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Newbury Ladies Development Team vs Thatcham Flames – Match Report, 22nd April

Newbury Ladies Development Team vs Thatcham Flames
Thames Valley Counties League Division Two South
Sunday 22nd April 2018
RESULT:  3 – 0

Last Sunday, the Newbury Ladies Development Team played host to Thatcham Flames in Division Two South of the Thames Valley Counties Women’s League.  Although the home side kicked off the encounter, it was Thatcham Flames who started the more brightly in the opening minutes, with some good possession in the Newbury half.  Gradually though, Newbury were able to attack, first through Imogen Gibbons and then through Alex Kovacsova.  The latter attempt ending with a Nicole Beesley shot over the Thatcham bar.  But then Newbury had an early scare, when a long kick was allowed to bounce dangerously and Thatcham tore through the heart of the Newbury defence.  It required desperate defending, with goalkeeper, Chloe Hunt, out to foil the one-on-one opportunity.  Her deflection took the Thatcham striker wider, but it did not stop her completely and so fortunately for Newbury, defender Sam Atkins had continued to chase back and she was able to block what looked a certain goal.  Instead, Thatcham had to settle for a corner.  This was a real let-off and the visitors would be rueing that un-taken chance later on.

Newbury re-grouped and they defended the resulting corner well.  The next passage of play was very even and the match was developing into a closely fought encounter, as you would expect from a “local derby”.  Further good work from Gibbons earned Newbury a corner in the 20th minute.  It was a Kovacsova set play that really tested the Thatcham keeper.  The ball was dropped in the six yard box and Lauren Sheldon sent a shot goal-ward, only to see it blocked on the line.  Still the ball was loose and it was pounced on by Alice Hill, who stabbed home for Newbury from close range.  One nil to the home side and it was Hill’s 27th goal of the season for the Newbury Ladies Development Team.

Sadly for Hill, she picked up an injury in that goal mouth scramble and in the act of giving her team the lead.  So she needed to be withdrawn for treatment and was replaced by Phoebe Gubb on 22 minutes.  This did not disrupt Newbury at all, as the play was now all in the Thatcham half, with further chances for Kovacsova and Gibbons.  The visitors were still looking dangerous on their rare breaks and Saide Gulliver was called upon to make two strong challenges in quick succession to repel the threat.  Newbury introduced Amie Barnard in place of Kovacsova at the mid-way point in the half and she was involved immediately, when played through for a one-on-one opportunity, but she shot narrowly wide, after the goalkeeper had done well to narrow the angle.  As half time approached, Newbury were looking to protect their one nil lead and their defensive and midfield units were particularly strong, with Rodrigues and Captain, Kendall Gilmour, giving very disciplined displays in the middle of the park.  In time added-on at the end of the first half, Thatcham had two corners, but the first was cleared by Gulliver and the second was headed away by Gubb, and so Newbury took their slender one goal lead into the half time break.

The second half started in much the same way as the first, with an early Thatcham chance to score.  Newbury’s Chloe Hunt proving too good to beat however and the chance went begging for Thatcham.  Then came a flood of opportunities for Newbury to extend their lead.  The first, saw Barnard again shooting narrowly wide and then further attempts came via Beesley and Gibbons.  The latter’s shot was on target, but this time it was deflected for a Newbury corner.  After three Newbury corners in succession, the pressure was really beginning to build.  Although the Thatcham keeper gathered well from one cross, she then messed up her goal kick, with the ball falling kindly for Barnard.  She attempted to lob the keeper, but could only see the ball sail agonisingly the wrong side of the crossbar.

The breakthrough for Newbury came in the 59th minute, when Barnard and Gibbons combined superbly, causing panic in the Thatcham back-line.  Barnard drove into the penalty area, but she was tackled brilliantly to halt her progress.  The loose ball however, was collected by Gibbons in support and her first time shot from the edge of the area gave the goalkeeper no chance, as it flew into the roof of the net for two nil.  This put Newbury firmly in control of the match and Thatcham’s young side really had no answers.  So it was no surprise when Newbury extended their lead further in the 75th minute, when the influential Gibbons was again involved.  Her initial shot this time was saved, but the rebound fell to Rodrigues, who was 20 yards out.  Her first time half volley sailed into the net and capped a truly fine display from her.  Newbury were now three goals to the good and cruising.

In the game’s crucial moments, Newbury’s game management had been spot-on and when the Referee sounded his whistle for full time, every one of Newbury’s players were elated.  It was a terrific team performance and very satisfying to score three goals, keep a clean sheet and collect the three points.  The victory moved Newbury Ladies Development up to seventh in the Division Two South table and on 20 points, with two league fixtures left to play.

The joint Players of the Match for Newbury Ladies Development were goal scorer, Maria Rodrigues and defender, Lauren Sheldon.

Newbury Ladies Development Team Squad vs Thatcham Flames:
Chloe Hunt, Kendall Gilmour, Nicole Pearce, Saide Gulliver, Sam Atkins, Lauren Sheldon,
Maria Rodrigues, Imogen Gibbons, Nicole Beesley, Alice Hill, Marie Prout,
Alex Kovacsova, Phoebe Gubb, Amie Barnard.

Newbury Ladies First Team Goal Scorers:
Alice Hill
Imogen Gibbons
Maria Rodrigues

Newbury Ladies Development Team Joint Players of the Match:
Maria Rodrigues & Lauren Sheldon