by Sam Tabuteau
AFC Unity continued their magnificent recent resurgence with a hard-fought but richly deserved 1-0 victory over Dronfield Town Development.
In a game personified more so by the attacking intent of the biblical gusts of wind that swept in from every corner of the pitch, Unity struggled to get hold of the ball in wide areas and were often forced to turn the ball over in the middle of the park. Dronfield were initially buoyed by this state of play and utilised the weather conditions to exploit Unity’s high line. Rangy passes from deep held up in the wind, and with this Dronfield’s attackers could spin off the back of Unity’s defenders by curving their runs to get goal side.
Some superb recovery runs from Kristina Rankine and Jaimee Reeve ensured clear cut chances were kept at a premium, whilst Hannah Lamb was quick off her line to close the angle before distributing smartly to help in the transition.
Unity’s attacking impetus lay in the forward runs of Rebecca Gay and Ruth Kennedy. Coach Jay Baker had instructed them to push high and wide, and when found in possession the free-roaming Jane Watkinson was then able to drop into the half-spaces and pick up off the wing-backs. Watkinson offered the spark and incision that perfectly complemented Unity’s possession play and her link-up play with Jo Wadsworth helped the team hold possession in the attacking thirds. This was the reward for the risk that came with playing such a high defensive line against a team whose youthful energy made them an immediate threat on the break.
Half time came and went with little incident and frustrations were beginning to set in for Unity for whilst they had started opening up Dronfield’s defence more frequently they never truly made the goalkeeper work. Watkinson and Wadsworth were both guilty of spurning some inviting chances, but it seemed only a matter of time before one of them opened the scoring. The inevitable soon happened as Watkinson slalomed her way across the 18-yard box before slotting home to spark jubilant celebrations on the touchline.
It’s days like Sunday in the newly ordained wind tunnel that every member of the team’s dedication to ensuring hope prevails over fear really hits home. A fourth win on the bounce, and one that ensures Unity leapfrog Thurcroft Miners into eighth place.