The penultimate game of the season, and the pressure is as high as ever. After hearing that our competitors had dropped points the previous weekend, it mean with two games left and if we succeed with two wins we will draw level on points. Meaning promotion would then go to goal difference, which currently we are 19 goals behind. I rather large task considering that our largest win this season was 8-0. Though that was against our opposition this weekend Colwall and Malvern.
With the team knowing the task ahead of them today and the possibility of promotion that little bit nearer confidence was high and the desire to fight rejuvenated. You could not have wished for a nicer day to play hockey, clear sunny skies abound up at Balcarass., even better for the spectators watching on the sidelines.
With the maths worked out and a goal every 3.5 minutes needed to even the goal difference between Cheltenham and Newent, so as close to that total that we could get today would really benefit us with one more game to go, compared with the other teams finishing this weekend.
From the start of the whistle Cheltenham went all out attack quickly gaining the upper hand and pushing Malvern deep in their twenty-three. But the quick start to scoring didn’t materialise, shots off target, or saved, or players running into the defence with the ball and losing possession. Short corners we won and defended, but Cheltenham weren’t to be disheartened, they knew once one goal was scored that more would follow. As ten minutes ticked by they finally manage the first task of the day , the first goal. Another well worked team effort, proving once again that by working together was their strongest tactic. Once the first goal was scored, other soon followed, but still not at a quick enough rate to properly close down that goal difference. They all came from many different attacks, some taking advantage of the keeper, who was committing and charging down players. ad easy enough solution to pass the ball around her into a waiting open goal. Others came from Short corners whether it the well worked German, which again makes use of passing the ball around the charging out defenders, or from the break down of less successful short, where the team fought to produce a successful second phase. But as the half time whistle approached, Cheltenham were sadly only 5-0 up. To most reading this the use of ‘sadly’ may be curious after all, who wouldn’t want to be 5-0 up at half time, nine times out of ten that means the game is in the bag. But for the Ladies 3s, it meant that the second half would mean even harder work. 14 more goals needed to equal the difference. Not an easy task with just 12 players, and a now very mild, hot day under the newly rediscovered sun, but try they must.
As well as they had been playing the ladies 3s are their own worst enemy! They play such great hockey when they play together and pass the ball, but the tendency for many players to run with the ball is to big a draw, especially when players are tiring. something it works, but the majority of time, it led to a loss of momentum, and loss of the ball too.
Still fighting with tooth and nail, (not literally), it was back out for the second half, thankfully though they had just the 12 players, Malvern had no substitutes, so at least Cheltenham has the bonus of bringing on one pair of fresh legs intermittently through this half. They were quicker in the second half to start the scoring again, though so of the urgency had dissipated some what, most likely with tiredness rearing its ugly head. But it was time to push through that pain barrier and keep fighting and working together. Time after time they attacked, and time after time thwarted, either by good defence, stupid mistakes, and even umpire decisions not going their way when incidents were missed. Cheltenham had a few decisions for a flick to be awarded, after goal scoring opportunities we unfairly denied,. Two of these went amiss, but on appealing the third time, they were justly awarded one. Quick to set up and take, the goal was confidently scored, and Cheltenham were again on a roll with the goal tally, taking it up to 8-0 after having already converted some other chances. The clock was always going to against them, and the rate of the goals was never gonna be good enough to get all 19 they needed. With time always ticking down, Cheltenham carried on, just trying to get the score line as high as they possible could. With 10 minutes left, they even brought their keeper off and played with a kicking back. Something which caused some confusion to the opposition as to where they were allowed on the field. But with Cheltenham’s keeper having had very little to do it made sense to have that extra player out on the pitch and made use of. It proved a worth while decision, Malvern were never out of their half and Cheltenham continued to work well together and increase the score.
By the time the full time whistle was blown the score stood at 12-0. A masterful performance by Cheltenham, though with the number of missed opportunities easily equalling this, the goal line could have been very different. This was still a great effort to put a dent in the vital goal difference, now all that awaits Cheltenham is to find out how Newent did in their final game, with Cheltenahm with one more game left to play, it may be that another big scoring performance is needed for this elusive promotion. For now Cheltenham must revel in a might performance, and work on the important times in the game where the instinct to run with the ball must be quashed to play smarter and let the ball do the work.