Another week, another road trip for the Canaries as they looked to extend their unbeaten start to the season.
The challenge in front of Martin Herdman’s side this week was London Seaward, a team that this City side knows well, with this the third meeting between the two sides this season. The team from the capital have already taken points off the Canaries this season at The Nest, with the City responding by dumping Seaward out of the FA Cup in October.
We were in for a cagey afternoon.
And that seeped through to the preparation with kick-off being delayed by half an hour due to a change of venue, with the Oakside Stadium being switched last minute for Barking FC’s Lawtech Stadium.
Although, unfortunately, such an important change of schedule is still commonplace in the women’s game, the experience of it happening before has taught this side to expect anything on matchdays and failed to disrupt City’s preparation.
On the surface, the weather also seemed to create difficulty, with strong gusts of wind acting against the Canaries in the first half.
When we finally got underway the early script was as expected – cagey.
Both the hosts and visitors went close inside the first ten minutes, with both Sarah Quantrill and Seaward ‘keeper Tia Ginn both being called into action.
Then, after only nine minutes, City were able to penetrate the Seaward defence, with the in-form Rachel Lawrence wheeling away in celebration only then to be judged offside by the official.
But if there’s one thing the other teams in the National League Division One South East have learned this season, it’s that you can’t keep City quiet for long.
Attacker Ellie Smith found the net for the third consecutive game by capitalising on a defensive mistake on 18 minutes to take the ball around Ginn and calmly roll it in for 1-0.
City were up and running and were in control of the fixture, with the goal seemingly killing any momentum the hosts had built up!
One became two after 40 minutes as City’s top scorer Natasha Snelling got involved with the action; the number 10 nodding home after another inch-perfect delivery from Lawrence.
With the front four in blistering form, it’s no wonder that this unbeaten run is progressing week on week. No opponent has found an effective way of dealing with City’s attacking threat yet and long may it continue.
Fresh from being nominated for the club’s player of the month for January, Snelling’s continued goal exploits will surely have her in the running for player of the season regardless of our league position.
The hosts had done well in making City work and grind out results this season and certainly weren’t going to roll over at two goals down.
They restored the deficit to one just before half-time through their star player Katherine Long, who managed to pick out the top corner of Quantrill’s goal with a fine strike from the edge of the area that stroked the crossbar as it sailed into the net.
It was all to play for in the second half.
The momentum from the host’s goal carried over into the beginning of the second half as Quantrill had to be alert to deny a Seaward effort. Both teams were reluctant to commit too many players forward in case of a counter-attack.
The nerves had taken over, which in turn became the theme of the second half.
As the half progressed you could see the frustration taking over Seaward, who reduced themselves to half-chances from outside the area out of desperation more than anything else – one chance of which almost crept through with Quantrill having to tip an effort over the crossbar late on to ensure the three points came back to Norfolk.
Just like they had done twice already, the hosts made City work for a result and applied some pressure but the Canaries again came out of the contest unscathed.
Having an invincible season is beginning to morph from a pipe dream into a reality and with only ten league games of the season remaining and momentum and spirit within the group showing no signs of faulting, who knows where the ceiling is for this inspiring group.
The result moves the Canaries up to second place in the table, leapfrogging Worthing and still with a game in hand over league leaders Wimbledon.
As for the hosts, they remain in 8th place, 10 points clear of the relegation zone.
Next up for the Canaries is a trip to bottom-placed side Haywards Heath Town as they look to extend their unbeaten run and put pressure on The Dons at the top, before they welcome Dussindale & Hellesdon Rovers to The Nest in a fortnight in the quarter-final of the County Cup – a competition that City won last season.