October 2, 2020 by Stephen L Wright
Two evenings ago we saw two teams face off in an FA Cup Semi-Final only three days after their Quarter Final games. In women’s football we’ve come to accept the situation of games played within days of each other. So this was nothing out of the ordinary, except for one important factor – the hosts had played an exhausting, if nevertheless exhilarating, 120 minutes, where they had run like they hadn’t previously as the new squad they are.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, Blues’ players came onto their home turf with the spirit and the hunger, that we had seen on Sunday. And the heart and the belief, that Carla Ward has instilled in them, was also apparent. What wasn’t there was the physicality to sustain them. Yes, of course they’re young, fit athletes in the prime of condition. Yes, of course they didn’t play those 120 minutes in one period of time. But even the fittest athletes need sufficient time to recover. So is it any wonder that Ward described them as ‘looking tired‘ and ‘flat‘? Not a bit. Because they were. On another evening, with more time to have recovered, it could well have been a different outcome.
But Ward also said that this was the situation from ‘minute one‘. I don’t agree. I have been encouraged by her words so far and I’ll put the ‘from minute one’ comment down to the disappointment of the loss. Because later she said that the players didn’t stop running. And something that she wouldn’t have known until later, is that Blues had 51% of the possession, and more shots on target. They tried.
Hannah Hampton might have seen the ball fly past into the net three times, but she had a great game and made some brilliant saves. Academy member Gemma Lawley was given her first run out with the senior team and showed exciting promise as part of a backline that held strong.
In the end, although the spirit was willing and the players couldn’t draw on the physicality they needed, they still made Everton work for the win. And they didn’t stop running, just not at the pace they could have done with more rest and recovery.
Ward summed up: “They will come back stronger; in the long run this will probably make us better and it will certainly make us more tight knit as a group.” With that I agree. It’s been a weird year, with no football from March to September, and last year’s FA Cup concluding whilst this year’s gets underway, but in Carla Ward and her squad we trust and we know that this season will be better than last.
Chelsea on Sunday, at home, in the League. Pre-match ramblings to follow. Until then…