by Tom Menzies
This week’s fixture ended 2-9 to the away side, as unbeaten Barnsley Development’s fast and physical football style was one to be too much for AFC Unity. The match’s scoreline does show one of class and optimism for Barnsley Development who are climbing their way to the top of the league table, but also of injustice for AFC Unity who showed grit and determination until the end of the match.
The opening 45 minutes of the match showed a massive contrast between each of the two teams’ footballing styles, as each side managed to find the other’s vulnerability and pounce at the opportunity. Barnsley Development were the first to seize the lead in the match, in which they showed intuition to take advantage of the home’s side absences at the back from a set piece. A good amount of pressure from Unity did win them a corner early on in the first half, but their failure to put the ball in the net meant a counter-attack would break away for the away side. Barnsley’s number 11 managed to run down the wing and pull the ball back across goal for the striker to tap it in. No heads were hung from AFC Unity following their disadvantage early on, as they had a few chances to get back into the game. One of these involved Mills, who took a shot on goal following a clearance from a defender but unfortunately only managed to hit the woodwork. The other chance did manage to bring the home team level on goals, as Cusack pulled away an exquisite shot on goal, forcing the goalkeeper to parry the ball into her own net. The end of the first half did call on Unity goalkeeper Sargent to keep the home side still in the game; Sargent’s recent return from injury didn’t show to phase her through this period of the match as she did manage to make some heroic saves from the threat of Barnsley Development’s strike force. However, the ongoing pressure did result in two away goals as their number 9 and number 11 were sent through the middle of Unity’s defence, each finding the bottom corner of the net in the dying minutes of the first half. This meant that the away team had the upper-hand before the break, being 1-3 up after 45 minutes.
The second half of the match deemed more attacking minded for each of the two teams as the intensified midfield clash meant players ruthlessly challenged for an opportunity to get the ball forward. Barnsley Development showed no signs of complacency in their lead, as they started the second half strong as again, number 9 and number 11 managed to score 5 away goals between them by putting fine finishes into the net sending their the team 1-8 ahead. Despite the skill of their opponents, AFC Unity managed to display their class and composure on the ball as they fought hard to get the ball forward to their front players and give the away side a hard time at the back. Donohue for Unity showed one of the highlights of the match with an exquisite shot from outside the box, putting the ball past the goalkeeper, making the scoreline 2-8. The match ended on an away goal for the away side, as Barnsley Development’s number 14 drove into the Unity area and finished the match 2-9 to the away visitors.
After the match AFC Unity manager, Jay Baker, spoke about his views on the scoreline and how he thought it reflected his own side’s performance: ‘The result seems way over the top and unfair for how the game went today. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We played against a fine footballing unbeaten side today but to their own admission they struggled with our system at first’. The manager also went on talk about his decision to stick with Unity’s style of play and how he thinks it will prove to be a success for his side in the future. ‘It’s a work in progress. Once we embrace positive brave attacking football rather than being negative and defensive, we’ll get there’.
Despite the unjustified scoreline, today Unity showed great battle against an undefeated team who are fighting at the top of the league table. A change in mentality as opposed to physicality may deem AFC Unity an improved team in the near future as they have the capability to beat the best but they need to believe they can do so.
Moving the topic aside from football, today showed another great achievement for Unity as they managed to collect a huge amount of food donations for the local food banks in Sheffield. Food poverty is a massive problem within the local area and the UK in general, with approximately 4,000,000 people currently living in food poverty across the country. Together, we can help tackle this problem as a force of unity and do our part to reduce these numbers. I’d like to give you a big well done today girls, on and off the pitch.
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