The Women’s Blues have had mixed success so far this season in the BUCS Midlands league, where they are looking to defend their title. They endured a frustrating 1 – 0 loss to Nottingham Trent on the opening day of the season but have bounced back impressively since then with a spectacular 6 – 0 defeat of Derby and a hard-fought 2 – 1 victory over Northampton.
Unfortunately, some collateral of that win against Northampton was the loss of their captain, Caroline Ward, to injury after an unruly tackle from a Northampton player.
This match then was shaping up to be an important one for the Blues as they looked to make their mark on the league. They were playing the other Nottingham team in this division against whom they narrowly won the league last season. In the end, the Blues and Nottingham were equal on points with the Blues being crowned champions due to a superior head to head record. This must have given the Blues confidence going into the match as they beat this Nottingham side last year 3 – 1 at home.
The Blues made two changes from the side that beat Northampton the previous week. Chantal Paine came in for the injured Caroline Ward and Colleen Lopez started instead of Maddie Hooper.
The game started at a rapid pace as both teams tried to gain control of the ball. Tight marking and pressure on the ball was the name of the game for both teams, meaning that no player had time or space. The Nottingham players seemed more comfortable overall with this style of play and were able to produce some good attacks in the early minutes with accurate passing and good movement.
The Blues, on the other hand, looked somewhat tense in possession and their passing suffered such that they were finding it difficult to put together coherent passages of play. It must be said that this Blues team is a much changed outfit this year. From the starting line-up, only two players – Helen Bridgman and Anna Green – played for the team last year. This inevitably showed in this high pressure game and much of their attacking play looked disjointed.
This allowed Nottingham to register territorial superiority such that the Blues were finding it difficult to get out of their own half. As the half progressed Nottingham grew in confidence as they were all seeing a lot of the ball and started to put together some silky attacks.
A bright point for the Blues in this half was the solidity of their defence. Despite Nottingham’s dominance the backline of the Blues managed to limit their shooting opportunities and largely kept the oppositions play outside the 18-yard box. The two centre backs, Anna Green and Molly Morabito, in particular were performing well. They controlled their box and rarely looked swamped by the attacks of Nottingham.
The key for the Blues was to keep the score at 0 – 0 until at least half time to frustrate Nottingham. However, the Blues had put a lot of effort into the first half in their keenness to close down the spaces for the Nottingham players. In particular, the stand out central midfield player, Helen Bridgman, was covering a lot of ground to keep control of the energetic Nottingham midfield. This effort was starting to tell towards the end of the half as the Blues struggled to contain the Nottingham team in the same way.
It was precisely this looser marking that lead to the opening Nottingham goal on thirty five minutes as the Nottingham central midfielder found herself with a clear run at the Blues backline for the first time in the half. She cooly passed to a runner on the right after she had drawn in the Blues centre backs who finished well.
After this the Blues lacked in confidence whilst the Nottingham side continued to get stronger. Half time offered the Blues some respite and an opportunity for a change of plan but although they were clearly trying to push further forward – Helen Bridgman impressively created two chances for herself which were both saved – Nottingham were unrelenting and duly scored twice more in the 70th and 75th minute to give them a 3 – 0 victory.
Overall, the Blues lacked intensity and movement in the upper third of the pitch. Caroline Ward’s presence was missed in this regard. However, given the inexperience of the side as a team there is much room for improvement which they will hope to show in the coming matches.
The Women’s Blues next play at home on the 2nd December against the Derby side who they comfortably beat earlier in the season, so the Blues will be hoping for a more fruitful afternoon.