Under 12 Team Photo Sunday 19th November 2006 - actually they were all too busy grabbing chocolates to stand still for a photo!
Sunday, 19 November 2006
Hitchin Town Belles U12 2 v 3 Stevenage Borough Juniors U12
Home Counties Girls Football League; U12 Division 2
Players: Tamsin, Ruby, Casey, Bethan, Abby, Helen, Chloe, Sophie (Captain), Maddy, Christie, Amy, Bethany, Carmen.
This is the much-anticipated 'top-of-the-table tussle' between leaders Stevenage and second placed Hitchin. The Belles feel they have every chance in this match, having beaten Stevenage in their first meeting earlier in the season. Stevenage enter this match having won all 5 matches they have played since Hitchin inflicted that sole defeat.
Get that referee!
Need to make the tackle
Play gets underway and right from the start Hitchin show their attacking intent. Within the first few minutes they threaten the Stevenage goal with a really well-worked corner kick - Tamsin passing to Maddy advancing along the goal line who returns to Tamsin, setting her up on a good angle for a shot on goal. This move was worked out and practiced at the training session on Tuesday, and very nearly paid off at the first attempt. Sadly the Belles are also displaying a familiar tendency to start the game lacking a little in concentration and committment - within ten minutes Stevenage take the lead when what should have been an innocuous long ball forward is not claimed by either Amy running back or Bethan in goal, and the Stevenage attacker does some good work to claim the ball in the six yard box and beat Bethan with a cool finish. Stevenage are 1-0 to the good and yet most of the pressure has come from Hitchin!
Hard to believe, but just a couple of minutes later an element of indecision in the Hitchin defence is again exploited when a Stevenage player runs at the Hitchin goal, around the Hitchin defenders on the edge of the area and a second shot beats Bethan to end up in the net. The Belles are 2-0 down, and need to pick themselves up if they are to avoid a thorough beating. And that is exactly what the Belles do, now that the match is well underway they start to show more intent in their tackles, and cover back better in defence. This frees the midfield and attack to put Stevenage under pressure, and three minutes after going 2-0 down the Belles reclaim a goal with Tamsin running strongly onto a ball through from Bethany in the middle of the pitch. The finish is excellent - a low hard shot into the left of the goal giving the Stevenage goalie no chance. The game settles down a bit now, with Hitchin really having the better of this period of play. Heln is replaced by Sophie attacking on the right, and after a short rest comes on to take over from Ruby on the right of defence. Ten minutes after their first goal Hitchin score again, this time a chance starting with a really good kick out of goal from Bethan which arcs down the pitch to bounce in the Stevenage half for Tamsin to challenge on the edge of the area. Showing all the strength and finesse we know she has, Tamsin wins the ball and shoots hard into the middle of the goal - again the Stevenage goalie has no chance. The first half runs to its conclusion with no more decisive incidents. Hitchin seem to be on top, but Stevenage are far from beaten and it leaves everything to play for in the second half.
A very crowded midfield
At half time the Belles re-organise a little. Bethany has been playing despite not feeling too well, and decides that she can't really play on for the second half. Having made a good job of keeper in the first half, Bethan is keen to get a chance to attack Stevenage in an outfield position, and so Christie takes over in goal for the second half.
The second half starts much as the first ended - its a real battle, and initially it seems that Hitchin are having marginally the better of it. Again the set-piece corner between Tamsin and Maddy came close to paying off, but the Belles just can't get the finish they need. At the other end Stevenage have a whole series of corner kicks - and they show that they really know how to take them. Time after time the ball drops dangerously into the crowded six-yard box, and Hitchin seem unable to get a good clearance to relive the pressure. Christie makes a series of good saves - punching (palming) the ball out of the goalmouth to temporary safety. As time goes by it seems that Stevenage are getting on top of the game - the pressure on the Hitchin goal is unrelenting. A hand-ball decision against Helen gives Stevenage a free kick which hits the post - the closest chance they have had, and the signs are ominous for Hitchin. The sustained pressure does feel like it must eventually lead to a breakthrough, but Hitchin hang on and defend staunchly against yet more corners from Stevenage. Time is passing quickly, and in all honesty it feels as though Hitchin would now be pleased to hold on by their fingertips to claim a point. Into the last minute or so of play and another wave of pressure from Stevenage leads to a long high ball into the goal from the left - Christie reaches to get a hand to the ball, but it just deflects up and over her raised arms to bounce over the goal-line. Stevenage are 3-2 ahead, and before Hitchin really even have a chance to get backon terms the whistle goes for full time.
In the end we must admit that Stevenage were on top for much of the game, but from the Hitchin perspective we can look at this game and say that if we had not conceded those two relatively soft goals early in the game we would have been in a quite different position later on - defending a good lead should always be a better proposition than trying to hang on for a draw. Still, a good close match, and now honours are even between the two teams, who remain first and second in the league.
Player of the match: Casey - busy all the way through the match, right in the heart of the team.
Report by John Davey.