With the international break in full swing, this weekend all eyes once again turned to women’s football.
Last week’s historic cup upset against Hashtag United will live long in the memory. I’ll stop short of calling the victory a giant-killing, however, as I don’t believe that term should apply when beating a team only one division above you.
Many of the City faithful travelled to Worthing hoping to see more of the same passion and vigour that was on display against the Tags, and they weren’t disappointed despite the result.
Worthing have been considered by many as the surprise package in the league this season. Currently sitting fourth in the league, they have adapted well to life in tier three following their promotion last season and look to be a formidable opponent for anyone in the National League Division One South East.
The tale of the fixture was around the tactics, with the hosts deciding to match their visitor’s formation, trying to capture the winning formula that Martin Herdman has cooked up frequently this season, with his high-intensity, overloading attacks making it hard for the opposition to compete with the Canaries.
In the Hashtag game, City preferred their opponents to have more of the ball, hitting them where it hurts on the counter-attack. This week it was different, with them clearly wanting to get on the front foot and take the game to Worthing.
The poor conditions also disrupted the game for both sides, with strong winds making it difficult to attack one side of the pitch.
Many fans may be mistaken for thinking that they watched two separate games at Woodside Road. I know the “game of two halves” cliché is thrown around far too regularly nowadays, but rarely has it applied more to a game as Worthing enjoyed more of the spoils in the first 45.
The first chance of the game fell to the hosts in the eighth minute, when a rare defensive mistake saw a Worthing striker pounce but saw their effort head just wide of Sarah Quantrill’s post.
Although complacency is rarely an issue for this City side, who usually play with confidence, a similar mistake in the Hashtag game almost saw them take the lead in that fixture. On both occasions a goal wasn’t scored, so although it’s not necessarily an issue, it may be something to work on during training to make sure costly mistakes don’t slip into an otherwise rigid defensive unit.
Ten minutes later Worthing were ahead. A looping ball into the area found its way to Chloe Winchester, who poked the ball into the corner of the net to give the hosts a 1-0 advantage.
The Rebels continued to push and almost doubled their advantage ten minutes later when midfielder Hayley Bridge fired her effort wide of the post.
The host’s chances continued, with yet another shot heading over the bar after 44 minutes, sending the hosts in at half-time with a slender lead.
The Canaries reversed the momentum of the game in the second half, coming out of the dressing room determined and with a point to prove.
The game plan of utilising the wings finally started to come to fruition instantly after the restart, with Alice Parker and Lauren Tomlinson linking up well out wide before Tomlinson dragged her effort wide of the post.
City were getting closer, and eventually found an equaliser in the 53rd minute. After peppering the Worthing defence with continuous chances, a lofted corner landed on the head of Ellie Smith, who nodded past Lauren Dolbear in the Rebels’ goal to draw the Canaries level with her second goal in as many matches.
Smith is proving to be a crucial cog in this City side with her goalscoring prowess. Whether it’s blistering solo runs that result in finding the net, or perfectly timed headers from inside the penalty area, the attacker is showing the ability which earned her the Player of the Season award last term.
Corners seemed to be the ideal method of attack for both teams, with the hosts steering a header past the City post before Smith once again found the ball on her head from a cross from the corner quadrant, this time heading wide.
Norwich then almost found the winner deep into added time. Megan Todd found Freya Symonds in space who saw her shot parried, before Rachel Lawrence fired over the rebound, sharing the spoils with a 1-1 draw.
The draw could be seen as bittersweet for Herdman’s ladies. The resilience shown to come from behind and get a point from the game highlights the never-say-die attitude of this crop of players, who are guaranteed to fight for every point they earn.
The draw also means that the Canaries are still the only team in the National League Division One South East who are unbeaten, with every team we face upping their performance levels in the hope of handing us that first loss of the season.
However, the draw also keeps us four points behind AFC Wimbledon at the top of the division, meaning that a result against the Dons is essential when we welcome them to The Nest in a few weeks’ time.
What would’ve been even more frustrating was that Wimbledon were trailing at half-time against London Seaward, before a second-half annihilation from the hosts saw them claim a 4-2 victory to tighten their grip on the top spot.
As for City, they welcome Boldmere St Michaels to The Nest next weekend in the second round of the FA Cup, hoping to get back to winning ways and continue what they started with the cup heroics against Hashtag.