Updated: Sep 27, 2022
24th of September 2022: The Aztecs come out on top of what is hopefully the final pre-season game.
Eight Aztecs took to the court in Stevenage, with Jess Ebhodaghe making her first appearance in green since moving down to Southampton from London Genesis.
New kit looks good, doesn't it?
In typical Aztecs fashion, the opposition had to score first. Stevenage took the lead from their first attack, with their first shot, with only seconds on the clock. The Greens started the game with the kick-off, but a dodgy touch saw the ball go out for a Stevenage kick-in. A nice one-two with the taker, and a left-footed finish from a tight angle put the team in grey ahead after ten seconds of play.
Stevenage clearly started the better side, with Southampton struggling to find a rhythm. A few miss hit passes and lost connections meant the Aztecs were not looking as sharp as the new kit. It took nearly three minutes for the first threat on the Stevenage goal, which was Laura Ingram levelling the score. Defending a kick-in on the Stevenage left, Kayleigh Tonks defended well to get the ball away. Bekah Tonks and Alicia Povey did well to retain the ball, and Bekah Tonks played an expert pass from the left wing by the halfway line, sliding a diagonal through the defence for Laura Ingram to finish coolly with one touch as she approached the far post.
Alicia Povey almost scored the second for Southampton. 2v1 against the defender, she poked the ball right for Bekah Tonks, who played a one-two back with her to finish from close range, but Nicole Raffermati came flying out and spread herself well to make an impressive close-range block. The rebound fell to Kayleigh Tonks who tried to squeeze a shot through traffic, but hit it narrowly wide of the left post. Stevenage had a good chance of their own to regain the lead. An excellent spin from the number 9 in the middle of the court to evade Povey, she carried the ball forward to engage Ingram in a 2v1. The ball was slid to the second post, and fortunately the number 8 tapped it wide.
The Aztecs were next to come close, as Raffermati denied Povey from close range again. Kayleigh Tonks stole the ball and surged forward, laying it across goal. Povey arrived to meet the cross, but the keeper was equal to the shot and kept the game level. Southampton continued to press, and this time Raffermati denied Rebekah Tonks as she pounced on the loose ball caused by the Aztecs pressing.
From a well worked corner routine, Southampton took the lead. Kayleigh Tonks on the right by-passed Jess Ebhodaghe as a decoy to reach Lauren Sayler. Sayler switched it to Curtis, which was the trigger for Hannah Walker to move away from the goal, receiving the pass from Curtis to tap-in from close range, making it 2-1.
The score was level again at 2-2 soon after. Southampton now in a low block, Stevenage carried the ball forward. They switched the ball left to shift the Aztecs defence. Good movement allowed the number 9 to receive the ball. She took the ball wide past Ingram to a tight angle and hit the ball low and hard into the near corner, giving Sayler little chance due to the speed and the disguise.
The next goal of the game fell to the hosts, regaining the lead. The Tonks sisters, who usually have a telepathic connection, must have lost signal. Bekah took a kick-in to Kayleigh, but the two of them had different ideas. Stevenage's 18 stole the ball, then had a 2v1 against Bekah Tonks, laid it off to her teammate, whose hard shot was hit low and hard to Sayler's left, cannoning off both posts before crossing the line. An easy, avoidable mistake, and the frustration it caused was visible to see on the faces and in the body language of those in green.
This Aztecs team may get knocked down, but they don't stay down. Back on the front foot, into a high press, Southampton forced a turnover, and the ball fell to Povey, whose toe-punted central shot was beaten away by the keeper, before Bekah Tonks spooned the rebound high and wide. Southampton levelled the score via a kick-in, which was turned into the Stevenage goal by the defender. A simple but effective routine, Ingram put the ball down on the line and ran away. This was the trigger for Povey to creep to the back post, as Rebekah Tonks ran up to strike the ball low and hard across goal. If the defender hadn't got the touch, Povey would have scored anyway.
Southampton, after pulling level, made the game 4-3. A Povey kick-in was blocked, but Povey and Curtis worked well together to press and steal the ball. The ball squirmed free, and Povey hit a left-footed shot from the centre into the bottom corner from around seven metres. One of many goals this pre-season for Alicia Povey, who looks to have continued her goal scoring form from Reading.
