Friday 27th March 2015.
PILCS Ladies 3-2 Swansea City Ladies.
Welsh Premier Women’s League Cup Final.
The Genquip Stadium
Last month’s disappointing postponement of the Cardiff City Women vs. Rhyl & Prestatyn Ladies Women’s Welsh Premier League match meant that I had to wait a little bit longer to witness my first ever women’s football match. A fact I’m not too proud of to be honest (the length of time it took, rather than the attending of this match).
It’s been 31 matches and 84 days since the start of the year, but I can now finally say that I have witnessed a live women’s football match and what a cracker of a match it was to kick things off!
The Genquip Stadium has become something of a second home for me this week, after watching TNS pick up another win in their hunt for an ‘invincible’ season against Port Talbot Town, last Saturday.
After picking up two coffees from the clubhouse, which just before kick off was completely rammed with hungry and thirsty fans. We made our way to roughly the same spot in the Gerald McCreesh stand as we did last week.
It was clear to see on our entrance to the stand just how well supported the women’s game is in South Wales. The impressive attendance later confirmed as 305 proved this in abundance.
The main stand across the pitch on the other touchline was full, save for a few seats here and there, whilst the Gerald McCreesh stand was pretty busy. What was more admirable than the great attendance was the amount of women in attendance fo tonight’s match. Especially those that were there representing the teams they themselves play for.
Swansea City Ladies, like their male equivalents, are well renowned for playing some very attractive passing football. Ensuring at all times that they entertain spectators, playing the ball up the pitch from the back and only rarely playing long ball football.
PILCS on the other hand, are a more direct side. They play the ball to feet and pass the ball very attractively, but their main concern is that of getting the ball straight down the channels to attack from the wings.
Both sides find themselves in a pretty similar position in the Women’s Welsh Premier League. PILCS, in second place with 39 points, whilst their opponents tonight Swansea City occupy fourth place with 32 points, with the Swansea side having two games in hand over PILCS.
The match initially started slowly. Something I attribute to the fact that neither team wanted to lose the first goal and potentially feel the pressure of a single goal deficit, that can quite often, in cup finals, feel like a very big mountain to climb.
Cup finals, I find anyway, rarely live up to the billing they receive. I find everyone tends to look back on cup finals with rose tinted glasses. Look at some of the famous cup finals from my lifetime at least that people always claim to the among the better finals?
Bayern Munch vs. Manchester United in 1999? (3 goals and 1 shot against the bar, that’s all!), Manchester United vs. Chelsea in 2008? (2 goals in 120 minutes of football, 2 teams too afraid to lose and a cracking John Terry slip!), Cardiff City vs. Blackpool United? (Less said about that the better).
I feared in the first twenty minutes or so, that this cup final would live up to my, perhaps cynical, view of cup finals in general.
The first real chance of the game came after 18 minutes, coming in the form of a long range effort from PILCS striker Kate Jeremiah which troubled Ffion Ashman, keeping goal for Swansea City. Ashman, perhaps unsighted, struggled to contain the looping shot which rebounded off her body to go out for a PILCS corner.
PILCS would feel desparately unlucky not to have taken the lead moments later from the corner kick. A curling ball was looped into the box and met by the head of Abigail Powell, who directed her header goalbound past the flailing Ashman. Luckily for Ashman, the full back on the far post kept to her orders and was able to volley the ball off the goal line.
These two chances really allowed and encouraged the game to open up in front of our eyes and both sides started to loosen into the game, playing some really attractive, passing and attacking football – which for a neutral like me, was very entertaining.
Swansea had the better of the first half, but this blog entry will never really show this to most readers. This is due to the fact that Swansea held possession of the ball for big periods of the first half, but they didn’t really manage to, until the 40th minute, convert this large proportion of the possession into chances.
With a minute of the first half left to play PILCS, who were under no threat at the time made a mess of a back pass to Bethan White. The back pass had little venom on it and White probably was guilty of waiting too long for the back pass to trickle its way back to her feet. In the ensuing seconds, Sophie Hancocks of Swansea, stole in to try and poke the ball home. Her effort went inches wide of the right hand post.
