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Women's Football News
A busy summer has led to Hitchin Belles making their mark in the senior women's game and this has resulted in them winning the Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire League Division Three title at the first attempt.
At the end of last season, they were an Under-17 team which had a mediocre season in the local youth league and the players, bored with playing the same teams, wanted a new and exciting challenge of playing adult football. With this in mind, the team applied to participate as an adult team in the Beds & Herts County Women's League for season 2015-16.
During the closed season, 50% of the players left to pursue other activities so Jason Slade (Assistant Coach and Club Secretary) set off to recruit players from the local area. Jason managed to secure the services of nine ladies who had played senior football and who had between them, a wealth of experience to guide the younger players making the step up into senior adult football for the first time. Managed by Laurence Jack and assisted by Jason, Hitchin Belles Ladies quickly gelled together and formed a team togetherness which stayed throughout the season.
Laurence's philosophy was to have a strong winning mentality, play a brand of football that would showcase the players creativity as well as having a positive attitude in matches. The players bought into this with their commitment and dedication and every week in training and matches improved both individually and collectively as a team.
Team selection each week was difficult due to the consistently strong numbers. Match after match, the players grew in confidence, composure and gained a steely determination not to lose. Whichever team was selected, those players performed and won matches. Those that came into the side the following week, raised their performance levels to such a degree it made it hard to change the team. Every player, to their credit, encouraged those that were selected.
Match performances were based on a strong defensive line with Orlagh Daly commanding the penalty area, defence marshalled by Charlotte Stronell and a midfield partnership of captain Amy Jack and Charlotte Peters. The strike duo of Emily Field and Shannon Page blew most defences apart with their pace and power, scoring 37 and 30 goals respectively.
Rebecca Lightfoot, Shannon Planson, Lucie Slade, Lauren Currell, and Claire Kenna all played their part in defence. Amy Giddens, Rachel Paxton, Sophie Fairburn and Emma Wells, all provided width and skill and in turn gave the forwards space to exploit. Versatile players: Keira How, Beth Cusack and Charis Wakefield played in various positions which complimented the shape and balance of the team.
Highlights of the season were beating nearest rivals Evergreen, Crawley Green and Icknield Ladies but mention must go to two matches against Panshanger Ladies when at home, Hitchin Belles were 2-0 down at half time and the only words at that time were to believe in themselves. They came back to win 3-2 with goals from Shannon Page (2) and Sophie Fairburn. The other match against Panshanger was the penultimate match, played midweek when, needing a win to take the title, they thrashed them 8-1 with a performance full of energy, enthusiasm, determination and team work, described by Lauren Jack as an "absolutely stunning performance."
With fixtures mounting, Hitchin had to play their final five matches in fifteen days and won every one. Their only defeat during the season came against Bedmond Ladies in mid-April, two weeks from the end of season.
It was truly a team performance with everyone throughout the season playing a part with no-one person playing a more important role than each other. The team togetherness really was the most important aspect.
The Belles now go to Prestatyn for an end of season tournament in the SCI Cup where they will want to enjoy the occasion.
Hitchin Belles squad: Lauren Currell, Beth Cusack, Orlagh Daly, Sophie Fairburn, Emily Field, Amy Giddens, Keira How, Amy Jack, Rebecca Lightfoot, Claire Kenna, Shannon Page, Rachel Paxton, Shannon Planson, Charlotte Peters, Lucie Slade, Charlotte Stronell, Charis (CJ) Wakefield, Emma Wells.
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