WPHC Badgers 0 Chester Badgers 8
By Tony Taig
Out but not down
We were outplayed by a Chester boys' team who had a bit too much skill and much better positional knowledge and sense than we did. Chester only had 10 players for the first half and Scarlett very kindly agreed to play for them, reverting to us at half time when an 11th Chester player arrived.
We never managed to recapture the midfield discipline that we showed last week in helping the ball through from our 16's and free hits generally. Russell took the 16's in Ivan's absence and after a couple of early hiccups with soft passes and balls across our D went on to do a great job of playing good firm balls out. Elanor, Chloe & Izzy worked hard up front to create space and as the half wore on we managed to get more balls through to them, but never looked like penetrating the well-organised Chester defence.
At our end of the field we were under pressure for the whole half, and held out really well for the first 10 minutes or so with Sonia making several excellent saves and clearances, and numerous last-ditch tackles and clearances from Erin, Russell, Martha & Louisa. Sam was once again a tower of strength playing in a deep centre midfield position and always looked to have the measure of the Chester players on a one-on-one basis. Imogen, Will and Hermione (coming on part-way through the half having already played for the Ladies 2s) toiled hard in midfield but were frustrated by Chester's hard work, quality tackling, and ability to play a quick pass once they'd won the ball making it so much harder for us to win back.
The pressure had to tell, and after the first goal went in the Chester heads were up and they went on to score 3 more before half time.
Although the 2nd half scoreline matched that of the first, I thought we played a great deal better. We kept Chester out for the first 15-20 minutes of the half and were able to create some real pressure at their end, with Chloe making several great bursts up the wing, Hermione making some penetrating runs forward and Scarlett, Izzy and Elanor working their socks off to get into the D and be ready to receive the ball. A good indicator of our progress was that we won several short corners, the first of which came very close to scoring as Sam, who'd pushed out, raced into the near post and had his attempt to turn in the ball to him blocked by the keeper.
As our energy and attention levels dropped later in the match Chester took advantage, scoring 4 times in the last 15 minutes. Hermione was voted our player of the match by Chester, but I would also like to mention Sonia (who made at least 2x as many good saves as Chester scored goals), Russell (who adapted well to the 16-taking responsibility which is a big one), Sam (with another immense performance as a defensive midfielder), Chloe for her pacy runs up the right wing, and finally the defence as a whole who had a really tough afternoon, made countless good tackles and clearances, and kept playing to the bitter end without any loss of heart. Well done team!!