Moments later, Swansea City would finally take the lead with just seconds of the first half left to play. A lovely cross was fired into the box from a well taken corner, placed directly onto the head of Carrie Slack, who made absolutely no mistake from about six yards out.
We took our chance in the half time interval to get ourselves one of Port Talbot Town’s famous Chip Butties, an absolute steal at £1.70. My favourite meal of the whole adventure so far.
Swansea City Ladies, who finished the first half in spectacular fashion, started the second half sitting back and allowing PILCS to put pressure on their defenders. PILCS were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty early in the half as Amy Thrupp looked to have been brought down just inside the box by a trailing Swansea leg.
PILCS finally levelled the scores in the 68th minute and deservedly so. Kate Jeremiah launched what looked like a cross into the box, only to find her cross rebound back off a Swansea City foot. With the ball several inches off the floor and the Swansea keeper off her line, Jeremiah dispatched a superb half volley over the keeper’s head and into the far corner of the goal to make the score 1-1.
Swansea City started to look like they were being overpowered by the momentum PILCS seemed to hold at this point in the game. Only 90 seconds after levelling the scores they came so close to going into the lead. Another corner kick was dispatched into the box perfectly and met by the head of Amy Thrupp. Thrupp could only look on in frustration as her header went centimetres over the cross bar.
It’s more than fair to say that Swansea City had their fair share of warnings. They were punished for not heeding these warnings on 72 minutes after a shambolic mix up between a Swansea defender and goalkeeper Ffion Ashman allowed Amy Thrupp the opportunity to rob them both of the ball and poke it home into an empty goal.
If Swansea were clumsy in losing the last goal, they were foolish in gifting PILCS their third goal. In an almost exact replica of the second goal, Lyndsey Davies was able to capitalise on another Swansea defender and Ashman not dealing with the ball and slot home into an open goal to make the score 3-1 to PILCS and with only a quarter of an hour of the match to go, you would have to say probably put their names on the trophy.
With 12 minutes or so of the match I was heartened to hear the familiar sound of the 1901 Ultras, or at least a smaller subset of the usual crowd, in their usual surroundings of the far left of the Gerald McCreesh stand singing the “Dur Dur Dur Port Talbot Town” song and entertaining the visiting Swansea City fans with a vocal rendition of a couple of Bob Marley numbers.
Swansea City, to their credit, did not take the defeat lying down and only three minutes later got a goal back from the the head of Katy Hosford, who found herself completely unmarked at a corner kick and made no mistake in slotting the ball around Bethan White in the PILCS goal.
With the match so finely balanced PILCS made some valiant attempts to quell the ongoing Swansea pressure by releasing the ball down the wings for their pacey wingers to try and run the ball towards the corner flags.
Swansea City Ladies, came within inches of levelling in the closing minutes with a looped headed effort from substitute Stacey John, who headed just over the bar without about five minutes of normal time left.
PILCS had a final opportunity to seal the victory with four minutes of the match left on the clock. Jodie Passmore, perhaps fortunately, found the ball at her feet staring down on Ffion Ashman, alone, in the Swansea goal.
Passmore tried to slot the ball around the Swansea keeper, but sadly her shot lacked the power and accuracy to make its way into the Swansea goal.
PILCS rode out the rest of the storm in a calm manner and were rewarded minutes later when the referee brought this extremely entertaining match to a close.
The joy on the PILCS players faces was clear for all to see. Conversely, a handful of the Swansea City team were clearly disappointed with their loss, especially after holding the head in the match well into the last half an hour of the match.
The FAW and the Women’s Welsh Premier League, to be fair to them put a great deal of effort into the trophy ceremony. Constructing a makeshift platform near the main stand for the officials, the runners up and the champions to make their journey to collect their medals and trophy.
After what must have seemed to her to be an absolute age, Ceri Hudson was handed the trophy to lift aloft as the rest of her team exploded in celebration. Champagne bottles popped and covered her team-mates, photographers and supporters in the main stand.
This was a great match and an excellent occasion and something I was very proud to be a part of.
Thanks to all at Port Talbot Town and both PILCS and Swansea City Ladies for your kindness and hospitality.