Stoke Start 2017 In Perfect Style!
By James Eveleigh
Goals, Clean Sheet And 3 Points!
Bradley Stoke got 2017 off to the best possible start with an assured performance over Whitchurch Sports that saw three well taken goals, a clean sheet and three points. South Bristol side, Whitchurch, had already sprung a surprise on Bradley Stoke in the reverse fixture with a 2-1 victory but there was to be no repeat of their feat on the first BGL Sunday of the year.
Bradley Stoke would make the trip down the ring road with just one substitute with Maddie Hilbert forced to withdraw with illness just hours before kick off but this did little to affect Stoke’s confidence as they started the game brightly and were soon settling into some neat passing football that saw a swift move in field before Katie Rawlings spotted the run down the right wing from Paige Fowler and she collected the ball in her stride and sprinted forward but unfortunately lost her balance at the crucial time when an early chance looked like it was on the cards. Fowler soon made amends though as another neat pass from Rawlings out to the right saw an inch perfect cross from Fowler, hit first time and threaded in behind the defence and there was Stoke’s top scorer Kiera Beck arriving at the back post to guide the ball home with a cool finish to put Stoke one up.
With Beck’s goal the difference between the two sides, the visitors looked relaxed and at ease on the ball and some lovely interchanging passes almost created another opening as Lydia Tang worked herself some space for the shot only to see it fly narrowly over the crossbar. At the other end Whitchurch were being met by a much improved defensive display from Stoke, who were organised and meticulous in their approach and nothing was getting through as Stoke closed down quickly. The confidence at the back meant that the visitors could use that as a platform as yet again the ever impressive Katie Rawlings took charge in the midfield, finding Karam Nirwan and the midfielder skipped through a couple of challenges before finding herself on the left wing, with few options available she went alone and produced a stunning solo effort. Cutting in from the left Wing, she jinked past three more Whitchurch players before firing high into the roof of the net from just inside the box to put Stoke 2-0 up.
The home side were being encouraged every step of the way from the home dugout but they just couldn’t seem to get going and just minutes later the visitors put the game further out of the reach of their opponents. The influential Paige Fowler delivered another cross from the right and found Katie Rawlings on the edge of the box and the midfielder showed quick feet to get the ball out from her body and smash home a stunning strike across goal and into the top left hand corner of the net.
The home side seemed jaded after the Christmas break and Bradley Stoke were taking full advantage of that as more neat football saw them carve out an another opportunity that was well saved at close range. You felt the home side's best chance would come on the counter and a quick move from Whitchurch saw Stoke back peddling as the ball was quickly moved from midfield out to the right but the Stoke back line was quick to reorganize and some cool, calm defending from Josie James was enough to cancel the move out deep in the visitors half. Bradley Stoke had chances to further the lead with Chloe Davies and Sophie Molyneux coming close before a late effort from Lydia Tang flew narrowly over the bar but in truth the match was won in the first half and with the time running down the North Bristol side controlled the game and saw the game out to record the win and get their 2017 off to the perfect start.
After the match Stoke's Manager said "I thought we were excellent today, we defended brilliantly as a unit, we moved the ball around well and scored three great goals, its a great start to the year. Having lost to Whitchurch earlier in the season we identified what had gone wrong in that match and devised a game plan which the girls stuck to brilliantly and we really didnt give Whitchurch an opportunity to hurt us this time around. I am very proud of the girls, we are making great strides in training and we have a little target in our heads on where we would like to finish this season and what we need to do to achieve that, for now we have to continue to beat the teams around us and see where we end up"