A second clean sheet in a row too as Oldland Ladies climbed to eighth after a 1-0 win against St.Nicholas Reserves although a 2 or 3-0 result wouldn't have flattered Oldland as their defensive solidity prevented the hosts from any clear cut chances of not
Oldland started with an attacking 3-4-1-2 formation in a bid to put their opponents under pressure straight away after last week's 5-0 loss.
The goalkeeper and defence that have performed so well over the last few weeks all started again with Jayde Holcombe between the posts and centre backs Sam Morgan,Georgina Bragg and Becca Slevin taking their usual positions. Beth Dale and Laura Elphick took their usual wide roles with skipper Vicky Mundy and vice captain Nicky Hawkins-Hoare in central midfield. Annie Hawkins-Hoare was given a free role behind strikers Romany Cochrane and Fran Dalton.
The attacking intent payed dividends as Oldland took complete control of the opening exchanges with the hosts struggling to get out of their own half. The tempo and commitment of the opening 25 minutes was probably Oldland best period of play so far this season.
By the time Oldland opened the scoring after 13 minutes they had already forced several corners and Dale,Dalton and Cochrane had already gone close with efforts. The goal was a result of some good and quick movement of the ball as the ball was won in midfield before Annie Hawkins-Hoare found Cochrane on the left. She cut in from the left wing before playing an inch perfect pass across the area with the outside of her foot for the onrushing Dalton to sweep the ball home for her third goal of the season in just three games.
At this point it looked like it would just be a matter of how many the Abbots could score as just four minutes later Bragg had a header from a Nicky Hawkins-Hoare corner cleared off of the line and then Cochrane sent an effort from 20 yards agonisingly inches over the bar with the keeper beaten. The home team finally came back into it as the first half neared its conclusion with two efforts sent wide from acute angles and in truth it would have been something special to beat Holcombe from those positions.
The second half started in a more even manner with plenty of midfield possession for both teams but the home team were finding it difficult to break through the stubborn midfield of Oldlands and when they did, Oldland's back three were coping well with the St.Nicks attack restricting them to long range efforts. It should really have been 2-0 to the Abbots on 66 minutes when once more some fluent play in midfield saw Mundy find Annie Hawkins-Hoare and she in turn played in Dalton whose shot was well saved by the home keeper but the ball ran across the area and sub Debbie Small, on for the injured Cochrane, elected to have a touch first instead of just rolling the ball into an empty net. This enabled the keeper to recover and she bravely dived at Small's feet to make a stunning save. There was a moment of controversy in the 74th minute as there was a clear handball from a St Nicks player seemingly in the area but after taking an age to decide the ref gave Oldland a free kick on the edge of the box instead of what looked like a blatant penalty. Nicky Hawkins-Hoare floated a perfect free kick into the far post for Dalton to head inches wide when it looked easier to score.
There was a late scare for the Abbots as a St.Nicks player managed to find space in the area but as she was about to shoot it was Nicky Hawkins-Hoare that came from nowhere with a last ditch tackle to prevent a possible equaliser.
The final whistle sounded to joyous scenes from Oldland as it was a performance of massive character and belief and some good football that at times a pleasure to watch. Oldland were better in and around both boxes throughout the game which also played a big part in the result.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH---NICKY HAWKINS-HOARE --A magnificently disciplined performance in central midfield. She protected the defence and was a threat from set pieces. A breathtaking tackle in the 90th minute preventing a possible equaliser for the home team summed up her commitment.