After our soaking on Wednesday night at training, we were all pleased that the sun was out for another pleasant day at Garden Walk. I swear my knees have gone rusty after being out in that deluge Wednesday … it was biblical!
Today we were up against a team that were amongst the front runners in this league for most of last season. Always well organised, Needham Market are physically strong and come with a clear game plan to get players behind the ball, and when they get possession hit the front early where they do have players that can hold the ball.
Becca, Chloe, Alish, and Amy Martin were unavailable this week, so into the squad came Georgia, Becky, and Emily Howe.
A chance for Needham in the 4th minute was thwarted by Roper’s sliding challenge in the box but early play was mainly centred around the middle of the park as both sides fought to get a foothold in the game. It took until the 27th minute for the first real chance which fell to Emma Slater just inside the penalty area, but her effort was straight at the keeper.
Needham Market played out from the back at each goal kick, effectively on the majority of occasions, but in the 31st minute Royston pressed high and gained possession just outside the box, culminating in a Char South chip from 20 yards, the ball hitting the underside of the bar and then coming down on the line before bouncing out and into the grateful keepers’ arms.
Emma Todd and Emma Slater were working well together on the right-hand side, Emma Todd in particular was giving her opponent a torrid time with her energy up and down the right flank – and with space starting to open up on this side, Royston got in behind the Needham back-line on three occasions but couldn’t produce the final ball that their play deserved.
It had been a even first half, possession wise, with Royston possibly having the better of the chances, when three minutes into additional time Needham Market scored direct from a corner on their left side, which floated high into the far corner of the net.
Half Time 0-1
Becky came on for Poppy at half-time with Millsy going up top and Becky taking her natural right-wing role. However, it was Needham who had the first real chance of the half, Elle coming to claim a dangerous cross well, over the tall Needham Market centre forward.
On 58 minutes Emma Slater saw a goal bound effort saved by a diving keeper, and Becky puts in a couple of good crosses that don’t find a colleague on the end.
Elle is then asked to produce two fine saves as the game gets further stretched, as Royston push for an equaliser.
On 75 minutes came the defining moment of the game for me – a kick from Elle goes straight into Becky’s path as she runs toward goal, Becky gets to the ball before the keeper and lifts it over her, the ball then bounces inside the six-yard box and hits the bar …..
Char South has another chipped attempt that goes very close, but it’s Needham who scores in the 79th minute with a precise finish.
After this, Royston still continued to press, but the well-organised Needham defence stood firm for a two-goal victory.
Looking back, it felt, even at an early stage, like it “was going to be one of those days” – Char’s chip that hit the bar and bounced on the line, Becky’s effort that bounced onto the bar, numerous crosses that didn’t find their target – albeit this probably doesn’t do Needham Market the credit they deserve for their organised approach to the game. But its games like this when we all need to be “on-pitch leaders”, to drive us forward with a collective effort to not let it be “one of those days”.
Elle was our supporters and sponsors (with thanks to Royston Town youth Girls U12) player of the match, some big saves today.
So, onto next week, and a massive week for Royston Town Ladies as we celebrate 25 years of Women’s Football associated with Royston Town, and its FA Cup week with St Albans being our opponents at “The Walk”.
We are very hopeful of a large crowd and invite everyone to come along and share your memories of 25 years, and to watch, what will be, another great advert for Women’s football.