On October 25th, 1415, on a wet and muddy field, two forces met each other to contest an encounter that would go down in history. One was the underdog, outnumbered by a foe better trained for the contest, from birth in many cases, better equipped given the standards of the day and confident beyond measure. But the underdog triumphed that day and history records that glory magnificently.

Five hundred and ninety-eight years and a day later, on a different wet, muddy field, a small group of underdogs again stood face to face with a formidable foe, one who had won all such contests in their previous season, claiming both cup and league titles, one whose skill also likely outmatched their own and, indeed they were outnumbered. The Panthers, all seven of them, in their first season together, were set to take on the might of the all-conquering under 11 Pumas. Could Agincourt be repeated???

Ever hopeful, your scribe was aware that there were a couple of noticeable differences since that fateful day in Northern France all those years ago. For a start, no one seemed to be crying “For God, Harry, England and Saint George”, possibly because two of the seven who turned out for the Panthers last Saturday are of Irish heritage. Also, and slightly more onerously, we were sadly deficient in longbows….

(And yes, I do know that the above quotation is from the Siege of Harfleur, courtesy of Shakespeare, not Agincourt, but work with me on the metaphor!)

Ruby was once again in goal, with Eleanor centre half, Lily twin left back and Madison at right back. Shannon and Millie were to battle for the midfield and Chloe was centre forward for the day, the first of our “Band of Brothers” (OK, “Sisters”) to get to grips with the foe as they launched their assault on our lines. Shannon also got to be Henry V for the day, being awarded the captaincy. I should note however, especially in these style-conscious days, that her pony tail is a much better bet than Henry V’s bowl cut, so one-nil to Shannon for fashion sense.

The Panthers kicked off, but the Pumas were soon in possession of the ball, bringing a save from Ruby in the first minute and shooting wide after the resultant corner. The trend continued for the first five minutes, until the Pumas went 1-0 up after a shot which deflected in off Ruby. It was unlucky on the Panthers, but arguably deserved given the Pumas’ dominance up to that point.

2-0 followed two minutes later, as the ball bounced high in the six yard box and the greater experience of the older girls showed when they reacted more quickly to the opportunity and slotted home from such close range.

The Panthers were undaunted, however, fighting doggedly to keep out their opponents and having a good chance of their own on 11 minutes as Lily broke free on a strong run, only to be denied by an alert ‘keeper claiming the ball before Lily could pull the trigger. The Pumas were perhaps a little shocked by the underdog biting back and went straight on the attack again, but several shots came to nothing and the half closed with the older girls leading 2-0.

Unable, unlike their opponents, to make changes, as there were only seven of them, the Panthers started the second half with stern resolve. Could their stamina last?

The Pumas went on the attack again and again met some solid defending, with rugged tackles going in from the younger girls to break up the wave of attacks. The Pumas could not be denied forever, though, and a shot which Ruby pushed onto the bar fell kindly a yard out, the greater experience of the Puma attack showing once more as they reacted first and tapped in for 3-0. A cross shot made it 4-0 a minute later as perhaps the Panthers were a little distracted by an injury to one of their opponents. Further shots came in at the Panthers goal, a post was hit and Ruby made a couple of good saves. Lily twin was working tirelessly to break out and counter-attack and linked well with her sister Shannon for most of the game, but further support was difficult given the onslaught the Panthers were facing from this strongest of opposition.

A fifth goal came on the 13 minute mark in the second half, a chipped shot eluding Ruby, though she got her hands to it in a valiant attempt to keep it out, the ball settling neatly into the far corner of the net.

The Panthers were down, but they wanted some salvation and Shannon had a shot charged down, Millie a shot saved as the younger girls refused to give up. Shannon had a further shot saved late on and the Pumas once more sought to break, but the match ended 5-0. This particular battle was over.

Throughout the game, the Panthers fought hard, with some great tackling and an all-round physicality not seen in their play beforehand. They refused to let their heads drop as the goals went in against them and continued to put in the shift required of them against a top team like the Pumas. All credit should go to each of them, but Shannon won a well-deserved Player of the Match award.

I am hardly Mystic Meg, but I would happily predict that the Pumas will have far easier victories in their own league and age group than they had against a dogged Panthers team today. Some of the Panthers defending was of the highest order, out-pacing the Pumas, tackling as if their pocket money depended on it and going shoulder to shoulder with the best of them. The fact that two of the goals were tap ins was down to the greater experience of the older team, in their third season together, better able to read the game perhaps and react to events within it. With a bit more luck, Ruby could have saved one or two of the others, but a wet ball on a wet pitch is not an easy save to make. 5-0 may sound like a drubbing, but it was anything but that. Well done to the Pumas, but the Panthers are getting stronger with each game.

Result : U10 Girls Panthers 0 – 5 U11 Girls Pumas


2 comments for this article:
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    Keith Hardy (Chairman)

    Gary’s match reports are also available in hardback! Excellent stuff again Gary.

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