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After years of hard work, the creation of a football pitch in the middle of a forest, and one weather-induced postponement, the Forest Pitch matches flew by in a frenzy of spirited football and a feast of goals.
The women's game was won 5-1 by Delphi, although the game was in the balance until just before half time. But five minutes before the break Heather Smart broke the deadlock and the floodgates opened. Delphi scored three goals in five minutes, and Corinth never recovered.
Alison O'Neil, captain of Delphi, was impressed with her team's efforts after just three training sessions: "I'm very proud of my team. I thought that we came out and played a really good match. I thought we communicated well and it was a good result."
O'Neil said both teams were greeted with a warm welcome when they came on to the pitch: "It was a nice big crowd. We didn't know because as we approached it they were kind of hidden so when you came out on to the pitch it was kind of shocking."
Delphi took control of central midfield early in the game, with Smart staying deep and spraying passes around the pitch whilst captain Alison O'Neil occupied the space between Corinth's defence and midfield. But despite Delphi's dominance of early possession they couldn't convert their chances, and Corinth were creating as many shooting chances as their opponents on the break.
Cheryl Watt looked dangerous for Corinth, and her good first touch and powerful shots kept the Delphi defence worried until she unfortunately suffered a calf injury in the second half.
Delphi's early pressure was easing, and both teams looked ready for half time. Then suddenly Heather Smart, who excelled in the centre of the park for Delphi, found space on the edge of the Corinth area and placed a shot into the bottom right corner.
The Corinth defence looked shell shocked, and moments later Becky Hunt hit the bar with a sliding effort. From a corner shortly afterwards Smart converted again with a header, before the Corinth keeper spilled the ball at Jeananne Kelly feet leaving Hunt with an open net.
Smart only got involved in the project after the games were postponed because of a waterlogged pitch. She was desperate to get a game which she eventually made her own: "It's an amazing set-up, the pitch is amazing. I was jealous when Michelle Magee [Corinth captain] was talking about the original one which was going to be in July, but now I'm so pleased I got to be a part of it."
When Hunt finished from an Alison O'Neil cross immediately after half time, the crowd began to fear for Corinth, but they rallied and quickly struck back. Janis McCourt converted a penalty and Watt took that as a cue to lead the fight back.
Watt almost scored twice, first with a neat turn then angled shot from the left of the box. Then a mazy run took her from the edge of her own box to a shooting position, but she pulled her shot wide of the near post. But when Watt succumbed to her injury Corinth lost their momentum and creative impetus, and the high tempo of the game finally subsided.
After a quiet period there was just time one more Delphi goal after a great turn and pass from Sophie D'Arcy found Kelly in space, and she squared to June McArthur who slammed home.
Delphi's lead would have increased in the closing minutes, but for some goalkeeping heroics from Shannon Lynn, including a point blank save from McArthur.
Despite the defeat Michelle Magee, captain of Corinth, said here team had still enjoyed the day: "It's been really great, it's been a really fun project to be part of. The pitch is fantastic, I loved coming through the forest.
"It was a shame we lost, but the other team were better than us and I think everyone worked really hard and that's the main thing. Well, actually the main thing is that everyone had a really good time."
Forest Pitch creator Craig Coulthard, despite previous protestations, couldn't resist the offer of playing the first half in goal in the men's match. The football is now over, but once Craig is back from his holiday there's still work to do: "We've still got the tree planting to do, and then the site grows and develops into something else, and there's the book and the film as well.
"People seem to have had fun, the pitch held up, there was goals scored, there was cheering and a lot of support for the teams. I'm glad it didn't really poor down with rain."
(by David Lyons - http://wearefreeagents.net/)
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