Sunday 13 May 2018 // KGLFL League Cup // Report by John Jackson
Maidstone United U16 Girls won the league cup, emerging victorious after a seven goal thriller with Canterbury City.
After conceding to Canterbury’s first attack in the opening minute of the game, and then going two nil down following some poor defending at a corner in the 18th minute, things were not looking promising for the young Stones team who seemed to be struggling to adapt to a change in formation and the pace of the Canterbury forward line.
However, on 21 minutes, following a nice interchange of passes on the edge of the City area, the Amber Girls pulled a goal back through Claudia Tappin.
Despite losing Megan Holliday to a shoulder injury shortly after, the Maidstone defence was growing into the game and starting to nullify Canterbury’s direct play threat; and with the midfield beginning to assert their authority on the game, the Stones finished the first half looking the stronger team.
Right from the kick-off in the second-half, Maidstone picked-up where they had left off and were controlling the game, working the ball out from the back, linking play through the midfield and into the forward areas.
It was surely only a matter of time before the constant pressure on the Canterbury goal led to an equaliser and, sure enough, it arrived in the eighth minute of the half courtesy of another good run and finish from Claudia Tappin.
The equalising goal seemed to momentarily sap Canterbury’s confidence and energy and the Stones launched wave after wave of attack only to be repelled by a resolute Canterbury defence.
On the occasions when City did manage to bypass the Maidstone stranglehold in midfield, they were met and repelled by an Amber defensive wall, with Jasmine Etheridge, Stevie Jackson, Freya Mumby and Gina Riley looking assured and in control and making timely interceptions when called upon.
On the one occasion that the wall was breached, Stones goal-keeper Grace Ware was equal to the threat, diving bravely at the feet of an onrushing Canterbury forward.
With the Stones midfield of Ellie Nguyen, Tash Baughurst, Megan Reynolds and Grace Pilcher moving the ball quickly and alternating between playing the ball into wide areas and clever balls into the channels, the Canterbury defence was having to work extremely hard to keep their shape and the Maidstone threat at bay and the constant pressure finally told in the 24th minute of the second half.
Picking-up the ball 10 yards inside the opposition half, Grace Pilcher skipped past a Canterbury player, drove forward and shifted the ball onto her left foot before hitting an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net from 25 yards.
Maidstone were now leading for the first time in the match but Canterbury were not prepared to throw-in the towel just yet. Again working the ball forward quickly they managed to force a series of corners; however, the Stones had learnt from their earlier mistake and were in no mood to present City with another gift.
Having weathered this spell of Canterbury pressure, Maidstone started to assert themselves once again in midfield and, in the 32nd minute of the half, following some clever link-up play on the edge of the Canterbury penalty area, Abbie Bean found herself with enough space and time to strike a perfectly placed right foot shot past the diving City keeper and into the net.
Following the fourth goal Maidstone brought on striker Aleisha Line and she almost had an immediate impact, hitting a shot which went wide following good hold-up play and a sharp turn.
Then, in the final minute of normal time, Stones winger Lauren Hine – who never stopped running and chasing lost causes throughout the course of the game – ran onto a through ball played to the wide left of the Canterbury penalty area before beating a defender on the by-line and hitting a fierce shot high into the City net from an acute angle.
Maidstone United U16 girls squad: Tash Baughurst, Abbie Bean, Jasmine Etheridge, Lauren Hine, Megan Holliday, Stevie Jackson, Aleisha Line, Freya Mumby, Ellie Nguyen, Grace Pilcher, Megan Reynolds, Gina Riley, Claudia Tappin, Grace Ware.