Swavesey so nearly - in Ely
Swavesey Primary school stormed through to the final of the ESFA county cup on Friday. A defending and attacking masterclass from the team - held together by a captain in the middle of the park - saw them only narrowly miss out on bringing the trophy back to Swavesey and marching on to Wembley - an unlucky 1-0 defeat in the final being their only setback. Over the tournament they found the back of the net eight times, only conceding three in the process.
The tournament started with a hard-fought draw against three-time winners Bottisham. In a game of few chances, both defences were on top and a 0-0 draw was how it ended. Little did the two sides know though, they would be facing-off against each other again just a few short hours later in the tournament show piece.
In the second game, against Crosshall, Swavesey dominated proceedings from start to finish. The defence was untroubled, with Emilia, Katie and Poppy not giving the strikers a sniff.
After a relentless early display of attacking intent from Swavesey, continuously being driven forward by Sheila, it was still somehow 0-0 and they knew they had to make their dominance count and find a goal to grab the three points. Up stepped Jennie and Georgia to provide just that, with two scrappy but vital goals. The first came at the end of the first half, when Jennie was in the right place at the right time to poke home from 2 yards after a corner. Georgia sealed the deal late in the second half when she bravely slid home a loose ball to make it 2-0.
Swavesey were now on four points and looking likely to reach the knock-out stage. But in order to finish top and be seeded for the semi-final, they had to win their last game against the tournament hosts by three clear goals – an unlikely feat!
Knowing they would need to ensure another clean sheet for keeper Kaitlyn, the defence continued their imperious form. They were ably protected by the astute Poppy, who sat just in front with Sheila, ensuring they had very little to do. When they were called into action though, Katie, Anouk, and Emilia made sure to intercept and tackle whenever the opposition attempted to get forward. The safe hands of Kaitlyn meant Swavesey looked impenetrable and just needed to find the three goals at the other end to achieve top spot. In games that last only twelve minutes though, it is desperately hard for the average side. However, the average side does not have Georgia and Jennie.
Early in the first half, Sheila stole the ball from an advancing Ely midfielder and quickly sent the ball downfield. Georgia then sprinted onto it and kept her composure to fire past the goalkeeper, putting Swavesey 1-0 up. It was the perfect start! Georgia then stunned the home side by grabbing a second to double the lead - again, smashing it past the goalkeeper from close range, reacting quickest after a goal-mouth scramble. After a sluggish first game, she was now flying and on three goals for the tournament.
Swavesey knew they were safely through to the semi-finals now, but wanted to ice the cake by finishing top of Group A. It was an inspired piece of direct attacking play from Upward that provided the goal they needed to do so. With two minutes left, she latched onto an adventurous ball forward from Katie, skipped past two defenders and poked the ball into the far corner, wrong footing the goalkeeper who had anticipated a near post effort. It was an inspired piece of individual brilliance and gave Swavesey the 3-0 victory, sending them through as group winners.
Swavesey, who were still yet to concede a goal in the tournament, found out that their opponents for the semi-final would be Milton - a free scoring team who would definitely test their backline. This was proved immediately true, when they were shocked in the second minute by a fierce shot from outside the area. It was hit low and hard and flashed past Kaitlyn and into the net before she could react. Swavesey had conceded for the first time, and more problematically, found themselves behind in a game for the first time. This was their biggest test yet and they knew they would have to be resilient to fight their way back into the game.
Swavesey reacted quickly to the early setback; every member of the side was putting in extra effort all over the pitch and they didn’t have to wait long to get their reward. Half-way through the first half, after Katie snuffed out a Milton attack and cleared the ball down field, Georgia picked it up and drove towards goal. She somehow managed to fight off the attention of two onrushing defenders and steal into the box to fire a shot away. While the keeper got a hand to the ball, it was far too well-struck and flew up into the roof of the net. Swavesey were now level - and in the ascendency.
In the second half, Swavesey pushed forward in search of a winner, desperate to avoid the lottery of penalties. Sheila was in ten places at once – as usual – and the defence was still holding firm, adamant that they wouldn’t be breached again.
In such a tight game, Swavesey knew they needed a moment of magic from somewhere to earn their place in the final. They found it through striker Jenny, who produced not one, but two moments of scintillating brilliance that would ultimately decide the outcome of the game – scoring two goals in as many minutes early in the second half.
Her first came when she battled for the ball on the halfway line and smartly turned away from a Milton midfielder. She then danced past two defenders and found herself bearing down on goal from the right. Making no mistake, she drilled it across the keeper and into the far corner of the net – 2-1 Swavesey! She wasn’t finished there though, and in almost a carbon copy of her first goal, Jennie picked up the ball from Poppy in the middle of the field and drove menacingly towards the Milton goal again. She skillfully skipped past a couple of challenges again and - just like a minute earlier - found herself through on goal in exactly the same position. Just as before, she kept her cool and smashed it into the same corner, giving the keeper no chance at all. At this point, Swavesey’s three-strong crowd was shrieking with delight on the touchline. The final was within touching distance.
There was still drama to come though, when Kaitlyn - whose command of her area had been immaculate up to this point - was judged to have picked up the ball outside the box. A free kick from close range was awarded by the referee and promptly smashed into the net, setting up a dramatic last minute. Defenders Katie, Poppy and Emilia dug in though and managed to hold on, sealing a 3-2 win.
In the final, Swavesey played Bottisham – the side who they began the day with a 0-0 draw against. It was a game of very few chances, where the defenders were on top throughout. It was 0-0 at half-time and looked to be uneventfully heading towards penalties. However, with minutes left on the clock, a long shot on the half volley was deflected into the Swavesey net to put Bottisham 1-0 up. It was an unfortunate and painful goal to concede and left Swavesey needing to find a goal in two short minutes. Despite their gallant efforts to get back into the game, they couldn’t find the chance they needed to equalise. The whistle blew and Swavesey had to settle for a highly commendable second place finish. It was a tremendous performance all round from the girls - one they can all be very proud of.