Game: Croydon Borough Ladies 3 v 2 BAWFC
Players' POTM: Liz Foster
Manager's POTM: Liz Foster
Author: Amy Jackson
Line Up: Natasha Bajwa (GK), Preeti Johal, Amy Jackson (C), Emma Longman, Nav Johal, Liz Foster (1), Rebecca Poulton (1), Gilly Thomson, Lucy Gibson, Sarah Atkin, Charlotte Wilkinson
Subs: Petra Lausen (Wilkinson 75), Elsa Huertas Barros (Longman 65), Kim Terry (Atkin 65)
The three previous meetings of these teams have all ended in a draw, but have felt more like losses to BAWFC. Coach Glenn hoped that a change in warm-up would prepare the players mentally for the challenge ahead and ensure they played with killer-instinct from the start of the game, not just the start of the second half.
Captain Jackson won the toss and elected to take the downhill advantage in the first half. BAWFC enjoyed 75%* of the possession for the first 25minutes and it seemed the coaches warm-up tactics had paid off. Nav Johal slotted in comfortably at the back in the absence of the regular centre half. Becks Poulton continued where she left off two weeks earlier, terrorising the Croydon left back. BAWFC welcomed back Lucy Gibson after her suspension and she took the opportunity to influence the game. However, despite all the pressure, BAWFC could not find the back of the net. Croydon were left to make last-ditch defending efforts and consequently conceded a high number of corners. Each corner was perfectly delivered by Poulton and Liz Foster and Gilly Thomson tried in vain to convert them.
Coach Glenn had identified Croydon's playmaker and tasked Charlotte with the job of keeping her out of the game. Charlotte rose to this challenge admirably, however, on the rare occasion that she was deployed elsewhere, Croydon's playmaker terrorised the defensive unit. The defining moment of the first half came as BAWFC piled the pressure on during one of their corner kicks. Croydon managed to clear the ball to their alarming fast left winger. She skipped past players and travelled towards the BAWFC goal at roughly the same speed as Concorde! She delivered a superb cross and the Croydon striker only had to convert it, which she did with ease.
BAWFC had shown their resilience in previous games and dug deep to rally each other along. Shortly afterwards an uncharacteristic error from the ever-present Natasha Bajwa led to Croydon slipping in a second goal. However, BAWFC were not going to lie down and take it! A change from Coach Glenn saw Thomson move to the left wing and Gibson up front. This exposed massive gaps in the Croydon defence. Excellent link-up play between Gibson and Thomson put Foster through with her back to goal. As she swiftly turned, she mesmerised the Croydon defence who could only bring her down in the box and concede a penalty. As expected, the supporters and players of Croydon Borough tried to break Poulton's nerve as she stepped up to take the penalty. However, she smashed the ball past the flailing keeper to put BAWFC right back in the game. BAWFC had the momentum and were ready to attack again just as the whistle blew for half time.
In the second half, it became clear to all of the BAWFC players that the Croydon linesman had missed her appointment at Specsavers! Some very questionable decisions accompanied by the now characteristic gamesmanship of Croydon served to rattle the away side. However, BAWFC showed their composure and refused to lose their cool. The introduction of Kim Terry livened BAWFC's front line, but Croydon continued to defend strongly. A second lively sprint from the Croydon left-winger led to a goal that was almost a carbon-copy of their first, leaving BAWFC with a lot to do. Fortunately, they are the fittest they have been in seasons and thus continued to attack. Foster added a second goal, which is currently a contender for Goal-of-the-Season on Match of the Day.*
BAWFC battled continuously and despite the introduction of Elsa Huertas Barros and Petra Lausen, their two highly-sort after international players, could not find that elusive third goal. When the whistle blew for half time, Croydon celebrated like they had won the world cup and BAWFC reflected on what had gone wrong. The team were bitterly disappointed, however, throughout the game; they played to win and battled to come from behind. For that at least, they can be proud.
*Claims not backed up with any actual evidence