Manager’s West Brom Match report

16th July 2018

Cheltenham Town Ladies’ second pre-season game saw them play host to FA WNL Midland Division 1 side West Bromwich Albion Women, a side that sat a division above the Robins last season.

Manager Alex Cheal named 22 players for the friendly and included seven new faces to a fresh looking squad that played some excellent football throughout.

1st half: Panniers, Walters, Dolloway, Purvis, Hitchcox, Fensome, French, Garland, Briscoe, Knuckey, Martin.

The opening exchanges were cagey as both sides tried to get a feel for the tough conditions. It was however the home team that started brightly and forwards Annie Martin, Rose Knuckey, Ella Hitchcox and Ellie Briscoe caused West Brom plenty of problems.

It was Martin that brought about the first opportunity of note after fifteen minutes. Working tirelessly to close the goalkeeper down, Martin was able to charge down the kick, round the goalkeeper however she was unable to shoot from an acute angle, with the ball rolling across the goalmouth.

West Brom were quick to reply and on the only occasion in the half where the defence got caught with a long ball, however they were helped by the quick thinking of goalkeeper Rebecca Panniers to race off her line and clear.

Cheltenham continued to settle into the rhythm and it was Ella Hitchcox’s turn to go close with a ferocious strike that whistled past the far post. This proved to be the catalyst for Hitchcox to stamp her authority on the game as her hard work would set up the opening goal of the game.

An Albion counter attack led to Hitchcox having to chase back and win the ball back on the edge of her area. With time, Hitchcox was able to run 20 yards with the ball and play a neat pass into Knuckey who in turn played an acute pass around the corner to the advancing Briscoe. Cheltenham were pushing players forward and Briscoe calmly beat her defender and delivered a superb ball into the box for Knuckey to volley home. A goal that was a reward for the 102 people watching the game as Cheltenham showed their renewed attacking edge for the coming season.

The half continued in a similar manner with Cheltenham showing their prowess. Fensome and French were starting to move the ball in midfield, while Garland and Hitchcox were posing questions of West Brom’s defence.

HT: Cheltenham 1 v 0 West Brom

2nd Half: Christopher, Rankin, Brown-Wealls, Morris, Butterfield, Wilkins, Wyatt, Davies, Garland, Rowlands, Kay

The second half saw wholesale changes for Cheltenham and the rhythm from the 1st half was lost. It was however Cheltenham that looked to start stronger with Kay, Wilkins and Davies getting on the ball and showing composure in possession. New goalkeeper Katie Christopher however was called into action on a number of occasions to collect long balls forward or collect crosses into the box.

Wilkins, at the age of 16, showed incredible maturity for her young age and complemented the skill of Wyatt and Davies, with all three releasing their wide players with passes. It was from a Wyatt pass that Cheltenham’s first opportunity came with the industrial Butterfield running in behind and delivering a ball across the area, however no Cheltenham connection was there to extend the lead.

Chances were few and far between although a promising situation was missed by Briscoe from a free kick on the edge of the box. As time was running out a free kick in a wide area was awarded to the opposition. The resulting free kick was a high and looping cross that should have been dealt with but ended up being bundled home from the captain to give a draw for the away team.

FT Cheltenham 1 v 1 West Brom

Alex Cheal said: ‘Another great workout for the ladies and we come away from today with plenty of positives. The way we played first half was incredible and that will stick in the memories of most, however the second half for me also proved that we have a strength in depth within the club this season that we didn’t have last year.

‘Everyone has trained well on the fitness aspect so far and I am excited to start working with the players on how we want to setup now. Today is a benchmark for us because the players have set themselves high standards now and how far they want to go is in their own hands.

‘A massive thank you to the 102 people that came to watch the game. We are fortunate to have such an incredible youth setup which allows for our ladies to be role models to younger players. It was great to have the under 10s walk out with the ladies and then cheer when we scored our goal.’

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