Our fabulous and enthusiastic Under 9’s travelled to Coalville for their second tournament of the post-season. Despite the initial rain and a number of squad members missing the girls arrived in fighting spirit and were determined to enjoy the seven-a-side tournament in preparation for next season.
Newly named club captain Isobel led the girls out in their first group game against Cosby with the girls emerging 2-0 victors after a hard-fought twelve minutes on a slippery surface. Despite going behind against regular foes Coalville in their second game the girls did well to persevere and were rewarded for their commitment, coming from behind to win two in a row.
Next up were the bright colours of Wryley Panthers, fielding at least two girls who were tall enough to play ladies football. Despite their diminutive stature the girls dominated the match and took a deserved lead; Wryley came back at them in the latter part of the patch and the girls were forced to defend for their lives and fight for every ball. Despite the ball clearly having gone out of play Wryley were fortunate to see a long-range effort hit the top corner and the match ended with the spoils even.
The girls’ final two group matches were expected to be their toughest and they took on Antsey Nomads in their red and white stripes expecting a cagey, even affair. However a formation change and the terrifying attacking threat of Sofia, Aurora and Lexie meant the Antsey defence were overloaded from the start and the girls were in mesmerising form as they ran out 4-0 winners with a fantastic hat-trick from Lexie.
Going into the final group game the girls were in a fantastic position to potentially reach the final undefeated, with only Crosby Thunderbolts standing in their way. It was a closely fought encounter with Rugby looking dangerous going forward whilst defending for their lives at the back – the girls were rewarded for their unfettered determination and every single one of them gave their all and showed incredible commitment to top their group without losing a game.
Four wins and a draw proved a great return from their five opening games and the girls reached the final, scoring ten goals whilst only conceding two. With at least three regular defenders missing Izzy controlled the defence in every game, showing incredible determination, brave tackling and emerging victorious through a combination of unparalleled strength and fitness.
Isobel also played well in defence initially before demonstrating her flexibility and selflessness to play every other game in goal – she made some great reflexive saves, her kicking was exceptional and she showed why she is captain by putting the needs of the team ahead of her own ambitions. Lexie was in devastating form throughout, scoring five goals and showing great energy and physicality despite being fouled regularly! She was rewarded for nearly being kicked in the face from a high tackle with an unforgettable long-range free kick.
Joining her in attack Sofia and Aurora were also in clinical form, all linking up well and moving off the ball into some great goalscoring positions. Both girls ran their hearts out, pressuring every defence and deservedly ended up on the scoresheet. Lola and Indie both rotated into the attacking midfield roles and showed great energy and determination with their fitness shining through. Both girls also demonstrated a positive attitude and great flexibility by deputising in defence and defensive midfield – they showed exceptional commitment, battled hard and left their hearts on the pitch as the girls’ confidence grew throughout the competition.
Katie was solid as a rock in defensive midfield as always, proving a threat with her long throw ins and battling for every loose ball; her strength and bravery shining through – I don’t think I’ve ever seen her go over, everything and everyone just seems to bounce off her as she ploughs through the midfield! Bethany also showed great commitment and teamwork, fighting bravely for every tackle and using her strength to break up play in both halves whilst also finding the decisive pass to release the Rugby strikers.
The girls arrived in the final on the back of some excellent football and you could see their self-belief growing match-by-match. Familiar foes Wryley awaited and, despite a cagey start as both teams settled, the girls soon relaxed and eased into the match, letting their football do the talking. More fine attacking football from Rugby’s front three saw the girls take the lead and they never looked back, appearing comfortably in control of the match. The girls’ looked assured on the ball and their confidence was rewarded with a second goal to put the match out of Wryley’s reach – the girls spent the last two or three minutes defending for their lives as they emerged victorious to take the title. Cue wild celebrations all round!
I cannot begin to explain how proud we all are of the girls’ achievements or how thoroughly deserved the victory was against some very competitive sides – they were all heroes and the way they all fought for each other and worked together as a team was amazing to see. None of them wanted to let each other down and the bravery, commitment and determination they all showed was incredible; as always with a smile on their faces and in the right spirit of the game. You could see their confidence and self-belief growing as they fought for their team, for their teammates and rightfully emerged as champions and proud Lionesses!