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Women's Football News
When Yeovil Town scored their opening goal against Havant & Waterlooville on Sunday the players, coaches and supporters went into a frenzy of celebration.
Nothing unusual, but there was extra volume in their merriment as the Glovers had not only gone a goal up against their nearest rivals in the league, but also scorer Laura Bray had just become the first player ever to score 100 in the South West Combination. Bray went on to add a further two goals to her tally, bringing her career total in the Combination to 102. This is a massive achievement for any player, but for one so young, even more so..
"I'm very proud of myself for achieving the hundred goals, and still being only 22 years old," Laura said. "I have been playing Combination football since the age of fifteen, and can look back and be happy with what I have managed.
"This a happy time for both myself and my parents, and they have been watching me play regularly over the years. My Dad is my stat man, and it was him that pointed out at the start of the season that I was coming close to the hundred goal mark, so when it came down to about ten more to get I started counting as they went in.
"Playing for a good team like Yeovil, I felt I had a good chance this season of getting the twenty-one goals needed to get the record. As a striker I set myself a goal scoring target at the start of each campaign, and this year that was what I was aiming for, and more. I always felt it was achievable in this league, and it has been great to have succeeded, and more importantly it has been nice to have done so for the team as we have managed to get promoted, which has always been the most important thing."
Laura Bray made her South West Combination debut for Forest Green Rovers, but she made her name as a goalscorer after she joined Clevedon Town soon after, going on to become the Combination's season top scorer in 2006-07 - a superb feat considering her team finished third from bottom of the league that season. Her exploits prompted a return to Rovers, and later a dream move to a newly promoted Premier League side Yeovil Town Ladies in 2010. It was a testing season playing at the next level up for both Yeovil and Laura, and at the end of the campaign the team came back down. However, everything clicked this season, with her heading the scoring as the Glovers stormed back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
"My goalscoring over the years has been varied, with some provided by team mates, and others of my own making," she said. "When I played for Clevedon they were always struggling, so whilst there I did make my own goals. It was similar at Forest Green, but at Yeovil I do still make my own goals, but also rely heavily on my team mates to give me the support. We have a great team here, the best I have been in, and it has been a joy to play alongside so many quality players."
Looking back, Laura remembers so many of her goals with pride, and still even gets excited when remembering the first time she buried the ball in the back of the net. "I remember my first league goal really well," she said. "It was on 2nd October 2005, when I was playing for Forest Green Rovers away at Plymouth Argyle. I came on as a substitute and scored the equaliser to make it 2-2. That is when I was fifteen years old, before the limit was raised to sixteen the next season.
"My most memorable goal was a few years later when playing for Clevedon Town against Forest Green in the FA Cup. I scored after ten seconds, and we went on to lose the game 3-1. To date, this is the only FA Cup goal I have scored.
"But the highlight of my career has been winning promotion back to the Premier League with Yeovil this season. It is a wonderful team to play in, and we have a great spirit. It has also to date been the only promotion or title I have managed in a season, so will always bring happy memories.
"We have some wonderful players, and it is a real team effort to win games. I have enjoyed playing up front with Justine (Lorton) this season. She is so experienced and has had a fantastic career with both club and country. Just having her on the pitch really boosts the team. She has been there and done it, and she knows what to do to win games. Having her in the team has meant so much, especially when you bear in mind how many young players we have in the squad.
"We have scored goals from all over the pitch this season, with players like Stacey Pearson, Kirsty Whitton and Shannon Osman getting plenty from midfield, and not forgetting Rosie Williams on set pieces."
"Many players have been vital to us this season, and I could run through the whole squad, all of whom have played their part, but for me personally I have really admire Jodi Cornwall. She is a fantastic player coming through, and I think that she can go places."
The Glovers will be entering the Premier League next season with their eyes open, better prepared than last time for what lies ahead, having learned many lessons from their ill-fated inaugural challenge two years ago. The whole team are keen to get the new season under way, looking forward to pitting themselves against some of the country's best. "Many of the players in the present squad played with us in the Premier League," Laura said." So much of the team have the experience of playing at that level. That season was a sharp learning curve for us all, but I feel sure that this time we will be ready for the challenge ahead.
"Having Sarah (Lawler) and Nigel (Williams) as joint managers will be a big thing too. With two of them you get different opinions, which is good. They bring that together as one, and are definite in what they expect from us. On the whole I think we have delivered, and it has really worked out well."
With one league game and one cup final still to play, Laura is looking to bag further goals this season, hoping to see her side finish the season unbeaten in the league, and lift the Somerset FA Senior Women's Cup. "I am really looking forward to playing in another Somerset County Cup final this season," she said. "I think that it will be a close game. We will need to be on top of our game to get the result we want. Larkhall have beaten some decent teams in the FA Cup this season, and in previous years too. Saying that, we have played brilliantly this season, and if we can win this cup again, it will really be the icing on the cake."
with thanks to Alastair King
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