A 4-0 defeat but a performance to be very proud of. Up against a very good Swindon team who have been scoring for fun this season and on the back of our heavy BBFA cup defeat last week this was always going to be a challenge.
With a change of formation to try and park the bus we found ourselves behind within the first 2 minutes. A good passing move by down the left and a cut back to a player in the middle for a simple shot past Saskia. Realising that having an extra defender was not going to help we pushed Ciara up to play alongside Lily to help give us some threat on the counterattack.
For the next 10 minutes we competed well in all positions but were struggling to get the ball forward. Swindon were dominating possession and looking threatening but everyone was sticking to their tasks. Unfortunately, their pressure told and after a number of corners they scored from one of them.
The defensive unit continued to limit the opportunities with Saskia commanding her area well. The midfielders remained defensively focused with the strikers feeding on half chances. One of those saw a good ball fed through for Ciara to race onto but a great recovery run from the defender saw her get a foot in on the ball just before Ciara could get her shot away. On one occasion, I think it was from another corner, we were helped out by a Swindon player who blocked a goal bound header almost on the line before it was cleared. That luck wasn’t to last long as the 3rd goal was scored with a header back across the area to another player to header in. Within a couple of minutes it was 4. The ball laid back to a player in the centre of the pitch about 25 yards out wasn’t closed down quickly enough so took a shot. It was a lovely strike and looped into the top of the goal with Saskia having no chance.
Swindon continued to have chances but we were now getting closer to them and ensuring that the pressure was on any shots attempted. This meant we were getting a few more blocks on and any that were goal bound were well dealt with by Saskia.
Halftime came and we decided against the planned goalkeeper switch with Saskia having such a good first half and Ciara looking to keep their defenders busy. We set a new objective for the second half to not allow them to score more than 3 in that half.
The decision to ask Saskia to stay in goal and her willingness to do so was proven the correct thing to do as Saskia dealt with everything sent towards goal. Most now were shots from outside the box but every time they got a corner it did look like they might score. An early corner saw the ball fly over Saskia but was missed by everybody. Zoe, Anna and Jess were getting even more involved in the middle of the pitch and Ciara was stretching the defenders whenever she could. Everyone in the second half seemed to win their personal battles which was impressive. Imogen, playing slightly out of position as a centre back, did so with the concentration needed and getting her head on the ball several times to stop their attacks. Neve had the correct balance of aggression and determination and worked well with Lexie and Anna who were both brave in their duties getting the ball in the face. Lucy was assured and used her speed well with both Holly and Lily covering defensively as they pushed players forward. Both Phoebe and Jess read the play well to ensure that they were in the right place to affect the game. Saskia, not only saved all the shots in the second half but ensured she got a hand or punch on the corners to try and make it more difficult for them. She was also key to us quickly getting up the pitch as her kicks from hand were fantastic all game.
As the minutes ticked by and no goals had been conceded the confidence in the girls was growing. A lovely through ball by Jess up to Ciara who took a heavy touch as she turned found the ball arrive to Zoe who shifted the ball quickly out from under her feet to the right so she could get a shot away but unfortunately it was over the bar. Whilst we never threatened enough to win the game a consolation goal would have been just reward for the effort each and every one of the girls put in.
The final whistle was eventually blown and a 0-0 second half was something the girls should be proud of. A very good defensive display, especially in the second half, against a good Swindon team. Their bravery and desire to get their heads on the ball from corners was probably the main difference.