortable than usual. But when a messy failure to clear the box let in Stoke for a soft reply, and…even worse…when Zoe hobbled off injured after a collision with the goalkeeper, it threatened to be a tough last 10 minutes. Lulu, could you be a dear, do us a favour and score direct from a corner again? Ah, thank you very much. At 3-1 the Foxes were comfortable for the rest of the match, with the only uncertainty and amusement being provided by the occasionally baffling decisions and flag raising of the young refereeing team. Not to worry – this win set up a Foxes-Cheltenham rematch in the final.
"Go on Supa G!"
And what can one say about that final? Comparing it to the opening game, ‘chalk and cheese’ does not do it justice. Cheltenham did have a couple of great chances early on, which were blazed wide, but as the game progressed, the Foxes gradually dominated possession, territory and chances. By now fully awake, the passing and movement had clicked into place, and attacks were being launched down both wings and through the middle. Ellie was often the creator, and Georgia was a frequent menace down the left. Lauren again excelled and showed some cultured touches along with great strength in possession. Chances came and went – Zoe saw one one-on-one [that’s a lot of ones] saved, and another bounce agonisingly off the post. Wave after wave of attacks could not break the deadlock, which meant that penalties would decide it…

There’s not much to say about the penalties, save that they were all well struck, but Cheltenham scored one more than the Foxes. That’s the way it goes. Well done to Cheltenham for travelling all that way and coming away with the Cup. The Foxes at least had the consolation of some runners-up medals (even if they contained spelling errors), and as always there were smiles on faces all round – particularly impressive after almost 200 minutes of football in 48 hours.

Runners up

And…rest. With a break for Easter, there are three more rain/snow/mud postponed league matches to complete, as well as a trip for some to beautiful Basingstoke for the FA People’s Cup. Then the sun will be shining for ‘tournament season’. There may not be a trip as champions to the “Aces” tournament this year, but plenty more fun trips lie ahead. Roll on Summer (or at least Spring)!

Captains of the Week(end) - Ella/Rhiannon

Girl of the Games : Ellie, for her "tireless shift controlling the midfield", say the coaches