After the high of beating the league winners, Verwood Girls, we had a realistic chance of finishing the season in second place. This would be a great result in our debut season. In order for that to happen we needed Verwood would beat Chamberlayne. On paper this should have happened but Chamberlayne are a strong and hard working side who upset the form book and won the game 3-2.
With third place secured, our final Hampshire Girls Youth Football League game of the season was against Pace Wildcats. The first half was a close affair and the visitors took an early lead. Ella equalised for us and generally did a superb job up front, she held the ball up superbly despite often having two defenders on her at most times!
In the second half Pace went ahead twice but were pegged back on both occasions thanks to goals from Nia and Ella. The next and all important goal was scored by Ella, she completed her hattrick with an emphatic finish. The keeper had no chance! Ella finished twice more to secure all three points. It was superb to see our young Hawks keep their composure and come back on from being behind on three occasions to win 6-3. This was a great way to finish our league season.
With the league campaign now over we decided to reward the girls for all of their hard work over the season with a trip to ther Amex Arena to see the Lionesses take on New Zealand in a Women’s World Cup warm up game. The Lionesses were beaten by a resilient New Zealand thanks to a Sarah Gregorius goal early in the second half. Despite the defeat we all had a fun day.
Our girls have been improving so much over the season so I want to continue to maintain that upward trajectory by training throughout the summer. This helps us prepare for our summer tournaments. The first of which was hosted by Hampshire FA and was held at our home ground of Front Lawn. On paper we were the lowest ranked side in our group, with the top two going through to the knockouts.
We won our first game against Eastleigh Whites 2-1 but lost our second game 2-0 against one of the two Moneyfields sides taking part in the day. Our final group game was a 0-0 draw against Hamble, this confirmed our place in the quarter-finals. I entered the tournament hoping that the girls would win at least one game and be difficult to beat, so I was over the moon to reach this point of the day.
In the quarter finals we were drawn against the other Moneyfields side and what I would consider to be the stronger of the two on the day. We put in a big performance and had chances to nick it 1-0 but we were unable to do so and the match finished 0-0. This meant that the match would be settled by penalties. Moneyfields finished 2-1 winners in an epic shoot-out! Even though it was best of three it took seven penalties each before the game settled by the Moneyfields goalkeeper.
I was so unbelievably proud of the girls. Every one of them showed so much courage to step up and take their penalty! The already nerve-wracking experience was made all the more daunting by having about over a hundred people watching as the other games kick off was held up while the kicks were taken.
It was déjà vu for us a few weeks later when we exited the Petersfield Town tournament at the Plate semi-final to Moneyfields. The match itself was another dramatic affair. We took a 1-0 lead through Ella and looked like we were going to hang on for the win but with four minutes left Moneyfields make a substitution which changed the course of the game and they scored two quick goals. It looked like we were heading out but with literally the last kick of the game Ella popped up with an equaliser!
Sadly Moneyfields put us out on penalties and I was quickly understanding how many England managers must have felt. This tournament confirmed that Front Lawn was no fluke and we are definitely on the right path.
We managed to finish the season of on a high by winning the AFC Portchester tournament. We encountered some strong opposition in Catshill, Moneyfields (again), Pace Youth FC and Bognor Regis Town FC. I grew up in Portchester and spend three years coaching there so it definitely felt sweet for me personally.
Tournaments are great fun but some players can struggle to adjust to the different challenges that they pose. My girls never suffered from that, they adjusted to that challenge really well! We now face a very different challenge as we prepare to move into under 14s and 11 a side football next season. With the few additions that we have made over the summer, I have every faith that the girls will continue to work hard, develop as players and do us proud next year whatever the results.