After the winter break, the Aztecs needed a friendly to dust off the cobwebs. In a first for the club, Southampton were actually hosts of a game, as Reading made the (relatively) short trip. A very different feel to the last time these teams played, which was a cagey 3-2 win for the Aztecs on the final day of the season to launch the club into the National Division.
The game was played in four quarters of twenty minutes, with a running clock. It meant a bit more game time, plus more opportunity for input and reflection, both of which were needed to prepare for the campaign ahead. Southampton took the opportunity to try some different things, with the objective not necessarily being to beat the opposition in front of them, but rather to practice routines and strategies.
It soon became obvious that the high pressing strategies would not work against Reading, whose movement, positioning, and rotations are sublime. The high press would not work against a team that displays this much quality in possession. Reading took the lead almost immediately, and soon found themselves ahead 4-1. In true Aztecs style, they had to let the opposition gain a lead before deciding to play.
In the second two quarters, Southampton played a low block, which limited Reading's chances. The Aztecs were able to overcome the Royals on quick transitions, with some lethal counter attacks. Kayleigh Tonks scored four goals, Lauren Sayler grabbed two and an assist, Nicola Curtis scored one, Kath Heath scored one, and teenager Charlotte Broughton scored her first goal for the club, and put on a good enough attacking display that warranted more.
The Aztecs ran out 9-6 winners in the end, but it would not have been this way had the team stuck to the high press. One of the biggest strengths of the Southampton Aztecs is the adaptability of the team, and the ability to play in a variety of different ways. The team has developed well in this respect, and can go into games with a plan A, B, and C. Some strategies will work better against different teams. It is a great boost to everyone's confidence to be able to score nine past a team like Reading with their two fantastic goalkeepers, and good for the team to also have so many players (including the goalkeeper) contribute to the goals.
Attention turns to the curtain raiser against Bolton, who finished fourth in the Northern Division. The game kicks off at 11:15 this coming Saturday the 29th of January, which is live on BT Sport.
One of Lauren Sayler's two goals was a low driven shot from distance.
Skills from Charlotte Broughton, before Kayleigh Tonks having her shot saved.
A great ball from Rebecca Moody is brought down well by Kayeligh Tonks who places a neat finish into the bottom corner.
Lauren Sayler gets high to assist Kayleigh Tonks.
Kayeligh Tonks and Nicola Curtis work well together to create a chance.
Kayleigh Tonks assists Nicola Curtis to score 2v1 against the keeper.