Late drama at Longbenton as Newcastle snatch an important victory in the last minutes of the game, leaving a very tough Sheffield side heartbroken after a hard-fought match.
Newcastle and Sheffield were looking to heat up the atmosphere on an extremely chilly Wednesday afternoon, battling strenuously to grab all three points to make sure they did not lose track of ‘top of the table’ Birmingham.
NULHC started aggressively, and confused Sheffield right from the beginning, with the opposition struggling to defend tidily and conceding a dangerous penalty corner.
Though, the Ladies in yellow gradually started to gain confidence, Anna Waddell didn’t seem to be affected by Sheffield’s aggressiveness, as she continued to produce excellent accurate passes that occasionally took the opposition by surprise.
Bethan Lowe was constantly at the centre of the action, sprinting breathlessly on the left flank of the pitch. After the opposition bench continuously shouted “raise the intensity”, the team reacted brilliantly, leaving Newcastle hardly any space at all to pass the ball around comfortably.
Spectators had to wait for the first shot to come, which was easily saved by Sheffield’s goalkeeper, Ann Radcliffe. Both teams struggled to create chances and the Geordie Ladies’ manager complained that his side was always “second to everything”, with Sheffield anticipating almost every long pass.
After a period of difficulty and imprecision, NULHC were more relaxed and started building promising situations although the finishing wasn’t satisfying enough; the defence, instead, was always alert, especially with great blocks performed by skipper Becky Lear.
The watered field of play had its impact on the match, as the second half was much more enjoyable to watch. Becky Lear continued bossing the opposition’s attack, although one of her tackles led to a penalty corner, which was kept out by Georgie Baker-Hadfield’s solid goalkeeping.
The guests were at the top of their game at this point, as skipper Becky Lear lamented that none of her teammates were moving enough and therefore, she had no options.
“Bethan Lowe was constantly at the centre of attention, sprinting breathlessly down the left flank of the pitch”
Sheffield followed up with two important opportunities; the first was a shot that crossed the entire box which almost removed the paint from the post.
A couple of minutes later, instead, they were not able to capitalize a perfect counter-attack as the Sheffield forward missed the ball completely.
Newcastle woke up after the shock and Leolie Telford-Cookie threatened Sheffield on the right side of the pitch, earning an insidious penalty corner – the colossal opportunity was denied by an outstanding save from the Radcliffe in the Sheffield net.
However, there was nothing she could do moments later. The penalty corner led to a very confused situation in the box and, via Mollie Robinson, Harriet Freeman and Rosie Dale, the ball found its way into the back of the Bees’ net.
Great relief for the home team, but Sheffield weren’t done yet. The opposition had a huge chance in the last seconds of the match missing the target from a very close position, scaring the home supporters that weren’t expecting a potential last-minute draw.
NULHC took all three points, surpassing Northumbria, and enjoying a solitary second place. The result was a bit harsh on Sheffield that did not deserve a defeat. However, Newcastle’s team spirit snatched the victory and now the Ladies are really on fire.