|The First Team of Newbury Ladies FC travelled south to take on bottom of the Premier Division table, New Milton Town Ladies.
Although the home side kicked off the match, Newbury soon gained possession and they were able to attack down both flanks. The moves resulted in a shot from Ruby Oliver, but she couldn’t trouble the New Milton goalkeeper, as her effort was off target. Soon after, Gemma Burnett was on target for Newbury, but her effort was saved and pushed around the post for a Newbury corner. With New Milton able to clear, they then began to grow into the game more, with most of the possession and the better passing coming from the home team. But they weren’t able to be clinical enough when it came to finishing off the chances that they were creating in Newbury’s final third. However, the momentum was definitely with New Milton and they were definitely not playing like a team who were propping up the league table. Midway through the half, Newbury’s goalkeeper, Kat Brown, was called upon to make two excellent saves that kept her team in the game and the match still goal-less. One save was a full length dive, low to Brown’s right, that saw her stretch her fingertips to divert a shot onto the post and finally away to safety for Newbury.
In the last period of the first half, Newbury looked to have weathered the storm and they started to press again and see some attacking play in the New Milton half of the pitch. Long shots came from Burnett and Oliver, as well as from Amy McNab, but none of these really troubled the home keeper. Until the 41st minute, when Newbury were awarded a free kick just outside the area and wide on the right. Oliver delivered the free kick and her cross found captain, Ellie Reed, who’s first time half volley from 7 yards out hit the back of the net and gave Newbury a welcome one nil lead.
Just two minutes later and Newbury had doubled their lead. This came after a Newbury corner taken by Oliver. When the initial cross was cleared, the ball was played back out to Oliver by the by-line, but she was pulled up for being off side, which was definitely questionable. However, from the resultant free kick, which the New Milton goalkeeper elected to take from very close to the corner flag, Newbury’s attack were able to regain possession very quickly. And with the keeper well out of position, Oliver herself curled in a beautiful shot from outside the area, that swung back inside the far post, giving Newbury a two goal cushion just prior to half time. This stunned the home side, as their performance level was good enough and yet they still found themselves two nil down at the half time break.
At the start of the second half, Newbury were forced into making a substitution, after Oliver had felt unwell during the interval. So the experienced Ayala Truelove was brought on at the break for Newbury. New Milton’s players was galvanised and they brought some serious pressure on the Newbury back line, but were unable to find a breakthrough. That was until the 65th minute, when some desperate defending by Newbury, saw them unable to clear and New Milton bundles the ball home from close range for 2-1. The home side earning a life-line and a way back into the contest. Newbury would now need to show some real resolve to keep hold of their slender lead. Brown would again come to Newbury’s rescue in the 78th minute, when she pulled off another finger tip save, this time jumping to connect with the ball just under her cross bar.
And then there was huge relief for Newbury in the 81st minute, when a very strong run by Gemma Burnett, saw her cross from the right, time brilliantly as Truelove was arriving in the box. She was isolated with just one defender and with the cross . causing confusion between the New Milton keeper and that defender. This allowed Truelove to pounce on the loose ball and slam it into the roof of the net, to score her side’s third goal of the afternoon and restore a 2 goal cushion for Newbury, with hardly any time left to play. 3-1 now to the Berkshire side. Newbury were now playing with confidence, whereas New Milton’s players had no energy left. Burnett went very close to scoring just prior to full time, when her superb shot from near to the right hand touch line, looped over the keeper and then looked to be dropping into the far corner of the goal, only for the ball to strike the inside of the far post. As it deflected up, New Milton’s goalkeeper had got back quickly enough across goal to scoop the ball up into arms. But Burnett was appealing strongly that her shot had crossed the line. The goal was not given however and so it remained at 3-1 to Newbury Ladies. And that was how the match finished. It had been a hard fought victory for Newbury, but it was thoroughly deserved, as it had been a classic away team performance, where they had had to soak up spells of pressure from the home side and show they that could hold their nerve to remain in the contest and in control of the game. When the chances came at both ends of the pitch, Newbury’s attack was the more clinical and in goalkeeper Kat Brown, Newbury’s players were grateful that she continued with her fine form between the sticks.
That win sees Newbury Ladies move into double figures for the first time, with ten points now accumulated and it was also the first time this season that they had recorded back-to-back victories. The gap between Newbury and the two teams in the bottom two places of the Southern Region Premier Division table has now widened to six points and this gives Newbury some much needed breathing space, as they now have another week’s break before their next fixture at home to New Milton Town on 24 March.
Match report by Sue Hewett