5th November 2022: A well fought performance sees defeat against the champions.
Alicia Povey back in the squad, Laura Ingram missing through injury, and both Jess Ebhodaghe and Leah Harris making their debut appearances in the first team.
The long drive up to Nottingham for this bunch, who encountered reigning champions Birmingham WLV. Looking to bounce back from what was a disappointing performance versus Cheshire, Birmingham pose a huge mountain to climb.
With 6-0 and 9-3 defeats against Birmingham in the previous league encounters, Southampton went into the game well aware of the strength both defensively and offensively of the champions. It doesn't matter which five take the court, it's always a strong team, making any celebration of Birmingham injuries or absences moot, due to the amount of quality players they can throw at a team. This strength was on display immediately with only a few seconds played, as Sarah Hazell shrugged off Bekah Tonks to shoot, with it being tipped wide from a low diving save by Sayler.
Defensively organised, Southampton were doing well to keep the opposition from too many clear cut opportunities. The first chance of value for the Aztecs came when Bekah Tonks saw Dell off her line, and attempted a shot from her own half. It was tipped wide by the recovering goalkeeper, who may or may not have touched the ball outside the D. Replays make it difficult to suggest either way, and this is not an attack on referees, as several clubs and players enjoy doing on Twitter to mask their own inefficiencies. With there being a lot of lines on the court, it's simply difficult to tell. And until futsal grows, this will continue to be a problem faced by all teams and officials.
Birmingham broke the deadlock six minutes in. Moody's forward pass was cut out by Glover, who drove forward with Birmingham in a 3v2. Glover squared it to Hazell, whose shot was blocked by Maidment. The rebound fell to Highway, who slipped it to Glover in the D. Glover tried to pick out Hazell, but the pass was unfortunately turned into the net by Moody attempting to cut it out.
Birmingham weren't in front for long. It took three minutes for Kayleigh Tonks to equalise with a well taken finish. An Aztecs kick-in deep in their own half, Bekah Tonks tapped it to Moody. Moody took a touch in front, looked up, and pinged a brilliant diagonal over the top to Kayleigh Tonks, who brought it down very well, beat the defender, and then nutmegged the goalkeeper. An excellent goal, and an assist the likes of we've seen before from Moody.
Birmingham kept showing the number of threats they possess in their team, with Southampton being largely equal to them, nullifying their threats. Yet any misstep will likely be punished, and very nearly was when Harris' pass was cut out by Miller, who accelerated with her lightning pace, forcing a good save from Sayler.
With five minutes to go before the break, and Southampton looking good value, Birmingham then scored two goals in quick succession. The first being a cross from Mulligan squeezed through to Hazell at the back post. Seconds later Hazell scored again, making it 3-1, cutting out a Moody pass, and then striking a shot which Maidment's attempted block sent the ball spinning over Sayler and into the net.
The first chance of the second half fell to Birmingham with four minutes played. Highway dispossessed Moody, and carried the ball forward in a 2v1 against Bekah Tonks, with Hazell providing support. A one-two got Highway into the D, but her close range shot was blocked very well by Sayler, who made herself big and showed great technique.
A minute later, and an expert Southampton counter had the game back to 3-2. Bekah Tonks robbed Highway, drove into the Birmingham half, and fed Povey through on goal, whose expert left-footed finished disguised the shot very well from Dell, as it found the bottom corner.
Uplifted and fully deserving to be back in the game, you must never lose focus against a team of Birmingham's quality. Hazell nearly scored her hat-trick, hitting the post with a volley, from an excellent Miller diagonal. With the very next attack, Birmingham found the back of the net, when Glover hit a strike from around fifteen metres out, with a slight deflection off the out-stretched leg of Bekah Tonks making the ball deviate past the hands of Sayler, to make it 4-2, effectively winning the game.
Glover tried her luck again five minutes later. Sayler was equal to it this time, although she did initially spill it, and recovered well before Miller was able to pounce. Southampton failed to create many chances in the second half to claw back the narrow lead, but can be very happy with what was an improved performance. Much better in many metrics from the recent game against Cheshire, and from the previous encounters against Birmingham. Lots of work still do to, and much to build on.
Back from injury, and with a triple hat-trick in the reserves the week prior, Alicia Povey was voted as player of the match from within the squad, scoring what will be her first of many NFS Tier One goals for the Aztecs.
Kayleigh Tonks got on the score sheet with a very well taken goal, and was voted as fans' player of the match.
Watch the highlights back here.
View the whole match below.
Enjoy these photos from the game.
The scores from the day of games.
Hartpury 4 - 0 Cheshire
Southampton Aztecs 2 - 4 Birmingham WLV
Bloomsbury 5 - 2 Bolton
The Aztecs will be travelling the length and breadth of England. Be sure to check our schedule to see when the team will be playing near you.
If you want our official Adidas kit, get yourself over to KitLocker.
If you would like other Aztecs merchandise, go to Spreadshirt.