It was a display of determination, passion and commitment from Oldland Ladies to put the disappointment of recent weeks well and truly behind them as they shared four goals with much fancied Swindon Town Development yesterday.
It was a performance unrecognizable from recent weeks as from the off the Abbots looked solid and much more committed. The game plan of shutting off the space in the middle of the pitch to blunt the Swindon attack was working as anything played through the middle was dealt with comfortably by keeper Jayde Holcombe while the back three of Georgina Bragg, Vicky Mundy and Sam Morgan won anything that came from the Swindon wings.
Despite having plenty of possession,Swindon were finding it hard to create any clear cut chances and with wing backs Laura Elphick and Laura Garlick and midfielders Anne Johnson and Nicky Hawkins-Hoare winning more than their fair share of tackles this left Beth Dale to link the midfield with strikers Annie Hawkins-Hoare and Lydiya Myckalechko.
Myckalechko's pace was always a worry for the away team and it was her that opened the scoring on 28 minutes when Annie Hawkins-Hoare placed a perfect ball through the away defence for Myckalechko to leave them in her wake before smashing a shot into the top corner from just inside the box.
Oldland had grown into the first half and after not conceding for the first twenty odd minutes, the goal was a great relief. Unfortunately the lead didn't last long as just four minutes later Holcombe was beaten at her near post. Despite several attempts,Swindon couldn't break down a determined Oldland midfield and defence with Dale,Annie Hawkins-Hoare and Myckalechko always threatening on the break the game was on a knife edge.
To be fair to the visitors they stepped up a level after half time but Oldlands back three had the measure of any attacks they could muster and any time they did break through they found Holcombe in top form once more. As the second half wore on the Abbots found it harder to get out of their half and injuries to Nicky Hawkins-Hoare and Holcomb, who dislocated her toe which meant Jess Phillips had to fill in, in goal, didn't help. Coupled with the fact that Elphick had to be withdrawn through illness meant that Oldland were well and truly in a battle.
It looked to be all over in the 82nd minute as Swindon grabbed what looked to be the winner but in what was testament to the spirit in the Oldland team they kept going and sub Romany Cochrane had a golden chance to equalise but shot straight at the away keeper with the goal at her mercy. Myckalechko was thwarted by a last gasp tackle and Dale was also denied as Oldland pressed for an equalizer. Just when all seemed lost, in injury time, Dale burst into the box only to be pushed over. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and it was left to captain Mundy to blast the penalty home to give Oldland a deserved draw.
While there was no doubt that Swindon had more possession, given the run that Oldland had been on and the way they had been conceding goals, this was a moral victory for the spirit that the team showed yesterday and they executed a game plan perfectly.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH---Vicky Mundy---The captain was absolutely immense at the back in what had to be one of her best Oldland performances. Coupled with the injury time penalty it really was a display that led by example.