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lllogan RBL Ladies Res are the new Champions of the Cornwall Women's League after beating title rivals St Agnes in a decisive match of the season.
Illogan, who are managed by Rose Hitchens-Todd, went into the match needed nothing less than a victory and they carried off the trophy with a 3-0 win. "It's been a close season in the league, Rose told Women's Soccer Scene. "Newcomers Mabe LFC (third place) provided some good competition as did last year's winners St Agnes, who are a very experienced and close knit club.
"The reserves saw a large change in personnel at the start of the year so it's really been a season of getting to know each other and developing how we play, which is probably what explains a couple of the results we got this season, where we perhaps didn't do as well as we could have. Despite this, we battled really hard for the league title. After a couple of defeats against Mabe and St Agnes we knew that if we did have a chance for the title, it would come down to goal difference and it would be extremely tight at the top. We got our heads down and worked for it, every team member knowing that points wouldn't be enough for the top position.
"Our challenge for the league came down to the last game of the season against St Agnes. The game was an all or nothing fixture that had been re-arranged after being abandoned earlier in the season due to a St Agnes injury (we were winning that 3-0 too) so we were 'chomping at the bit' for the fixture. We knew only three points would do and had worked hard at every fixture in the run up to give ourselves a goal difference high enough to end up on top of we won this.
"We knew St Agnes were more than capable of beating us - they had done so earlier in the season at our place where we lost 3-1. The game itself was very scrappy, both teams playing very cagey football - it certainly wasn't a great game to spectate. Nevertheless, there were some fantastic moments, three of which resulted in the goals we scored to get ourselves the win, Jo Barker getting two and Stacey Bray with the other. St Agnes had a few opportunities, stopped on the whole by outstanding performances from our back four. One attempt was headed off the line by our left back Britt Merriman, and some fabulous blocks and tackles from centre back team Rachel Bennett and Becki Lawrence, keeping St Agnes out of the game.
"We were 2-0 up at half time, only scoring one more in the second half - St Agnes coming back out after half time with more fight in their spirit, desperate to retain the title."
The title success is part of a long term project at the club, which started two years ago. "We used to be Bodmin Town Ladies FC, who had record breaking seasons in the CWFL and took promotion into the South West Women's League Western Division," explained Rose. "We moved the club to Illogan and renamed to take the opportunity to expand and have a second team, the youth set up at Illogan provides football for girls of all ages and gives us a strong underbelly with the 16-year-olds moving up into adult football when they are ready - we are very lucky! I think we are the only ladies club in Devon and Cornwall with female representative teams in every age bracket and a first and reserve team!
"The SWWFL team is managed by ex-Truro City coach Rob Brandreath and contains the majority of the ex-Bodmin ladies squad, whilst a couple took the decision to remain in the CWFL for work/travel reasons including myself.
"Our top goalscorer Anna Wherry has made 12 appearances with 17 goals, a fabulous record closely followed by winger Stacey Bray with 15 goals in 13 appearances. With this said, many of our players can boast great goal tallies which highlights how we play as a team. We aren't reliant on one player at Illogan, we share the opportunities and work together to get the result. We have a squad of 22 players for the reserves, all of which have played an integral part in our success - so much so we are paying the league to purchase additional medals/trophies for ALL the girls. Even if they have appeared a handful of times, it's important to us that their contribution is recognised!
"Our captain and goalkeeper, Helen Rundle has been travelling in Asia and Australia since December so Claire Hitchens-Todd, the vice captain, has taken over the reins since then.
"Formal presentations will be made at the CWFL Cup Finals Day on 17th May, but we did get to lift the trophy at the last league game. It was such a good feeling to achieve the title with our fairly new squad, such varying levels of experience and ability achieving together as one team. We had a great number of spectators and both teams carried full squads of 16 which just goes to prove that the Cornwall Women's League is still doing well despite the recent decline of grass roots football in Cornwall.
"Our next challenge is the League Cup. In Round One we beat St Breward 6-0, which gave us the opportunity to play in the League Cup rather than the Supplementary Cup. We went on to beat Mullion in the semi finals and will play St Agnes in the Final at Hayle FC.
"Either way, winning or losing, this season has been fantastic. We love the game and enjoy it at Illogan, but the key for us is the bond we have formed as a team - both on and off the pitch. We are all very good friends, many of which have been friends for years and it is key to our success.
"My belief is that a happy club is a successful club. You would think it's a challenge to keep nearly 50 women (across both teams) happy all the time, but we manage it and it really shows on a Sunday when we get fantastic results and genuinely have a brilliant time together! I am so proud of what we are doing at Illogan it's like being part of a big family!"
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