The fifth Aztecs goal nearly came from a lightning counter-attack. Curtis played forward to Povey, who played in the overlapping Kayleigh Tonks, but her shot was blocked by the recovering defender. Another counter soon after saw Kayleigh Tonks denied again. Finally, Southampton scored. Hannah Walker getting her second of the game. Lauren Sayler caught the ball and sent Rebekah Tonks on her way. Walker was played in on the right, and fired home to take the Greens 5-3 up into half time.
A great first half, with lots of action and lots of goals. The Aztecs, after a characteristic bad start in the first half, restarted the game on the front foot, extending the lead to 6-3. A kick-in on the right, Walker taking. Ingram running around in the middle to create space and distract opponents. Walker puts the ball down and runs away, and Ingram backs out to open the passing lane. Rebekah Tonks runs up and smashes the ball across goal, and Curtis sneaks in at the second post for the tap-in, reminiscent of the final goal of last season against Worcester.
Stevenage nearly caught Southampton napping. A kick-in from the right on the halfway line, a great pass was played through the Aztecs defence to the number 9. Sayler came out and prevented the opportunity for Stevenage to close the gap in the score line. The Aztecs were trying to extend the score, and came close from a corner. Povey played to Ingram whose cross bounced around in the D. The ball fell to Walker, which was blocked and rebounded out to Ingram, whose shot was blocked, and bounced out of play.
Lauren Sayler's laser-like precision played in Kayleigh Tonks from a goal throw, putting her clear of the defence, only to have her shot blocked by the keeper bravely rushing out to make the save. Stevenage kept working to pull the game back, forcing more saves from Sayler, who did very well to maintain the second half shutout. Caught in possession at the back, Stevenage stole the ball from the Aztecs, and the number 15 tried to scoop it over Sayler, who was able to get a hand to it.
Still looking for goals, the Aztecs felt they should have had a penalty. Rebekah Tonks stole the ball, surged forward unopposed. The keeper came rushing out, and Tonks squared it to Povey. With the open goal begging, Povey just had to tap it in, but appeared to be tripped from behind. The referee disagreed with that assessment, and the ball went out for a Stevenage kick-in. Povey nearly scored seconds later, when Southampton regained the ball from the kick-in. Povey read the pass, carried the ball forward, and with the keeper spreading herself well, she just poked it wide of the right post.
Shortly after, Southampton had a corner. Tonks to Tonks, laid off for Povey, whose shot across the goal was saved. The ball bounced to Curtis who was chasing the rebound, but couldn't adjust her body to turn the ball home. The next corner the Aztecs had ended up in the back of the net. Similar to the last one, it was Tonks to Tonks, with Kayleigh having the shot. The shot was blocked, and Povey was there to tuck home from close range to make it 7-3.
Alicia Povey completed the hat-trick with a great solo goal to bring the score to 8-3. Stevenage restarted with a free-kick on their right, just inside the Aztecs half. Povey tackled the opponent, then dribbled past the recovering defender with a nice bit of skill, and then chipped the goalkeeper. A player that can score goals out of nothing, and can score a range of goals. An excellent weapon to have in the Aztecs arsenal. A solution to many problems.
Stevenage pushed and pushed to get a goal back, but the resolute Southampton defending kept them out. With only seconds on the clock, Stevenage worked a shot from a corner, which was shot high and wide. Southampton stretched, awaiting the Sayler delivery. Walker and Ingram reacted quickly to move behind the Stevenage defenders. Stevenage organised, but it wasn't enough to stop the expert arm of Sayler from finding Laura Ingram. On the volley, Ingram side-footed a shot, which was palmed away, but with the left foot, Ingram passed a buzzer-beater into the net, making it 9-3 to the Aztecs. Full credit to the opponents, because their quality was clear to see, and the score does not do justice for the Stevenage performance.
Captain Lauren Sayler was awarded player of the match for her contributions at both ends, setting up goals for the Aztecs, and stopping goals for Stevenage.
Enjoy some of the photos taken!
Watch the full match below.
Watch the highlights here.
The season looks finally about to start, following much turbulence. Remember that we now have two senior women's squads; a first team in tier one, and a reserve team in tier two. This means much more futsal. If you want to know where and when the games are, you can check our schedule here.
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