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Eagles flying high

It has been a great season for Arnold Eagles as they won the Division One North title in the East Midlands League and are promoted to the Premier Division.

Arnold Eagles are managed by Neil Matthews, with Matt Button, Ian Shaw and Courtney Walters as coaches. The team is captained by Jen Lorimer, whilst Natasha Leach scored 32 times and Amy Gauvrit contributed a further 17 goals.  

“After two shortened seasons due to the pandemic, we decided this season we were ready to make a real push for promotion to the East Midlands League Premier Division,” Neil Matthews told Women’s Soccer Scene. “The only certain way to achieve this was to win the EMWRFL Division 1 North.

The Management Team and players knew we had to be competitive from the very first kick of the season to the last and our pre-season was intensive, but got the players in great shape for the start of the season. Our plan was to play an adaptable 3-4-1-2 formation, in a pressing,, positive style of football.

“With a young goalkeeper in her first senior season and three at the back, we knew we would concede a few goals but we always create plenty of chances and with two prolific strikers, we were confident that we could outscore the opposition.

“The season started very well with three wins, so we travelled to a very strong Grimsby Town full of confidence. This game was a real jolt, some sloppy mistakes saw us go 2-0 down in the first 17 minutes, we responded well but just couldn’t convert our chances, failing to find the net despite three one-on-one situations and hitting the bar. The Grimsby keeper was in excellent form and they were clinical at the other end in the second half, hitting us on the break as we chased the game and we came away with a 5-0 defeat.

“It was clear that this was going to be a major turning point in our season and we needed an immediate response if we were to build on our early season momentum. No one panicked, we kept to our plan and put in the hard work on the training ground.

“It is a great testament to the skill and determination of the squad and coaches that we did not suffer another league defeat all season and that is the only league game in which we failed to score. In fact we would only drop two more points all season in a 1-1 draw away against Grimsby Borough.

“Injuries could also have derailed our season but the value of having strength in depth and a real togetherness saw the squad pull together and keep our momentum going. Despite having to cope with a knee injury for the last eight league games of the season, our captain, Jen Lorimer produced some fine displays in the centre of midfield and saw out the season, playing in all but one of our league games.

“Another injury to our top goalscorer, Tasha Leach came at a crucial point in the season and would keep her side-lined for 2 games. The first was away at Nottingham Trent University who were pushing for the top of the table themselves. The team dug in and produced one of our standout performances of the season, winning the game 3-1 with our keeper Kaci Riley pulling off two outstanding saves to help us secure a vital three points.”

Arnold Eagles had pulled clear at the top of the table as a result of their good run but there was one more major hurdle for the team to clear.  

“We had worked ourselves into an excellent position but would need a win at home against Grimsby Town, the only team to beat us, if we were going to be Champions,” admitted Matthews.

“At this point of the season, the preparation was more mental than physical and it was important for the players to show confidence and express themselves in such a pressure game. If they were nervous (and I am sure there were plenty of nerves) they did not show it.

“We had spoken a lot about our game plan and the players delivered it is style, putting in what was probably our finest performance of the season and winning the game 5-1.

“We then won our final game of the season at home against Notts County Development to complete a 100% home record and finish our season on a high.”

The team finished at the top of the league by a margin of seven points and Matthews is now setting his sights at tackling Premier Division football.

“We know next season will offer a tough challenge for an independent club like us but we are looking forward to it,” he said. “In the meantime, we are taking sometime to enjoy the success of this season.”

Arnold Eagles squad: Kaci Riley, Eve Shaw, Amy Gauvrit, Chloe Stocks, Jen Lorimer, Ciara Button, Demi-Leigh Crofts, Michelle Morphus, Natasha Leach, Shannon Birkett, Elli Leathen, Hannah Hughes, Mollie Rowden, Ellie Sims, Emma Goddard, Hannah Turnbull-Tilley, Toni Harper, Phoebe McKee, Amirah Jalloh, Connie Forman, Ellie Griffiths, Georgia Coninx, Rachel Wakefield, Amelia Hall, Dani Keetley.