It’s not very often you leave a ground after watching a match thinking a team has just been beaten 0-4 but they definitely could and probably should have won.
This was the discussion the FanaticHull team had after watching Hull City Ladies go down to Stoke City Ladies on Sunday, but such is sport. Rachel Gay’s side didn’t deserve to be on the end of the lop-sided scoreline that doesn’t even begin to tell the story of the game.
A combination of uncharacteristic individual errors, an out of this world goalkeeping performance, and the woodwork all conspired against the Tigresses to condemn them to an opening day defeat in their first ever league game at this level.
The Tigresses started the game at a fantastic pace and looked assured and confident on the ball and immediately took the game to their lofty opponents.
Led by Hope Knight, Rachael Ackroyd and the outstanding Liberty Bott ably backed up by the rest of the team, the Tigresses dominated the opening 15 minutes or so but where either denied by the excellent Stacey Wright in the Stoke goal, ironically back between the sticks after a lengthy layoff after shoulder surgery. She tipped an Ackroyd thunderbolt onto the bar with an acrobatic save. Crucially though the Tigresses lacked a clinical touch in front of goal on occasions which saw chances go begging.
This wastefulness proved costly because Stoke scored soon after with a long range shot, that on reflection home keeper, Amy Halloran could have done better with and a few minutes later the visitors doubled their lead coming from a defensive error combining with a decisive finish. Wright was on hand again before half time to deny Bott and again her best friend the woodwork helped her out when a Knight shot finally beat her only to crash back off the post.
A clear handball by a Stoke defender was missed by the only person in the ground that mattered (the ref) and denied the Tigresses a stone wall penalty and again the crossbar came to the rescue when Bott’s superb first touch and crashing half volley beat Wright all ends up only to cannon back off the framework.
Stoke were resilient and soaked up the pressure and again quality and the clinical edge they have, shone through and they scored 2 late goals to give a skewed final score.
Despite the obvious disappointment of the result, the performance of the squad as a whole showed definite signs that they can compete at this level over the course of a full season, but it also highlighted that the girls need to be ruthless and clinical in front of goal and take the chances they created aplenty on a regular basis, as Stoke did. As I said earlier the errors on the day were very uncharacteristic and on another day won’t happen or at least will be dealt with better.
Talking to some of the team afterwards it was pleasing to here how upbeat and confident they were, the consensus of opinion was “how did we lose that by four goals”. To a woman they were disappointed with the result but brimming with confidence that they are more than good enough to win on a regular basis in the Northern Premier League.
It’s great to see and hear that the squad know where they went wrong and crucially know what they need to do to rectify it, starting with next Sunday’s home fixture with Derby County.
As well as the established stars the returning Misty Russell and youngsters Harley Skinner and Megan Calvert showed up well coming off the bench and another returning player Emily Smith who like Russell has rejoined the Tigresses this season was a constant thorn down the right flank and so nearly scored a goal only to be denied by Wright with a point blank diving save. Starting in her favoured right wing role Smith tracked back all day, on one occasion sprinting back a fully 50 yards to put in a perfectly timed tackle in the box to prevent another Stoke shot.
All in all the positives that can be taken away from this game and worked on by Gay, head coach Danny Johnson and the squad far, far outweigh the negative of the result. The girls are creating chance after chance and its just merely a matter of time and a little bit of luck before they convert them into goals and get their season up and well and truly running.
Sunday cannot come quick enough to go again.
Gamestar Liberty Bott will be our featured player with an exclusive full length interview in this week’s ‘The Tigress’ matchday programme on sale for just £2.00.
So we’d urge as many people to get there for the Derby County game to see the Ladies in action.
Photos courtesy of Paul D Smith Photography.