17th December 2022: Goalless for the Aztecs who are pointless heading into Christmas.
A strong squad for the Aztecs for this final game of 2022.
A tense and cagey affair, Southampton were facing going into the Christmas break without a win, and zero points on the board.
A trip to Hartpury is usually an easy one logistically, with it only being a two hour drive from Southampton. As we like to say, it almost feels like a home game. However, that was offset against the 9:00am kick off, meaning leaving at six in the morning, with many players waking up before five o'clock to get ready and make the meet point. Of course we're playing the hosts, so while we're dragging ourselves out of bed to make the trip, our opponents still have a few hours of sleep available to them.
Why were we playing at 9:00 in the morning? To accommodate the men's teams, who usually play Sunday. And why didn't the men's teams play Sunday? Because people wanted to watch a football match in Doha on TV Sunday afternoon. We're not going to pass judgement, but you can decide for yourselves if you think that's fair.
Looking to make amends for the recent 9-1 drubbing at St. George's Park, the Aztecs opted for a defensive approach. The first half was executed with much success. Lauren Sayler made a few top quality saves in the opening minutes, and the Aztecs kept the home team out of the net for the entire first half. That's our first half of the season without conceding. However it wasn't taken advantage of at the other end, as Southampton squandered some good chances to take the lead.
Sport is often cruel. A good team performance, and a good individual performance can be undone in one moment. Irony is not lost on the sports gods. Sayler, who had likely been having her game of the season, gave away the first goal when one of her passes deflected off an opponent and into the net. And it felt that the harder the Aztecs tried, the less likely it was they were going to score. More good opportunities were wasted in the search for an equaliser, with a combination of bad luck and poor finishing. A change of tactics was elected for, and Hartpury's second goal came from another keeper mistake, this time from Mo Delaney. It happens to every player on the court, but other positions aren't punished like keepers are.
Hartpury found a third, and Southampton couldn't even get a consolation. It was suggested this team needs to head back to Tier 2 to work on some things, which is a comment we take exception to. We're not here to throw shade at our opponents, and will not question the integrity of other competitors in what is a tough league in an emerging sport. Teams have had to make tough decisions, and must do what is right for themselves and their players.
However, we feel it may be necessary to remind readers of the following;
Our first team have travelled around 2,500 miles for the seven games that have been played between September and December.
Our reserve team have travelled 1,200 miles for the five games that have been played between September and December.
The closest games our teams have played are still a two hour drive away.
We are able to field two teams, when many have struggled to to field one.
We regularly travel past our opponents on our way to play them at a neutral venue.
We legitimately avoided relegation last season.
One team that stayed up elected to go down, due to the commitment and travel, and were replaced by a team that was relegated.
Two Tier One teams have folded and pulled out of the league since the first round of fixtures.
So while other teams are dropping out and struggling to put a team together and complaining about the costs and the travel, this self-funded team, created in May 2021, with no university links, will continue to travel the motorways of this country, staying in cheap hotels, doing the best we can to provide opportunities to play futsal, and compete at the highest level possible.
We know we have a lot to work on. It's evident, as our games are recorded, and everybody watches them back to learn. We've gone from complete novices, training once a week, not training with proper futsal goals for eight months, to now being effectively the sixth best team in the country, training twice a week, with a reserve team to provide a pathway to the first team, and likely the best social media presence out there. We're developing coaches, we're making links with youth teams, we're getting into schools, and we already have an international fanbase.
We're obviously very disappointed with results. Nobody in their right mind would be happy to have zero points after seven games and be bottom of the table. Yet due to two teams falling, we've already improved on last season's position by two places. As a club, we started far behind the others. But you can see the talent and the potential we have in this group and as a club as a whole.
We'll keep fighting, we'll keep learning, we'll keep doing our bit to contribute to the growth of futsal in England. Life is full of ups and downs, but try to remember to never be too high when you win, and never get too low when you lose. We're down right now, but this is not a hopeless down. There's much to be excited about. Now we get to say goodbye to what has been a tough year.
Enjoy the break, and prepare yourselves for what will be a great 2023.
Rebecca Moody earned her second consecutive player of the match for another strong showing.
Watch the highlights back here.
View the whole match below.
Enjoy these photos from the game.
The scores from the day of games.
Hartpury 3 - 0 Southampton Aztecs
Bloomsbury 0 - 4 Birmingham WLV
London Helvecia 5 - 2 Bolton
Time to enjoy the break. We'll be back in January. There will be some changes to the league, to the schedule, and also a cup competition to look forward to. We'll update the site when we know for definite, and will post announcements on social media.
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.