Finishing the northern premier league in fourth place meant that Newcastle Women’s firsts had to face playoffs against two southern premier league teams in order to secure their place in semi-finals.
On the 18th of February, the women drew Cambridge University, who stood in 5th place in the southern league, for the first play-off. The match, which took place at Northumbria Sport Central was a total washout in favour of the Newcastle girls. The scoreline 32 – 2 was representative of a general tendency for northern teams to dominate their southern counterparts. Despite the discouraging scoreline, It has to be credited that the Cambridge side showed a respectable determination to improve when they returned to the water to play a back-to-back coached friendly with the Newcastle women’s 2nds during their training session.
For the Newcastle women’s 1sts, the Cambridge win meant that they would have to make a 12 hour return journey including an overnight stay in order to battle against Southern league 1st placers, Exeter, the following week.
Newcastle women’s 1st team have showed fantastic form this year, but with the Exeter maintaining a clean sheet of wins throughout the season and finishing with an impressive goal difference of 189, Newcastle knew that they would have to push hard from the start, and that they did.
Newcastle women's 1st team have showed fantastic form this year
Within the first two minutes of the match Newcastle’s Jennifer Kreek brought her side to a 2-0 lead. The first of these goals being placed just four seconds after a major foul from Exeter’s Natasha Lawson put her out of play. Shortly after this, both Jennifer and Exeter’s Sam Mare were excluded simultaneously for major fouls. Newcastle were able to take advantage of this in a counter attack which finished in goal from captain, Sarah Poyntz.
Next, the exclusion of Newcastle’s Harriet Robinson left Exeter in a dangerous man-up situation, but Newcastle’s defence prohibited Exeter from profiting from it. Newcastle managed to steal back possession in a counter culminating this time with a goal from Ellie Sowerby, the younger of the Sowerby sisters who both play for the 1st team.
Half way through the 1st quarter, Kreek took the score from 4-0 to 5-0, a significant goal difference for such an early point in the game. Again a Newcastle exclusion, this time Sophie Sowerby, left Newcastle a player down for 20 seconds, but a testament to Newcastle’s defence, they once again managed to utilise five players effectively to prevent Exeter from scoring. Giorgia Bosworth, a Newcastle fresher who has appeared numerously on the Newcastle scoresheet this year was next to score for her side. Following this Exeter’s no.9 was majored out of play. Forming a well-rehearsed “four-two” structure, Newcastle were able use their temporary player advantage strategically allowing Robinson to score a goal. Robinson was unfortunately excluded for a second time with just nineteen seconds left of the first quarter, and a second later Exeter capitalised, scoring their first goal.
Kreek, Poyntz and Bosworth also increased Newcastle's lead to 12-2 during the third quarter
The first quarter of the match was by far the most eventful. Newcastle had asserted themselves and all they needed to do now was to maintain a strong lead, holding off the home side for the remaining three quarters.
The second quarter saw Robinson excluded for a third time and therefore permanently, and the third quarter saw the same for Newcastle’s Gemma Deacon, following her contribution of a goal. Kreek, Poyntz and Bosworth also increased Newcastle’s lead to 12-2 during the third quarter, leaving Exeter with a near impossible task for the final segment of the game, but this didn’t stop their fight.
Newcastle side were clearly tiring as the match drew to its close. In a defensive final quarter, Newcastle keeper Holly Jackson made four accurate saves, and a goal was scored by Exeter’s Chloe Ellis.
The final score was 12-3, to Newcastle. A comfortable win which secures them a place at semi-finals.