After another stimulating team talk delivered by captain Siobhan Cowie, we chose bravery, ambition and winning as our three inspirational words and kept them in mind throughout the game. Yet again small in number our squad left the changing rooms at Countesswells with our heads high and in the zone ready for a tough battle against a strong opposition.
The first half took off to a flying start as Merlins quickly dominated the game by putting pressure on the Borders side causing them to turn over the ball more than they had wished. This left keeper Siobhan Cowie standing twiddling her thumbs as the team, particularly our new sweeper, Aimee Clark, kept the opposition far from our defensive D.
The first goal came from the defence line with Aimee Clark sending the perfect ball through to the midfield where Merlins did what we do best and passed the ball between the players up the side line finally passing into Steph Watson in the middle who remained calm and collected as she took on Borders most experienced player in a one on one at the top of the D and scored what was arguably the best goal of the season by launching the ball on front stick into the roof of the net above the goalie who didn’t stand a chance.
Shortly after Merlins first goal, a small lack of concentration from the players caused the structure of our zone to break down and Borders jumped on the chance to attack with all guns blazing. Unfortunately this allowed them penetrate our left hand side of the pitch with speed and accuracy which resulted in us giving away a short corner. This led to Borders equalising from a well rehearsed routine slipping it in the bottom corner.
After a series of attacks from the Merlins squad we managed to win a short corner in the attacking D giving us a chance to put away another goal, which we did. No big swings were needed in this corner though as Aimee set up on top D and slid it right past the defensive runners, she then received the ball back on the penalty spot where her calculated placement of the ball left the goalie scooping the ball out of the back of her own net for a second time.
Half time score 2-1
The small Merlins squad became even smaller as two players were deemed injured and unable to play meaning that we had 35 minutes left with no subs. This meant that we had to be sensible in our play and able to let the ball do the work so we weren’t burning ourselves out. As tensions were running high, a few head to heads occurred with the opposition showing how much the win meant to both sides. Small reminders were given between the Merlins team to remember our three key words and that helped lift our heads high once more and rattle their defence repeatedly throughout the second half.
After a spell of hard pressure put on the Borders team, Merlins lost concentration and allowed the opposition to gain access into our defensive D where borders striked the ball into one of their players who deflected it no more than a meter from the goal. Like the ninja goalie she is, Siobhan Cowie pulled out an outstanding stick save mid air and denied them the equalising goal that they were hungry for.
As Merlins slowly began to build up confidence again, play from the back saw the ball being played around the borders players as if they were standing cones resulting in a short corner for Merlins. Aimee Clark stepped up to top D once again where she placed the ball straight through the goalies legs giving her no time to think at all. Merlins managed to dominate the rest of the second half despite being exhausted from the hard work put in by all of the players on the pitch. However, we kept reminding ourselves of what the absent coach, Kerry Smith, had taught us... 75% of what we do is mental. This allowed us to gain those three all important points to keep us in 4th place in the league.
Full time score 3-1
Man of the Match - Aimee Clark
Dick of the Day – Holly Steiger