Our women's team got off to a winning start yesterday, with a 3 nil opening day win at home to Notts County. A game that also marked the senior debuts for three sixteen-year-olds in Amber Sharp, Holly Smith and Ava Houlston.
Town opened the scoring as early as the 2nd minute when Ellie Wilson coolly slotted home from a well-timed pass from debutant Ava Houlston. A goal that settled the team down nice and early, and then saw them going on to dominate the match.
The lead was doubled in the 27th minute when experienced skipper Kim Brown picked up the ball in midfield and played a defence-splitting pass in behind the Notts County lines, which was seized upon by Houlston with a well-timed run to beat the offside trap. Houlston finished well in a 1v1 with the goalkeeper, marking an impressive debut for the young forward.
The first half was not without some moments of controversy though, with midfielder Libbi Wright receiving a yellow card on 17 minutes, and in the 41st minute, manager Dale Houlston was shown a red card and asked to leave the touchline for sharing his frustrations.
The second half was more of the same and had it not been for a little bit of rusty finishing, Town would have been well out of sight. Ellie Wilson did have the ball in the net on 72 minutes, but the referee judged it to be offside. The game was then put to bed in the 80th minute when Sophie Bartup finished well with a header at the back post, which essentially left the outcome of the game in no doubt.
Speaking to the manager Dale Houlston after the game he told us, "I'm thrilled for the girls getting three points and a great start to the season, and less pleased with my own situation and the red card. But the less said about that the better. We will move on from that and deal with it in the right way, and the focus now is to look forward towards to the next game and putting things in place to prepare well for that".
"I thought it was a totally dominant performance, and without the ball, our defence was extremely strong and difficult to play against. I'd like to think that's partly because in pre-season we purposely set the girls' up to play against tough opposition from higher levels, where we knew we would be made to work very hard. We have some outstanding defenders in our team. Players like Oliva Kershaw, who is all too often the unsung hero of this squad. She is a giant of a player, so understated and calm, and she must be a nightmare for forwards to play against. I was also delighted to give a well-deserved start to Leah Wray alongside Liv. Leah is developing so so well as a player, and I am really pleased with her focus and application.
"The three new youngsters have played a big part today too, and we've managed to get them all on the pitch. Holly Smith never really seems to be troubled and has done everything you would want from a young full-back. In Amber Sharp I think we saw that we've got an attacking player that is going to be a handful for any team at this level to deal with. She is big and strong, fast and so direct. A player who loves to get 1v1 with defenders and terrorise them. She was unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet, but that will come, I know it will. Ava has done very well too and played a big part in the opening two goals, and so I know she will be over the moon with that."
"Overall it was a real solid performance by the team as a whole".